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What is Secure Software Development Life Cycle?

What is Secure Software Development Life Cycle?

A Secure Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) incorporates security measures at every stage of software creation, from planning and design to implementation, testing, and maintenance. In healthcare, the SDLC protects software systems like electronic health records and patient portals from cyber threats. 


Understanding SSDLC

According to a conference paper from the Proceedings of the Internation MultiConference of Engineers and Computer Scientists,In common practice, security is unnoticed in early phases of software life cycle (SLC). A good software engineering approach is to think about security right from the beginning of SLC.”

An SSDLC is a process that integrates security measures at every stage of software development. Its purpose is to ensure that security is considered and implemented from the very beginning of the project, continuing through design, implementation, testing, deployment, and maintenance. In a healthcare context, SSDLC helps protect sensitive patient information and ensure compliance with regulations such as HIPAA. 

By embedding security practices throughout the development process, healthcare organizations can reduce the risk of data breaches, maintain patient privacy, and safeguard their systems against cyber threats. SSDLC functions by continuously assessing and addressing potential security risks, incorporating secure coding practices, conducting regular security testing, and maintaining a focus on security throughout the software’s lifecycle.


Key components of SSDLC

The SSDLC consists of several key phases, each integral to ensuring that security is embedded throughout the software development process. These include:


Requirements analysis

This initial phase involves identifying and defining the security requirements alongside the software's functional requirements. It also includes assessing potential security risks, understanding the regulatory landscape, and determining security objectives and constraints.

See also: What is the threat intelligence lifecycle?



The software's architecture and design are developed in this phase with security as a core component. This involves creating a secure design that considers potential threats and vulnerabilities and ensures that security controls are integrated into the architecture.



During this phase, developers write code while adhering to secure coding practices. This involves using standardized coding guidelines that prevent common security vulnerabilities such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and buffer overflows.


Security testing

This phase involves rigorous testing to identify and fix security vulnerabilities. Methods like static application security testing (SAST), dynamic application security testing (DAST), penetration testing, and code reviews are employed to uncover and address security issues.



Before being released, the software undergoes final security checks and reviews. This phase ensures that the software, its infrastructure, and its configuration are secure and ready for production.


Maintenance and updates

Post-deployment, the software must be continuously monitored and maintained for new vulnerabilities. Regular updates, patches, and security improvements are necessary to address emerging threats and maintain compliance with security standards.


Incident response and remediation

This involves having a plan in place to respond to security incidents effectively. When a security breach or vulnerability is detected, steps are taken to mitigate the issue, analyze its root cause, and implement measures to prevent recurrence.



When software reaches its end of life, it must be decommissioned securely. This includes ensuring that sensitive data is properly handled and that the software is retired in a manner that does not expose the system to vulnerabilities.

See also: HIPAA Compliant Email: The Definitive Guide


Common frameworks and standards

Several common frameworks and standards are instrumental in guiding the SSDLC, each contributing to enhancing software security. The NIST SP 800 218, known as the Secure Software Development Framework (SSDF), is a prominent example. It provides comprehensive guidelines for integrating security into every stage of software development, helping organizations mitigate risks from cyber threats. Another key framework is the ISO/IEC 27034, which offers a global standard for software security, outlining best practices and procedures for maintaining a secure development environment. 

The OWASP Top 10, a widely respected list of web application security risks, is instrumental in educating developers about common vulnerabilities and how to avoid them. Similarly, the Software Assurance Maturity Model (SAMM) from OWASP provides an effective tool for evaluating and improving software security practices. These frameworks and standards contribute to software security by offering structured methodologies, best practices, and checklists that ensure security considerations are an integral part of software development. By following these guidelines, organizations can develop software that not only meets functional requirements but also robustly protects against evolving cyber threats,

See also: What is the Privacy and Security Framework?



How do organizations measure the effectiveness of their SSDLC?

Organizations measure the effectiveness of their SSDLC by tracking security incident rates, conducting regular security audits, and assessing compliance with security standards.


What role do third party security assessments play in SSDLC?

Third party security assessments provide an unbiased evaluation of the software's security, identifying vulnerabilities and ensuring compliance with industry standards.


What are the common security vulnerabilities in software development?

Common security vulnerabilities in software development include SQL injection, cross site scripting (XSS), buffer overflows, and improper authentication and authorization.

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