The Ins and Outs of Application Security Policy
A policy, by definition, is a statement of management intent that is mandatory for an organization. A security policy, obviously, focuses on the security of information assets. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the definitive government organization guiding American innovation for more than a century, describes security policies as “a set of rules that governs all aspects of security-relevant system and system component behavior” that “define the objectives and constraints for the security program”. An application security policy (ASP) specifically defines the objectives that security controls should achieve in the development, deployment, and management of software applications. Policies in general answer “what” has to be achieved and “why”, rather than the “how”; the latter is addressed by procedures.
Types of Security Policies
Before we dive deeper into ASP, let’s take a look at the different kinds of security policies an organization can implement and their purpose.
The Importance of Application Security Policies
To quote Wikipedia, “An application program (software application, or application, or app for short) is a computer program designed to carry out a specific task other than one relating to the operation of the computer itself.” Applications are the means by which modern life is run, without which computers have no meaning. Even as I write this blog post, while I’m typing on my laptop, I’m using the Google Docs web application. Even if I do so offline, I’ll be using the word processing application Microsoft Word. Considering the ubiquity of applications in our everyday lives, it is obvious that securing them will be of paramount importance. Therefore, an application security program is a necessity for every organization.
Application security policies define how organizations build, deploy, and manage their applications. This includes applications that are built internally from scratch, those that leverage open-source software (OSS) and those that are sourced fully from external vendors, whether hosted on-premises or in the cloud (software-as-a-service). The scope is broader than a software development security policy, and help achieve the following:
The Core Components of an Application Security Policy
While there are no exact rules specifying how to write a security policy, an application security policy (ASP) typically includes the following core components:
Guide to Creating an Application Security Policy
Now that an application security policy template is in place, here is how you would go about creating the policy itself:
Guide to Implementing an Application Security Policy
As the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Therefore, the ASP is of no use unless it is implemented, and this is how you should go about applying security policies in your operational practices:
The threat landscape is always changing, Attackers are constantly developing new Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs) to affect the Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability (CIA) of data. Applications are the touchpoints for legitimate users, and unfortunately, what attackers have access to as well. As part of the attack surface, applications are of paramount importance. In such a scenario, leaving their security to subjective judgements by individual developers puts organizations at risk. Therefore, there should be a structure around the process. Developing and implementing an application security policy is the first step to addressing that and developing a “security-first” culture. Application security (AppSec) is the next frontier of cybersecurity, and organizations should prepare themselves to win. Remember, it’s not only the initial rollout that counts, but the continuous monitoring as well. A platform like Riscosity ensures organizations have full visibility over all data-in-transit, thereby reducing the risk of applications being misused.