It is impossible to build a house without a solid foundation. Without it, the house could crumble within the year. Developing software or managing an organization is very similar. Assuming the business environment is in a mature phase, where development and the day-to-day life cycle runs like a well-oiled machine, from inception to market.
Yet, most will not consider security until very late into the lifecycle, if at all. The security program development life cycle aims to fix these issues and bring security down to the foundational level of new software development and business operations. This article will discuss what an SDLC is and the steps to implement one.
What Is the Security Program Development Life Cycle?
The organizational security program is a series of policies and security practices that you should instill into the corporate culture. The aim of developing a security program is to keep up with the cyber threats that could target your industry and mitigate any external risks associated with poor security infrastructure. There are multiple facets to a security program that we will discuss in this article, but for a brief overview, what you can expect to see in a security program is:
- Secure software development, or Secure Software Development Lifecycle (SSDLC)
- Corporate Information Security Framework
- Management and Staff Policies
- Secure Process Management
- Technical Security Implementation
Why You Should Care About The Security Program Development Lifecycle
Your organization’s security program is the shield behind which you mitigate risk. Without a robust plan, an attacker will exploit any weakness that they find, technical or otherwise.
Furthermore, not considering the business’s security aspects in the early phases can cost you heavily in the long run.
For example, designing software with new features is always an exciting prospect. Without incorporating a secure design philosophy, the cost of making changes to the code after the testing phase can quintuple.
We will elaborate more on this in the next section. But even on a managerial tone, lax security principles can cost your organization in more ways than one, with one of the significant costs coming in the form of reputation damage.
This reputational cost is specially made manifest in situations where your organization is dealing with sensitive personal data. Organizations can rarely quantify reputational damages in a monetary sense, which is why it can be very damaging. In some extreme cases, the organization can never recover from it.
Finally, in a heavily regulated environment having a security program can help you comply and keep you ahead of the curve for new regulations.
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Secure Software Development
This aspect of security program development is more relevant to software development companies. However, understanding secure software development will help your organization make better purchasing decisions regarding applications and software acquisitions. As we mentioned in this article’s introduction, most mature organizations have refined their software development lifecycles to add new features in brief periods.
But like other aspects of the business operation, security lags. For this reason, software that is quick to market is often exploited within the first year.
Generally speaking, a Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) follows a pretty standard approach (although this depends on who you ask).
- Planning and Requirements (sometimes referred to as use cases)
- Architecture and design
- Test Planning
- Testing and Results
- Release and Maintenance
Generally, the development team will test for security issues in phase 5. Then a point is flagged when a bug is found.
However, an IBM study at the Systems Science Institute found that fixing security-related bugs during the implementation phase (5-6) costs six times more than accounting for it during the design phase (1-3).
Worse yet, any security issues found during the testing phase could cost upwards of 15 times more than accounting for it in the early stages.
With the cost-saving alone, it is better to plan with security in mind than without, not to mention even with late-stage testing, you might not even find security-related issues.
What Does Secure Software Development Involve?
Designing secure software is a relatively straightforward process. The lifecycle remains the same, but the attitudes and considerations change slightly or broaden to include security.
For example, many designers might be concerned with the user experience while developers are busy building a program that will manifest said user experience. Rather than getting the developers worried about the secure design, it might be worthwhile to onboard a security developer to go over any code and test for vulnerabilities.
However, this is unnecessary if the development team is aware of the dangers of insecure software infrastructure. The right policies and awareness training can transition an organization into a more security-conscious entity.
One of the ways you can cultivate this culture is to employ a system of architecture risk analysis. Continuously analyzing the architecture through all stages of development ensures that vulnerabilities are dealt with when discovered.
This technique also pairs nicely with regular penetration testing. It is ensuring that the product’s security is robust when it finally enters the market.
Secure software development is a small but vital part of any information security program. You must understand the processes even if your organization does not deal with the development of systems.
Because without it, any use of insecure apps or programs within your information system could compromise your business operations.
Information Security Development Framework
Beyond secure software development and prudent application acquisition, an organization’s information security development falls within the scope of people, processes, and technology.
Generally speaking, most organizations can withstand a cyberattack with a proactive security culture. And this does not mean buying the latest security tech to help combat ransomware (although this is still incredibly important).
Your organization can avoid most attacks by eliminating human error. This task might seem gargantuan as “human error” will always be present within any system, and eliminating it is impossible. But reducing it can ensure attackers can not take advantage of it.
