Security in COTS Software in SDLC

Software security is an important aspect of Information security. It protects against the many viruses, malwares, breaches, and ransomware attacks that are common in the tech world. This is the eighth domain of CISSP certification exam.

There are thousands to thousands of lines of code that make every aspect of digital life run smoothly, with “software” being the backbone of every sector. This software will likely be found on both legacy systems and new systems. Because it is difficult to transition legacy systems out of an organization and create “new system,” it will continue to be part of the organization’s legacy systems.
While security can be integrated into new systems, security in legacy systems could be compromised by the adoption of COTS (commercially available on the shelf) products.
There are risks when you work with COTS products
Because they are third-party software that is integrated into an organization, COTS products are more vulnerable to security loopholes. Here are some of these risks when using COTS products.
1. They are always at risk of being attacked
Hackers are always looking for new and innovative ways to hack into systems and gain vital and critical information. COTS products are vulnerable. Hacking them can yield valuable corporate information that can be used for professional or personal gain.
2. The security of COTS products cannot been verified
Most organizations can’t review the source code of COTS product and must use them as such. Their security cannot be verified. Buyers of COTS products must rely on the vendor’s security promises and then proceed. Customers may also need to rely on security reports and reviews.
3. Easy availability of COTS products
Black hat communities are more likely to have access to COTS applications. Customers of the product are exposed to a lot of information, including vulnerabilities and attack patterns. This is a security risk.
4. Limitated liability
All COTS customers must release the vendors from any software-related flaws or damages. COTS products are exempt from liability and come with explicit declaration statements stating that vendors cannot be held liable for any software flaws or vulnerabilities.
5. COTS products can be generic
Additionally, COTS products can be customized by the customer. They are designed in a generic manner. These COTS products are not able to use all the security infrastructure available in customer’s environment because they are generic.

Mitigation strategies:
Here are some mitigation strategies that can be used to mitigate the risks outlined above.
1. Know your components
It is crucial to be familiar with every component of the COTS software because security flaws can exist in any component. This will ensure that the organization’s security is maintained in all aspects.
2. Understanding the relationship between components
Understanding the connections between components is essential to reduce the risk of COTS products. This will allow us to understand how vulnerabilities or threats in one component affects the other components, and reduce their impact.
3. Secure infrastructure
Insecure infrastructures make it impossible to guarantee security. All COTS products must be installed in a completely secure environment. The environment includes the operating system, network, databases, and connected infrastructure. Secure environments will reduce security risks.
4. Ask the vendor questions
It is always a good idea to ask persistent or nagging questions.