The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is a body under the United States Department of Commerce. The body aims to promote innovation and competition in the industry by advancing standards, measurement science, and technology to improve the quality of life. The NIST has released a set of secure software development practices for software developers to follow.
This set of practices is called the Secure Software Development Framework (SSDF). The framework is used as a guide for mobile and web app development to help software companies minimize the vulnerabilities in the software programs they release.
The SSDF practices will also help software developers reduce the likely impact of exploited vulnerabilities and tackle the root cause of those vulnerabilities, so they do not reoccur. The SSDF also provides a vocabulary for secure software development activities, facilitating easy communication between software suppliers and consumers.
What Are the SSDF Practices?
The NIST SSDF practices are grouped into four:
Prepare the Organization
Before starting a new software development project, all parties involved in the software development life cycle (SLDC) must know all the related security requirements. The security requirements must be maintained and updated throughout the period in which the software is being developed or upgraded.
Next, the project’s lead developer must structure a team and appropriately assign roles and responsibilities to every member. If necessary, team members should be trained to carry out their duties effectively. While carrying out their tasks, team members can use tools to support their efforts. Automation helps here, as it reduces errors, saves time, and increases productivity.
Subsequently, the team lead should define the criteria for software security checks and ensure the team uses them throughout the SDLC. Then, they should ensure that every entity used for the software development is safeguarded from threats.
Protect the Software
Every part of the developed software must be protected from unwanted access and meddling. Most software vulnerabilities result from cracks in the source code. The developers should ensure that every change to the code is monitored, documented, and done securely.
There should be a way to verify the integrity of the software. This would ensure the software is not tampered with when released. Lastly, every software version should be archived and protected so all cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities can be spotted and corrected quickly.
Produce Well-Secured Software
The focus here is on the design and development phase of the SDLC. The software design should meet the security requirements outlined earlier. All security issues must be addressed during the design phase to make the software development process efficient. Some cyberattacks exploit vulnerabilities during runtime, so this should be considered.
Respond to Vulnerabilities
Software developers should promptly respond to any vulnerability detected in their applications. NIST recommends that developers constantly scan their applications for bugs to ensure computer and mobile app security.
There should be a process for assessment, prioritization, and remediation of all vulnerabilities spotted. When there is more than one vulnerability at a time, they should be ranked in order of severity and dealt with accordingly. Afterward, software developers should find the root cause of each vulnerability and fix them so a similar problem does not reoccur.
The latest version of NIST SSDF widens software development security focus from just the application to the entire environment in which the application is being developed. It is safer and more efficient to secure the entire SDLC than to create a software before trying to secure it. The latter significantly reduces the risk of cyberattacks.