/mar 18, 2024

Security Debt: A Growing Threat to Application Security

By Jenny Buckingham

Understanding Security Debt

Security debt is a major and growing problem in software development with significant implications for application security, according to Veracode's State of Software Security 2024 Report. Let’s delve a bit deeper into the scope and risk of security debt, and gain some insights for application security managers to effectively address this challenge.

Security debt refers to software flaws that remain unfixed for a year or more. These flaws accumulate over time due to various factors, including resource constraints, technical complexity, or lack of prioritization. Security debt can be categorized as critical or non-critical and can exist in both first-party and, maybe more worrying, third-party code.

Prevalence and Impact of Security Debt

According to recent research, 42% of active applications have security debt, with 11% carrying critical security debt that poses a severe risk. Large applications are particularly susceptible, with 40% of them having non-critical security debt and 47% having critical debt. The consequences of security debt can be significant, including data breaches, system vulnerabilities, reputational damage, lost customer confidence and the costs that go with all of that.

Several factors contribute to the accumulation of security debt. Application size and programming language play a role, with larger applications and complex languages exhibiting higher rates of security debt. Age is another factor, as older applications tend to have more unfixed flaws. Additionally, industry sectors and organizational practices can influence the prevalence of security debt.

Risk Mitigation Strategies

To minimize security debt, it's important to prioritize security throughout the software development lifecycle. This includes empowering developers with security training and the tools needed to help them reduce risk, integrating security testing into the development process, and adopting continuous remediation practices. Prioritizing critical security debt is essential, as these flaws pose the greatest risk to applications.

Build Developer Security Competency

Developer education plays a crucial role in addressing security debt. Developers need to understand the importance of secure coding practices, the risks associated with security flaws, and the tools and techniques available for flaw identification and remediation. Investing in security training programs and software development security tools helps foster a culture of security awareness among developers.

Secure Third-party Code

Third-party code presents a significant source of security debt. Assessing the security of third-party libraries, enforcing version control, and monitoring for vulnerabilities helps proactively address supply chain security and reduce risk associated with third-party code. This can seem like a herculean task, and without the right tools to help, it is. That's why it's important to deploy security testing that empowers developers to quickly and effectively identify vulnerabilities hidden in third-party code. Equipped with this technology, developers can receive timely remediation advice, enabling them to quickly address these threats.  

Integrate Security into the Entire SDLC

Instead of isolating testing in different areas such as code, processes, or teams, a more effective approach to address increasing security risks is to continuously scan using SAST, DAST, and SCA at different stages of the software development lifecycle (SDLC). The results from these scans should be thoroughly examined and resolved, taking into consideration the overall context of the SDLC to optimize efficiency in combating security debt.

Get Started Today

Veracode Dynamic Analysis (DAST) is a dynamic application security testing solution that integrates API and web service vulnerability scanning directly into development pipelines to strengthen software against attack. 

Veracode’s Software Security Platform leverages application security testing tools such as SAST, DAST and SCA to find and fix flaws at every stage of the modern software development lifecycle. Trusted by security teams, developers, and business leaders, Veracode helps secure applications from source to speed at scale. 

Start your free, 14-day trial of Veracode DAST Essentials to see first-hand how Veracode can help secure your applications to address increasing security risk.

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By Jenny Buckingham

Jenny Buckingham is a Product Marketing Manager helping developers and security professionals secure their cloud-native application development. With a focus on understanding her customer’s needs, she helps companies leverage powerful solutions to overcome security challenges.