From Ethical Duty to Legal Imperative: The Crucial Role of Secure Development in Today’s Software Industry

I love my job. As a Computer Engineer in the tech industry, I consider myself very lucky to work with talented and innovative people bringing new ideas to life and solving real-world problems. Every day I’m excited to dive into new technical challenges to help build and secure the digital infrastructure that powers our world. However, there is also a pressing concern with the industry that we cannot afford to ignore. In a world of startups, IPOs, and tech billionaires, the industry has become increasingly hyper-focused on monetary gains, too often sidelining safety and security in the relentless pursuit of market share and profit. Not that those are bad things, there would be no tech industry without them, but in the absence of proper checks and balances, this alarming trend not only endangers our digital ecosystem but also compromises the values that should guide our collective progress.

As an industry, we can do better and we need to take action. It’s no longer just a question of ethics either, political leaders are now paying attention to this issue and policymakers are taking steps to hold the tech industry accountable. The recently announced National Cybersecurity Strategy in the US explicitly mentions a plan to shift liability for software products and services to promote secure development practices. The days of software license agreements that allow tech companies to absolve themselves of any and all responsibility for the shortcomings of their products are coming to an end. It has already begun in the medical industry with a new law that requires medical device manufacturers to submit evidence to the FDA that devices can be updated and patched, provide information about security controls and testing, and list the commercial and open-source components that are included in the product.

The integration of security in all aspects of software development has moved from being a best practice to being a strategic enterprise requirement. Establishing a secure development lifecycle does not happen overnight, it requires a cultural shift and organizational changes along with the appropriate mix of tools, policies, and procedures. To remain competitive in an environment of daily cyberattacks and increasing regulatory oversight, tech leaders need to motivate and empower their teams to integrate security measures throughout the development process and emphasize the need to develop secure and robust solutions.

Software security can be significantly improved by leveraging established frameworks, like DevSecOps, Microsoft SDL, and ISO 27034 among others, to implement a secure development lifecycle. By adopting DevSecOps principles, organizations can foster a culture of collaboration and shared responsibility for security among development, operations, and security teams. Microsoft SDL offers a proven methodology for integrating security and privacy requirements at every stage of software development, from planning to deployment. Similarly, ISO 27034 provides a systematic approach to application security, focusing on risk assessment, management, and mitigation. By leveraging frameworks like these and tailoring them to their specific needs, organizations can create a robust, secure development lifecycle that addresses potential vulnerabilities early on and promotes a proactive security mindset across the entire product development process.

The tech industry needs to strike a balance between innovation and security to ensure continued growth and success. As the landscape evolves, it is essential for organizations to prioritize secure development practices and foster a culture that values safety alongside profitability. By leveraging established frameworks, companies can create a tailored secure development lifecycle that effectively mitigates vulnerabilities to protect systems and data against cyberattacks while safeguarding the trust of users and regulators alike.

If your organization is looking for some ideas on how to get started, check out my previous post on the Elements of a Secure Development Lifecycle, these Microsoft SDL resources, the OWASP Application Security Verification Standard, or feel free to reach out if you have any questions.

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