11 Beginner’s Mistakes That Cause Data Security Problems and How To Avoid Them
Programming is an art that takes time to master. If you are only starting to dive deeper into this field, it will take time for you to fully understand everything—and even when you start to feel pretty confident in your skills, the learning never ends. Thus, as a programmer, you should be ready to learn every single day.
Naturally, keeping up with everything is difficult, especially for beginners, and some mistakes happen because of people’s lack of experience. While some of them might be minor, others can lead to serious issues. One area that could be greatly affected is data security and cybersecurity in general.
Fortunately, you can overcome many cybersecurity problems by avoiding common mistakes beginners make. Below you can find 11 common beginner’s mistakes and easy solutions to help you prevent them.
#1 Lack of Escaping, Incorrect Formatting, and Incorrect Use of Format String and Parameters in the Printf Function
The problem: Beginners in programming can easily make the mistake of using format string function incorrectly. So, when does the problem occur? Suppose a developer uses a format string function, forgetting to state that the input should only be treated as a string. In that case, it enables hackers to overwrite the data and take control of the execution of a program.
Solution: The solution for format string vulnerabilities is quite simple. Instead of using it incorrectly, such as printf(inputString), make sure to use the proper format printf(“%s,” inputString). To avoid similar mistakes, you should be regular at software developer blogs and stay updated with the best programming practices.
#2 Incorrect Work With Confidential data
The problem: The main issue is that when working with confidential data, you might not exercise enough caution. One mistake could lead to data leaks that can potentially cost your clients a lot. For instance, some developers might not hash their clients’ passwords. Or, in other cases, they might be confused whether they should hash or encrypt information. If the leak points to your mistake, you will also be held accountable.
Solution: Programmers often make this oversight and leave data in its raw format. Believe it or not, missing encryption is still high on the most dangerous programming errors list. However, it is easily avoidable: All you have to do is use encryption for both data in transit and at rest.
#3 Storing Authentication Data in Source code
The problem: This mistake extends to the second one on our list. Authentication data is confidential data, and it has to be handled with care. While it is convenient to store usernames, passwords, and keys in source code, you should never do it.
Solution: The best practices include handling passwords through a character array, encrypting credentials, using TLS or SSL, and preferring authentication systems that only store a hash.
#4 Deserialization of Insecure Data
The problem: The third common mistake programmers make is unsafe deserialization. If you have a website that deserializes user-controllable data, attackers can easily inject their code. All they have to do is manipulate serialized objects, and they can make the app do what they want.
Solution: There are several things you can do to avoid this mistake. You can use digital signatures on serialized objects to do integrity checks, log deserialization failures and exceptions, and set alerts when a user deserializes.
#5 Using Unchecked Third-Party Code
The problem: Understanding and managing risk in software development is essential, and one of those risks comes from using unchecked third-party code. Copy-pasting an out-of-box solution is convenient, but it can contain malicious code.
Solution: The best solution would be to write your own code. But if you can’t do it for whatever reason, make sure to check third-party code before using it. The checking includes actions like testing how the code works with your own. Additionally, you can rewrite the code yourself instead of copy-pasting it directly. Thus, you should know exactly what every line does, and how it contributes to your current work.
#6 Using Outdated Versions of Libraries and Software
The problem: Libraries and software tools come with bugs and vulnerabilities. Companies behind them resolve them through patches and updates. If you don’t update your tools and libraries, you are unnecessarily exposing yourself to these risks.
Solution: The solution is straightforward—make sure to use the latest versions of the libraries and update the OS and tools you are regularly using.
#7 Illiterate use of Cryptography
The problem: Using the wrong cipher modes and algorithms, storing the key in the database, file system, or app conf file, and using low-level encryption are all examples of illiterate use of cryptography. All of them can lead to data breaches.
Solution: Educate yourself on data security and learn to perform encryption correctly. There are many online courses on platforms like Udemy that can help you. Experts there share their insights, and many of them might also be focused on explaining cryptography. The paradigms in this niche constantly shift, and new solutions emerge pretty often. Stay up to date and use the most secure practices.
#8 Using Default Passwords or no Authentication at all
The problem: Using default and weak passwords or no authentication is a rookie mistake. Hackers can quickly gain access to anything that is not adequately protected.
Solution: Always use authentication when you have it as an option. Make sure that you immediately change the default password and use a strong one. Strong passwords are at least eight characters long, and they consist of small and capital letters, numbers, and special characters.
#9 Ignoring Official Documentation
The problem: The official documentation describes in detail the best practices with the given solution. Ignoring it can cause you to make oversights and implement code that makes your app vulnerable to attacks.
Solution: Official documentation is not fun, and it often requires you to spend hours reading it. But it is definitely worth your while if you want to prevent cybersecurity disasters. Make sure to read it before you start writing code.
#10 Checks on Client-side
The problem: Even with your best intentions in minimizing cybersecurity risks, your client’s behavior can potentially result in a data breach. Many developers make this oversight and don’t check on the client-side.
The solution: It would be helpful to ensure your clients know about cybersecurity risks and what they should avoid doing online. If simple encryption can solve the majority of their issues, you can suggest they start using a VPN for Windows. Developers themselves should use VPNs to ensure that the information they exchange is as protected as possible. After all, if you exchange highly confidential information, its security should be of the utmost importance.
#11 Insufficient Logging and Monitoring
The problem: Finally, we have insufficient logging and monitoring as a common beginner’s mistake. Why is it a problem? Without proper logging and monitoring, you won’t be able to identify specific exceptions, such as the one that occurs with the deserialization of insecure data.
The solution: Integrate logging and monitoring tools in your workflow. They will help you store and analyze data in real-time. You can also set up alerts to get notified when exceptions occur, pointing to an attack if the same user consistently causes an exception.
Being a Beginner Is no Excuse for Poor Cybersecurity
As a result of their inexperience, beginners can make lots of mistakes. Although it’s part of the learning process, some of these mistakes can cause cybersecurity problems with serious consequences.
For instance, you might be confused about how certain functions need to be written. In other cases, you might be unsure which practices are suitable for which scenarios (like hashing vs. encryption). Some of the other issues include using outdated software or copy-pasting third-party code without doing proper testing.
All these issues can be avoided if you take the time to learn more about cybersecurity. Be it an Udemy course or the experience of your colleague, everything will help you avoid such mistakes in the future. Sometimes, you might need to spend more time reading on the current trends or the industry-approved practices.
The first step in addressing an issue is being aware of it. Thus, now that you know the 11 most common mistakes and solutions, you can rest assured you’re on the right track for minimizing cybersecurity risks and even prevent some of the most common attacks.