The 6 Steps in the Secure Software Development Lifecycle

The 6 Steps in the Secure Software Development Lifecycle
July 4, 2021

It’s no secret that the world is powered by software, generating 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day. From your smartphone that’s always within arm’s reach, to smart home gadgets, to aviation, military, and education, the needs and uses for software are endless.

Most developers have a well-structured strategy for designing, developing, and maintaining high-performance software, but lag when it comes to ensuring as secure an environment as possible during software development. That’s why your firm needs to integrate security measures into the software development lifecycle right from the outset.

By embracing a secure software development lifecycle, you’ll foster an environment and culture that creates well-designed, best-performing, and highly secure software. In this article, we’re going to take you through the six-step process for doing so.

What’s Secure Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC)?

A secure SDLC is a process, framework, or a set of steps developers must follow to build secure software applications. Software security is prioritized throughout the development process, which is often chunked into six or more phases: Planning, Build, Documentation, Analysis, Design, Implementation, Testing, and Maintenance.

Development teams may merge, omit, or split some of the steps, depending on the software requirements and the scope of their projects. In this guide, we’re going to hit the big 6.

Let’s get started.

Step #1- Planning

While it’s tempting to hit the ground running, it’s important to plan before you start writing code. Planning steps are vital to building sophisticated and secure software, so you don’t want to skip them.

In the planning phase, developers, project managers, and business analysts collect, analyze, and make sense of the business requirements of the software development project. Tasks often addressed in this phase include calculating material and labor costs, drafting the project timetable with target objectives/goals, and putting together the development team.

Every software development process starts with setting clear, well-defined target goals. What pain points, problems, or challenges are you looking to solve with the software product? Defining the scope and purpose of the software development will help with budgeting and keeping the project in check.

It’s also at this point that you set and document big-picture security requirements for the software, so the team can identify potential risks, as well as ensure both quality assurance and technical feasibility.

Most project managers also conduct market research and competitor analysis during the planning phase. They often carry out stakeholder interviews, create surveys, and run focus groups.

Step #2- Analysis

Traditionally part of the planning phase in the secure software development lifecycle, requirement analysis is geared towards identifying overall software requirements. It is essential when it comes to making the necessary adjustments so that the software is not only secure but will also function properly.

The analysis is generally carried out by senior developers, making sure to actively collaborate and get feedback from customers, stakeholders, and relevant departments, such as sales, marketing, and IT. What ensues is a feasibility study that helps forecast the viability of the project both in the short term and long run from technical, operational, and financial standpoints.

In addition, the project manager will also plan and draft quality assurance and security requirements during the analysis phase.

Step #3 – Design

Once planning and requirement analysis is completed, it’s time for the design team to take over, helping build the architecture and create models for the software application. This phase is meant to remove the guesswork from development by setting standards, frameworks, and designs that the developers will follow.

Some key aspects of the design phase include:

  • User interface: This defines how the application will interact and respond to user input
  • Architecture: Defines overall software design, industry best practices, programming language, and templates to be used. It will also detail programming aspects like methods of performing tasks and solving problems within the software application.
  • Platforms: Specifies which platforms the software application is being built for, be it Linux, Windows, Android, iOS, Mac, etc.
  • Communications: Specifies the channels or methods of communication for the software, like APIs, VPNs, central servers, etc.
  • Security: This is really where the secure SDLC shines, defining security measures to incorporate into the software application, such as encryption technologies like SSL
  • Prototyping: The design team may also create mock-ups and wireframes of the program.

Step #4 – Implementation

This is where the rubber meets the road, as the team of expert developers starts writing the actual software code. The project can be chunked into smaller, easily manageable tasks that can be handled by a single or a few developers.

The development team must follow the technical requirements and code according to the specified coding rules, industry standards, and best practices. The necessary functionalities, security measures, and other components of the software program are brought to life in this crucial phase.

The project managers or team leaders are tasked with ensuring workflow and streamlined development across the different teams handling the writing of code. They must also ensure target goals are adhered to at all times.

Step #5 – Testing

Conducting several rounds of tests is vital before taking any software product to the market. Testing is generally performed after a series of code analyses, reviews, and quality assurance, with most organizations creating an actionable test plan early in the secure software development lifecycle.

The vast majority of tests are automated using a variety of code analysis tools, while others are conducted in specific runtime environments. Liventus goes in-depth on some of the secure software development tools one can use in this stage.

There are many different types of software testing and each test is targeted at different parts or aspects of the application. For instance, security testing is designed to check for defects that may lead to vulnerabilities. Performance testing, on the other hand, is meant to identify any lags, glitches, or hangs in the processing.

Step #6 – Maintenance

The secure SDLC doesn’t stop when the application goes live. The software application must be reviewed and fine-tuned on an ongoing basis based on market research, the latest industry best practices, and user feedback. The application must also be regularly upgraded and maintained to ensure optimal security, user satisfaction, and performance.

Conclusion

With the recent surge in cybersecurity threats, it’s important for organizations to adopt a secure SDLC. This framework will help you build, deliver, and maintain securely developed  software that’s breach-proof.

From planning, requirement analysis, and design to development, implementation, and maintenance, it’s critical to incorporate security into each phase of the development lifecycle

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