The landscape of application development is constantly evolving, driven by technological advancements and changing user demands. Over the past few years, we have witnessed the rise of generative AI, the “shift left” approach, and the increasing prominence of low-code/no-code development. Here, I will explore how low-code/no-code development is revolutionizing the software development process, its impact on traditional methodologies like SAST and DAST, and the implications of empowering non-technical users to create powerful applications and automations.
The Rise of Low-Code/No-Code Development
Low-code/no-code development platforms have emerged as game-changers in the software industry. These platforms, built by companies like Microsoft, Salesforce, ServiceNow, Workato, UiPath, Appian, Zapier, and more, enable users of all technical backgrounds to build applications and automate processes with minimal coding or sometimes without any coding at all. These platforms all offer visual interfaces, pre-built components, drag-and-drop functionality, and declarative logic, empowering users with limited technical expertise to create robust applications.
The New Power in the Hands of Citizen Developers
Traditionally, application development required a high level of technical proficiency, limiting the number of people who could participate in the process. However, low-code/no-code development has opened up a world of possibilities by democratizing application development. Non-technical users, often referred to as citizen developers, can now actively contribute to creating powerful applications, automations, and workflows.
The Shift in Software Development Cycle
Low-code/no-code development brings a paradigm shift to the software development cycle. The traditional cycle, which includes stages like requirements gathering, design, development, testing, and deployment, is no longer confined to a linear progression. With low-code/no-code platforms, iterations can be more rapid, enabling developers to quickly build applications and automations and get them into production within minutes, sometimes faster. This iterative approach redefines the development lifecycle, and allows for faster time-to-market.
The Limitations of SAST and DAST
For a long time, Static Application Security Testing (SAST) and Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) have been integral parts of the traditional software development process, helping identify vulnerabilities and security flaws as code is written. However, their effectiveness in the low-code/no-code development landscape is somewhat diminished because of the new way that applications are developed and built.
Firstly, the speed of development in low-code/no-code environments can make it challenging to conduct security checks thorough SAST and DAST. The rapid iterations and visual development approach often result in frequent changes, making it difficult to keep up with the traditional security testing methodologies. This can result in a lack of breadth and depth of information that is needed to determine how data is flowing, who is accessing what, and other business-level logic.
Secondly, as less technical individuals contribute to application development using low-code/no-code platforms, they may lack the deep understanding of security best practices. While low-code/no-code platforms provide certain security measures for the platform itself, similar to the shared responsibility model of the public cloud, these controls lack a lot of the business context and logic that security professionals need when making decisions and risk modeling.
Embracing New Security Paradigms
In the low-code/no-code landscape, it becomes imperative to adopt new security protocols to align with evolving development practices. This includes integrating security considerations like continuously scanning these environments, fostering a security-conscious mindset among citizen developers, and implementing governance for these low-code/no-code platforms.
Low-code/no-code development represents a significant shift in the application development landscape, enabling non-technical users to create powerful applications and automations. With its visual interfaces, pre-built components, and simplified logic, low-code/no-code empowers citizen developers to contribute actively to the development process. However, this shift also poses challenges for traditional security methodologies, like SAST and DAST, due to the speed of development and the varying technical expertise of those involved.
To embrace the benefits of low-code/no-code development while maintaining robust security standards, it is crucial to adapt security practices, integrate security early in the development process, and leverage specialized security tools tailored to the low-code/no-code environment. By doing so, organizations can unlock the true potential of low-code/no-code development while ensuring the safety and integrity of their applications and automations. For more information on how Zenity can help, come meet with us at the Gartner Security & Risk Management summit in Maryland in early June!