Low code platforms are an increasingly popular option for continuous enterprise software delivery, but they also pose new security challenges.
Low code platforms are programs that developers use to create software using prefabricated modules and a GUI instead of programming it by hand. Under the surface, these applications still contain a lot of code. However, from the point of view of the programmers who develop them, the programming and configuration overhead is minimal.
Low code platforms security challenges
While low code platforms simplify development and accelerate software delivery, they create some security challenges:
Outsourced code development:
When using no-code / low code platforms, much of the code on which the developed program is built is outsourced. This is written by someone outside the company, who then delivers it to the company via pre-configured modules. This can make it difficult to enforce a company’s security policies or to adhere to best practices.
When you outsource code, you also outsource update workflows. With a no-code / low code platform, you have to be able to rely on the provider keeping an eye on the security vulnerabilities within the modules it provides and issuing updates in order to counter any risks. This dependency can make a company’s internal policies and workflows for applying updates more complex. They may have to adapt the update plan to match that of the platform provider. In addition, known security vulnerabilities in low-code programs may not be able to be eliminated until the provider offers a solution.
Lack of security controls:
Low code platforms enable rapid software development and deployment. This rapid deployment alone is not necessarily a security risk; it can even improve security by enabling faster updates – and therefore faster bug fixes – for applications. However, if you deploy applications at high speed, they may not be properly security scanned.
Lack of data validation:
One of the most common uses for low code / no code platforms is to create applications that interact with business data. However, if this data is not properly validated or stored insecurely, it could be compromised. Many low-code programming platforms make it easier to ingest and manipulate data than to secure it.
A key selling point for low-code / no-code platforms is their ability to enable people to develop software without extensive programming experience. However, empowering lay programmers does pose a risk as they may not be aware of the security vulnerabilities that more experienced programmers will spot right away.
Tips to Avoid Low-Code Security Issues:
Since the above security challenges are inherent in low-code / no-code platforms, it is impossible to completely avoid them. However, these risks can be managed and minimized with these best practices:
Prioritize security: Don’t let the need for faster software delivery get in the way of the security reviews that you would do for other types of applications. Safety should come first.
Hire qualified developers: Low code platforms are not a substitute for experienced developers. While you want to avoid paying expensive professional developers, they should still be part of the team to oversee the entire development process.
Use Trusted Vendors: When choosing a platform, evaluate the security features it offers and its reliability. If the vendor has had security problems in the past or is likely to be taken over by another company, it could create new difficulties.
Customize and expand: The best no-code / low code platforms make it easy to customize and expand developed applications. You should use this expandability to add your own security functions. The customization can make a program unique and therefore less susceptible to known security vulnerabilities that are present in off-the-shelf low-code applications.
Do not use low-code platforms for security-critical applications: While low-code / no-code programming is convenient and inexpensive, applications with critical security or compliance requirements are not good candidates for low code platforms.