National Coding Week is about learning the value and importance of digital skills as well as nurturing the increasingly important skill of coding. Developer shortages across the U.S. and the developed world highlight the lack of necessary skills and expertise in the field of coding.

This shortage potentially brings with it severe consequences, most notably in the area of cybersecurity, where growing numbers of cyber threats present grave challenges for governments, businesses, institutions, and individuals. In honour of National Coding Week, it is paramount that cybersecurity plays a more pronounced role in the software development processes going forward.

Developer-first security, or DevSecOps, refers to a methodology designed to bring development, security, and operations together under a unified team. The unification of developers with security specialists enables an application to more effectively deter and correct security matters throughout the software lifecycle.

This article aims to provide valuable insights into some of the most important practices organizations should incorporate to strengthen application development security.

Developer security

A DevSecOps approach strengthens corporate security standards with equipment, password management, and biometric technology. This includes secure code signing tools, which enable developers to append the digital signature, offering rapid, frictionless signature generation that is protected and doesn’t interfere with DevOps processes. Secure code signing tools are important in identity management, validating software integrity, and protecting against supply-chain attacks.

Moreover, current multifactor authentication (MFA) processes are subject to either ineffective protection or are ladened with time-extensive and multi-device demanding login requirements, or both. By combining the MFA, based on the device of choice (phone, laptop, etc.), with a biometric indicator (voice, facial scan, fingerprint) into a single process, as seen in voice recognition key phrase prompts on a registered device, an organization significantly increases the level of security while reducing time constraints at the same time. This process ensures and consistently improves cybersecurity for any entity’s application lifecycle and environment.

Another area where developer security can be reinforced is through migration from a local integrated development environment (IDE) to a Cloud IDE. Cloud IDEs, a software development platform, are fast becoming one of the most commonly used programming and development tools used by developers and source code collaboration tools, such as CodePen. There is a learning curve involved with migrating to a Cloud IDE, but they streamline the software development process and minimize the risk of on-devices data losses.

Application security

By integrating developer and application security, each stage in the software development process becomes more secure. There are several common security architecture frameworks that, when tailored for the precise needs and goals of a business or organization, provide the best defence from cyber threats. The obvious benefits of implementing a strong security architecture framework are reduced likelihood of breaches and cost savings. But it can also help mitigate the disciplinary measures in case such a breach does take place.

As more organizations migrate to cloud-based environments, the need for proper identity management is becoming crystallized. Identity management refers to the enterprise’s information system and represents the systemic management of any single identity boundaries—essentially controlling who receives access to certain resources. Unlike many common methods of systemic authorization, which rely on sessions and cookies for identification, JWT (Json Web Token) streamlines the identity authorization mechanism in a more secure and effective method. By encoding the data, or ‘payload’, along with a header code identification, JWT can reduce the need for external data storage, whilst ensuring its security in its own self-identifying signature.

This mechanism brings identification authorization, and that of the entire system, to a new level of efficiency and security. Similarly, the OAuth 2.0 protocol streamlines the service-to-service (S2S) authorization process. By enabling specialized limited access, or ‘delegated access’, the OAuth 2.0 can provide an access token to the service, enabling all the allowed data sharing and service interaction permissions necessary.

While both authorization mechanisms, JWT and OAuth 2.0 are entirely different and serve uniquely different purposes it is because of the distinctive differences that they are compatible and even complementary. With this in mind, the best and most secure authorization mechanism would see the pairing of both JWT and OAuth 2.0 protocols. This combination, each tackling its own unique aspect of the authorization process allows them to even integrate with each other. Since the OAuth 2.0 protocol, beyond the requirement to contain information on all the allowed permissions and to be verifiable by the service, does not need a specific format for the access tokens—JWTs can be incorporated as these tokens. As such, JWT becomes the authorization mechanism with external service APIs, granting them access to their restricted and protected resources and data.

Infrastructure security

Looking at the aspects of modern infrastructure security, a great amount of attention is given to container security. Containerization has provided a vast number of new tools and solutions to appear on the cloud-native technologies spectrum, emphasizing the value of pairing the right tool for the right function. To highlight particular representatives, tools like Trivy or Snyk take the burden of constantly scanning container images for vulnerabilities and, when embedded into CI/CD pipelines, form an approval gate.

Falco, a runtime security engine, becomes essential in live container threat detection. OpenPolicyAgent and Kyverno enable container clusters to follow a set of strict policies, blocking any violating activities through admission control mechanisms. Such policies, as a baseline, should strive to discard running images as root, restrict linux capabilities inside containers, ensure a read-only root file system, and more. The community around container technologies has put a lot of effort into composing security checklists, benchmarks, and standards, all of which must be taken into consideration before the application go-live.

Microservice architectures brought forward "Zero Trust" as a practice to provide robust end-to-end communications to simplify and control the flow of API requests between different parts of the application, secure by default with TLS, authenticated with OAuth2 tokens, and scanned for anomalies from web application firewalls. Additionally, multicluster support within service meshes like Istio or Linkerd help to shift security isolation from a single-cluster namespace-based approach to a cluster-level surface, eliminating control planes as bottleneck pain points in security and stability.

As it stands today, container environment security is a vast decision-making process within the solution architecture design. This brings with it its own standards and caveats, which should never be undervalued in the pursuit of reliable infrastructure.

Going forward

It is evident that new and growing cyber threats and capabilities are intersecting with new security tools and cloud environments, meaning corporate security standards remain a pivotal part of ensuring a healthy, safe, secure, and threat-free cyber environment. Needless to say, it is of utmost importance for all businesses and organizations to ensure these corporate security standards remain in focus and are followed, religiously.

However, as much as these practices serve to ensure the preeminent concept of cybersecurity, they alone can only play a minor role. To further bolster cybersecurity, these corporate security methods must be coupled with DevSecOps practices from the developer coding and access management procedures as well.

This National Coding Week, it’s not only about the accomplishments and progress made in the area of IT and software development, but also about raising awareness about the importance of solving the developer shortage crisis and providing education on the newest and most relevant advances in crucial areas, such as cybersecurity.

Written by Artem Mescheryakov, Senior DevOps Engineer of GlobalDots