What Is Secure Coding?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Secure coding seeks to avoid easily preventable coding defects that create security risks. Research into software vulnerability shows that a large number of exploits are rooted in a small group of common programming errors. Analysts publicize information about these errors to make coders aware of the issue and encourage them to use better security in the design and implementation of software. Specific protocols have been developed for some programming languages, like Java™, to provide guidance to programmers and help them avoid common pitfalls.

Protocols used in secure coding create a defensive approach to software development.
Protocols used in secure coding create a defensive approach to software development.

In this process, coders use standards and practices that eliminate common security problems. Issues with code may arise for a variety of reasons, including poor control of permissions and bud buffering protocols. These may not be identified during development or testing, but can become apparent after release. Hackers seeking exploits may specifically beeline for common weak points in software and can find them by testing the boundaries, which allows them to develop targeted attacks. Secure coding can eliminate these easy exploits.

Protocols used in secure coding create a defensive approach to software development. As people implement features to provide functionality and meet the needs of clients, they also close any loopholes that might develop during the design process. Secure coding can be a particular problem with code designed for use online, where users may have lax settings on their browsers, assuming that code originating from a known site is trusted. If a site’s code is vulnerable to hacking, it might be hijacked, planting malicious code on the computers and mobile devices of visitors.

Software developers strike a balance between functionality and security. Some security measures would make programs extremely difficult to use and might pose barriers to full use. Allowing people to use programs without any security, however, could expose them to danger. It might also be a threat to computer networks as a whole; one user with an infected computer on a college network, for example, can cause problems for numerous other users, including sensitive labs that might be connected to the network for access.

Individual programmers can use a variety of tactics in secure coding, in addition to following protocols established for specific programming languages. These can include consistency and clarity in coding to limit confusion and make it possible for other programmers to work on the same code. In collaborative efforts, attempts to untangle another code can create issues that present security problems.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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