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Safeguard your code: 17 security tips for developers

Peter Wayner | Feb. 5, 2013
Rigorous input testing, passwords, encryption -- security is a feature no programmer can afford to overlook.

If this turns into a management headache generating too many requests for extra privileges, it may make sense to rethink the overall architecture for the data. Are you keeping too much information? If people need more access than you're comfortable giving, you may be storing too much information. Saving less data (tip No. 2) can make it easier to give everyone a simple amount of access.

Secure programming tip No. 13: Model your threat

Do you hold credit card numbers? Then a common thief may be after your information. Do you track people's location with their cellphones? The dangers grow creepier.

Spending time thinking about who wants your data can be a useful precursor. If you can imagine a threat, you can keep the attacker in mind while you design and implement the system. They present an antiuse case to avoid.

It's important to recognize that no list or model will ever be perfect. Just because the threat isn't imagined doesn't mean you don't have to worry about it. It's just a start.

Secure programming tip No. 14: Trust goes both ways

It's easy to be suspicious of those who log into your website, but remember that they should be suspicious of you, too. Are you really the bank that holds their money, or are you a phishing website trying to steal everything they own?

Some sites are investing in proving themselves to the customers. They ask the customer to upload some photo or set of words that the website can use to prove that they're who they say they are. This can make everyone more secure.

Secure programming tip No. 15: Keep apprised of the latest threats

Following the industry press is absolutely essential, and InfoWorld is just one of the publications that covers tragic mistakes. Good articles can show you what others did wrong and give you a chance to think like an unauthorized prowler.

Understanding what happened in the past is a good way to begin planning for the future when a similar attacker may come after you -- a similar attacker who is also reading the same articles and thinking about them in a more malicious way. Once the ideas are out there, you have to take notice or the attackers will get a jump on you.

Secure programming tip No. 16: Deep research can pay off

The daily press is the first draft of how not to step in deep manure. Better lessons come from reading the books and journal articles written after the researchers have had time to think about what went wrong. These often include good rules and methods for avoiding the problem in the future.


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