Product Security is a process that encompasses the whole product life cycle where Product and Security teams work in tight collaboration following best practices. Here is everything you need to know!
Product Security has been around for a very long time, but there is still no general agreement on the conception of this term, nor is there a single framework on how to make a product secure. However, there are a few definitions that can help us understand what it is.
For the remainder of this article, we will assume that when we talk about Product Security, we are referring specifically to digital products.
So, are you keen to know how to improve your Product Security practice? Let’s get started.
WHAT IS PRODUCT SECURITY?
Julian Cohen states, “Product Security is a superset of application security, infrastructure security, and security operations around a particular product or system”. In other words, he conveys we should think of Product Security as a holistic concept and not just app or software security. Security in a software product is also defined by the networking and server infrastructure the product runs on as well as by the processes for deploying, monitoring, and maintaining it.
We also have David Wachtfogel who tells us Product Security refers to “safe-guarding an organization’s product from unauthorized access or modification to prevent harm to the organization or to the products’ users”. Again, Product Security is a holistic concept for David as it “includes technological aspects of how products are developed and used, an understanding of the supply chain from original source to end users, and even commercial aspects, such as the product pricing and the wider ecosystem in which the product operates in”.
No single solution or magic recipe will provide a secure product. Fortunately, there are a few best practices that will help you design and create secure products.
IMPORTANCE OF GOOD PRODUCT SECURITY
Poor Product Security poses a huge risk to organizations. Any harm that poor product security causes to the end user and even to the organization will have, among other consequences, a direct impact on the organization’s reputation and capacity to do business based on that product. Users will most probably lose confidence in any product or service coming from that organization. Here is a list of a few consequences coming from poor Product Security:
- Harm to the organization’s reputation and capacity to do business.
- Impact on revenue due to a decrease in sales for the product. It might impact other products, too.
- Higher costs coming from a potential product withdrawal from the market. There might be additional costs if the company needs to modify the product to meet commercial commitments.
- Harm to the product’s user resulting in legal issues, forcing the organization to pay a fine.
It is clear now that companies cannot see Product Security as an afterthought, and they need to review their processes, tools, and teams to guarantee good Product Security.
Luckily, there are some established, good practices that organizations can follow to make sure their products work as intended and are secure for both the end users and the organization itself.
Do not miss this reading: Secure Design: Integrating security into your development
BEST PRACTICES FOR GOOD PRODUCT SECURITY
Companies should pay attention to all aspects of the product’s lifecycle, as this is the only way to make it as secure as possible.
Below, you will find a list of best practices that companies can follow when building digital products. These practices will help incorporate security into the product starting from the discovery and design stages.
- Guarantee tight collaboration between Product and Security teams to make sure they work together starting from the design stage.
- Shift security left in the product life cycle starting with discovery and design. Testing security in later stages is not enough to guarantee good Product Security.
- Provide security training for all stakeholders working in the product life cycle.
- Do code reviews to minimize the risk of defective software reaching the digital product release stage.
- Perform Threat Modeling at the component, application, and system levels. Threat Modeling allows the Product team to conduct a structured assessment of the security implications resulting from decisions made during the product life cycle.
- Perform source code analysis through Static Application Security Testing (SAST) and Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) tools.
- Infrastructure hardening including hardware, network, and cloud assets.
- Do frequent penetration testing on digital products. Another good option is to set up a Bug Bounty program for external white hackers to try to break into the product.
- Understand and mitigate supply chain risks by doing proper, thorough risk assessment for all third-party software integrated into the digital product.
- Be sure to comply with data protection regulations such as GDPR and the like.
- Show customers you care about Product Security by communicating not only the functionality but also emphasizing the security aspects.
- Have a Product Security Incident Response plan in place for a quick response including aspects such as investigation, remediation, and disclosure processes, among others.
This might be interesting: 12 practices for building secure software
Companies cannot afford to neglect Product Security anymore at the risk of losing customers and therefore revenue, while also exposing themselves to higher costs due to legal issues and high fines.
Product Security should be seen as a holistic concept — a process that encompasses the whole product life cycle where Product and Security teams work in tight collaboration following best practices as outlined in this article.
We would love to hear your comments on how companies can improve their Product Security practice.
You can also contact us for any questions or needs you might have. We will quickly get back to you with the information and support you require to make your digital products secure.