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A 10-Step Application Security Risk Assessment Checklist

An application security risk assessment is a process of identifying, assessing, and managing the potential risks to an application.

Not only does this help prevent the exposure of security defects and vulnerabilities, but it also helps you see your app through the eyes of cyber criminals and attackers. It gives security experts and application developers key insights to adjust their internal processes and practices to optimize the security of the applications they create. 

The OWASP security checklist is a great, easy-to-use resource for any company that wants to get started on developing more secure applications.

Why You Need to Use A Software Security Checklist

Businesses want to move fast, and that extends to rapidly developing and deploying applications that support the business.

As a result, a thorough security risk assessment can often be put on the backburner. However, a risk assessment should be a required step for any application developer to go through. Neglecting a security risk assessment means you are neglecting: 

  • Hidden exploits within your app - With the continual evolution and increase in cybersecurity threats, new vulnerabilities are constantly being discovered. 

  • Proactive approaches to keep your app securePrioritizing security allows you to be ahead of the game on your own terms, rather than hastily responding to a security problem or breach. Being proactive also saves time and money. It's faster and cheaper to fix a vulnerability during development than it is in production.

  • Compliance with cybersecurity laws – New cybersecurity laws and regulations have emerged and are becoming increasingly stringent, especially in the United States

  • Avoiding devastating business consequences – By implementing an effective application security assessment, you can avoid having to break unfortunate news to your users and the media. Not to mention costly internal business disruptions that can occur.  

The 4 Essential Elements of Any Successful Security Risk Assessment Model

Identification, assessment, mitigation, and prevention are all integral parts of any application risk assessment.

  •  Identification –It’s important to have a good understanding of what comprises your software and the software supply chain that built it, because breaches can occur at any point across it’s attack surface. 

  • Assessment – After assembling information about your software bill of materials (SBOM), any dependences, and the supply chain itself, it’s time to assess the risks. There are many automated tools that can help you do this.

  • Mitigation – Once you’ve gathered information on your risks, you’ll need to define the mitigation tactics to eliminate critical vulnerabilities and minimize your risks. 

  •  Prevention – The final step here is to put tools and processes in place to help minimize risks and threats in the future. These preventative steps can span from extra training and communication to team members, to automated cyber security tools that scan your code, development pipelines, and deployment environments. 

10 Phases of the Last Security Risk Assessment Checklist You’ll Ever Need

While it can seem like a daunting task at times, prioritizing security and implementing effective security practices is a must today.

With automated security tools and well implemented processes in place, it can also be accomplished without compromising the speed and agility of your development teams.

Here we’ve outlined each step of an effective security risk assessment checklist to get all of your bases covered. 

  1. Gather Application Information

Applications are composed of underlying services, code, and data, and are built and deployed along a software supply chain containing systems, infrastructure, pipelines and processes.

You want to have a good understanding of all of this, along with key interactions between components, data, user roles and other application entry points.

Application security documentation is an important first step to set you up for success, and can be automatically generated by cyber security tooling in addition to manual approaches. 

  1. Ensure Proper System Configuration 

Misconfigurations of systems along your software supply chain, deployment environments, or the application itself can open up vulnerabilities that can lead to attacks.

It can be disheartening to follow good application security practices, only to learn that simple human error or oversight of a misconfigured underlying system opened up a vulnerability that took your application down.  

Reviewing system configurations can include evaluating application security controls, code repositories, build servers, artifact registries, cloud environments, application admin interfaces, application account permissions, and application data access. 

  1. Identity & Access Management Systems

Organizations should review their identity and access management implementation to ensure that they are supporting a least privilege model such that users and accounts access only what is needed to do their job, and nothing more.

Authentication methods should be reviewed so that weak passwords are not allowed, multi-factor authentication is enabled for privileged accounts, and secure identity standards are used wherever possible for authentication, single-sign on, and access management. Also keep in mind that some regulatory compliance frameworks have strong authentication requirements for contributors in the software development lifecycle. 

  1. Revisit Authentication Procedures

Testing and reevaluating authentication procedures should be done periodically. Strengthening password policies, revisiting password change requirements, optimizing password reset procedures, reassessing user session management, replacing knowledge-based authentication with multi-factor authentication, and more should be revisited periodically to ensure that the latest best practices are being implemented.

  1. Secure the Software Supply Chain 

The software factory, or software supply chain, used to create and deploy an application is an increasingly a popular target by cyber criminals and is frequently under attack.

A success attack could embed a vulnerability in an application that is passed along to end users, disrupt the business operations of the software provider, or result in a breach of valuable intellectual property. 

Software supply chains are a sprawling and constantly changing attack surface, and a tempting target because there are many potential entry points and exploits. Securing the end-to-end software supply chain entails scanning your development pipelines for gaps and leaks, securing the SDLC infrastructure and systems within those pipelines, and the people and their security hygiene as they operate within it.   

  1. Remove Sensitive Data Within Code

Scanning your application code for embedded secrets left by application developers, such as hardcoded usernames, passwords, access tokens, and more are important so that if cyber criminal successfully access your code they won’t be able to use these secrets to move laterally and breach other systems in your organization.

Automated scanning tools can catch these embedded secrets and is best used in combination with best practice security training to avoid the insecure development practice altogether.  

  1. Implement Encryption Protocols

Another important factor in the information security risk assessment checklist is the use of encryption protocols for sensitive information.

Encryption can protect data in transit and at rest so that it cannot be read by unauthorized users.

Note that encryption methods that once seemed strong or impenetrable might now be too weak to protect valued information today and need to be upgraded.   

  1. Business Logic Testing

Testing business logic ensures that the application is behaving as it should and isn’t leaving room for unexpected behavior that hackers could creatively leverage to stage a breach or attack.

Test to find and eliminate the weaknesses found in your application that can arise from feature misuse, non-repudiation, trust relationship, data integrity, and duty segregation. 

  1. Front End Testing

Development teams need to perform all types of application tests for quality assurance, including unit tests, functional tests, integration testing and performance testing.

However, make sure enough effort is also put into front end testing, or the user interface of the application, which is an obvious attack surface to be targeted early.

This might also include cross-site scripting, JavaScript execution, any URL redirects, cross-site flashing, cross-site inception, and more. 

  1. Review Error Handling

Improper error handling poses a threat as it can unintentionally expose extremely sensitive information that can be exploited by an attacker.

That’s why it’s critical to minimize the information disclosed unless authorized to see it, as well as test server behavior to identify any unexpected behavior when errors are encountered.

It’s also critical to monitor behavior around requests sent for files that don’t exist, and log activity for the application’s data entry points.  


It’s Easy to Maximize Application Security with an Application Risk Assessment

Security should be one of the most important aspects of any application. Refer back to this application security checklist and cross-reference the OWASP security checklist to consistently help identify security vulnerabilities and employ remedies to fix them.

An application risk assessment is an essential tool for every security and development team to help you spot hidden vulnerabilities before they become a problem.

Neglecting to proactively address potential vulnerabilities means giving up the invaluable opportunity to avoid getting hacked in the first place and having to respond reactively to a breach that can have far worse time, resources and business consequences.

Securing your app may seem like an overwhelming task. So why go at it alone?

Legit Security secures your software development lifecycle protecting the pipelines, infrastructure, code and people.

Want to see how it works? Book a demo

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Published on
June 06, 2022

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