3 ways standardization enhances low-code and open-source security

In simplifying software development, low code can also help reduce cybersecurity complexity, thanks to enhanced standardization and integration.

Over the past couple of decades, the technical footprint of many enterprises has become very complex and difficult to maintain. As business leaders struggle to keep up with the constantly evolving customer demands and all the ancillary challenges that come with it, that complexity is only likely to increase. This has also made it harder to maintain accountability for managing risk. In other words, enterprises are becoming too technically complex to secure.

As enterprises grapple with a rapidly expanding data footprint, with data coming from myriad different sources, the need for standardization and simplified management becomes clearer. Add the unprecedented rise of remote work and the internet of things (IoT) into the mix, and that need is even greater. Organizations are now using an average of software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps, presenting a 14-fold increase over just six years.

Naturally, achieving a sufficient degree of information security becomes exponentially harder the larger and more diverse the software stack and data footprint. While many cloud vendors are now embracing open-source standardization to reduce complexity, problems like vendor lock-in and a general lack of digital sovereignty persist. This results in reduced control which, in turn, can lead to compromised security and a lack of compliance with industry standards.

For established enterprises, the challenge is even greater. Even if they have a robust digital transformation strategy in place, most are still grappling with legacy technology which, in turn, means data sources that are difficult to adapt for modern, cloud-based apps and architectures. This often results in enterprises not knowing exactly where all their data physically resides or which controls are in place to protect it. After all, you can’t protect what you don’t know about.

By embracing a combination of low-code software development and open-source licensing, enterprises can democratize development and achieve greater control over their data assets. Low-code simplifies and standardizes the creation of business apps, while the open-source model helps maintain digital sovereignty and control. With the right strategy and support, this powerful combination can greatly enhance an enterprise’s security posture. In this article, we’ll find out exactly how.

1. Harmonizing data streams

Cybersecurity complexity is easily the number-one reason for taking a standardized approach to developing, implementing, and managing your software stack. The ultimate goal should be to have a single pane of glass that presents all business data from every source in a unified management console. In this case, the glass generally refers to a web-based dashboard that makes it easy to access current and historical data. Not only does this give administrators an accurate sense of the bigger picture – it also gives security analysts a granular view into where their data lives, how it is secured, and how it should be classified.

A combination of low-code software development and open-source licensing makes it easier to centralize your business processes and operations and consolidate your data streams for greatly simplified management. That means simplified governance, security, and compliance as well. Furthermore, having the ability to plug in every data source and have it automatically transformed into a common format lets you build apps that can communicate with one another without having to resort to potentially risky workarounds. To that end, you can use an open-source low-code development platform (LCDP) as a centralized enterprise command center.

Given the dizzyingly complex data footprint in today’s enterprises, data harmonization is now key to driving an effective digital transformation. Of course, the benefits of connecting all your data sources to a centralized management console go far beyond security. It greatly increases the value and usability of data for analysis and automation too, making it the ultimate resource for business intelligence and informed decision-making.

2. Streamlining feedback loops

The cyberthreat landscape is evolving rapidly, which means software development lifecycles (SDLCs) need to be equally quick on their feet. If, for example, someone discovers a potential security flaw in an application, then those responsible for maintaining said application need to know about it as soon as possible. As such, the longer the feedback loop, the greater are the chances of that security flaw being exploited. Unsurprisingly, this is a common issue with a lot of closed-source software, where any acknowledgement of the flaw or release of a security fix is entirely at the discretion of the vendor. Because of this, organizations should ideally have standardized feedback loops that they are in control of – either internally or by way of a support contract with an appropriate service level agreement (SLA).

When it comes to low-code software development, one of the key benefits are faster feedback loops. When it comes to determining the user-friendliness, performance, and security of any application, there is simply no better data than live end user feedback. Moreover, using low-code solutions to drive rapid application development (RAD) ensures that developers have the means to respond quickly when it comes to releasing updates. Although this doesn’t mean that manual testing and internal code reviews are entirely obsolete, it is important to remember that these methods won’t catch every vulnerability. Using short feedback loops to streamline things like security verification and deployment, security fixes and features can be integrated early on and through regular updates.

An analogy of the rapid feedback loops enabled by low-code are the dynamic speed displays added next to speed limit signs. Drivers see how fast they’re going, along with the legal speed limit, reminding them of the consequences of speeding, at which point most will slow down. In software development, the process should be similarly agile. By introducing automation into feedback loops, developers can maintain complete visibility into any potential security issues, determine their severity, analyze the potential risks, and take appropriate action. Given the relative ease of developing and maintaining software in a low-code environment, all of these stages can be addressed in a fraction of the time than they can be with traditionally developed software. Add open-source licensing into the mix, and you even have the freedom to fix any issues that might arise with the underlying code – instead of being entirely at the mercy of a proprietary software vendor.

3. Implementing security by design

The popularity of low-code is booming, thanks to its ability to bring software development to a much broader audience than experienced coders alone. However, in spite of all the innovation and productivity benefits that come with the freewheeling app development, it has also led to new security concerns among IT leaders. The fear is that if anyone can build business apps, then it’s just a matter of time before a serious security flaw opens up.

Although there is some legitimacy to this fear, it really depends on the LCDP in question. The good news is that most LCDPs are built from the ground up with security by design in mind. As such, they already have the secure infrastructure in place necessary to ensure that apps developed within them are also secure. In traditional software development, by contrast, security is often little more than an afterthought, something that is simply tacked on later.

Low-code platforms simplify and standardize software development through the use of visual development tools and business process model and notation (BPMN). BPMN uses a common language to abstract the steps in a routine business process away from the underlying code in a manner that any business person can understand, regardless of technical knowledge. In doing so, citizen developers do not need to get bogged down in the underlying code nor the complexities of conventional software development. Provided that underlying infrastructure is secure, this also means citizen developers can create apps that are secure by design without even having to worry about implementing security controls themselves.

With a secure-by-design LCDP, IT teams get to maintain full governance and control over the apps developed on it and the data sources connected to it. An open-source LCDP goes even further by allowing them to develop and integrate their own security features and controls. To that end, citizen developers can be free to tinker as much as they like, without adding security risk in the process.

Despite the fears concerning low-code security, the opportunities it offers to standardize the entire software development process can also translate into enhanced security. For example, built-in permissions can restrict access to apps that have yet to be approved by IT. Developers can also work in a sandbox environment to test out new features and functions in a risk-free way. Another method is to use a secure runtime environment to test applications for business logic failure, such as posting sensitive information to an insecure location.

Final words

The low-code approach and open-source models are not security solutions in themselves, but they do provide exciting new opportunities to improve information security. This is because a combination of low-code and open-source gives you the freedom to create a consolidated and standardized software stack tailored to the unique needs of your business. And at a time when one of the biggest barriers to good cybersecurity is rising complexity, the ability to orchestrate security effectively across disparate operational environments is a huge advantage to have on side.

Planet Crust is the creator and driving force behind Corteza, a 100% open-source low-code software development platform that lets you import data from any source and use intuitive drag-and-drop tools to create custom applications for your unique business needs. Get started for free today.

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