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Importance of Secure Coding in Making “Digital India” Successful

Introduction

Sharp rise of internet and its usage have commenced a massive digital proliferation across the world. The influx of digital connectivity through smartphones and IoT enabled devices has carved a new, entirely different “business model” to emerge that is environmentally impactful, socially effective, and economically beneficial. Nowadays, people’s personal identifiable information is drifting into a digital form, thereby ushering towards an open and globally accessible network. Digitization has woven into our daily life for every single task. As that happens, the risks associated with the digitization has become unnerving and daunting. The sense of security is a prime concern with every click. As the businesses across the world are transforming the mode of operation, digital platform is attracting huge volumes, hence it is imperative that we embrace robust security measures and protections to ensure security of business operations. Security can be achieved in the digital era by introducing secure coding in the backstage formulation of digital applications. Over the last two years, the Indian economy has witnessed radical enablers which shall play an important role in taking digitization into a next level. Some of these enablers are:

E-commerce evolution

The evolution of e-commerce has completely transformed the way we ever shop. E-commerce has evolved as an entirely new idea over the course of last 10 years and has now become a major contributor in the world’s economy. Since then, the e-commerce has advanced as a fully functional, operational, and personalized shopping experience. E-commerce ensures the business reaches the crowd, reduces the cost, and develops binding relationships with their customers. The digital transaction, nevertheless, risks the consumers to disclose their sensitive personal information to the third party or the vendor of e-commerce platform. With the increased usage of e-commerce, the security issues and threats have also increased. Some of the e-commerce threats are:

  • Financial fraud
  • Identity theft
  • Disruption of service
  • Illegal intrusion of customer data

There are many more threats related to e-commerce which requires such platforms to be more secure while handling the customer’s sensitive data. To ensure the security of e-commerce platforms, secure coding at the backend is a necessary and required practice.

Demonetization

Recently, on November 8, 2016 government of India announced the demonetization of both 500 and 1000 currency notes. As per the government, the demonetization would curtail the economic imbalance and clamp down the illegitimate and forged cash transactions in illegal activities. The concept fits well with the view of financial inclusion and digital India initiative to improve the socio-economic growth of marginal sections of society. Again, with the increased usage of digital platforms, security is the main concern. Because, digital platforms are potential targets for cyber criminals. With the increased usage of digital platform after demonetization, the risks have increased as the following incidents depict:

  • Fraudulent use of digital payment networks
  • Incidents of data theft
  • Misuse of data
  • Hacking of digital wallets

People want their data to be secure and safe while dealing with digital platforms. Therefore, to ensure security, mobile and web application developers need to include secure coding as a regular practice while developing the application.

Digital India initiatives

Digital India evokes the image of a networked economy that aims to connect over 1.2 billion people across the country. It prepares India for the future Knowledge. Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has initiated the Digital India campaign for transforming India into a digitally empowered technological society. Some of the Digital India initiatives include: mygov.in, digi locker, e-sign framework, digitize India platform, national scholarship portal, e-hospital, bharat net, and center of excellence on IoT. With these initiatives, cyber security has become the prime concern and forms an integral part of our national security. The risks associated application vulnerabilities and internet threats increases as the society is moving towards digitization.

Adoption of secure coding concept

Software developers need to know the essence of secure coding, which can help in protecting the information that are accessed or provided by different web and mobile application users. The best security practices, if included, in the development phase of applications will ensure: confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the information. There are some coding mistakes that are generally and inadvertently introduced in the common coding practices that increases the risks and vulnerability areas in the digital application. Therefore, secure coding must be incorporated in each development stage of the web application to provide protection against cyber-attack, cybercrime, and cyber espionage. Secure coding best practices when included while developing an application gives security against the top 10 OWASP vulnerability areas that are:

  1. Injection: occurs when a web application sends untrusted data to an interpreter as a part of a command or query.
  2. Broken authentication and session management: occurs when developers build their own custom authentication and session management schemes that do not consider exhaustive security considerations.
  3. Cross site scripting: occurs when an application takes untrusted data and sends it to a browser without proper validation or escaping the input data.
  4. Insecure direct object references: occurs when an application uses the actual name or key of an object for generating web pages and do not verify the authority of the user who is accessing the target object.
  5. Security misconfiguration: occurs when secured configuration is not defined and deployed for application, frameworks, application server, web server, database server, and platform.
  6. Sensitive data exposure: occurs when sensitive data is not encrypted using strong encryption algorithm, not using strong key generation and management method, and not implementing infallible password hashing techniques.
  7. Missing function level excess control: occurs when an application does not protect its functions with proper access control, thereby allowing access to functionality without proper authorization.
  8. Cross site request forgery: occurs when web applications allow attackers to predict all the details of an action. As browsers send credentials like session cookies automatically, attackers can create malevolent web pages that generate forged requests appearing genuine.
  9. Using components with known vulnerabilities: occurs when application uses various components that are not up to date.
  10. Unvalidated redirects and forwards: occurs when application redirect users to other pages or use internal forwards.

Significance and Impact

Secure coding is no longer an option – it is a mandatory concept. It helps in aligning the digital platforms and services as per the best security standard. Some of the key benefits of incorporating secure coding concepts include the following:

  • It helps in developing secure and robust application that practically reduces the security threats, risk areas, and vulnerabilities
  • It safeguards against the accidental introduction of risks to prevent cyber attacks
  • It deploys security controls like input validation, access control, data protection, etc. to strengthen the code from hacking
  • It minimizes development efforts in the Software Development Life Cycle
  • It avoids regulatory penalties arising from loss of sensitive information pertaining to customers and employees

One can secure the web and mobile applications by applying the secure coding practices in the development phase.

How can secure coding be the game changer?

With the implementation of the best secure coding concepts, an organization can save time while understanding the risks to deal with and learning the ways to fix the cyber issues in future. Best practices of secure coding help in providing complete protection and management of applications, whether it be a web or mobile based. Secure coding in software development and assurance if focused in the cyber driven world will deliver a secure and reliable platform to grow. It also reduces the vulnerabilities and risks areas that makes it impossible for cyber attacker to intrude in the software. It is the rudimentary need of the digital applications development and must be incorporated at the outset. When included in regular practice, secure coding reduces the vulnerability areas in an application and provides a sense of secure transactions with respect to digital India initiatives. Therefore, it is very important to implement robust secure coding concept, which will pave the way for building India strong & stable in the realm of trade & commerce and for making digital India a successful campaign, thereby guaranteeing digital furtherance and India’s growth and development.

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