How to Embed Pen Testing into your Software Development Life Cycle

Aug 03, 2022

Ensuring security throughout the software development life cycle (SDLC) is more important than ever. That’s why it’s crucial to have security intertwined through each stage of the SDLC.

Unfortunately, many companies don’t test for security vulnerabilities until the end of the SDLC. At that point, changes to the code and fixing vulnerabilities are much more costly. On the other hand, companies that invest in incorporating effective security measures can save up to $1.4 million for every attack they thwart.

Any organization that does software development for internal use or client-facing assets should test early and often. Even after the software has been developed. So, if you’re looking for ways to embed pen testing and security into your software development life cycle, you’ve come to the right place.

Building Secure Software

Let’s begin by talking about the SDLC. The SDLC includes six phases: requirements gathering, planning, design, coding, testing, and maintenance.

Requirements gathering includes identifying needs for the project, defining the scope, and writing functional specifications. Planning is figuring out the resources, personnel, risk potential, and cost to develop the software.

Design determines how the software solution looks and functions, including the design specifications. Coding creates the source code for the application. Testing ensures that the program works correctly. Finally, maintenance focuses on keeping the system running smoothly.

Now let’s talk about how you can establish security throughout the SDLC. For example, early on, code reviews are a helpful way to establish security. These can be done either manually or with the use of automated tools.

By incorporating security early on, you help minimize vulnerabilities and save costs in the long run. Another way you can do this is by pen testing. So, what exactly is pen testing, and where should you incorporate it in the SDLC?

What is Pen Testing?

Penetration testing (pen testing or pentesting) is a methodical way of finding software or computer systems vulnerabilities. Penetration testers simulate attacks against a target system to identify weaknesses that might allow attackers to gain unauthorized access.

Integrating Pen Testing

There are several methods and standards for performing penetration tests, such as manual, automated, and hybrid approaches. There is the widely recognized Open Web Application Security Project for application testing, and for network pen testing, there is the Open Source Security Testing Methodology Manual.

Penetration test services are becoming increasingly popular because they provide valuable information about the vulnerabilities in your applications.

One of the best places to integrate pen testing is during the development phase. During this stage, you want to ensure that everything is secure and that no holes exist. Also, if there is something wrong with the code, you don’t want to discover it later.

In addition, you can perform pen testing during design reviews, code reviews, and deployment phases. For example, you might conduct vulnerability scans on the application server and web servers to ensure no vulnerabilities exist.

You could also run a pen test against the database to check for attacks. The fix will be much simpler if a vulnerability is found during the quality assurance or testing phase. As you can see, pen testing can be a beneficial investment to secure your software. Now we’ll break down how penetration testing is performed.

How To Perform Penetration Testing

There are several different approaches you can take to perform pen testing. Some people prefer to use automated tools. Others prefer manual techniques. In either case, here are some steps you can follow to perform pen testing effectively.

1. Understand the Target Environment

Before performing a penetration test, you must understand your target environment. First, you need to know what networks and systems are in place and how they are involved in the SDLC.

This will help you determine how much time you should spend on each test phase.

For example, if you have an internal network with only one server, you may want to focus more on the network than the server. On the other hand, if you have multiple servers and networks, you may want to focus more on the server.

2. Identify Vulnerabilities

Once you have a good understanding of your target environment, you can then identify potential vulnerabilities. There are many ways to go about doing this. One way is to use a scanning tool such as Network Mapper or Nmap; scanners like this allow you to scan for common vulnerabilities quickly. While another method is to search for vulnerabilities manually.

3. Test Security Controls

Once you have identified vulnerabilities, you can test whether your security team is appropriately addressing those vulnerabilities. This means checking to see if the controls or security you set in place are working correctly.

You can do this using a variety of methods. For example, you can use a vulnerability scanner to verify that all patches have been applied by your team. Or you can use a penetration tester or cyber security team to confirm that the firewall has been configured correctly.

4. Report Results

After you have tested the security controls, you can report your findings. You should thoroughly document the results so they are always readily available for review at a later date.

5. Fix Problems

If you detect any problems after reviewing the results, you can now fix them. This includes fixing any issues not detected or corrected during the initial test. It also includes fixing any major problems that came up during the test.

6. Continuous Monitoring

You should repeat these steps until you feel confident that the target environment is secure. Then create a strategy for continuous monitoring during the maintenance phase of the SDLC.

Final Thoughts

Penetration testing is a great way to determine if your system is vulnerable. However, it is crucial to remember that it is just one aspect of securing your software development lifecycle.

You still need to ensure that you address all other aspects of the process. If pen testing seems overwhelming and you’re looking for someone to assist with the security of your software, CyZen is here to help.

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