Introduction to Application Security: The What, Why, and How

In this digital age, we’re surrounded by applications. From services to products, from basic needs to entertainment and luxury, we directly or indirectly depend on applications. And this high dependency has made applications a highly profitable target for malicious actors.

When building an application, you initially focus on what purpose the application has to serve. But eventually, your application starts dealing with sensitive data and critical functions. Any security breach in or due to your application will not only affect your business but can also get you in legal trouble. That’s why application security is an uncompromisable part of applications. So, in this post, let’s try to understand what it is and why it’s important.application Security

What Is Application Security?

As an organization, you could be building different types of applications:

  • An application that is a product by itself
  • An application to provide service(s)
  • Or an application for internal operations and tasks

Each of these types has a different reach, accessibility, and surface of attack. Malicious actors could exploit security issues in any of these applications depending on their convenience or intent. Hence, irrespective of what application you build, security is important.

Application security is the category of cybersecurity that deals with improving the security of applications. It’s a practice of finding security issues, fixing them, and researching and implementing ways to improve security.

An application can have security weaknesses either due to insecure functioning logic or insecure coding. Malicious actors try to find out these weaknesses and exploit them. With application security, you can be one step ahead of them. A part of what you could do is similar to what malicious actors would do—i.e., finding security issues. But once you find them, you would fix them so that attackers can’t exploit them.

Why Is Application Security Important?

Of course, application security helps you prevent cyber incidents and avoid potential attacks. And yes, that’s the main objective. But when you achieve this objective, there are more benefits that come along.

When your applications are secure, it improves your reputation and value. Customers will trust your application and will start using it more. This is good for business. So the investment you make in application security, you’ll earn back in revenue when your business improves.

If sensitive information of users is breached, it could result in heavy fines. For example, Uber had to pay a fine of $148 million when their database was breached. Application security helps you prevent data breaches and damages. Hence, you’re avoiding paying fines.

There are more than enough reasons to make it a priority. It not only helps you avoid losses but also helps you increase your business. The need to prioritize application security is higher now more than ever. To understand why, let’s talk about some cyber stats and facts.

Increasing Cyber Incidents

In the process of making things easier for us using applications, we’ve opened a lot of doors to exploit these applications. Thousands of companies have faced millions in losses due to cyberattacks. Cybersecurity stats have shown that cybersecurity incidents have grown rapidly in numbers. I’d say there are three main reasons for this:

  1. Applications these days have become more advanced. They deal with a lot more critical elements (data, networks, APIs, etc.) than older applications. They’ve also grown horizontally and vertically in size, increasing the attack surface. Modern applications also involve sensitive information. Due to this, applications attract malicious actors.
  2. The reach of applications is further than ever before. A majority of applications are online and accessible from anywhere in the world over the internet. This increases the number of malicious actors who could try to exploit applications.
  3. And the third reason is the wide range of advanced tools. The first hackers had to write their own code or use a combination of utilities in a malicious way to carry out an attack. But that time is long gone. You’ll find so many advanced tools out there for almost every situation. This makes attacks easy for malicious actors.

The benefits of attackers and cybersecurity professionals are inversely proportional. Anything that’s good for attackers is bad for cybersecurity professionals and vice versa. So, as a cybersecurity professional, how do you strengthen your walls?

How to Implement Application Security

Application security is a continuous process. It includes multiple practices, approaches, and iterations. I could write a lengthy post on each of these practices and approaches, but let’s keep that for another day. But I’m not going to leave you hanging. Here are some of the most common ways to implement application security:

  • Identify components with known security issues (such as servers, OSs, libraries, etc.) and fix them.
  • Focus on identifying and fixing Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE).
  • Carry out application code review.
  • Conduct penetration testing and bug bounty hunting.

If you want to have the best security, you need to do the best you can. You can’t be the most secure by implementing just one or some of the security approaches. But you don’t have to do everything manually. There are multiple tools that help you with application security. Snyk is one such tool. Snyk is a cloud-native application security tool that finds and fixes vulnerabilities in your applications. Isn’t that amazing?! Snyk provides a lot of features and makes application security almost effortless. If you’re interested, check out this application security course with Snyk.

Application Security with Snyk

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Omkar Hiremath
Omkar Hiremath