Claire Allen-Addy
Product Marketing Manager
May 14, 2024

What is Application Security and what should you include?

What is AppSec?

Application Security (AppSec) is all about the measures and practices that are applied to software and applications, it focuses on preserving the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of both, the application itself and the data it manages. It covers the whole Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC), from the inception of the idea to the deployment and operations.

We also looked at how some of our partners defined application security, to see if there are different ways to explain what AppSec is, and why you should care about it:

Synopsis: Application security (AppSec) is the processes, practices, and tools used to identify, repair, and protect against vulnerabilities in applications, throughout the software development life cycle (SDLC). Application security involves a wide array of tools and methodologies, but all have the same goal: to identify weaknesses and vulnerabilities and fix them before they can be exploited. 1

ArmorCode: AppSec is App Sec is application security. If you build software applications, of any size, on any target platform, in any language, and for any sort of purpose, then you should be incorporating AppSec, through an AppSec program. An AppSec program will help protect applications from external threats and exploitable vulnerabilities from development through to production and should be a core branch of any security program for development houses. 2

We couldn’t agree more with either of the above. And believe that not incorporating AppSec into Cybersecurity Strategies, is going to have you full of regret later. There are times in life where you can definitely ‘wing it’ but cybersecurity isn’t one of them!

What should be included in an Application Security Program? 

There are a lot of ways to implement your program, and opinions may vary. We recommend six core activities to identify, manage, and mitigate risk effectively, and not just one and done, but in a continuous approach to application security.

  1. Threat Modeling.
  2. Secure Coding.
  3. Security Testing.
  4. Access Control.
  5. Encryption.
  6. Patch Management.

Threat Modeling

Applying threat modeling works in a myriad of scenarios, and can be applied to identify and remediate potential risks. Whether that is for building a new application, releasing a new feature, or for planning hypothetical systems and applications. And at IriusRisk, we believe that AppSec and Threat Modeling fit like hand to glove. Especially if you are looking for proactive security measures to build a more secure product, and save money later on in your SDLC processes. Find out more in our helpful blog ‘What is threat Modeling?’

Threat modeling encompasses a range of activities aimed at enhancing security by pinpointing potential threats and recommending countermeasures to minimize their impact on a system, application or service. By methodically identifying and assessing these vulnerabilities, threat modeling offers a strategic roadmap for secure development efforts. This structured process not only documents foreseeable security threats but also facilitates informed decision-making regarding their mitigation. Crucially, it aids in outlining the security requirements of critical systems or processes, streamlining risk reduction efforts, and enabling Security Teams to gauge threat severity and implement necessary controls effectively.

Secure Coding 

After choosing a threat modeling tool for a repeatable and reliable process, secure coding is an excellent next step in order to facilitate potentially unknown, or known vulnerabilities. Education is just as crucial as having a reliable tool in place, so that processes and information are appropriately identified, rolled out, and shared. In order for software development approaches to be most effective, development teams need a mixture of security information, coding techniques, and tooling, as well as a desire to be responsible for producing secure software. Starting left or shifting left comes into play here too, enabling the best practice right at the start, where developers are on the front line for securing products and services. 

Not sure where to start? Take a look at, they are also a partner of IriusRisk, and between us we facilitate an integration via Jira. This allows development teams to manage their tasks in Jira, that were recommended by IriusRisk, and then see the relevant training modules and support to further educate and inform their decisions. Check out this short video to see it in action.  

Security Testing

This one is a big subject, it includes web application testing, vulnerability testing, penetration testing, risk assessments, and a whole lot more. Usually there is an element of compliance here too, whereby organizations need to demonstrate they have processes and tools in place to adhere to legal obligations, especially when several governing bodies mandate these practices. 

Let’s look at an average SDLC (software development lifecycle). You want to ensure there are reliable processes, tooling, and workflows, across the entire lifecycle. To have secure coding practices at the start, while also monitoring your risk posture throughout - and pen testing at the finish line to give your application maximum chance at a robust and reliable lifetime.  

Vulnerability management and scanning is great to identify known vulnerabilities but it can overlook emerging threats and lacks contexts for risk assessments. This is why if carrying out these types of security tests they should be done alongside other proactive measures like threat modeling to retain the context and also highlight the potential flaws that can be within the application. We recommend doing this alongside threat modeling for a comprehensive approach. Read more in our blog ‘Threat Modeling vs Vulnerability Management’.

Then of course Static Application Security Testing (SAST) - also known as white box testing - and Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) tools have their place to continuously review your code for missed vulnerabilities. Though they can provide a lot of false positives. This can be mitigated and the process optimized if you have done a good threat model in the beginning.

Access Control

Effectively managing and restricting access is a crucial inclusion within your AppSec program. If you owned a restaurant, you wouldn’t want just anyone having access to the kitchen, your tills full of cash, or staff rooms. It is no different in cybersecurity. Only authorized or privileged users should be able to access specific systems and perform certain actions. 

RBAC (role-based access control) or ABAC (attribute-based access control) supports this to limit such access. We recommend adopting a ‘least privilege principle’ where users only have the minimum level of access necessary to perform their job requirements. This reduces the potential impact of a compromised account. But this doesn’t mean that you don’t need authentication like MFA (multi-factor authentication) added in also. And of course, a complex username and password which has to be changed periodically, to even access your own Admin Account. Don’t overlook the basics. 


Most industries are collecting, managing, and protecting data which is a mixture of both their own, and their users. Encryption protects sensitive data by converting it into a scrambled format that can only be read with the correct decryption key. 

Even if a user has authorized access, they will still require the encryption key to understand and interpret the data. It is the ideal partner to Access Control to retain data integrity and confidentiality. This is particularly helpful to protect a business against insider threats which may be less expected, but can still occur. 

Patch Management

If you have successfully implemented the prior steps, when you get to Patch Management, there should be a lot less to do in terms of bug fixes, and more focus. Especially if your threat modeling has reduced the number of flaws from the very beginning. However, software still requires periodic updates, and patches prioritized by urgency to reduce the likelihood of an attack path for potential attackers. Scanning tools can aid you in catching any patches that may be missed if done manually. 

A great patch management approach will predominantly focus on critical and high-risk patches based on severity and potential impact to safeguard your data and systems. Integrating into your change management processes is worthwhile for full testing, deployment, compliance and audit records.

Conclusion - It's Time to Boost your AppSec 

We have explored several activities you can consider wrapping into your application security program, but of course there are many more. If you can adopt a shift left approach within your strategy, then you will be better focused on building and delivering more secure products. If you would like further guidance, have a look at our Secure Design at Scale eBook, which identifies potential paths for both development and security teams. The time to act is now, to boost your AppSec strategy and toolkit.