Secure code review or Static Application Security Testing is a specialised task majorly performed by Security auditors that involves manual or automated validation of the security standards of the application source code along with identification of underlying security vulnerabilities that may prevail in the system. In other words, it is the process of verifying the implementation of proper security controls in an application.

In fast-paced coding environments, where critical deadlines demand that code be written, tested, and deployed within a short time period, unsafe coding practices are very prone to creep-in, which may lead to errors from the security aspect. Secure Code reviews identify programming flaws that can make applications vulnerable to attack and exploitation, for mitigating risks and eliminating architectural flaws.

When should you do a code review?

Secure code review tools are a little expensive and it also increases the development timeframe a little, hence Some organisations prefer Secure code review Audit towards the end cycle of development, when almost all the application functionalities are developed. We do not recommend this practice as changing the code in the end, for security implementation in complex financial/business applications becomes difficult in the end. Finally, security exceptions are taken for continuity of business. Such applications always carry the risk of getting compromised putting the business and PII data at stake and may lead to tremendous financial loss in future. An organization must add the security elements like input validation, data encryption, etc. in the code before making the first commit of even the most basic application. Hence, Secure code review should be a focus throughout the application development life cycle in any organization.

Benefits of Security code review.

A secure code review benefits the organization by evaluating vulnerabilities that originate at the code level which aren't otherwise apparent. This will eventually enable development teams to correct the insecure coding methodologies being used in the organization. Secure code review also provides other benefits which are as follows.

  • Early evaluation of Application code layout which might not be analysed in an application security test.
  • Detailed report on your organisations web application security containing potential threats and vulnerabilities on the application including remedial measures.
  • Secure code review prior to production deployment to prevent cyber incidents and protect organizations reputation.
  • Meet the secure code development standards followed by the industry including PCI DSS standards.

Our Methodology for secured code review:

There are multiple approaches to perform a secure code review which are Manual, Automated and combination of the two.

Automated Review is performed when large code bases are to be reviewed since the analysis can be performed quickly and efficiently. Automated Secure Code reviews are performed using various Open Source or Commercial tools available in the Industry. Automated code review tools can be integrated within the development life cycle and the security review can continuously happen whenever a piece of code is pushed in CI/CD pipeline.

Manual code review is only performed when the code base is small enough since it is a tedious task and can be only performed by a senior developer or experienced professional. The advantage of Manual review is that it can help identify Business logic vulnerabilities which may be missed in Automated code review.

Hence the best approach to test is combine the 2 approaches i.e. Perform Automated review using tools and then manually review important part of codes where critical vulnerabilities may exist.

How can Qseap help in Secure code review?

qSEAp employs a well-established hybrid methodology of using tools and manual review at the same time. A fully manual process may consume a long time, and a fully automated process may miss out on the vulnerabilities. qSEAp develops a threat model for each review which helps in minimizing the time to identify all possible risks.

The hybrid methodology speeds up the entire process, which fits in seamlessly in your SDLC without hampering your critical deadlines. qSEAp also performs grey-box application security tests on a need-basis, during the code review, which ensures that all vulnerabilities and backdoors are unearthed, and humanly verified, and the maximum depth is reached.

Apart from these:

  • Qualified Experienced consultants in the field of Information Security and Application Penetration Testing will work as a part of your team to perform the Secure Code Review Audit.
  • A clear report prioritizing severity and relevant risks to your organization will be given along with the remediation of the vulnerabilities.

Best Practices for Secure coding:

While there are different secure development practices being followed for different coding in programming languages, OWASP has a few generalised coding guidelines that must be followed for writing secure code irrespective of the programming language.

  • Input Validation: Proper input validation must be performed on all the input parameters coming from an external source to prevent attacks like Injection, Buffer overflows, Cross Site Scripting (XSS).
  • Output Encoding: Encoding of all the unsafe characters should be performed in such a way that the target system must not execute the code provided by the attacker. This can prevent critical issues like XSS.
  • Authentication and Password Management: Secure handling of credentials by external services must be performed by the developer along with retention of confidentiality by setting of password management rules and availability to critical assets.
  • Session Management: Session Management must be implemented in the code to prevent session related attacks like Session Puzzling, Session fixation, etc.
  • Access Control: Access control is a security technique of giving access to resources to only privileged users. This helps in making sure no unauthorised user can access information he/she isn't allowed to access.
  • Cryptographic Practices: Cryptographic operations must be performed to protect all the sensitive data of the organization, its applications and the end users of the applications.
  • Error Handling and Logging: Improper Error handling and logging can introduce security problems like stacktrace, database dumps and error codes being displayed to the attackers. Hence implementation details are made public in case of improper error handling which invites potential threats to the organization.
  • Data Protection: Data protection must be done to maintain Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability of the data.
  • Communication Security: Transport layer Security (TLS) along with encrypted data should be used for protecting connections while communication is being performed to add a layer of security.
  • System Configuration: All the systems, frameworks and system components should be running on the latest version and patches to prevent vulnerabilities.
  • Database Security: Lowest level of privilege should be used while accessing the database to improve security and prevent giving out unauthorised information to the attacker.
  • File and Memory Management: File and memory management should be implemented to avoid attacks like file upload, Remote code execution, Buffer overflows etc.

These Secure Coding techniques mentioned by OWASP, if implemented, can protect you from most of the attacks that could compromise the CIA Triade.

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