See for yourself – run a scan on your code right now

Whether it’s school or car loans, you know that paying off your debt makes your life easier. It can improve your credit score, giving you more financial security. As a developer, you may also suffer from technical debt that impacts your application’s security. In a world where time to delivery is critical, you may make a programming decision today that creates additional work for customers or developers later. 

When you can understand how technical debt and security debt are related, you can implement secure coding practices that reduce risks and improve your application. 

What is technical debt?

Technical debt means the long-term extra work that short-term shortcuts in the software development phase create. Technical debt might look like any of these:

  • Poorly written code
  • Lack of documentation
  • Outdated libraries
  • Lack of test coverage

When discussing technical debt, Martin Fowler outlined four ways to categorize what happens

  • Reckless and deliberate: choosing speed over following best practices
  • Reckless and inadvertent: lacking skills, knowledge, or experience
  • Prudent and deliberate: making an informed decision to incur the debt while recognizing the need to pay it off as quickly as possible, like taking a minimal viable product to market
  • Prudent and inadvertent: applying best practices during development but failing to update codebase later on

Some typical causes of technical debt include:

  • Lack of skills: Developers lack appropriate training and tools.
  • Pressure: Changes are too late in the development life cycle to be appropriately implemented.
  • Tightly coupled components: Interdependencies make isolated updates difficult.
  • Simultaneous development: Code created in siloes gets merged together and lacks cohesion. 

What is security debt?

Security debt is a focused type of technical debt that reflects the number of vulnerabilities embedded in an application or system. When an organization values speed over security, it may spend less time looking for vulnerabilities and remediating the ones it does find. 

While technical debt may create issues for end users, security debt’s impact may be broader, including:

  • Data breaches: Threat actors often use vulnerabilities as part of their attacks. 
  • Fines and penalties: If threat actors gain unauthorized access to protected data, companies may have to pay fines or penalties arising from data protection laws. 
  • Business interruption: Service outages mean people can’t access the applications, reducing revenue and productivity. 
  • Increased development costs: Delaying vulnerability remediation creates a backlog of vulnerabilities that increases overall development costs. 

How does technical debt affect security?

Technical debt primarily arises from a mentality that focuses on speed over quality of code. At a basic level, this culture means that users may have poor experiences, like applications that glitch or crash. However, when teams and organizations fail to pay attention to coding best practices, they often release applications with vulnerabilities that attackers can use to compromise systems, networks, and data. 

Instead of responding to security vulnerabilities after pushing to production, teams should build security into their processes and products. 

Paying Off Technical Debt to Reduce Security Debt

As with any debt, you need to identify the best ways to allocate your resources so that you get the most bang for your buck. To overcome technical debt as a way to reduce security debt, you need tools that enable you to implement secure coding practices.

Identify Third-Party Components and Dependencies

You’re going to use third-party components because it’s a best coding practice. Simultaneously, you need to know what you have and the vulnerabilities that could potentially impact your application. Further, whether you work in a regulated industry or not, you may want to create a Software Bill of Materials (SBOM) because customers will likely request one. 

Understand Data Flows

When malicious actors target applications, they really want sensitive data so that they can sell it or use it to perpetrate fraud. When you understand how data flows across your application, you can mitigate risks arising from business logic flaws. For example, by charting data movement across modules, you gain visibility into potential attack vectors so that you can minimize risk. 

Automate Code Testing

In a complex application, manual code review becomes overwhelming, time-consuming, and error-prone. While you should use manual reviews to “double check” your work, you should also incorporate automated security testing tools to ship secure software faster. With artificial intelligence (AI) trained on open-source and proprietary libraries, the secure application testing solution can help you mitigate risks arising from the OWASP Top 10 threats list. 

Prioritize Remediation Based on Exploitability

Even though you use third-party components, your source code is unique. Depending on how you integrate these components into your source code, attackers may not be able to use them during an attack. By combining real world threat information into your scan results, you can more efficiently prioritize your vulnerability remediation activities based on the ones that pose a real and existing threat to your application. 

Integrate AppSec Tools with Developer Tools

When you invest in technologies that help you overcome technical and security debts, you need solutions that integrate into your existing CI/CD pipelines, ticketing systems, and development tools. Instead of purchasing another disconnected tool that makes your life more difficult, you should look for something that fits into your workflows and enables you to focus on writing code. When you choose technologies that intertwine with your daily activities, you reduce both types of digital debt more efficiently and cost effectively. 

Qwiet AI: Reduce Debt and Improve Security  

With Qwiet AI’s preZero platform, you can scan millions of lines of code in minutes for visibility into all components, dependencies, and reachable vulnerabilities. Our platform quickly returns accurate and detailed findings while significantly reducing false positives. With our Code Property Graph (CPG), you gain a holistic view of your code, including data flows across the application, to quickly determine reachability and risk impact.

Try Qwiet AI’s preZero platform for free to see how it can help you mitigate risks from business logic vulnerabilities.

About ShiftLeft

ShiftLeft empowers developers and AppSec teams to dramatically reduce risk by quickly finding and fixing the vulnerabilities most likely to reach their applications and ignoring reported vulnerabilities that pose little risk. Industry-leading accuracy allows developers to focus on security fixes that matter and improve code velocity while enabling AppSec engineers to shift security left.

A unified code security platform, ShiftLeft CORE scans for attack context across custom code, APIs, OSS, containers, internal microservices, and first-party business logic by combining results of the company’s and Intelligent Software Composition Analysis (SCA). Using its unique graph database that combines code attributes and analyzes actual attack paths based on real application architecture, ShiftLeft then provides detailed guidance on risk remediation within existing development workflows and tooling. Teams that use ShiftLeft ship more secure code, faster. Backed by SYN Ventures, Bain Capital Ventures, Blackstone, Mayfield, Thomvest Ventures, and SineWave Ventures, ShiftLeft is based in Santa Clara, California. For information, visit:


See for yourself – run a scan on your code right now