Software integrity is a journey, not a destination

A software integrity program takes a proactive approach, examining software quality and software security from the beginning of the development life cycle.

Software integrity is a journey, not a destination

As software evolves, there is an underlying focus on a goal (or set of goals). From an organizational perspective, software security is an operation that protects critical business practices. Thus, it should become a habitual element of the development process—in the same way that quality implications are considered to meet specific goals.

This proactive point of view, examining quality and security from the beginning (or as early in the development process as possible), is known as software integrity.

As you well know, organizations aim to operate quickly, effectively, and efficiently. Continue to do so while infusing integrity into current operations by:

  • Investigating grey areas before they become an issue.
  • Containing potential vulnerabilities before attackers gain access.
  • Implementing a plan to recover quickly from exploits, should the worst case scenario take place.

Only when software security is treated with the same importance as quality can threat handling become a proactive strategy, rather than a reactive response.

A software integrity program isn’t the finish line

The classified nature of the information that many applications consume has become a moving target. An application or a piece of software may be considered vulnerability-free at a certain point—but without any additional changes, a new vulnerability could emerge at any time. For this reason, it’s critical to maintain proactivity with regular security assessments. At the same time, organizations are quickly responding to the evolving needs of the market.

Having the agility to meet these needs requires a widening in the organization’s application portfolio. This, in turn, broadens the gamut of services and the infrastructure. Security programs focusing on one-time remediation cannot address this organic growth of the threat landscape. An attacker may also understand the orthodox nature of ‘security as a destination’ approaches. This allows attackers more flexibility to disrupt applications, creating a costly inconvenience—or worse.

To stay ahead of the threats and attack potential, your software integrity program must be persistent, comprehensive, and dynamic. It requires laser-sharp focus to manage security risk across the landscape. This achieves a stronger software and application posture for the following reasons:

It ensures threat detection isn’t time-bound

The never-ending battle to prevent and mitigate breaches requires a software integrity program that is cohesive at all stages. To achieve a delicate balance between software functionalities and controls, while also protecting the overall business, there’s no room for complacency. It also requires steady security practices throughout the applications that are critical to your business.

It maintains continuous profiling of the software portfolio

The steady growth of software and applications within the portfolio can disturb the security balance. As such, there is a need for continuous profiling, monitoring, and scanning. Carry this out by using static analysis and dynamic analysis within each software development life cycle (SDLC) phase. Leverage the results for constant visibility into the applications and make application-based assessment decisions. This information can also be fed into architecture analysis of the applications. Additionally, it can be used for educating the developers, testers, and the enterprise architects to continuously mature your program.

It allows for high-privileged activity monitoring

Privileged accounts are the prime targets for internal and external attacks. Security and quality programs must be able to profile the high-privileged activity (HPA) events from regular events. Based on the profiling, continuously monitor the HPA actions for any deviations that might coordinate with high-risk actions. This nurtures a big-picture focus and anticipates threat actions.

It minimizes the containment area

Like a constant tennis volley, there is a constant back and forth between attackers and security professionals. Integrity programs must continue to protect assets and minimize the vulnerable attack surface. It should continuously log the relevant application, network, infrastructure, and user activities. This is also used to investigate user activities and restrict bad actors within a localized area.

It provides a retrospective assessment of the application landscape

A software integrity program allows you to turn back time and provide the necessary indicators that can correlate and form the audit trail of the activities. This provides an effective way to understand the nature of compromise and form a line of actions for forensics and audit purposes.

It accounts for governance, risk, and compliance concerns

Regulations are part of business operations. Enterprise software and application security must address the critical components of business risks and regulatory compliance. It must work with GRC program to consolidate the risk profile and provide viable risk and regulatory management. Additionally, it must holistically rate the assets, applications, and associated data, and evolve vulnerability management processes to stay on top of the growing threats and to control the environment.

It supports smart analytics and data visualization of organizational events

Correlating feeds from various control points and application gateways helps to capture all the relevant SIEM feeds. This supports centralized analytics (such as the patterns of the user activities). These analytics can provide a strong context of security events within the organization and help in making smart decisions on vulnerability management, remediation strategies, and compliance.

How does a software integrity program support your firm’s business objectives?

A business can’t achieve its objectives without adding the assurance of a strong software integrity program, which closely relates to the organizational journey. Despite the rising and ever-evolving threats, most organizations aren’t up-to-date when it comes to measuring the risk profile of their software integrity program. Additionally, you can’t secure what you can’t measure.

Through my interaction with various clients across a variety of industries, there is no tangible response from security and quality teams as to their software and/or application security stance. Some think if there are no compromises (at least not known) that their security program is working.

A successful security program and policy need data to substantiate the security profile. “Nothing bad happened” doesn’t cut it. At Synopsys, we help you to benchmark your security program. With the assessment of 130+ firms over a wide array of industries, BSIMM is a measuring stick to help organizations evaluate their security journey.

Striking a balance

Software security and quality programs, like any other ecosystem, must find a balance. Any change, be it major or minor, that makes its way into the software portfolio disturbs the control that internal and external factors have over the ecosystem. For this reason, programs must harmonize the business operations by rebalancing and reducing the risks around the changed software interaction. This rebalancing is perpetual. Hence, there is no finish line to software security, software quality, and thus software integrity.

Once a software security program is integrated with the soul of organizational journey (including the current value that quality holds in organizations), you’ll find a more robust preventative stance growing throughout the organization. As the organizational strategy guides the overall journey, software security complements that journey by removing the roadblocks and making the journey smooth, swift, enjoyable, and on-time.

Software Security + Software Quality = Software Integrity

Start your journey

Aseem Lodha

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Aseem Lodha

Aseem Lodha

Aseem Lodha is a security consultant at Synopsys. With an information science background, he holds a master’s degree in Management Information System from SUNY Buffalo. He specializes in penetration testing, threat modeling, architecture risk analysis, and web application security. When Aseem is not making the world a more secure place to live, he unwinds by reading, traveling, playing soccer, engaging in a lively discussion, or meandering on the streets of New York City with his wife.

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