In application development security is a key task when it comes to looking to the future of cybersecurity. A recent industry study shows it is the fastest-growing cybersecurity skill for the years ahead. Demand is expected to increase by 164% over the next five years. Such growth would bump up the total number of job openings. Which requires this skill from 29,635 in 2020 to 48,601 a few years from now.
These findings raise important questions. What is application security development? And, what’s driving the rapid growth?
First, this job is about strengthening the defences of an app by finding as well as fixing vulnerabilities. As the name implies, this process most often takes place within the development phase before an app goes into production. But it can occur after the owner has deployed those apps, as well.
There’s not just one approach to looking at application development security, otherwise known as application security testing (AST). The several methods people in this field will probably use include the following:
The growing demand for application development security reflects two ongoing trends.
1. The world is becoming more mobile/web. Businesses and other groups invest in their users being able to interact with their services via an app on a variety of devices. Along the way, they need someone with application security skills to secure those apps in order to ensure consistency. And secure mobile/web performance for a growing portion of their user base.
2. Vulnerabilities in an app’s defences erode trust between the creators as well as the users. Overall, flaws like this are common in mobile apps. Almost three-quarters of iOS and Android apps analyzed for a 2020 study wouldn’t have passed a basic security test. More than four-fifths (83%) of those surveyed apps had at least one security flaw. While vulnerabilities showed up in 91% of iOS apps and 95% of Android apps analyzed in the study.
Those holes pose a threat to businesses. Weak server-side controls, unsafe data storage, broken cryptography, and other problems open the door for external attackers to scrape information. Potential customers might hesitate to do business with groups that suffered a data breach because of poor application development security. That’s assuming those groups can continue to operate after paying for repairs. Paying the legal fees, and other damages that come with a breach.
Lastly, some customers aren’t even waiting that long to demand application development security matters. Customers are telling companies whose apps and other products. They use to write more secure code before they’ve even faced an attack. In some cases, the pressure supplied by customers dwarfed the pressure provided by regulators and compliance auditors.
This shows how application development security is becoming a means by which organizations can maintain trusting partnerships with their customers from the moment. They begin doing business together, not just in the aftermath of a publicly disclosed problem.
Every company will have a unique application landscape, and more often than not, they will follow a proprietary application architecture/design. Today, a company’s success depends on its ability to stand out against similar products in the market, making the application security engineer’s job harder.
When transitioning between companies/projects, you will have to gain familiarity with a different design structure, different delivery modalities, different security risks, and sometimes even a new language altogether. While a quick learner will be poised for success, picking up technical skills and business-specific knowledge on the job.
Penetration testing or penetration is a type of testing where you do not assume any knowledge of the internal source code. You approach the application like a hacker would (in a simulated environment), trying to find vulnerabilities in the application’s multiple vectors.
In many ways, penetration is akin to ethical hacking – as you try to exploit vulnerabilities without causing harm. Products that work with sensitive information or see many high-value transactions need exhaustive penetration before reaching the market.
Skills in this area can give you an edge over other candidates. The company can save significantly by leveraging an in-house resource rather than a consultant or service provider.
This might sound basic, but the ability to understand, explain, and optimize the end-to-end software development lifecycle is an essential skill for application security engineers. One expert mentioned that “explain SDLC” and “in which phase of SDLC should you integrate security” are two very common questions he has been asked at job interviews.
Companies will typically build on accepted SDLC guidelines (going agile, following CICD, etc.) to reach their product goals. An application security engineer with a strong foundational understanding of development approaches will work better with different teams and contribute to collaborative outcomes.
Even within this specialized field, web app sec is an emerging area of interest and is fast becoming synonymous with application security as a whole. After all, most applications are hosted on the web/public cloud, and this number will only grow in today’s connected world.
Therefore, you have multiple groups like the Web Application Security Consortium (WASC), the OWASP Foundation, and the WebAppSec Working Group to drive innovation in this domain. Brushing up on the latest trends in web app sec before interviewing for an application security engineering job is always a great idea.
Like your understanding of SDLC, companies will also want logical reasoning, syntactic knowledge, and the ability to grasp and solve problems quickly. Companies often ask candidates to write a quick program or two to test these skills.
An expert applying for an application security engineering job at Poshmark (a U.S. e-commerce company) was asked to write two programs in a language of their choice. You should be able to think on your feet, bringing your experience in application engineering to showcase problem-solving skills in tight timelines.
Application security testing is an evolving field, asking you to be curious and interested in new ideas. Someone who is constantly working on self-improvement both professionally and personally, and can intersect this with a genuine interest in cybersecurity, is perfect for the job. By reading up on industry trends, technology innovations, where the market is headed, you can constantly refresh your skill sets.
As most application security engineer job ads tell us. You will have to work with developers, testers, product managers, cybersecurity teams, and business leaders at every step before application release. In smaller companies, it might even be an independent role where you’re given a task. To be executed in collaboration with your peers, without any direct oversight.
Robust soft skills can help you iron out bottlenecks on the SDLC and understand possible vulnerabilities arising from human error. It will also help to break down the tools and frameworks you develop into easy-to-understand terms, getting buy-in from different stakeholders on your proposed security models.
Like we said at the top, application development security is the way for organizations to ensure their place in the future. The tools and methods for putting application security in place might change. But the basics of security will remain relevant throughout the next few years and beyond.
As new threats emerge and application design approaches mature. Application security engineers will have to keep up with the newest movements and constantly revisit their skill sets. A good application security engineer is an invaluable asset for every company, playing a critical role in software development, compliance, and overall cybersecurity.
Ultimately, the best application security designers are defined by a degree of chutzpah that helps them accomplish seemingly impossible tasks with uncompromised quality. This could be manually reviewing the entire codebase in a limited timeframe or quickly adapting to a brand-new application design with ease.
Offensive 360 will set you up for success in an application security engineer’s job in today’s age of digital proliferation. And with a little bit of research, reading, and inspiration from the newest hacking techniques, you will be on the road to success.