Many security experts agree that current security controls and capabilities cannot protect web applications sufficiently against present cybersecurity risks. Therefore, the need to develop secure applications cannot be ignored, given the numerous dangers, exploitable web application vulnerabilities, and security threats facing today’s apps. Yet, more people are using different apps today for important reasons. For example, there are 5.19 billion mobile app active users. Thus, an application security framework is essential for secure application development processes.
An application security framework comprises international and state-mandated cybersecurity procedures and processes for securing critical applications. Additionally, it provides a detailed and holistic approach to securing sensitive data. More importantly, an application security framework assists companies in risk management practices by providing complete visibility of validating security controls. Overall, an application security framework enhances the security of vital information systems and associated environments.
Why do You Need an Application Security Framework Program?
Application security framework programs play a vital role by helping organizations determine the cybersecurity aspects for enhancing app security. Moreover, companies must comply with a myriad of security standards and regulations, and a software security framework details the best practices and required security controls to ensure full compliance. Besides, with new vulnerabilities springing up every day, development teams may lack adequate awareness of emerging security vulnerabilities, applications security requirements, and new standards. Thus, an application security framework can assist software developers and organizations realize a strong security posture.
Also, a recent report describing the state of application security revealed worrying findings and statistics that make it essential to use industry-standard security measures and popular frameworks to realize secure web applications. The findings include:
- At least 56% of the most recent cyber incidents involve some types of security flaws and software vulnerabilities. In addition, 42% of the incidents caused extreme financial losses.
- Companies may take up to days to detect cyber incidents involving application exploits. But, shockingly, the study found that the average number of days required to detect incidents in other extreme cases is.
- State-sponsored threat actors contributed to 57% of financial losses resulting from application attacks in the last five years. In this regard, penetration testers, organizations, and application developers must update their cyber threat models accordingly.
- Application attacks account for the most data breaches in the last 6-8 years.
It is also essential to note that organizations use mobile and web applications to drive critical operations and decision-making processes. However, they are a prime target for attackers since 98% of companies have reported different attacks targeting mobile applications. Some of the most significant threats facing web applications include denial of service (DoS) attacks, cross-site scripting attacks, SQL injection attacks, and API manipulation. Mobile and web-based applications are the heartbeat of most digital businesses and often transmit or process sensitive data. An application security framework can assist organizations in securing their most vital applications.
Top Benefits of Using an Application Security Framework
1. An Industry-Standard Defined Structure for Securing Applications
With an application security framework, companies and developers to map their cybersecurity requirements. In addition, a security framework assists in identifying security gaps to ensure that all stakeholders inform decisions through actionable and clear conversations. For example, application developers can apply a standard throughout the software development lifecycle to ensure the security of web applications. Other software security projects describe the recommended application security tools or the secure code practices in an app development process. Such measures play a critical role in preventing unauthorized access to confidential information.
2. The Universal Applicability of Security Standards
Different countries have different data protection laws and regulations. Nevertheless, they all serve a similar purpose of preventing unauthorized access to mission-critical information. For instance, despite the location or industry of a specific company, a security framework provides industry-standard guidelines that stipulate particular actions and measures to implement concerning data protection. Furthermore, using an application security framework allows organizations to reach new markets and acquire new customers since universal applicability implies that it can be used across industries or regions.
3. Static Application Security Testing
Developers can use a software security framework to test app security, identify security weaknesses in source code, fix vulnerabilities, and ensure third-party components are up to the recommended security level. Besides, an app security testing framework can assist in modeling security threats, creating profiles for various app security risks, and identifying required access controls. Additionally, testing application security using existing frameworks enables vulnerability identifications and cybersecurity exposures in critical applications. Detecting threats facing the underlying infrastructure or those associated with enterprise applications can help companies establish consistent mitigation procedures to ensure an enhanced security posture.
Most Popular Application Security Frameworks
1. NIST SP 800-53
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released the NIST special publication (SP) 800-53 applications security framework that describes the recommended risk management practices. The latest version, NIST SP 800-53 Revision 5, includes new updates that stipulate the industry-standard application testing practices. Updates to the NIST framework are continuous to ensure constant improvement in light of the constantly changing technological ecosystems and emerging threat landscapes. With cyber-attacks increasing in complexity and innovation, NIST SP 800-53 provides guidelines for identifying and remediating vulnerabilities in applications. As a result, it significantly reduces security risks by thwarting attackers’ attempts to breach organizational applications.
Specifically, NIST 800-53 Revision 5 consists of two application security testing inclusions – SA-11(9), which describes measures for Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST; page 271), and SI-7(17), which discusses the best practices for Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP; page 339). The updates provide a much-needed boost to the essence of testing applications’ security following the recommended practices. In essence, the updates reference the need for IAST and RASP tools. More importantly, including the updates in the NIST framework will help developers detect security vulnerabilities before launching new applications.
Implementing the RASP practices, for instance, can help equip organizations with two essential application security capabilities. Firstly, runtime alerts signaling vulnerability exploitation can provide companies with a better understanding of their vulnerability exposures. Also, sophisticated technologies like RASP solutions can reduce overhead present in previous RASP tools, and deterministic security can benefit companies through lesser false positives. RASP solutions also provide real-time telemetry and application security threat intelligence. Real-time telemetry can help enterprises block attempted attacks without disrupting user access to the applications to ensure business continuity.
On the other hand, interactive application security testing (IAST) provides an ongoing process for interacting with various operations on applications without affecting the CI/CD pipeline. Essentially, an IAST agent works on an application by analyzing code as it runs in real-time. Therefore, it solves issues present in SAST tools and DAST tools by enabling rapid vulnerability mitigation for security flaws found in web application code. Furthermore, since IAST is designed to interact with an application, it permits in-depth testing of an application than DAST and SAST tools.
2. Open Web Application Security Project
Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) is an Application Security Verification Standard that identifies application security tests and requirements. The OWASP Application Security Verification Standard is designed for consumers, security professionals, developers, testers, and architects to define and achieve a secure application. In addition, the application security verification standard establishes a framework consisting of application security controls and requirements for modern applications. In particular, the standard focuses on normalizing non-functional and functional security controls that can facilitate the designing and development of secure web applications.
The most recent OWASP Application Security Verification Standard consists of various sections, such as web services, modern client-based applications, and configurations to ascertain that it is applicable in securing modern applications. In this regard, the OWASP Application Security Verification Standard serves two objectives – assist companies in developing and maintaining secure applications and permit consumers, security tools vendors, security services to align security requirements with application offerings. The recommended way of using the standard is to use it as a guide for creating secure code checklists specific to an organization’s application or platform. In addition, tailoring the OWASP top practices can help companies focus on security requirements vital to particular environments.
An application security framework provides organizations with a holistic approach for managing application security risks and ensuring information security. It provides the depth and breadth that enable companies to verify and validate required app security controls to enhance data security and surrounding environments’ security. In the modern digital era, where developers and organizations embrace the agile vs. DevOps app development approaches, an application security framework provides similar security requirements that cut across the divide.
Leveraging an application security framework is the first step towards achieving a building-it right approach in reference to secure application development that enables continuous monitoring of security weaknesses to inform appropriate remediation measures. Furthermore, an applications security framework empowers stakeholders and industry leaders to make consistent risk-based decisions that assist in improving critical infrastructure cybersecurity. Also, an application security framework combines organizational best practices based on industry-specific frameworks with standard-based application security policies tailored to specific compliance and business needs.