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Add Security to Fintech Services, the Modern Way

Wouldn’t you know it. Just as demand for mobile fintech services explodes, the familiar and unwelcome sight of security weaknesses rears its ugly head. 

The constant demand for robust, secure services would be discouraging, if all we had to work with were traditional development models and tools. The good news: developers now have a boatload of new infrastructure frameworks, models, practices and tools that make security an efficient and integral part of application development.

Saying Goodbye to Old Security Habits

The traditional way to secure applications is to engage the QA process at the end of production. That’s when time pressures to release the app are the greatest, and it’s usually too late to make significant changes. When changes are made, the fixes are expensive, and overall software quality suffers. 

This approach, based on the idea of developers, operations, testers, and management working in isolation, is outdated and flawed. 

Four Pillars of Fintech Development Security

There are many ways to add security to fintech services. Four of them form the development bedrock that provides each fintech service development project with a good start.

Add Security and Compliance Teams Early 

Current development practice focuses on making security less of a bottleneck (and an afterthought) by bringing it to the front of the application development process. Developers recognize that testing is required earlier in the process. Now it’s time to apply the same logic to security.

Making security and compliance specialists part of the development teams early in the service life cycle is a good idea. 

This approach enables their eyes—and tools—to scan all scripts, integrations and other deliverables for security weakness or compliance failures, before the item is deployed. Fixing or adding content before deployment avoids the lost time and extra effort of rework. 

Use DevOps, Then Add Security 

The DevOps approach to application development enables faster delivery of high-quality apps by making development and operations tasks part of a single process. That and the addition of lots of automation provide developers with consistent quality and continuous improvement. 

When DevOps teams add security tasks to their processes, they: 

  • Integrate security and testing steps throughout the software development lifecycle.
  • Establish processes that check all scripts, templates and integrations used to automate application and service deployment along the entire operations chain.

Developers who use secure DevOps practices show consistent results that DevSecOps methods mitigate potential security problems, discover issues faster, and address threats more quickly.  

Include Infrastructure as Code 

As the development environment becomes more programming oriented, deliverables must become the product of a first-class application development process. This process requires that related assets follow common coding practices and have a consistent and sustainable architecture.

IaC is a type of IT infrastructure, which helps developers maintain these high standards. With it, operations teams can manage and provision automatically by using code, rather than a manual process. 

IaC became the solution to widespread scaling problems created by explosive infrastructure growth. It enables users to:

  • Manage changes to infrastructures, consistently and responsibly.
  • Make quick, low-risk changes.
  • Continue making changes as the size and complexity of the infrastructure and number of teams using it grows.

Add IaC to Security Tasks

The IaC development process models infrastructure with code and then designs, implements, and deploys application infrastructures with tested and proven software development practices. 

Developers can easily engage in DevOps provisioning, configuration management and deployment activities by writing infrastructure code in languages that they already know. The IaC learning curve is not very steep. Easily available tools such as Vagrant, Ansible, Puppet and Docker make the learning process even easier. 

You can scan your infrastructure code for security weaknesses before deploying it to your environment. This prevents the team from rolling out vulnerabilities into the production environment.

Baking Security into App Development

In addition to the four basic elements of fintech app security, you’ll find many other ways to integrate security into your development process:

  • New models. Forward-looking developers are working with zero-trust security models, as Google did with BeyondCorp. 
  • New practices. New threats evolve and emerge all the time. InfoSec team members can engage in ongoing research and modeling to explore new trends and risks in the security industry.

Continuous security validation. This DevOps security practice monitors for security weaknesses automatically at all stages of the app life cycle. It incorporates the security team and their capabilities into DevOps practices and makes security the responsibility of everyone on the team. 

Ongoing security education. Reliable DevOps security requires continuing education for DevOps team members. It can ensure that team members limit and test inputs, encrypt and compartmentalize the system, limit privileges and otherwise monitor and test applications in a thorough and consistent way.

  • New tools. The early-stage security integration approach comes from the concept of continuous scanning with tools such as Faraday (a collaborative penetration test and vulnerability management platform) and OpenVAS.  
  • New resources. Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST), is a service. It enables developers to combine elements of static and dynamic techniques. These methods continuously run automated tests on the software under development and monitor how apps cope with malicious traffic. 

Keeping fintech services secure will never be an easy job, but the practices, tools and models that are available help keep service development faster, more secure and consistent than ever before.

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