No Access Checklist: Protecting Data Through Secure Code

Many organisations focus cybersecurity efforts on perimeter defense while overlooking risks from inward flaws in proprietary websites, mobile apps, APIs, and custom software.

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Preventing Data Breaches Through Secure Software Development

Data breaches can have devastating financial and reputational impacts on organisations. In South Africa, the average cost of data breaches reached an all-time high of R49.45 million in 2023, with the financial sector experiencing the highest average cost at R73.1 million.

As attack methods like phishing and cloud misconfigurations exploit vulnerabilities, organisations need robust cybersecurity measures. A proactive approach to building security into software development is key.

In South Africa, some of the most common data breaches include the following; phishing attacks to steal usernames, passwords, and banking details; insider threats from employees misusing data they can access; hacks of websites and servers storing user information; lost or stolen devices containing sensitive data; and unsecured databases and servers exposing data online.

Recent statistics from IBM show that 14% of cyber threats within the country originate from stolen credentials or phishing scams, 12% come from compromised business emails, and 11% are due to cloud misconfigurations. Hence, the importance of implementing secure software development practices, which can help prevent many of these breach vectors. 

According to the Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023

What are Data Breaches?

A data breach is an incident where sensitive, protected, or confidential data has potentially been viewed, stolen, or used by an individual unauthorised to do so. Data breaches may involve personal health information, financial information, or other private data being exposed or compromised. Such breaches can have serious consequences for individuals and organisations, as we’ve just read above.

Once data is accessed by unauthorised parties, it can be used for identity theft, fraud, extortion, and more. Data breaches can also damage an organisation's reputation and customer trust if they are seen to have poor security practices. There are legal and financial consequences as well - South African laws like POPI hold organisations responsible for securing data.

step 1

Detection and Analysis

Implement intrusion detection systems and monitor networks closely for potential breaches. Thoroughly investigate any anomalies and analyse log files to determine where, when, and how a breach may have occurred. Identify the types of data impacted and how many individuals may be affected.

step 2


Isolate affected systems immediately and shut down access to block any further data loss. Remove compromised files or devices. Promptly reset passwords, encryption keys, API tokens, and other credentials.

step 3


Transparently alert all individuals whose personal information may have been compromised, according to regulatory guidelines. Contact the appropriate legal authorities and partners that may be impacted.

step 4


Form an incident response team to thoroughly document the details of the breach and follow established procedures to determine the root cause. Secure evidence, logs, and system images for forensic analysis by internal staff or third-party experts.

step 5


After a root cause analysis, work diligently to restore and secure affected systems and data to their original state before the breach. Extensively test security before bringing systems back online.

step 6

Post-Breach Evaluation

Conduct a breach debrief to closely assess your internal response and identify areas for improvement in policies, procedures, and systems. Implement changes to shore up vulnerabilities and prevent similar future data breaches.


Data breaches present a costly threat to organisations across all industries in South Africa. Many stem from preventable software flaws. By integrating security earlier into development lifecycles, companies can curb common vulnerabilities and build resilience.

This 6-step checklist offers a starting point to improve incident response. However, emphasising security up front is key to developing robust systems that withstand emerging threats. With more focus on "shifting left", organisations can cost-effectively secure critical assets and gain a competitive edge.

Though threats will continue evolving, prioritising security can help South African institutions prevent the worst consequences.

According to the Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023

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