The sector of software development is changing. While we are creating applications that are more and more complex and performant, the software development process is being simplified. Citizen developers, non-professional software developers that have no education in the matter and limited knowledge and skills, are capable today of creating platforms for their clients or their internal business processes.
This is mainly due to low-code and no-code platforms allowing citizen developers to create applications without writing a single line of code manually. The so-called low-code and no-code movement, however, has raised some security concerns, even because, on the other hand, cyber threats are becoming more numerous and dangerous. In this article, let's explore the security risks related to low-code and no-code development platforms.
What are no-code and low-code software development?
As mentioned, low-code and no-code software development doesn't require the software developer to manually write code, line by line, in one or more programming languages. Low-code and no-code platforms are similar, but they are not the same thing. With low-code, you have no-code tools that allow you to create parts of your software without writing code, but there are always aspects that you need to program manually. With low-code, that is, a minimum knowledge and skill in coding and programming language are required.
With no-code, instead, coding is never required. You can create applications from zero to perfectly functioning and ready for launch without writing a single line of code. This doesn't mean, of course, that code magically disappears from the software development process but that your no-code development platform automatically generates it. Low-code and, in particular, no-code platforms make it possible for citizen developers to create applications without having to undergo a formal education in coding and without hiring a professional software developer.
Because it seems that with low-code or no-code development platforms, you don't have full control over your code, and because citizen developers are less expert than professional developers when it comes to security risks, protection of sensitive data, and other security implication, it's worth considering what are the risks of no-code and low-code.
Top low-code and no-code risks
It's true that with low-code and no-code development platforms, developers can access the source code. Yet, the code itself - which can be very large - isn't as visible to both developers and clients as it is with traditional software development.
Low-code and no-code platforms' users can't see or inspect the code easily, and the consequences can be the following:
- when a company receives software from low-code or no-code platform vendors, they want to have visibility of the security control and code that are in place.
- when the team is using a low-code, or no-code platform, the single developer or the lead engineer can't have a vision of the code that can allow them to clearly understand the relationship through the different components (different modules, plugins.)
- access control is limited, exposing the low-code or no-code software to vulnerabilities.
But even with traditional development usually, projects have a large code base: many components, different modules, and plugins. There are practically no solutions for the developers or CTO/lead engineer to look at the project from above and see all the relationships.
The safety of the code depends very much on its quality and on the level of developers. Even if the developers are high-level, they still make human mistakes - they forgot there, they missed it here. Unlike people, the no-code platform as AppMaster does not make mistakes and always does everything according to the instructions, according the best practices, and does not forget anything.
The use of no-code platforms like AppMaster is more secure than the traditional development approach for a variety of reasons.
- First, no-code platforms are built on a foundation of best practices, ensuring that all code is properly written and error-free.
- Second, no-code platforms are designed to automate as many tasks as possible, minimizing the chances of human error.
- Finally, no-code platforms are constantly updated with the latest security features, protecting your code from ever-evolving threats. In sum, using a no-code platform provides a much more secure development experience than traditional approaches.
Controlling code access and changes is always a big issue when developing complex applications. If several people work on components or a product, then there is no way to separate which part of the code one person can see and which another. For development and testing in progress, the developer needs the entire codebase. AppMaster, on the other hand, can be configured component by component up to the maximum atomicity of access control, when each business process can be assigned to a separate developer and all changes are logged.
Business logic flaws
Even when using a no-code development platform, business logic permissions should be implemented in the software's functionality. If this doesn't happen, it exposes the software to sensitive data and API exposition to threats.
In classical development, it is very difficult to control the architecture of all project components, each developer writes as he wants, and often even the review code does not save the situation. When clients use AppMaster, all business logic is initially built in the form of simple blocks with an optimal level of abstraction, and AI post-processing further improves the generated logic and code. Therefore, critical errors in business logic are extremely unlikely. Plus AppMaster has strong typing, control of the connection of variables and types, and filtering of incoming data. With AppMaster, you can be sure that your business logic is correct and error-free. This means that you can focus on developing your product without having to worry about errors in the business logic.
How to reduce software security risks?
Now that we've addressed each security risk, we can start discussing the best security practices to reduce them and bring citizen development to the same level as traditional software development.
Platform users can request an SBOM from the vendor to have insights into the software components. An SBOM is a Software Bill of Materials, and it's a formal list of components, modules, and libraries used to build a piece of software.
SBOM has been specifically designed to be shared between teams or between companies. It's a tool that can help everyone involved in software management have a clearer vision of all software components and their vulnerabilities.
Security testing is always one of the best security practices, and it's a way to limit the risk of insecure code. As a developer, you should run security tests regularly. As a client (maybe you've hired a low-code or no-code developer), you can request security scanning that guarantees that insecure code is not replicated everywhere in the code.
Choosing the right tool
When you use premium no-code tools, like AppMaster, which we're recommending in the following paragraph, the code automatically generated is premium quality. As you know, the quality of the code makes the difference in terms of both performance and security.
With no-code platforms like AppMaster, you cut off possible human mistakes from the equation (no matter how skilled they are, developers can still forget details, miss some aspects, get distracted, get bored, and make small mistakes). AppMaster, instead, generates code according to instructions and security best practices.
Choosing a right no-code development platform
As we've seen in the paragraph above, choosing the right no-code platform is key regarding security implications. Therefore, it is important to recommend the best no-code platform on the market today - AppMaster. AppMaster is a no-code platform. Unlike low-code, a no-code platform is different from a low-code one because it doesn't require any manual coding. It provides you with a visual interface and pre-built software blocks to assemble with a drag-and-drop system.
The code is automatically generated in the background (you can have access to it at any time). The quality of the generated code is what makes AppMaster the best no-code development platform in the market because:
- AppMaster's code doesn't have flaws
- It is generated according to best security practices, and it ensures high levels of security
- The source code is accessible to provide full control (and property) over your software
Other than code, AppMaster also generates technical documentation automatically. Furthermore, because AppMaster can be configured component by component, up to the maximum atomicity of access control, all accesses and changes made are logged, improving software security from the point of view of access control.
The AppMaster no-code platform also has another benefit that can reduce the risk of business logic flaws: in AppMaster, all business logic is initially built in the form of simple blocks with an optimal level of abstraction. Plus, AI post-processing improves the generated logic and code even further. This reduces the possibility of business logic errors. With AppMaster, you can reduce the potential security risks of your no-code software while simplifying the software development process making it more efficient and less time-consuming.