When Should Security Compliance Become A Part Of Your QA Strategy?

When_Should_Security_Compliance_Become_A_Part_Of_Your_QA_Strategy

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Software testing is now of strategic value to app and product development. Enterprises are investing heavily in the best QA talent, devising a robust QA strategy and ensuring smooth QA execution. And why wouldn’t they- a strong QA strategy and implementation ensures a brilliant customer experience, a high-quality product, less downtime, minimal support costs, and better ROI.

But as QA strategies become more involved, enterprises expect them to cover more than just the testing of product features. QA is now playing a role in compliance. So much so, that compliance testing has become the latest requirement to be included in the QA strategy. End customers are asking that the confirmation of compliance with key certifications like SANS 20 be included in the product license agreements. Of course, this is because their own compliance requirements dictate that the products they use be so certified.

Security compliance- a part of your QA strategy

Modern development teams are moving to embrace accelerated and lean concepts such as DevOps, Agile, and continuous integration. And this must be supported by the QA strategy to ensure quality assurance, as well as security assurance.

Focusing on security compliance also helps in keeping up the company’s reputation and avoiding penalties and fines that arise due to noncompliance.

For example, the laws associated with the security and privacy of personal data such as PCI DSS, GDPR, and HIPAA are stringent and any violation can result in serious repercussions as well as hefty monetary fines.

According to a report by National Vulnerability Database (NVD) maintained by the U.S. National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), 92% of all reported vulnerabilities are in the applications and not due to insecure networks. While conventional network security experts and associated teams with security auditors can help in preventing and handling the network vulnerabilities, it is, clearly, essential to involve the QA team to prevent issues arising in the application.

These vulnerabilities could be an error in the code that can be directly accessed by the hacker to gain access to the network or the system. Or, they could be unaddressed flaws and faults in the code or the architecture that could lead to systems or data being susceptible to attack. Security assurance is hence more than necessary, it is unavoidable.
The enterprise security strategy presumes that security managers and auditors will build on the base provided by the application QA team using their in-house compliance testing tools to combat all security vulnerabilities.

When should security compliance become a part of the QA strategy?

But why fix something that is not broken? For products that have been around for a while and stood the test of time (and security vulnerabilities), is it necessary to involve security compliance as a part of sanity testing and regular QA strategy? And the answer is a big yes!

“Here’s the truth of it: Your customer-facing applications are being probed for weaknesses. Constantly. And they will continue to be probed as you introduce new features and functionality. Worse yet, malicious attackers are highly skilled, resourceful, and determined. And more often than not, we are leaving our applications open to attack.” That’s from, Amy DeMartine of Forrester

All products, released or in production, need to start baking in security compliance as a part of their QA strategy. This helps them stay relevant and compliant with SANS 20 critical security controls and incorporate 100+ ISO protocols in testing. This can help to not only identify the threats in existing systems but also to detect every possible security risk and help the developers mitigate these with appropriate fixes before it is too late.

Penetration testing by simulating attacks, security and vulnerability scanning, and security auditing are the key steps that need to now become a part of your QA strategy. The software security team must join hands with the QA team to conduct AST, making use of static and dynamic testing tools.

Security vulnerabilities to your product and its functionalities. These can also have a deeper impact. Being vulnerable is also a representation of your business as a whole, in the eyes of your users and your customers. In fact, Fortune 100 companies have suffered a material loss of intellectual property, trade secrets, and sensitive organizational data, thanks to the security vulnerabilities that went undetected or unaddressed.

The return of manual testing for security compliance

Security testing is different from quality testing, let there be no doubt about that. For performance and functional testing, the QA teams have to verify the performance against pre-described results, hence they cannot be perimeter-less. Security assurance, on the other hand, needs the QA team to proactively look for vulnerabilities that could lead to security mishaps and misuse.

And this is why it cannot be automated.

With automated testing now rapidly replacing manual testing, enterprises might feel the pull in opposite directions. Compliance testing is less amenable to be automated and it has to be executed with an understanding of and testing against several security protocols. This shines the spotlight on manual testing, yet again.

To summarize…

Securing a software might feel like working on something that may never be really necessary. But think of this as insurance for the bad times. This is one piece of the overall security puzzle. So, if you are involved in the QA strategy of an application or enterprise product, remember to build in a focus on testing for security compliance. It could be the making or breaking of the product.

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