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Secure source code review: In detail

Secure source code review comes into action during the stages of software development. Before diving into the topic, try recalling the stages in the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) process? An SDLC process starts from Planning, Analysis, Design and Development towards Testing, Implementation and Maintenance. But what about the security essentials? It is one thing that often gets faded in the life cycle.

Here is where the essence of a secure source code review fits the frame. It is a particular process of identifying flaws in a source code through automated and manual inspection. The process might look for security bugs in a Software Development Life Cycle. It also validates the security controls to prevent an adversary from exploiting a vulnerability.

Additionally, a source code review service validates if the developers follow secure development policies and procedures. The review process digs the code surface and inspects if it is robust enough to shield potential threats. Therefore, a healthy code review is a sign of trust for enterprises as it assures minimal code vulnerabilities afterwards.

When do enterprises implement a source code review?

‘Early to review, easy to detect and remediate!’

Early security of an application is vital to the later stages of its deployment. Enterprises should look for code flaws and weaknesses in the SDLC process. Security experts perform code reviews at various points of a software development program. Here are the five instances where enterprises should implement a secure source code review.

  1. Post identification of malicious activity

    Consider the situation where your enterprise identified malicious activity. Or when your enterprise has detected a potential security breach. Then you require an on-demand source code review service. It helps to inspect and validate your suspicions. Make sure the activities performed adhere to the organizational goals and values. Probe for various interaction points in code that can go merged to produce adverse actions. Your code review process at this stage should repress all the malicious activities.

  2. Source Code Review during the development phase

    Integrating security scanning into an IDE (Integrated Development Environment) would assist in enhancing security. But what is an IDE? It is a software application that nourishes developer requirements for an effective software development process. Basically, an IDE consists of a source code editor, automation tools and a debugger. So, here is where the core development lies. It is always beneficial to integrate security scanning here to avoid possible vulnerabilities in the evolution process. Programmers can get real-time reflections of development guidelines and procedures. Additionally, they can cut down the vulnerabilities from their root. Hence, this is the best approach to avoid future expenses.

  3. Source Code Review at the time of merging codes

    When project complexity increases, enterprises segment the development strategy. Hence, the code comes out from various hands. But what happens when these sections get merged? Vulnerabilities might likely sprout here as well. Relying on peer reviews can sort out the functional bugs, but what about the other security issues at hand. Yes, you require a secure source code evaluation for the time. The review process looks for critical vulnerabilities and tries to eliminate them at the integration point. Detecting and eliminating high severity issues from the integration point is always crucial for further development.

  4. During the testing phase

    Source code reviews play a vital role in the later stages of the development cycle. Code must be free of any security flaws and compromising factors. The product that goes to the user end should be bug-free. An automated secure source code review service with SAST tools helps sort issues at the integration gateways. It detects and reports ongoing security events and vulnerabilities. Enterprise can also improve static analysers by changing rulesets based on reflections from reported issues.

  5. Secure Source Code Review after the deployment

    Detecting code flaws and security vulnerabilities in a fast-paced environment is challenging. A periodic SAST scan shall be combined with scheduled secure code reviews by an expert advisory or consulting firm post-deployment. The best thing to do here is to unlock the service of a source code review company. By doing this, enterprises can reduce the workload of developers as they can correlate with expert advisories to tackle the issue. Partnering with a secure code review service provider can help you with various compliance requirements in PCI DSS and HIPAA.

Source code review: Implementation Process

So far, we have identified different instances where and when a source code review is required. Enterprise should ensure the sound implementation of fixes after identifying the security flaws in the code.

Here follows the top to down approach in the source code review process.

  • Scope definition for Secure Source Code Review

    Scope identification and analysis is the most substantial part of a successful code review process. The phase varies from one application to another based on many factors. It could be the used language, complexity and the number of lines involved in the code. Another requirement of the phase is to find out the criticality of the application. By doing this, review teams develop knowledge on what to prioritize while reviewing.

  • Threat modelling

    The threat modelling process holds the key to identifying existing vulnerabilities in the source code. The source code review team conducts a deep study of the coding involved alongside prioritizations. A custom checklist mechanism can be fruitful to a large extent. The team should ensure that this checklist goes updated and maintained well enough. An efficient threat modelling phase proves helpful in digging missing strings or flaws involved in the codebase.

  • Code analysis

    The Code Analysis phase involves two different methods- Automated & Manual testing. The analysis team conducts these tests based on the requirements and criticality of the engagement.

    1. Automated scanning

      An automated scanning process involves inspecting every bit of coding using automated tools to obtain the corresponding output. Later, it is cross-checked against the intended result to catch the deviation. A code review team uses several automated scanning tools designed for various tasks. Automated scanning tools must integrate pipelines, customize the needs, and reduce false positives to a minimum.

    2. Manual testing

      Manual testing focuses on drilling logical errors, weak system configurations and validation efforts in code through line-by-line inspection. Additionally, it probes for other known issues in your codebase that go specifically to the platform. Here, human context come into play as such testing runs behind high risk and sensitive applications.

  • Reporting & Review

    A prioritized action plan for the test findings connects the reporting phase. Entities shall follow the best practices listed in the report and converge all possible deviations in a prioritized plan. A detailed reporting process includes a perfect road map for mitigating the risks associated with the respective codebase. The review team offers the required assistance for developers and the security team whenever required.

Choosing your expert secure source code review team

Source code security audit can go either way – internally or externally enabled. The internal audit requires a lot of investments in human resources, tools, and technologies. It is a gradual process, and entities need to evolve their technologies and adapt to the latest changes. Code review can be periodic and requires expert skill and talent to perform it. Likewise, maintaining automated scanners and updated checklists could be more than consumable for organizations. So, here are some go-to benefits of hiring an expert team for source code review services.

    • Early and swift detection

      The internal team might go deviated from tasks at times. It is not the case with the external review team. They go specifically designed and strive for early detection and recovery process.

    • Far-flung coverage of threats

      A dedicated external review team enables the discovery of extended vulnerabilities in your codebase. Moreover, they rely on a detailed approach and strategy.

    • Improved coding standard

      The review service can be a learning process for developers to adhere to various coding standards. It helps them maintain a uniform coding style throughout.

    • Consistent design and implementation

      Once the review process completes, developers can reach a state of consistency in design and implementations. It is a continual process with long term engagements.

    • Contextual remedial recommendations

      Findings can vary according to the codebase involved with applications. It produces remedial steps based on the context in which the testing gets conducted.

    • Real-time reporting

      secure source code review relies on business intelligence factors that allow real-time reporting of threats and security flaws.

    • Reduction in false positives

      Source code review service is a blend of both manual and automated scanning. The human element here reduces false positives to the minimum.

    • Right balance between automated and manual testing

      An automated scanning process results in a considerable number of false positives. Many advanced security threats require logic and manual testing skills for detection.

    • Gaining stakeholder confidence

      A successful source code evaluation promises application codebase is free from security issues. This, in turn, is a vote of confidence for stakeholders to invest their trust in you.

Summing Up

That’s it so far! We have wrapped a complete set of information on when and where to conduct source code reviews. Also, we have detailed the process flow regarding the same. Source code review is an essential service to prevent organizations from falling prey to advanced threats in the codebase. A secure code review process nourishes the application by removing code flaws and building security fitness. It improves the overall quality, aligns the codebase with security considerations and helps enterprises build a secure environment for their applications. The feedbacks from various automated tools, ruleset changes, the human intelligence factor etc., contribute to application security. While security has become a major concern, source code reviews tend to be an effective search and kill strategy.



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