You can accomplish this with security policies in the three fields mentioned; people, processes, and technology.
Management and Staff Security Policy
The first thing you will want to address is the people of the organization. When developing a security policy, you will always have to keep in mind the people, so it is best to create a security policy that deals with them directly. And that usually starts with security awareness training. The development of a security awareness program will depend on the sensitivity of data the organization processes. The level of sensitivity generally will dictate the responsibility of care that each member of the organization is expected to achieve. For example, if there is an expectation that every staff member will handle personal data, then develop a security awareness program to reflect that.
Generally, you will need to introduce new staff members gradually to the new work environment. In this case, the security training program will also need to reflect that.
This awareness training will also be the best defense against cyber-attacks and will showcase its strength long into the life of the organization, tech becomes outdated, but once we learn something, we cannot unlearn it.
An essential aspect of staff training is social proofing, which you should incorporate at all organization levels. Attackers’ social engineering techniques are becoming more sophisticated, and they are targeting the big fish within the organization.
The latest news to come out of the phishing scene is spear phishing or whale phishing, and these are both slightly different. Spear phishing involves using targeted techniques to fool the target (like knowing they like dogs and using that as a way to trick them).
Whale phishing, on the other hand, uses phishing techniques that will fool the prominent decision-makers in the organization or the personnel with the highest authorization level within an information system.
Attackers can use both techniques used in conjunction to significant effect, and your organization should do its best to ensure that security awareness is a priority at all organizational levels.
Secure Process Management
Secure process management forms the lion’s share of the information security program. The processes are all the inner workings of the organization that interfaces the human element with the technical. Image a user login to their personalized company account to access the network. In this example, the user is the human element; the network is technical. Everything in-between is the process. If you start to apply this logic to all aspects of the business, you can begin to see how complicated a business’s processes can be. Especially considering how extensive some organization’s information systems are.
Below are some of the processes that will typically fall under the information security program development. These processes are also essential to maintain as part of the organization’s cyber hygiene routine; learn more about cyber hygiene here on our blog.
Access and Identity Management: access management is vital to ensuring the security of your network. This process involves authenticating users on your network, which means making sure they are who they say they are. Generally, access management is a back-end process taken care of by the IT infrastructure through systems like user login credentials and multi-factor authentication.
However, it is beneficial to the organization’s security culture if you shore up the back-end processes with organizational policy. Creating a password management policy, for example, will double down on the access management security by getting your employees to change their password every “x” month.
Implementing an organizational policy is an example of how a process can integrate with both the human and technical aspects of a business.
Security Logs and Audit: this process involves analyzing security events that transpired on the information system. Using technologies like Security Incident and Events Management (SIEM) will form part of your information security framework and gives you critical data to analyze.
Logging this kind of information and performing regular audits will help improve the organization’s overall security infrastructure. If done continuously, it will give you valuable insight into both the information system and users. This kind of information will help you combat cyber attacks.
Incident Response Planning (IRP): most organizations act like individuals; they operate in an “everything is fine until it’s not” fashion. While this outlook works well for the individual, they are only responsible for themselves; an organization is responsible for many and can’t afford to take this attitude.
An IRP comes into play here. Being prepared for the worst is what separates good security culture from great security culture. Implementing as many security-conscious processes before a security incident is a great mitigation tool, but it will do little to help you when a breach does occur. Read more about IRP on our blog.
Use of Security Promoting Technology
The final ingredient to a robust information security program is implementing security tech into the organizational information system.
These kinds of tech include:
Of course, it is not limited to just these three, but these are your essential tools and some of the most vital. By now, every organization employs some form of anti-virus and anti-malware, but it is crucial to remain on top of unique threats.
These kinds of threats may not be detected by simple anti-virus programs and could even be specifically designed to target your industry.
Encryption is critical when it comes to health security technology. Beyond the technical safeguards mentioned above, encryption is essential to keeping your information safe. All networks should implement encryption to keep data safe in transit, at rest, and in use.
Developing a security program can be an involved process but an important thing to consider when starting any business. This is not to say that an already established company can not implement its security framework, but retrospective implementation can be hard to achieve, but it is encouraged nonetheless.
The security program development lifecycle is made more accessible with the help of a professional. RSI Security is the nation’s premier cybersecurity provider. With our experience in managed security service, we are confident we are the right partner for you. Get in touch today and schedule a consultation here.