Chapter 18. Secure Application Architecture

The first step in securing any web application is the architecture phase.

When building a product, a cross-functional team of software engineers and product managers usually collaborate to find a technical model that will serve a very specific business goal in an efficient manner. In software engineering, the role of an architect is to design modules at a high level and evaluate the best ways for modules to communicate with each other. This can be extended to determining the best ways to store data, what third-party dependencies to rely on, what programming paradigm should be predominant throughout the codebase, etc.

Similarly to a building architect, software architecture is a delicate process that carries a large amount of risk because re-architecture and refactor are expensive processes once an application has already been built. Security architecture includes a similar risk profile to software or building architecture. Often, vulnerabilities can be prevented easily in the architecture phase with careful planning and evaluation. However, too little planning, and application code must be re-architected and re-factored—often at a large cost to the business.

The NIST has claimed, based on a study of popular web applications, that “The cost of removing an application security vulnerability during the design phase ranges from 30–60 times less than if removed during production.” Hence solidifying any doubts we have regarding the importance ...

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