Thu, May 2, 2024

How to Build an Application Security Program

Application security is vital for ensuring the resilience of organizations, as it encompasses measures and practices that safeguard applications against potential threats and vulnerabilities. It plays a critical role in safeguarding sensitive data, preventing unauthorized access, and maintaining the integrity and availability of applications. By implementing robust application security measures, businesses can mitigate risks, protect their reputation and ensure the trust of their customers and stakeholders.

The importance of integrating security into the software development lifecycle (SDLC) and regularly testing for vulnerabilities cannot be overstated, as it ensures that the software is robust  and helps to identify potential threats. However, starting an appsec program is no small task.

This article will explore the following topics:

  • What is application security?
  • What are the key appsec program objectives?
  • What are the main steps for developing an application security program?
  • What application security services are available?
  • How do I choose an appsec provider?

What is Application Security?

Application security encompasses a comprehensive set of strategies and techniques aimed at safeguarding various types of applications, such as software, web applications and mobile apps, from potential threats and vulnerabilities. It involves implementing robust security controls and protocols to protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of these applications and the data they handle.

When it comes to securing software, application security involves identifying and addressing vulnerabilities in its code and design. This includes conducting thorough code reviews, performing regular security testing, and implementing secure coding practices. By ensuring that the software is free from vulnerabilities, organizations can minimize the risk of unauthorized access, data breaches and other security incidents.

Web applications and mobile apps are particularly vulnerable to attacks due to their exposure to the internet and the wide range of platforms they run on. Application security for web applications involves implementing measures such as secure authentication mechanisms, input validation and secure session management to protect against common web-based attacks like cross-site scripting (XSS) and SQL injection. By addressing these specific security concerns, organizations can ensure that their web applications and mobile apps are more resilient.

Key Application Security Program Objectives

An effective application security program acts as a shield, proactively identifying and mitigating security risks and ensuring the integrity and confidentiality of information. However, application security is not “one-size-fits-all”, so it is vital to establish specific objectives that are customized to fit the needs and requirements of the organization. These objectives serve as a roadmap for implementing security measures aligned with the organization's goals and priorities, ensuring that resources are efficiently allocated.

Protection against external threats is not the only benefit of a robust application security program. Another is that it helps to maintain compliance with industry regulations and standards. Many sectors, such as finance, healthcare and government, have specific security requirements that organizations must adhere to. Implementing a customized application security program ensures that these obligations are met, reducing the risk of penalties, legal issues and reputational damage. It also instills trust and confidence in customers, who can be assured that their personal information is being handled securely. 

Tailoring core application security objectives enables organizations to proactively address their unique security challenges and vulnerabilities. By defining specific objectives that align with a company’s particular environment and industry, targeted security strategies can be developed to apply focus to specific risks and threats. This approach enhances overall security by enabling a focused and strategic approach to managing risks and protecting critical assets and information.

A good appsec program requires sound strategy and supporting processes to help guide software product teams in practicing secure coding habits. It also involves investing in the right security tools to reduce organizational risk and programs capable of measuring the effectiveness of application security controls. A complete culture shift within the engineering and security teams may be required in order to embrace a more secure software development lifecycle (SDLC).

Objectives in the development of a successful application security program may include:


  • Developing a security strategy for applications and establishing governance frameworks that support business goals.
  • Creating guidelines and procedures to align assessment strategies with the needs of the business.

  • Improving the efficiency of security testing and remediation by measuring and scaling the current vulnerability management posture.

  • Positioning security engineering teams as an internal service organization by strategizing service delivery capabilities.

  • Helping build internal capabilities within the software development and deployment ecosystem to achieve software security goals.

Application Security Program Development

Developing an efficient application security program to tackle an organization’s unique risk profile is likely to involve a series of common steps. One of the primary processes is conducting thorough risk assessments to identify potential vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the system and implement targeted security measures to mitigate these risks effectively.

Another important step in developing an effective application security program is implementing robust security controls. These controls are designed to protect the application from specific security threats, such as unauthorized access, data breaches and malware attacks.

In addition to risk assessments and security controls, continuous monitoring and regular coverage updates are also essential components of an effective application security program. Monitoring the application for any suspicious activities or anomalies helps in detecting security breaches in real-time and allows for immediate response to mitigate potential risks. Regular reviews of security measures and protocols are essential for adapting to evolving cyber threats and ensure that the application remains protected against new vulnerabilities. 

The steps covered above represent only part of the actions required for developing an effective application security program. However, by following them diligently, organizations can develop an application security program that fully safeguards their applications and data from potential security risks.

Application Security Services

Many organizations are faced with the question, “Should we attempt to build our own application security program in-house, or hire an outside firm to assist?” Both options are possible. However, the task of building an appsec program in-house is challenging due to two important factors. The high costs of recruiting and training professionals, as well as the need to constantly update tools and technologies, makes the in-house route resource-intensive. Managing security services internally requires a deep understanding of various protocols, regulations and detection techniques, which is beyond the reach of all but the largest enterprises.

Thankfully, there are various application security services that can assist in identifying and reducing security risks in applications without the need to develop these capabilities internally. Outsourcing security services can save organizations time and money by leveraging specialized expertise to identify and address security risks in applications, freeing up in-house staff.

Specialized external providers often have access to the latest tools and techniques for identifying and mitigating security risks, giving businesses a competitive edge in safeguarding their applications. By partnering with these application security service providers, organizations can proactively address security concerns and ensure the integrity of their applications without the need for extensive in-house development and maintenance efforts.

Some of the most common appsec services that organizations rely on for help with building their programs are:

By outsourcing these services, organizations can proactively enhance their application security, mitigate risks and protect sensitive data from potential cyber threats, while saving time, money and resources.

Choosing an AppSec Provider

When selecting an application security provider, it is vital to consider factors that can impact the quality of the services offered. Expertise in application security, understanding of security threats and effective risk mitigation strategies are key considerations to ensure reliable protection.

  • Experience: An in-depth industry background and a proven reputation are crucial factors to evaluate when choosing a security provider. A strong track record of securing applications for various clients and maintaining confidentiality is essential for delivering high-quality security solutions.
  • Trust: Partnering with a trustworthy provider with industry experience ensures the success of the application security program. This collaboration allows for the implementation of robust security measures, expert guidance throughout the application lifecycle, and a focus on maintaining security as a top priority. Organizations can gain peace of mind by establishing a strong partnership with a reliable security provider.

Why Choose Kroll as your AppSec Services Provider?

At Kroll, our application security experts assist clients in the end-to-end design, build and deployment of an application security program. We’re not just helping your team implement static or dynamic application security testing — our goal is to help organizations develop application security programs that will enable them to effectively manage the security of their portfolios of applications, while at the same time staying nimble enough to adapt to changing business needs, technologies and operating environments. 

Kroll’s seasoned experts work with security and engineering personnel to provide the guidelines, tools and processes teams need to be successful. This support enables Kroll clients to better secure their products without compromising development speed or innovation.

Our capabilities in the following key areas ensure a successful client engagement:

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Cyber Risk

Incident response, digital forensics, breach notification, managed detection services, penetration testing, cyber assessments and advisory.

Cyber Risk Assessments

Kroll's cyber risk assessments deliver actionable recommendations to improve security, using industry best practices & the best technology available.

Application Security Services

Kroll’s product security experts upscale your AppSec program with strategic application security services catered to your team’s culture and needs, merging engineering and security into a nimble unit.