Cybercrimes are on the rise. Whether it is social engineering attacks, application attacks, or network attacks, cybercriminals are continuously exploiting security weaknesses and attacking organizations.
Architecture analysis can help mitigate these security risks by analyzing if the existing security architecture addresses all of the different potential threats against an organization.
But before we dive into how architecture analysis can mitigate security risks in an organization, let’s take a brief look at what architecture analysis is.
What is Architecture Analysis?
Architectural analysis is the process of identifying key system properties by using its architectural model.
The study of architectural models can have different goals, such as a predictive estimation of system complexity, cost, and size. It can also include the evaluation of opportunities for reusing existing functionalities, the satisfaction of system requirements (both non-functional and functional), etc.
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Architectural analysis goals can be categorized into four categories and are referred to as the 4Cs:
The primary purpose of evaluating an architectural analysis’ completeness is to identify whether it adequately covers all of the main functional and non-functional requirements of the system.
This is an intrinsic property of an architectural model. It is aimed at ensuring that different elements of a model do not contradict one another.
It is an external property of an architectural model that is intended to ensure that the model complies with the design guidelines. In addition to this, it also ensures if the model adheres to the constraints imposed by an architectural standard.
A system’s architecture is considered as correct if its architectural designs fully realize those specifications. Correctness is an external property of an architectural model.
Deploying an architectural analysis assessment will help you identify potential weaknesses in the application/system and implement appropriate solutions to safeguard them against cybercriminals or insiders.
Security Risks That Architecture Analysis Can Help Reduce
Here are the four most common security risks that can be mitigated by conducting an architecture analysis assessment:
1. Design-Level Problems
Security code reviews or penetration testing can help identify code-related defects. However, they are not very effective when it comes to design-level problems.
Architecture analysis assessments can help organizations detect issues early in the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) by analyzing the underlying design architecture, principles, and processes used to implement the application and security controls.
The assessment also includes interview sessions with lead developers, design engineers, and architects to gain an understanding of the architectural design of the application.
Some of the key issues to address in an architecture analysis at this phase include the authentication model, authorization model, and data security in storage and in transmission.
This process is usually followed by an intense brainstorming session to identify and provide remedial guidance for potential weaknesses of the application.
A well-structured architectural analysis assessment also segregates potential threats or vulnerabilities based on their business impact.
This way, organizations can prioritize the weaknesses of their apps and take corrective measures accordingly.
2. Web Application Threats and Vulnerabilities
Web applications have their own unique threats since they are so widely exposed. Web application threats, including SQL Injection, brute force attacks, etc. are on the rise. More than a third (38%) of web application vulnerabilities do not have effective solutions like a software patch or a software upgrade workaround.
Web application vulnerabilities may include a lack of multi-factor authentication, lack of an egress filter on traffic, configuration errors, poor access management control, or brute-force attacks leading to data breaches.
To increase the security check on web apps, you can supplement these methods with an architecture analysis assessment.
It will review critical security controls like authorization, authentication, input validation, output encoding, cryptography, monitoring, auditing/logging, runtime environment verification, and password storage to prevent web apps from being exploited by potential attacks.
A well-defined architectural analysis review can also help evaluate whether a web app employs adequate security controls and follows best practices to safeguard itself against common attacks like SQL Injection and Cross-Site Scripting.
3. Insider Threats and Privilege Access Misuse
Organizations often entrust their employees with access to sensitive information, thus allowing them easier access to critical information such as social security numbers (SSNs), bank account information, and credit card numbers.
According to a study, the average cost of an insider-related threat is about $513,000. Incidents related to insiders can cost an organization up to $8.76 million a year.
Lack of centralized data classification, inappropriate access control, and PII inventory can lead to a major security breach.
Some employees may need privileged access to sensitive information from time to time to perform their duties. But unaudited and persistent privileged access can increase the risk of insider threats and data misuse.
Architecture analysis assessments help identify the data in an organization and classify it appropriately. It evaluates if controls are in place and sufficient enough to protect the data from a security breach.
It can also assess the insiders’ and outsiders’ actions, and their privileges. This can help ensure that there is proper segregation of duties and that they follow the principle of least privilege.
Further, these assessments can also determine deficiencies in audits or logging trails, which are two essential factors in a forensic investigation if an insider breach occurs.
Consider deploying a strategic architecture analysis to help you identify weaknesses and prevent design-level flaws in your applications and systems.
An architecture analysis assessment can help you check if employees are complying with security policies like using least privilege access.
It can also help mitigate the security risks associated with web application threats, design level problems in the SDLC, insider threats, and others that could compromise your organization’s security.
Aaron Cure is the Principal Security Consultant at Cypress Data Defense and an instructor and contributing author for the Dev544 Secure Coding in .NET course.
After 10 years in the U.S. Army, I decided to switch my focus to developing security tools and performing secure code reviews, penetration testing, static source code analysis, and security research.