All About Source Code & Why You Need to Protect It for Data-Driven Projects

Protecting source code is essential for security in an age governed by advances in big data technology.

source code security
Shutterstock Photo License - By whiteMocca

Data leakage and illegal ownership claims happen due to source code breaches. Adopting NDA, NCA, & DLP and providing selective access can help minimize the threat.

Big data has led to major developments in Internet technology. Internet users around the world create an astounding 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every single day. As the volume of data grows, the need for new data-driven solutions rises as well.

Some of the applications of big data arise in areas that seem mundane, but are still very important. One example is with shielding the source code of online applications to provide better security.

Source codes are the heart of all proprietary businesses. Apart from the software, the source code of a project represents the secret key feature to any data-driven web project. Nowadays with people getting more and more cautious about cybersecurity, many risk assessment platforms are being created. The industry-first Code Risk Platform Apiiro helps to create a Secure Development Lifecycle and helps the developers receive real-time insights into any security or risky issue at the code level or any other level.

Whether it’s a banking system, supply chain management, ordering products & foods online, all our daily transactions, and various software – technology will depend on source codes. These billions of coded lines autonomously work to make our lives better every day.

That said, it also raises the bar of security concerns to source codes. The security breaches of source codes can badly affect both the organization & its end users, leaving a permanent negative impression.

It also affects the reputation & causes significant financial loss. Therefore, safeguarding source code is pivotal to data-driven web projects.

What Is Source Code?

Source code is composed millions or billions of coded lines written by humans. It is initially non-readable by computers. After applying compilers, these alphanumeric characters become machine-readable, & then computers can execute programs.

Nowadays, most industries & organizations depend on software & websites to conduct business. Safeguarding source code is crucial to prevent malicious cyber-attacks & security breaches.

Importance of Protecting Your Source Code IP

Source code can contain millions of coded lines. For example, the Windows 10 operating system (OS) has 50 million coded lines to incorporate its source code. Microsoft is storing more of its applications in the cloud, including source code on these projects. Therefore, they need to make sure it is properly secured.

Although source code has complex properties, data-driven web projects solely depend on it. The intellectual property of source code holds the core value of these businesses. Hence, keeping the source code safe is needed to ensure the success & safety of any business.

Moreover, if the wrong people get access to the source code, they will do more damage than only stealing the codes. Therefore, ensuring source code safety is vital as there is a huge risk that security flaws can be exploited.

Your technical team has to be experienced to safeguard your source codes. They can even use Android white box cryptography to keep your codes secured.

What Happens If Source Code Is Breached?

What will happen if the company’s source code is breached?

Before getting to that point, let’s understand how your codes become vulnerable. Every time we take action or interact with codes, it opens up potential windows to be attacked. Although companies & businesses take end-point level security & firewall protection seriously, they overlook reverse engineering, & as a result, malicious cyber-attacks can occur.

The following issues can occur because of the security breach of source codes, leaving a company vulnerable:

1. Sensitive Data Leak

Data is always sensitive & crucial for any software, business, or organization. Improper handling, misuse, or wrong access to sensitive data can cost you immensely.

If the confidentiality between the company & employees weakens, there are various risks, such as credit card fraud, source code loss, refund fraud, identity theft, and selling sensitive data to other competitors.

2. Idea and Information Leak

The idea is the sole asset of any company. Sometimes, a source code breach may land your unique idea in the hands of your competitors.

3. Proprietary Risks

Handling or dealing with other third-party services to help you with software can leave you vulnerable. Not everyone will treat your source code data as their top-priority like you.

4. Illegal Ownership Claims

Many companies hire other software specialists or third-party service providers to improve their source code or add instruction to the pre-existing ones. If both parties do not correctly address the contract, the company becomes vulnerable.

Chances are they may lose their source code IP ownership because of the slight modifications made by their partners or those third-party service providers.

In the worst-case scenario, the company may have to give them a portion of ownership of their profitable pre-existing businesses as they have made improvements to the source codes.

How To Prevent Source Code Breaches?

Source code breach is entirely a technical issue. However, the below-mentioned ways can help your organization to protect the source code-

1. Keep A Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) Ready

This agreement signed between the company & its vendors or employees indicates your source code’s control. As a part of the deal, employees are bound to keep the source code secret.

Also, you can monitor their access to the source code. By signing an NDA, each employee commits to the confidentiality between them & the company’s IP address, source code, sensitive data, etc.

2. Sign A Non-Competence Agreement (NCA)

Incorporated with an NDA, NCA ensures no employee will share your transaction secrets, IP address, or trade secrets with your competitors. Therefore, you can have loyal & dedicated employees to work for your company & not with your competitors.

Unlike NDA, the NCA has a limited timeframe & after the expiration of that timeframe, the employees are free to leave your company & join others. So, if you don’t renew the contract with reasonable terms, you may become vulnerable.

3. Selective Sharing of Information

Another important way of saving your source code is limiting yourself from telling the whole story. As a service provider, they may need access to many fields of your source code. However, you shouldn’t tell them in detail about your ideas. Only tell them what they should know.

So, be selective about what & how much you are sharing.

4. Well-Crafted Legal Contract

It’s a prerequisite to carefully state the terms before dealing with a third-party service about retaining IP addresses. When you hire a service provider, make sure it’s “work for hire.” That means they are obligated to hand over all the IP addresses to you after their services.

Remember that if the source code IP serves your business exclusively, you have the right to retain it. However, if the service provider develops generic IP addresses essential for their service providing to others, they can keep ownership.

5. Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Usage

DLP is a tool that helps software developers protect against theft, data leakage & cyber-breach. DLP uses security policies, such as blocking access to source code & limiting access to the selective ones. Moreover, it prevents copying source code to portable devices, emails, external drives & sharing them on social media or various sites.

Final Thoughts

In this data-driven age, competitors are always ready to pay exorbitant amounts to get their hands-on companies’ intellectual property. Cyberattacks can also impede the growth & reputation by breaching source code. Thus, keeping your source code secured is critical for every business.

Sean is a freelance writer and big data expert. He loves to write on big data, analytics and predictive analytics.