Keep Your Lines Safe: Essential Cybersecurity Practices for Programmers

Data breaches, phishing attacks, and other forms of cybercrime are steadily rising. One would assume that programmers would take these threats most seriously and lead the charge to battle them. However, a recent study shows that more than 80% don’t see security as a priority when developing their apps.

Secure coding practices prolong the development cycle yet result in trustworthy products that cause their creators and users far fewer headaches down the line. Here are the best practices to make your code more secure.

Threat Modeling

Threat modeling is anticipating and mitigating weak security points before they become threats. You may implement threat modeling early in the code’s lifecycle and build upon it as the project grows.

Input Validation

Any software or webpage that asks users to input data is at higher risk. Hackers may use unsecured input fields to inject malicious code. That lets them alter or extract information from your databases, leading to potentially untold financial and reputation damage.

Input validation is the practice of ensuring that any fields accept only specific characters within a particular format. For example, a username field that denies “;” or an email address input that doesn’t function unless one enters “@.”

Robust Authentication Mechanisms

Passwords are the most common user account safeguards. You can’t do anything about users’ lousy password habits, but you can implement a policy for hard-to-crack and complex credentials. There should be a minimum character limit. Passwords should only be valid if they contain upper and lowercase characters as well as numbers.

Passwords alone aren’t enough. People reuse them or create similar ones often, so cracking one may put multiple accounts at risk. Augmenting your password system with two-factor authentication will considerably improve account safety.

Logging & Error Handling

Users will accidentally input incorrect information sooner or later. The error messages this produces should guide them in the right direction but be vague enough not to reveal anything about the system. Displaying “invalid user name or password” is safer than “this username or password doesn’t exist.” Both explain the same problem, but the latter lets hackers narrow down their brute-force methods.

Up-to-date Development & Production Environments

Writing software is a multi-step process involving numerous tools. Maintaining these tools, from the OS to the IDE, is a top priority. Running current versions gives access to the latest features. It also ensures the highest level of protection against security vulnerabilities.

File Encryption & Secure Sharing

Unless you’re a solo programmer, you’ll likely share your work with others regularly. At rest or during transit, sensitive data like proprietary code needs increased protection. You can encrypt it or use secure cloud storage for the same effect.

Cybercriminals might still steal such data. They can’t do anything with it since they lack the needed decryption tools.

Secure Access Policies

Regardless of the storage method, rules that govern access to the code need to be in effect. For example, using the default deny principle simplifies access while strengthening security. Default deny works by selectively granting permissions instead of exclusions. It’s a proven security measure that also helps with other aspects of development, like testing.

Supplement default denies with the Principle of Least Privilege (PoLP). Adhering to PoLP creates a user hierarchy where each class has the minimum access they need to perform their duty. Some users may lack access altogether. Others can only view or comment on the code.

Quality Assurance

Developing a comprehensive QA policy will help you produce code that’s as safe as it is functional. There are many ways to perform QA, from fuzz & pen testing to regular code audits. It’s also advisable to conduct code reviews. A third party should do the latter. That maintains impartiality. It may result in discovering vulnerabilities the original team missed or had not considered.


Programmers in a professional environment are often under pressure to deliver usable code within a set time limit. It’s tempting to cut corners and disregard safe coding practices to achieve this. While beneficial in the short term, taking cybersecurity seriously during a program’s entire lifecycle reduces long-term concerns and costs.