3 best practices for source code security

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Source Code is the new gold for companies. If the code is stolen or leaked, it can lead to massive damage to companies. Customers lose trust and the reputation suffers. How can the source code be protected?

Why source code protection is important

Attempts to compromise companies’ services and software have increased in recent years. This is no wonder, as source code contains a lot of valuable information, such as OAuth tokens, passwords and API keys. Without sufficient protection, anyone with access to the repository can use and potentially share them.

This makes code theft a major threat to businesses. Twitch, a streaming platform, had a massive security problem in 2021. The source code was publicly viewable. Approximately 6,600 secrets were found in it. Among them were 194 AWS keys, 69 Twilio keys and 14 GitHub OAuth keys.

Publishing the source code can also expose security vulnerabilities in the software. It is possible for attackers to break into further systems. Often also into the systems of a company’s customers. Quite bitterly, individual features or even the entire software can be copied. The competition has the opportunity to view the code and gain a market advantage.

The source code represents a serious vulnerability. Especially if an attacker gains access to the code base and the access remains undetected.

#1 Security Policies

Policies help define processes, rules, and requirements for protecting the source code. The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) has created a Top Ten list aimed at raising developers’ awareness of security risks. Although it is focused on web applications, the concepts are applicable to other types of software development as well.

#2 Access Control

Access control is an important aspect of securing a company’s source code. It is essential to restrict access to the source code to authorized individuals.

When managing access control, the “Least Privilege Model” should be applied. This means that developers should only be granted the permissions they need for their specific tasks. In general, there is no need to grant developers access to the entire source code. By granting only the minimum permissions, companies can reduce the risk of unauthorized use or manipulation of the source code.

Another important security measure is the implementation of two-factor authentication (2FA). By using 2FA, an additional security step is introduced to ensure that only users with sufficient permissions can access the data. This significantly enhances the security of accessing the source code and makes it more difficult for potential attackers to gain unauthorized access.

It should also be possible to quickly revoke access to the repository when it is no longer needed or if a compromise is suspected. Therefore, companies should have an overview of who has access to the source code and who does not.

#4 Endpoint Security

Endpoint security plays a crucial role in securing the source code of a company. End devices such as laptops used for code development can be potential entry points for security breaches.

One way to ensure the security of laptops is by using Data Loss Prevention (DLP) tools. These tools help prevent internal data leakage and ensure that sensitive information is not lost, misused, or made accessible to unauthorized individuals.

DLP tools can ensure that the code is not unlawfully downloaded, copied, or stored on unauthorized storage media. They also prevent the code from being transmitted through insecure communication channels.

Another way to enhance security standards is by using Remote Development Environments (RDEs) / Cloud Development Environments (CDEs). We will use the term Remote Development Environments (RDEs) synonymously for CDEs. RDE would be the technically accurate term if a product is also available as an on-premise solution. However, CDE is the established term. We decided to switch to “CDE” after we wrote this post. Remote Development Environments are remote environments that are available with the click of a button, providing developers with all the tools they need for their work. Additionally, the software being developed can be operated within the RDEs. The advantage in terms of security is that the source code and test data are no longer locally available on developers’ machines. This makes it also easier to collaborate with remote or external developers.

Read more: What are Remote Development Environments?

Conclusion

There are various ways to protect the source code:

  • Security policies: Defining processes, rules, and requirements to protect the code.
  • Access control: Restricting access to authorized individuals, applying the “Least Privilege Model,” and implementing two-factor authentication.
  • Endpoint security: Protecting the end devices used for code development using Data Loss Prevention (DLP) tools and utilizing Remote Development Environments (RDEs) to ensure that the source code and test data aren’t locally accessible on developers’ machines.

By implementing these measures, companies can reduce the risk of code theft and leaks.

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    Johannes Ebner

    Marketing Manager