Securing Your Mainframe Applications: A Guide to Building a Robust Development Lifecycle

Securing Your Mainframe Applications: A Guide to Building a Robust Development Lifecycle

With the increasing threat of cyberattacks, it is crucial to safeguard the applications you have on your mainframe in the present context of digitalization. The life cycle of your core applications on the mainframe platform is a critical factor in the general security and reliability of your essential information systems. It proves that by following a secure development lifecycle framework, one is able to prevent vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers, thus reducing the risks of data breaches and protecting the valuable assets that an organization may have.

Mainframe applications are typically large, long-standing, and critical applications supporting a company’s most important data and transactions. It is important to note that with any vulnerability in these applications, the consequences can be severe and range from monetary loss, to reputation loss and regulatory issues. Hence, it is imperative to implement big-picture security measures that will protect the development life cycle of your critical mainframe applications.

The Five Steps Of A Secure Development Lifecycle

Mainframe application security in specific and computer security in general can only be achieved following a systematic approach. The secure development lifecycle is made up of five distinct stages, and by following it keenly, one can ensure that an optimal level of security is provided to the application environment.

Step 1: Gathering Requirements And Threat Analysis

The first phase of secure development is to analyze the needs of the principal applications and the risks related to them on the mainframe. During this phase, you should:

Gather comprehensive requirements: When planning for the mainframe applications, it is important to document the functional and non-functional requirements of your applications about security needs.

Conduct threat modeling: Explain some of the risks as well as the chances of your mainframe applications being invaded by a threat actor. It enables you to determine the major security threats that require attention and probably have an immediate impact on your organization.

Establish security baselines: Determine the general and specific guidelines for securing mainframe applications in your organization in terms of standards and compliance with industry best practices, regulatory mandates, and organizational security mandates.

Thus, by analyzing the requirements and prospective risks it is possible to create a solid base for the successive stages of the secure development lifecycle.

Step 2: Secure Code Techniques

Adherence to secure coding is one of the main activities that form the building block of the secure development lifecycle. In this step, you should:

Adopt secure coding guidelines: Program to the security standard and follow standards and security measures that can help prevent common attacks such as input validation, access control, and error handling.

Utilize secure programming languages and frameworks: Select programming languages and frameworks that contain security features and functions that can help to prevent usual security threats.

Implement secure data handling: It’s important that all identifiable information, including credentials, account details, and other sensitive information, are properly protected and secured throughout the SDLC.

Incorporate security testing: Implement security testing which includes functions like static code analysis, dynamic testing, and penetration testing, and integrate them into the development cycle to identify the security flaws early in development.

While adopting secure coding, one can lower the likelihood of bringing vulnerabilities into mainframe applications on the platform.

Step 3: Code Review And Testing

Both code review and testing are vital to help detect and prevent vulnerabilities before implementation. In this step, you should:

Conduct thorough code reviews: Enshrine a proper code review process that will require the involvement of senior developers and also security experts who will be able to detect the possible vulnerabilities.

Perform comprehensive testing: Establish effective testing framework through unit testing, integration testing and end-to-end testing to achieve the objective of providing security and reliability in the mainframe applications.

Utilize security-focused testing tools: Some of the security testing tools including SAST and DAST can be used to test and rectify vulnerabilities.

I can tell you that by reviewing and testing your code, you can enhance the security of your applications that run on the mainframe to a greater extent.

Step 4: Vulnerability Management And Patching

It is therefore important that vulnerability management is done continuously to ensure that all the patches that need to be applied to mainframe applications are done in time. In this step, you should:

  • Establish a vulnerability management program: Make sure to have an effective vulnerability management plan that will allow you to constantly assess, detect and manage security risks in your mainframe applications.
  • Prioritize and remediate vulnerabilities: Rank the vulnerabilities according to their likelihood and the harm that may be caused by cyber attackers and then address them so that the risk of exploitation can be reduced.
  • Implement a robust patching process: Create a strong patching program to regularly apply patches on your mainframe applications to fix any security vulnerabilities.

Thus, the timely tackling of the primary issues regarding the management of vulnerabilities and the patching cycle can help decrease the attack surface and improve the security of mainframe applications.

Step 5: Continual Assessment And Enhancement

Mainframe application security is indeed a constant exercise that needs to be done to ensure that the mainframe applications are secure as well as possible. In this step, you should:

Implement continuous monitoring: Implement a comprehensive surveillance and tracking mechanism to identify and address threats potential threats, violations, or abnormalities as they occur.

Analyze security events and incidents: Some of the questions that should be answered include; how often should the organization analyze security events and incidents, what trends should be looked at, and what aspects of the secure development lifecycle should be improved on.

Continuously improve the secure development lifecycle: Never forget that you are learning: use the lessons learned from your monitoring and incident analysis to enhance the SDLC by integrating new best practices.

In this way, if you perform the mainframe applications’ SDLC you will secure your applications from emerging threats and your applications will remain secure.


Mainframe application security is permanently an ongoing task and should be structured to face different challenges. When followed systematically, a secure development lifecycle can help you protect your applications and systems before an attack occurs, limit the potential damage of a breach, and establish the foundation for the long-term security of your high-risk assets.

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Written by Avatier Office