Developing a secure cloud application is one of the most challenging tasks in today’s technological landscape. You take up the central role in the Cloud Shared Responsibility Model, serving as the go-between from the hardware that makes up cloud infrastructure to the use cases that are cloud business users. Because the cloud is one of the most high-risk digital environments, your cloud application development must achieve security protocols that are above reproach. Hackers can possibly exploit any attack on the clients who purchase and use your software.
For your clients to trust your cloud applications, you must strive to achieve the highest degree of security. To do this, following security best practices with intense dedication becomes necessary. You will need to set high standards for security, provide your clients with advanced tools to maintain their security, and test constantly to prevent vulnerabilities during initial and ongoing development.
To this end, we have compiled six best practices for application security.
- Clarify Your Role in the Shared Responsibility Model
- Provide End-to-End Encryption
- Develop or Partner to Create Secure APIs
- Provide Advanced Account Access Controls
- Enact Robust Audits and Penetration Testing
- Provide Comprehensive User Education
Following these best practices in depth can help you to build truly robust cloud applications providing the most significant possible level of security in today’s threat-rich environment.
1) Clarify Your Role in the Shared Responsibility Model
Cloud providers like AWS and Azure are responsible for the physical layer.
The Shared Responsibility Model outlines the different layers of responsibility for security within the cloud. Cloud providers like AWS and Azure are responsible for the physical layer – the security of data centers, servers, and networks. Applications like yours take responsibility for handling data and that clients using your features are not risking their data. Users are then responsible for how they handle data, the behavior of accounts, and the devices they connect to cloud applications and infrastructure.
Located in the center, you will need to take full responsibility for the operations level of the shared security diagram, providing robust features and making it clear to clients where that responsibility transfers back into their hands.
Secure Interactions With Your Application
When a device or account connects with your application, you are responsible for providing secure interactions. Logins should expose passwords, stored data should not be easily accessed by outside parties, and so on. Perhaps these things should “go without saying.” But insecure interactions are often the source of breaches when security is assumed to be given.
Extremely robust infrastructure in every application feature and interaction will become the foundation of your application security, like building your walls out of concrete and steel instead of drywall.
Advanced Protection of Sensitive Data
Your protocols for handling sensitive data should be greater than those used for handling most business documents and archives.
Be aware of the sensitive data in your application whenever possible. Account information, user names, locations, biometric data, locations, and employment records are all sensitive because people can use them for identity theft. Your protocols for handling sensitive data should be greater than those used for handling most business documents and archives. The same is true for anything regarding finances, human resources, and healthcare. Provide special security measures for sensitive data, and don’t shy away from requiring extra authorization steps to access or change this information once stored.
Maintaining Compliant Infrastructure
Compliance is one of the core responsibilities of a cloud application. When you work with businesses, each business will have some combination of compliance they must maintain in their software stack. As a part of that stack, the compliances you can achieve will both instill trust and dictate which industries you can work with. For example, maintaining software HIPAA compliance ensures you can work with businesses connected to healthcare.
Configurations are one of the primary points of responsibility transition where clients can accidentally expose their data. You can help reduce that risk by creating an “airlock” type protocol with high-security pre-configuration options. Allow your clients to build a use case and provide preset secure configurations rather than leaving every port and switch in the client’s control.
Should an advanced admin call up for more detailed configuring, they can work directly with your team to achieve a uniquely secure configuration for their needs.
Internal Malware Protections
Through continuous cloud application development, your team is also responsible for keeping your platform or service free of malware. Supply-chain attacks that target all the clients of a cloud software provider make you a juicy target. You will need eternal vigilance to ensure no malicious operations slip into your infrastructure or propagate through your network.
2) Provide End-to-End Encryption
Encryption is the number one protection against stolen data. In today’s security environment, it is nearly impossible to stop every single breach. But you can stop the breaches from putting people or businesses at risk by ensuring hackers gain nothing of value; no sensitive information, no proprietary development; no identities to steal, or data to sell or use as blackmail.
Encryption ensures that when hackers do access data they shouldn’t all they get is an indecipherable hash. End-to-end encryption combines encryption at rest and in motion so there is never a moment when data is unencrypted for any but an authorized user while they are logged in.
Encryption at Rest
Encryption at rest means that data is encrypted when it is in storage. Databases, archives, and document managers should all be encrypted at all times, decipherable only by authorized accounts and only while they are logged into your application with a recently confirmed identity. Encryption at rest ensures that breaches of your data infrastructure yield nothing a hacker can read or use.
Lastly, Encryption in Motion
Many hackers and malicious programs can now read data bits as they flow through internet channels.
Encryption in motion means that when data is traveling between the cloud and the user, it is still encrypted. Many hackers and malicious programs can now read data bits as they flow through internet channels. However, motion encryption ensures they get nothing of use when skimming data traveling through open channels.
