What is the Secure Software Development Lifecycle (SSDLC)?


The Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) has long been used to ensure the quality and scalability of software, but the Secure Software Development Lifecycle (SSDLC) takes it a step further by incorporating security into all stages of the development process. By ensuring that security is a priority from the start, the SSDLC helps developers create robust, secure applications that meet the standards of modern cybersecurity.

The Secure Software Development Lifecycle (SSDLC) is an extension of the traditional SDLC that implements security measures at each stage of the original process.

This includes authentication, authorization, encryption, access control, and secure coding. Additionally, developers must adhere to security best practices to ensure the software is secure.

Why is the SSDLC important?

By following the SSDLC, organizations can help ensure that their software is secure throughout the development process and that potential vulnerabilities are identified and remediated early on. As a result, organizations can reduce the cost and time associated with identifying and fixing security issues, as well as lower the risk of data breaches.

All that said, it is important to remember that the SSDLC is not the only security process needed to protect applications and systems; organizations must also have a comprehensive security program that includes employee training, vulnerability scans, and regularly updated security protocols.

But, the SSDLC is an essential part of a holistic security strategy, and organizations that invest in it are setting themselves up for success within a cybersecurity context.

How does the SSDLC work?

The Software Development Lifecycle is composed of six distinct stages—planning, design, development, testing, deployment, and maintenance—each of which is integral to the overall process. At each stage, it is essential to implement software security procedures and practices to ensure the safety and security of the underlying application infrastructure.

These practices are designed to protect the system from potential threats and vulnerabilities and to ensure the system is functioning optimally.

Furthermore, security measures should be regularly monitored to ensure they remain up-to-date and effective. As the software evolves, so too should the security measures, allowing for the development of a robust, secure system.


At the planning stage, an organization should define its security risks and create a security plan, which includes an outline of the security measures that should be implemented throughout the development process. Methods like authentication, authorization, encryption, access control, and secure coding should be considered in this stage before any code gets written.

Additionally, this is an opportunity to ensure that organizational security policies and procedures are clearly defined and that any tools and frameworks the organization intends to use are identified.


The design stage is where secure software architecture should be outlined. This includes identifying potential attack vectors, establishing secure coding standards, and implementing secure authentication and authorization processes. If there are any third-party components or dependencies, this is where their potential vulnerabilities should be identified and mitigated as well.


Once software development begins, developers should adhere to the secure coding standards and any security tools and frameworks that were identified in the planning stage. While auditing potential security vulnerabilities is done earlier in the process, security scanning should be an ongoing process, so any identified vulnerabilities should be remediated during the development process as well.


Next is the testing stage. Traditionally, this is where the developed software is tested and validated against the requirements and acceptance criteria; in the SSDLC, however, automated testing tools, vulnerability scans, and manual security reviews are also included to ensure that the software meets company security standards.

Just like software defects, identified vulnerabilities should be addressed before deployment.


Once testing has been successfully completed with no blocking defects or vulnerabilities, it’s time to go live. While deployment might sound simple, it’s important to recognize that it is only the first of many deployments, all requiring validation and approval once live.

This means verifying that any vulnerabilities that were fixed are no longer present in the live product and engaging in ongoing scanning for vulnerabilities that may not have been possible to catch in lower environments.


Security isn’t a single action item, but a process. At the maintenance stage, organizations should ensure that all security measures and procedures are up to date and that any new security vulnerabilities are identified and addressed promptly. Additionally, organizations should ensure that they have adequate resources in place to support the SSDLC, including dedicated security staff (if possible) and the proper tools and frameworks.

SSDLC tools and frameworks

Speaking of tools and frameworks, there are several that can be used to properly support the SSDLC. These include static code analysis (which is the process of analyzing source code for potential security issues), vulnerability scanning (which is the process of looking for potential security flaws in software), and open source security frameworks like OWASP. That being said, these tools are just part of the puzzle when it comes to properly implementing the SSDLC.

Other important factors include proper training of developers and staff, having detailed processes in place for security updates, and having a clear roadmap for your organization’s security goals. While going into depth on these tools is outside the scope of this article, here’s a quick summary of the most pertinent points:

Static Code Analysis

Static code analysis is a software analysis process that can be used to identify defects, potential security issues, and coding flaws within a given set of source code prior to deployment. This process is typically performed using automated tools, allowing for a comprehensive overview of the source code.

While static analysis is valuable for security scanning, it can be used to detect code that does not adhere to coding standards, is difficult to read, or is not optimized for performance. Ultimately, this type of analysis is invaluable for ensuring that code is secure and compliant with industry standards.

Vulnerability Scanning

Vulnerability scanning is a process used to identify potential weaknesses or vulnerabilities in a system or network. Like static code analysis, it is typically performed using automated tools designed to detect any known security vulnerabilities and alert administrators of any potential issues. Vulnerability scanning can help organizations protect themselves from cyber threats by providing an additional layer of security by helping to identify potential security flaws before they become a problem.


The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) is an open source framework that is designed to help organizations develop secure web applications. It is a comprehensive set of guidelines, tools, and resources that provide organizations with an effective way to identify, address, and prevent security vulnerabilities. The framework is designed to help organizations establish best practices for secure coding as well as provide guidance on how to remediate any existing security issues that might be present.

In addition to that, OWASP also offers educational materials to help raise security awareness and provides a platform for collaboration between security professionals across the globe. Through the use of OWASP, organizations can ensure that their web applications are safe, secure, and remain compliant with industry standards.

Next Steps

Although the SSDLC provides a comprehensive framework for developing secure software applications, it is important to remember that it is a continual lifecycle, not a one-off action. It is an ongoing process that requires consistent diligence and regular reviews to ensure security best practices are adhered to.

This includes regularly conducting security reviews, defining and maintaining secure coding standards, and educating developers on the fundamentals of secure software development. Additionally, it is essential to ensure that all stakeholders in the development process understand the importance of security and how it affects the development, implementation, and maintenance of secure software applications.

The Secure Software Development Lifecycle is an important process that organizations can use to better maintain the security of their software. While it can be tempting to implement every step of the process all at once, establishing proper hygiene is about consistency, which means implementing what works as it makes sense and continually trying to improve your security posture.

In addition, it is possible to take this cycle one step further into the cloud context, as the SSDLC implies security for different softwares. The Cloud Native Application Protection Platforms (CNAPP) takes the SSDLC to the next level and uses some of its steps for the cloud application context.

With the appropriate level of intention and care, organizations can reduce the cost and time associated with identifying and fixing security issues and ultimately deliver high-quality, secure software.