More often than not, the terms “software security” and “application security” are used interchangeably but there is a difference between them and each comes with its own set of security risks.
Applications security is classed as a reactive approach, something that happens once the software has been deployed across the devices.
Software security is a more proactive approach, one that happens before deployment takes place.
To make sure that software is safe, security has to be built into every phase of the SDLS – software development life cycle and that makes it a good deal bigger than application security.
An application is a link between the user and the data.
Let’s say that a user wants to analyze medical information on a specific patient. Rather than manually going through every record and doing complicated calculations that can take forever, one single application can do the job.
In the same way, a bank transaction done online is carried out through mobile or web-based applications and all financial data that is not for public use is processed in this way, then transmitted and stored.
Software itself cannot tell whether the data that passes through it is meant to be confidential or sensitive.
Because of this, it has to be designed and developed around the data that it is going to process. If that data is public, it will not require user authentication if anyone wants to access it.
If, on the other hand, it is required to carry out user administration, multi-factor authentication has to be put in place so the information can be accessed by the right people only.
The right authentication, authorization and security of the data that is being stored or in transit can be designed for the specific application rather than building the application first and then trying to get it to do what’s needed.
In order to protect software and related data, measures have to be taken throughout each separate stage of the SDLC, dividing issues into those that come pre-deployment and those post-deployment.
Software security handles the pre-deployment and application security handles the post-deployment issues.
- Secure design of the software
- Developing the guidelines for secure coding that developers should follow
- Developing the procedures and standards for secure configuration in the deployment phase
- Secure coding following the established guidelines
- User input validation and carrying out the most appropriate encoding strategy
- Full user authentication
- Access control at function level
- User session management
- Strong cryptography measures to secure data in storage and in transit
- Third-party component validation
- Stopping any flaws that show up in the software design and architecture
- Security tests
- Capturing flaws in the environment configuration of the software
- Detection of malicious codes that have been put in place by the developer to create backdoors
- Any patches and upgrades that are required
- IP filtering
- Locking down executables
- Monitoring all programs at runtime to make sure the software usage policy is enforced
- Encryption and decryption programs
- Detection of viruses/Anti-virus programs
- Spyware detection and removal programs
- Tools for data loss prevention and data analysis
- Biometric authentication
Design and coding of an application is not enough to provide full security for an application.
The infrastructure that the application runs on, the servers, all the network components, everything has to be securely configured.
The software and the infrastructure it runs on have to be fully protected to maintain a high level of security. This is done via software security and application security as a combination.
The software security improves the information security, the safeguarding of assets and the enforcement of all private information, whereas the application security is just a single domain inside the entire process.