Due to the increasing number of cyberattacks, it has become more and more important to check software for possible dangers and provide a secure implementation.
If it were measured as a country, then cybercrime — predicted to inflict damages totaling US$6 trillion globally in 2021 — would be the world’s third-largest economy after the US and China. —Cybercrime Magazine
In this article, I want to give you a short overview about software integrity and how to keep your applications secure. Here, you will learn which methods, tools, and approaches can help you with software security.
What is Software Integrity?
Integrity is one of the three classic goals of information security, along with availability and confidentiality.
Different integrity states are defined for computer systems:
- Correct content: This type of integrity exists when facts of the real world are correctly represented. This is ensured, for example, by integrity conditions.
- Unmodified state: This integrity type exists when messages are delivered unchanged, and programs and processes run as intended.
- Modification detection: This integrity type exists when undesired modifications that cannot be prevented are at least detected.
- Temporal correctness: This integrity type is present when messages are exchanged and relevant temporal conditions, such as sequences or maximum delay times, are observed.
The interplay between Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability – Source: SketchBubble
The next question is how you can ensure that your development projects are implemented accordingly.
Methods of Making Your Apps Secure
During data processing, it is often impossible to prevent data from being altered. Therefore, technical measures to ensure integrity aim to recognize faulty data and, if necessary, carry out new data transmission.
A possible solution for implementing technology securely against transmission errors can be found in a transmitted checksum. It can find out whether a specific data set has been modified or not. Nonetheless, one must state that this checksum does not provide full security against intentional modifications. Another approach would be a message authentication code that discovers possible errors in transmission as well as manipulations.
However, both of the above-mentioned approaches do not fully protect one against a complete message loss, accidental duplication, or a changed sequence of various messages. These possible outcomes can be secured by measures such as acknowledgment messages or sequence numbers.
Companies should also make preparations to respond to cyber incidents and work out how to develop attack scenarios and responses.
Of course, it also makes sense to test products sufficiently and even have professionals perform penetration tests before releasing them. Constant improvement is also a must nowadays. Another good way to protect your software and the data it contains against unwanted manipulation is to use certain tools and methods during development. An essential aspect of this is an SBOM.
Why Use SBOMs in Software Development
The term SBOM refers to a software bill of materials, the set of components and libraries that make up a software application and their respective licenses and dependencies. SBOMs are documents that can be interpreted by machines and are regarded as a natural by-product of modern development processes.
SBOMs can be critical for application security. A great example of its need from the recent past was when the Log4j issue occurred, where software vendors didn’t know if and where Java and its corresponding functions were used.
The SBOM concept is not new, but it has gained attention recently since more resources are being used to ensure the security of the software supply chain. Even the US government seems to be paying attention to the need for well-made SBOMs lately. Among other things, President Biden called for the development of cybersecurity guidelines in an executive order. SBOMs should contain: libraries, software component names, author names, supplier names, licenses, version strings, all open source components used, dependencies, and finally, compliance requirements.
An SBOM provides transparency into components like libraries, licenses, and dependencies that make up software so that vulnerabilities can be easily tracked and fixed if needed. The benefits of an SBOM are that you can easily:
- identify (open source) libraries
- detect dependencies between components
- identify necessary updates
- identify vulnerabilities and unnecessary parts
So, if even the White House has recognized the urgency, companies of all sizes should take up this issue and consider it in their further decision-making.
In today’s world, more and more hacks are taking place. These hackers often exploit existing vulnerabilities in software and take advantage of them. A good example of such a weak spot is the Log4j vulnerability, which has caused many attacks and attracted much attention recently.
Monitoring, consistent updates, and penetration testing can help secure software on the market. But all of these methods can be improved if one has an SBOM of the software. Its components feature compliance requirements and libraries, among other things. If security gaps appear, like in Log4j, they can be easily identified with the help of an SBOM. However, SBOMs are not a one-stop solution for providing secure software. One should always combine SBOMs with other solutions.