In an increasingly online era, cybersecurity has become more important than ever before.
Product security in the information age is of paramount importance. Not only are attacks and their malicious third parties becoming more advanced, but consumers are also looking for products with high safety ratings. This has brought product security from a relatively obscure, developer-sided process to a function at the forefront of people’s minds. What exactly is digital product security and what are some of the best ways to make your digital product secure?
What is product security?
It’s hard to give a broad definition of ‘product security’. It can mean a few different things depending on the perspective of the person defining it. Product security is a wide-reaching process, and it can vary depending on factors such as the used technology, market type, or the customers.
Increasing the complexity of digital product security comes with the need for a shift-left approach. A shift-left approach involves making changes to the when, where, and how implementing best practices in product security.
However, myths surrounding cybersecurity services have muddied these waters, making it difficult to define what the best practices are. In brief, product security should focus on every aspect of a product’s lifecycle to make it as robust and redundant as possible.
From the product’s inception to its eventual pull from the market, you should act in a security-by-design approach every step of the way. This involves focusing on threats, the ways to mitigate them, and overall risk analysis. These processes include technical aspects such as
- Code review
- Infrastructure hardening
- Penetration testing
A rise in cybersecurity myths has made it difficult for new product developers and management to distinguish between these myths and the real best product security practices.
When asked about product security, most people would begin to talk about penetration testing. This is perhaps because penetration testing is the most ubiquitous practice when it comes to product security. However, penetration testing isn’t the most effective way to increase product security, and certainly cannot be used in isolation.
This is because penetration testing is a security test, not a security improvement:
- Penetration testing only shows existing flaws in security that need to be fixed by exploiting existing vulnerabilities.
- When lots of flaws are exposed, this can become pricey depending on the discovered vulnerabilities.
A much cheaper and more efficient way to ensure product security is to make sure that those vulnerabilities don’t exist in the first place to be exploited. This can be done effectively by consulting and involving an expert such as a security engineer from the beginning of the project. This person can aid the development team to avoid costly security mistakes.
It’s important to remember that there will never be a bug-free product. Every digital product will always have some flaws, but the most important thing is to prevent the large and most obvious ones from occurring. Unfortunately, one of the biggest flaws is connected to security.
How can security be flawed?
When considering product security, we must consider every stage in that product’s lifecycle. This not only includes the early development process but its time in the market and its eventual withdrawal.
Different phases of a product’s life cycle require different measures to make sure the product remains secure. For example, it’s impossible to perform penetration testing on a product in its early development stage. However, you could provide a threat analysis instead to identify fragile areas of security. This allows you to know which features you should focus on the most.
Even deciding on the infrastructure architecture is vital, as it provides the backbone for the product. The infrastructure should not only prove to be redundant but also elastic enough to respond to changing market needs.
Different security solutions provide different security levels as well as different functionality. By incorporating a well-prepared development phase into your plans, you can not only avoid security mistakes but reduce the overall cost of developing a product.
Why does product security matter?
Product security does more than just make sure your products are protected from exploitation. Cybersecurity is also constantly on the minds of consumers, and they’re more well informed about it than ever. This also means that the market demand for secure products is also growing.
This growth is motivated by more than GDPR standards raising privacy awareness. It is also due to the large amount of recent data leaks that are seemingly becoming more and more frequent. When it feels as if there’s news of another huge private data leak every other month, consumers are bound to be more careful with their digital presence.
Companies need to show customers that they care deeply about securing their data. Secure products not only prevent the loss of capital due to fees from data breaches but also increase that company’s market share by catering to a cybersecurity-conscious consumer base. A survey conducted by Cisco found that 32% of respondents have switched products due to security concerns or data-sharing policies.
What are the best practices when it comes to product security?
To ensure your product is as secure as it can be and to appeal to privacy-concerned customers, there are a few best practices you can follow:
Security from the outset
Start your journey by implementing a clear security strategy. Some strategies are riskier than others, so it’s wise to take professional advice at this stage. This can involve designing a security ecosystem encompassing rigorous code reviews and internal scanning.
Prevention is better than cure
Much like biological viruses, preventing digital infection is better than fixing it. Having a subject matter expert focused on security within your development team is a cost-effective way to ensure security is a priority from the outset.
Test and re-test security
Penetration testing, although not very useful in isolation, remains a great way to test your security levels and identify vulnerabilities. Hopefully, if a security expert has been involved from the beginning in the development process, these vulnerabilities should be few and far between.
Every aspect matters
Security can be implemented in every part of the product. This includes the infrastructure, product design, frontend, and backend.
Product lifecycle must be considered
As mentioned earlier, the entire product lifecycle must be considered when it comes to security. This includes early development as well as the ideas phase, time on the market, and eventual withdrawal.
Show customers you care
There are more and more data and security-aware customers. By emphasizing the safety of your products as well as their functionality, your company can appeal to this significant consumer base. Showing you care about product security could allow you to capture more of the market.
Why is digital product security important?
Although improving product security isn’t rocket science, it must be done carefully and from the very beginning. This includes raising security awareness through your products, risk assessment, and threat modeling as well as continuous testing and re-testing of security levels. The extra effort is worth making because, in the end, the benefits of product security always outweigh the risks of poor product security. By preventing costly mistakes, you can focus on achieving your business goals without worrying about complicated data security.
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