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Secure Coding Practices – Why is it Important for Your Organization?

Posted by: MK CS Team
Category: Cyber Security

The importance of secure coding practices is best understood when misconfigurations lead to breaches that cost billions minor. Uber, Quora, Yahoo, and eBay have suffered because they failed to pay attention to minute details like deleting accounts of former employees and safeguarding data servers with the latest antivirus.

While 95% of SMBs succumbed and closed after suffering a data breach, multi-national corporations are having a tough time paying $3.9 million as the average cost of a breach. The growing awareness among customers is putting corporations under immense pressure to innovate and remain ahead of hackers.

While cybersecurity experts are putting their best foot forward and trying to provide umpteen security, corporate leaders need to take initiatives and help common employees work with a discipline that protects them and even organizations from any kind of breach or attack.

What Happens when Employees Work without a Guideline?

A recent study revealed “95% of all data breaches occur due to human error”, the same study also suggested that following a set of standard practices can reduce such hacks by 65%. Organizations with a huge employee base are more prone to errors that lead to attacks because of the sporadic arrangement of teams and lack of communication between them.

When the IT team implements secure coding practices, they tend to identify such gaps and fill them through awareness and training sessions. 

Here’s How the Lack of Standard Safety Protocol Impacts Organizations

Data security gets compromised: When employees are allowed to roam freely through the workplace and have access to integral areas like server, IT rooms, and corporate sections, the chances of safety getting compromised increases. No matter how digital-savvy your organization is, the real safety starts with securing servers physically.

Chances of internal sabotage increases: The chances of employees playing an active role in data breaches increases when there’s no standard safety protocol followed at the workplace. By identifying the need for safety gates and industry-based threats, enterprises can devise a safety plan and implement it effectively.

Server misconfiguration can lead to open routes: Let’s understand with an example if an IT organization tries to save money by acquiring software packages from a local vendor and skips the VAPT once all upgrades are done then the chances of breaches due to server misconfiguration increases. 

Organizations must adhere to the norms of conducting tests every time

  • The new software is installed
  • Hardware configurations are upgraded
  • New API integrations are performed
  • Old partners leave the platform

What is Secure Coding Practices?

Primarily secure coding practices are a set of safety standards that needs to be followed while creating new software packages. With the changing times, other industries pivoted to online channels for selling, marketing, and catering to customers’ growing needs.

The pivot introduced them to the vulnerabilities and now everyone was looking for practices that help them avoid hacks, breaches, and ransomware attacks. The industry experts have optimized the standard practices according to the specific needs of businesses. These practices help enterprises function under a safer blanket and ensures protection against growing external threats. 

Are Secure Coding Practices Affiliated to any Council?

Well, secure coding practices are generally now affiliated to any institution or council but it is often devised based on regulations devised by other eminent councils. For example, every time the PCI council makes a change in its 12 requirements, industries revise their standard practices accordingly. 

The need to change secure coding practices varies from one industry to another, while e-commerce and Fintech enterprises rely on PCI DSS requirements, healthcare organizations refer to HIPAA requirements. 

Are Secure Coding Practices applicable only to Online Businesses?

In the early 2000s, when the software/IT industry was booming, secure coding practices were limited to enterprises that worked on the dot com framework. In the recent past, where enterprises have hybrid models, where they are aggressively present on offline as well as online platforms, it is safe to say that secure coding practices apply to all kinds of businesses.

Even the most traditional banks and retail organizations are now leveraging Fintech and E-commerce platforms to compete with their contemporaries. The lateral shift from offline to online platforms needs to be smooth and it is only by following secure practices that organizations can protect themselves from data breaches or cyber-attacks. 

Let’s look at some data breaches that could have been avoided by following standard safety practices

  1. Morgan Chase: 76 million users were impacted when one of the biggest data breaches struck Morgan Chase. An intricate study discovered that hackers acquired access to the root directory via accounts of former employees. This breach could have been easily avoided by following the standard practice of deleting former employee’s access as soon as they leave the organization.
  1. Aadhar Indian Government: In one of the biggest public domain mishaps that made it to the international news, Aadhar details of common people were made available to Telecom companies. 

To facilitate faster onboarding government allowed Reliance Jio, Airtel, and many other telecom organizations to verify personal details of new customers via Aadhar Interface. Later, it was discovered that Telecom enterprises were able to access personal details even after the verification process. The interface was meant just for verification but it gave uninterrupted access to telecom organizations. 

Later Airtel had to face a ban of 15 days for misusing the data and creating Payment Bank accounts without the permission of customers. 

What are the Highlights of Secure Coding Practices?

A standard secure coding practice includes steps that safeguard individual employees and encourages them to take a set of actions to keep businesses safe from growing threats. Some of the most ardently followed steps of a secure coding practice are

Validate Incoming Mails: Phishing is undoubtedly the most used medium for exploiting employees. In the last two decades, we have seen how the number of spam emails sent daily has increased from 5000 to 320 billion. 

By validating all incoming mails by verifying the email address and using an antivirus to scan the attached files for viruses or malware, employees can stop harmful files from becoming big and making tangible damages to the organization.

Securing Servers physically and virtually: Be it HIPAA, PCI DSS, or ISO Certification, all of them want organizations to mask their servers both physically as well as virtually. By limiting access to server rooms for authorized personnel and encrypting all transmitted data, enterprises can ensure higher data security and identify all attempts of sabotage in its initial stages.

Just by locking the server room and its data with an encryption key, businesses can render attempts of a data breach, hack, or cloning useless. The only threat that encryption doesn’t protect against is DDoS attacks. 

Role-Based Access Control: At centralized workplaces, where employees have hot seats and are allowed to take their preferred spot for working, having Role-Based Access Control works wonder. It restricts the movement of unauthorized personnel in areas like a server room, IT control room, and Infosec section. 

Such restrictions often follow the hierarchy model for identifying employees who can gain access to server rooms and meeting rooms assigned to other departments. Implementing one such control system minimizes the chances of data mishandling and promotes accountability. 

Train and Test: Well, everything related to security starts with education. Conduct training and awareness sessions for both existing and new employees. Make them aware of the varied regulations they might be violating unknowingly and also let them take a quiz about the standard practice.

Testing the knowledge of employees will help enterprises decide the level of training that is required. Based on the results, organizations can provide employees with reading manuals and train them through traditional or digital methods. 

Leverage Multi-Factor Authentication System: 2 step verification system has helped common people secure their email and net banking accounts, when implemented incorporates, the multi-factor authentication system can minimize attacks immensely. 

Only authorized users will be able to gain access to primary areas in the workplace. Earlier people used to spy on passwords and gain access but by adding biometric or pin-based authentication, enterprises can restrict all kinds of unauthorized movements. 

Maintain Healthy Backup: Maintaining backups not only protects organizations against downtime but also provides with the requisite confidence to try new things and up-scale whenever necessary. 

Frequent backups also ensure no data lost module, which is necessary to protect the brand’s reputation and offer customers the standard experience. Backups also come handy in case of disasters and are an integral part of Business Continuity Planning. 

Final Thoughts

The dynamics have shifted and it has changed the requirements to keep data and customers safe. With the growing internal and external threats, enterprises are required to take measures that protect both businesses and customers from all kinds of threats.

Data security can be achieved by rendering all potential hiccups redundant and it can only be achieved by following secure coding practices diligently. Abide by the listed norms and your organization will never suffer any kind of breach.

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