The Developer’s Role in Ensuring Software Update Security

Sep 15, 2023

The undeniable role of software updates in cybersecurity

As cyber threats continue to evolve, the role of software updates in cybersecurity cannot be understated. Updates are key in identifying flaws in a system and handling zero-day vulnerabilities early enough. Secure software updates and developers are integral to the development lifecycle, but without adequate security measures, they could inadvertently introduce vulnerabilities into your system. Understanding the role of developers in ensuring secure software update procedures is key to minimizing potential attack surfaces. As we celebrate Cybersecurity Awareness Month, this article highlights developers’ role in ensuring software updates security.

🙌🏼 Ensuring Update Integrity: How to ensure patches don’t introduce new vulnerabilities

Although updates are intended to bolster the functionality and security of software, they can inadvertently introduce vulnerabilities. When conducting patch management in development, you must safeguard the integrity of the software to prevent introducing vulnerabilities to a system.

Therefore, developers should undertake secure update protocols to guarantee the safety of the updates. One of the steps is rigorous testing of the updates before pushing them into the live environment. This helps confirm you have identified and fixed all potential security gaps. 

Developers can also implement a strong version control system to track changes and rectify issues after deployment. A version control system enables the developer to roll back the changes in case of an issue that is hard to fix. It also provides a reference point for future development. 

Thorough code reviews in the development process are also critical in safeguarding the integrity of the updates. Developers should undertake structured code reviews of the updates to ensure no vulnerabilities are overlooked. This can be achieved by having several team members review the code before it is pushed to the production environment. They can also leverage automated code analysis tools to identify existing vulnerabilities.

Best Practices: How developers should roll out and test updates

Before any rollout, the developer must adhere to a set of best practices that help smooth the update process. Software updates are complex processes with various moving parts that can affect the outcome. Having a systematic approach helps mitigate anything going wrong. Some best practices when rolling out updates include:

  • Testing – Before any rollout, a developer should test the updates in an environment that mimics the production environment. This helps highlight any compatibility issues with updates and allows you to fix them before the rollout. This may also mean testing all devices and operating systems to detect integration issues. Testing eliminates any potential issue that may arise in the production environment. Testing can also involve inviting active users of the application to try the new updates.
  • Gradual or phased deployment – As a standard practice, a phased rollout is advisable for the users. This involves gradual deployment of the encrypted software updates to some users to monitor performance. This approach helps identify unexpected issues that may have been missed during testing. Gradual rollout is easy to roll back in case of major issues, without affecting all users. It also gives performance data of the updates from different users, devices, and operating systems. With this data, you can understand how each user is affected. As you continue to assess the impact of the updates, gradually increase the number of users who receive the automated software update checks.
  • In-house training – Before any software update, all stakeholders need internal training. This ensures they understand the update’s impact on end users and can troubleshoot any complaint. This helps create clear communication between users and the company, helping manage their expectations and minimize confusion.
  • Rollback plan – This predefined strategy reverts a software update to a stable version when critical issues arise. Before any update, it’s crucial to have a rollback plan stipulating the steps and procedures to be taken. This plan acts as a safety net that enables reverting updates and restoring to an older version. If an update introduces a vulnerability, it becomes easy to roll back the updates to the previous version.

🔎 Staying Ahead of Threats: Addressing vulnerabilities proactively

Developers must always stay ahead of potential threats against applications. Staying ahead involves a proactive approach to safeguard the software from cyber threats. Developers must also cultivate a security-focused mindset from the project’s inception. 

  • Monitoring – Continuous monitoring is key in identifying any vulnerabilities before they occur. Using vulnerability databases, such as Common Vulnerabilities & Exposures (CVE), can help you discover vulnerabilities in your industry. Internally, developers can also install incident monitoring tools to monitor malicious attempts on their software. Being aware of prevalent vulnerabilities helps developers mitigate potential threats. 
  • Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA) – To safeguard your software, it’s crucial to assume that cyber threats exist inside and outside your network. The developer should implement strong authentications and role-based access control systems. This ensures that all users within and without the organization are always validated before accessing the services. ZTA, therefore, reduces the chances of unauthorized access if some credentials are compromised.
  • Threat Modeling – Threat modeling helps identify potential threats by simulating attackers’ actions. It enables developers to categorize and prioritize threats based on complexity, likelihood of occurrence, and potential damage. This enables them to allocate resources and effort accordingly to vulnerable areas. Threat modeling should be integrated into the design process to ensure that the team implements security from the very onset.

📑 Case Study: An analysis of a secure software update in action

Imagine an e-commerce platform with significant traffic with vast user data. The platform’s developer undertakes a comprehensive risk analysis to prioritize vulnerabilities based on potential impact and severity. This enables them to strategically focus on addressing high-risk vulnerabilities first. With this, they can conduct a secure software update, enhancing data security. The developers also undertake industry best practices during development to safeguard the software. 

The continuous responsibility of developers in updating security

Developers need to prioritize software security when evaluating and completing updates. Kiuwan provides both code security (SAST) and software composition analysis (SCA), ensuring apps are up-to-date with the latest, most secure versions. Our solutions are designed to be easy and intuitive so developers can quickly find vulnerabilities in their code. Contact us today to see how we can help secure your code without compromising performance or slowing development cycles.

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