Secure Software Development: Third-Party Code Checks Blog Feature

By: Dave Devitt on March 5th, 2018

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Secure Software Development: Third-Party Code Checks


One of the most commonly cited benefits of custom software development is that it has better security than out-of-the-box solutions. Since pre-built software has many more users, finding and exploiting a vulnerability has the potential to be much more profitable for hackers than doing the same with a custom-built solution.

However, you should not let the idea of “security through obscurity” lull you into complacency. Secure software development practices should be a top priority in any project. In particular, custom e-commerce websites—with their stored payment card data and other personal information—represent a highly valuable target for digital thieves.

Some of the most devastating data breaches, such as the 2014 Home Depot breach that exposed 56 million payment card details, have occurred due to security issues with third-party vendors. If you are working with a third party who has access to your data, your security standards should be just as high as if you were doing everything yourself.

If you have decided to work with a custom software development company for your next IT project, make sure you properly evaluate your choice of third-party providers. Below, we’ll discuss the most important strategies you should keep in mind.

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What Is a Third-Party Code Check?

Essentially, a third-party code check occurs when an outside source—someone besides the client or the developer—examines the code of a website or application. This third party performs a “deep dive” into this code, testing it rigorously to find any vulnerabilities or potential backdoors into your systems. This analysis is typically performed after initial code development and then repeated on a quarterly basis, although some companies may choose to do it more often.

Dedicated IT security firms often complete third-party code checks, and they employ both expert senior-level developers and automated scanning tools to go over the code base in detail. Large web applications might have several million lines of code. As a result, using scanning tools is almost a necessity in order not to be prohibitive in time and cost.

Performing third-party code checks is highly important to the security and quality of your software. First, custom software is a significant investment. You want to make sure the product is up to your standards, and that you get a fair deal in return for your money.

In addition, if you fail to perform a code check and your website is hacked, you will jeopardize the reputation of your company. Not only will you lose immediate business when your website goes down, but you will also risk alienating your customers, vendors and investors, making your long-term outlook much shakier.

How to Properly Analyze Third-Party Vendors

Third-party code checks are vital to the secure software development process, so you need to thoroughly vet your potential partners. Ask good questions, talk about security from the outset, and always be aware of the relevant laws in your area.

Be Aware of Legal Regulations

Industry laws and standards, such as HIPAA for the healthcare industry, may restrict the information you can legally share with third-party vendors. In addition, if you choose to work with vendors located overseas, you and your partners must be compliant with the applicable regulations in both locations.

Ask the Right Questions

  • How do you secure your data? Trust is paramount when working with third-party vendors. Before starting the partnership, you must understand what steps they take to ensure that information is secure. You should be confident that your future partners are honest and competent.
  • What is your review process? After the vendor partner identifies a vulnerability, that company must immediately pass the code back to the client for review. In addition, once a developer fixes the problem, the code should undergo rescanning to make sure the issue has truly been resolved.
  • Are staff trained in security? Our staff is required to maintain a certain level of security education so we can better understand how attackers attempt to enter a system. Although you do not have to be a hacking genius to be a developer, it’s an excellent idea to make sure developers know the common patterns and sources of vulnerabilities and breaches in code.
  • How do you keep up to date? Few fields change faster than IT security. Do your partners frequently read security blogs and the release notes of important updates? What were the bugs and vulnerabilities that created the need for a new patch? Are these vulnerabilities possibly present in your own systems?

Address Security in the Contract

Your vendor contracts should include an agreed-upon definition of IT security and the processes you will both use to enforce it. Although both parties should hold themselves to high security standards, they should also understand that no software is bulletproof. Vulnerabilities in other parts of the server, such as FTP software, may still result in your systems being breached, even when your vendors follow best practices.

Final Thoughts

Once a website or application is complete, security concerns don’t simply go away. If you want to ensure the security of your software project for the long term, you should remember to check your software’s code base at regular intervals to make sure everything is as fireproof as possible. New vulnerabilities are constantly being discovered and patched, which makes security an ongoing journey, not a destination.

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