Source Code Security Best Practices: A Complete Guide

Software supply chain attacks are on the rise, and they show no sign of slowing down. A study in late 2022 found that supply chain attacks went up 633% compared to the previous year, with more than 88,000 documented cases. That is on top of a 650% raise in 2021 and 430% in 2020. Given the trajectory, it seems extremely likely that the number of attacks will continue to grow significantly in the coming years and that source code security will become an even bigger concern.

While attacks against major companies and government agencies typically grab the biggest headlines, around 43% of cyberattacks target small businesses. Every software company needs to have a comprehensive set of security protocols and protective measures to maintain its source code security.

The Importance of Source Code Security

A hack or leak of source code can cause serious damage to a company on multiple fronts. It can harm the company’s reputation and lead to a loss of customer trust. It risks the exposure of confidential information belonging to both the company and its clients while opening the door for future security breaches. 

In addition, software development can be severely hindered or set back after a breach, as developers have to take additional steps or change their security protocols once the information on potential vulnerabilities is out in the open. 

All of this can add up to severe financial losses that reach into the hundreds of millions.

Source Code Management Best Practices

Build a Protection Policy

The first step in creating effective source code security is to create a protection policy. This is a plan for how security protocols will be maintained. It will help keep all the staff trained and up to date on the rules and responsibilities of everyone who touches the source code or that is involved in keeping it secure. It should include extensive documentation on previous security steps and plans for how to manage a potential security breach.

The protection plan should be updated regularly with the latest information on new risks and security measures that are being taken.

Control Access

Around 95% of software security breaches happen because of human error, so one of your top priorities to maintain source code security is to closely monitor and control who has access to the code. Administrators should be able to easily whitelist individual users and grant them specific permissions on what they have access to.

You should also have tracking tools that will allow you to trace changes through the code to see where potential security issues originated from. Whenever possible, look for opportunities to mitigate or eliminate the potential for human error by automating certain security tasks. 

If you’re working with a source code repository and putting your information onto the cloud, make sure the platform gives you significant administrative control over security protocols. 

Scan for Security Flaws

A significant number of security breaches are caused by developers putting secret information into their source code. Static analysis tools will automatically find keys and passwords in the code and notify the team before it is deployed. The scan will take instantly take palace for every commit, ensuring that confidential information doesn’t slip through the cracks.

If you’re downloading code from an outside source, thoroughly vet the site to ensure that it is legitimate and trustworthy. Be sure to take further steps such as verifying cryptographic hashes.

Encrypt Information

Source code should be stored with thorough encryption protocols, such as AES-256 bit encryption. If your code is on a cloud platform, make sure the data is well encrypted during transfer and that it is stored with high-level encryption.

Source Code Security Best Practices

How to Protect Source Code from Being Stolen

One of the biggest challenges in source code security is that you won’t always know as soon as you’ve experienced a breach. That’s why you should run regular searches for your code on popular sites like GitHub as well as places on the dark web to catch leaks as soon as possible. Proprietary code should be copyrighted and patented where possible to ensure your legal claim to the code in case it does get out.

How to Secure Source Code from Developers

While external threats are typically the biggest concern to software developers, companies should also take necessary steps to ensure that developers cannot unintentionally (or intentionally) cause a security breach. IT administrators should verify that endpoint devices are secure and that anti-malware and antivirus software has been installed. They should also use data loss prevention solutions to keep track of company intellectual property and take steps to secure potential vulnerabilities, such as by locking USB ports. 

How to Protect Source Code from Remote Developers

Many companies don’t like the idea of working with remote developers because they lack the direct oversight of security that they may have in an in-person environment. But remote work is becoming increasingly popular and looks to be here to stay. 

There are steps that employers can take to ensure that their remote developers are following security protocols and keeping their source code safe. Remote developers should use a virtual private network to make it easier to monitor the network and blacklist potentially problematic sites. All devices on the same shared network should also be fully secured.

But keep in mind that you also want to make security protocols as fast and painless to follow as possible, since more time-consuming and obtuse steps may lead to developers seeking to get around them. 

Using a Secure Source Code Repository

Assembla is a source code repository that takes extensive steps to encrypt and secure our clients’ confidential information. Our project management tools include communication and collaboration features that allow developers to keep secrets in one secure place. We also work with a security company to perform regular penetration testing of our platform to make sure we find vulnerabilities and stay ahead of the curve.

Start a Free Trial of Assembla

Learn more about how Assembla maintains source code security by reaching out to our staff, or start a free trial to check out Assembla for yourself.

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