3) Develop or Partner to Create Secure APIs for Digital Application Development
No cloud application is an island. Software today, especially business software, is in conjunction with dozens of other pieces of business software as part of a stack. Businesses also prefer that their software interface with each other. So that data share a source of truth and eliminate data silos. However, this means that your application’s security cannot be a bastion or fortress. It also needs secure APIs to interface with others. This is ideally similarly secured business applications.
To create these APIs, you will need to write them yourself or work with corresponding development teams to create each secure API between common business programs that your application will be paired with.
Connecting to Cloud Infrastructure
First, make sure that your connection to common cloud infrastructure like Azure and AWS will be secure. This is primarily your responsibility, though API toolkits are typically available for the purpose.
Interfacing with Other Business Software & Forming a Solid Line of Defense
Next, determine which other development teams to connect with depending on the software most likely to be partnered with your own application. Work with other teams to develop secure APIs in which data is handled safely between the two programs. Then consider cluster-APIs in which data handling is for securing and handling in common full-stack environments.
Auditing All New API Connections
Should a third party create an API that is to interface with your application, and audit it? Never allow third-party APIs to become part of your landscape if you can help it. If an API proves to be unsafe, reach out to the dev team to repair it. If they are unresponsive, broadcast the unsafe API and warn your users away from it.
4) Provide Advanced Account Access Controls in Cloud Application
All business software today must meet evolving access control protocols. Hacked accounts are one of the leading sources of breaches, after social engineering. Stolen passwords and insider threats have become accepted risks and there are now existing best practices to minimize their potential harm. While your clients are responsible for how they handle access management, you as the developer are responsible for giving them the tools and creating an application that is inherently secure.
IAM or Identity Access Management is when every user has a unique account that they track and monitor. This creates accountability and transparency. Give your users the ability to implement IAM and then transfer the shared responsibility to them in creating a unique account for each employee.
Least Trust is the practice of limiting each account’s access only to what they need for their jobs. This can minimize the damage a hacked account can do when, for example, a hacked marketer’s account simply doesn’t have access to finance or HR resources. Building the least trust in your application allows your users to limit insider risks no matter where they stem from.
Automatic Time-Out, Log-Out
A stolen phone will not automatically give the thief access to company data.
Automatic time-out and log-out mean that abandoned workstations and phones do not become a security risk. A stolen phone will not automatically give the thief access to company data. A hot desk not logged out does not give the next user access to the previous user’s files. It’s simple, elegant, and easy to implement protection.
MFA or Multi-Factor Authentication requires users to confirm their identity using a personal email address or mobile device. This prevents stolen passwords from accessing accounts and also sends an alert to the true user (through their personal email or device) if someone other than themselves tries to log into their account.
Suspicious Login Detection
A little pattern-matching goes a long way. Using an algorithm or AI, send red flags when suspicious login details are detected. A user suddenly logging in from a different city, at unusual times, or trying to access unauthorized or unusual files can send the alert to your client organization and allow them to defend the account.
Only Approved Devices.
Lastly, use the model of the approved device. Each device that connects to your cloud application must be a registered device with the organization or with a specific user. This method is common for seat-subscription software but provides superior protection for any cloud application.
5) Enact Robust Audits and Vulnerability Testing
During initial development, ongoing development, and support patching; always be testing. It’s one thing to build your security measures and hope that the code meets your vision of advanced protection. It’s another to be certain that your code passes rigorous security auditing and relentless penetration testing.
Test your code early and often, as bugs caught early cannot become the foundation for larger vulnerabilities built onto the flawed code. Test every update, every patch, and every common configuration of your application with other business software using APIs. Not only will testing assure your team that you have hit your security benchmarks; but the results can also be published to assure your clients that they are investing in a secure and vigorously defended solution.
6) Provide Comprehensive User Education
Lastly, always educate your user base. Provide comprehensive guides on how to set up secure use cases, how to securely configure your application, how to use the customization features to maintain security, and how to securely combine your software with others using your tested and approved APIs.
Application design and development allows you to create a learning center that can be accessed either on your website, within your application, or both. Provide micro-learning opportunities with miniature lessons and tutorials as clients access new parts of the application – including tutorials for each individual user so that each person can use the application with the greatest degree of active security.
While you must pass the shared responsibility to your users, you can help them maintain their side of the responsibility through constant and easily accessible user education.
Achieve Robust and Compliant Security for Your Cloud Application with Practical Logix
Whether your digital application development is in the early stages, ready for release, or you are looking to hone your security for software already in use by thousands of clients, Practical Logix can help you fulfill your audit and testing obligations at every stage. To learn more about could application security best practices and what it takes to stay at the top of the B2B secure application marketplace, contact us today.