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The 7 Best Practices for Building Secure dApps

I'll take you through the best practices for building secure decentralized applications. Let's get started.
Daniel Zacharias

Code Power Team

September 22, 2023

For people unfamiliar with decentralized networks, the idea of an application being on a decentralized network can be disconcerting. However, you can take steps to reassure people that your decentralized application is completely secure. 

In this article, I’ll take you through the best practices for building secure dApps. Let’s get started.

The fundamentals of dApp security

As a rule, consider security during the development process, not as an afterthought.

This proactive approach will save you a lot of stress and time. Also, remember that the setup of applications on a decentralized network leaves them vulnerable to being hacked, so being proactive is undoubtedly vital. 

In addition, remember that all applications must:

  • Manage sensitive data correctly and securely.
  • Resist all external manipulations.
  • Verify all inputs carefully.
  • Provide accurate information.

However, more specifically, keep in mind that you need to conduct a thorough analysis of your users. This means considering their needs and wants concerning the security of their data. This may even involve catering to expectations that make them feel more secure. 

And make sure not to neglect documentation. After all, you’d want to remember why you made a specific decision.

Okay, now that I’ve explained dApp security, let’s go into detail about the best practices for building secure dApps:

(1) Testing: smart contract audits and penetration tests

Smart contract audits should always be the first security check for any dApp.These help highlight vulnerabilities. Some assessments may also offer ways to fix the issues. Smart contract audits are standard practice among highly reputable dApps. 

Another way to assess the safety of your dApp is by putting it through penetration testing. If your dApp has vulnerabilities, this is one surefire way to find out. Here you can discover hidden vulnerabilities, attack vector risks, and more. 

(2) Education leading to user awareness

While you can do your best to build a secure dApp, ultimately, if the user isn’t careful, they can expose their personal information through no fault of your own. 

That’s why it’s so important to educate users about proper online etiquette through platforms such as:

  • Email newsletters
  • Websites
  • Social media platforms
  • On-app messages

Users should be made aware of the dangers of social engineering attacks used to steal data, known as phishing. They should be aware that:

  • Scammers often make grammatical or spelling mistakes. 
  • They should never be asked to share their recovery phrase.
  • Scammers sometimes use URLs that are similar to the legitimate site. They should verify the URL with the proper one. 

(3) Access control on smart contracts

Effective dApp security is only complete with some form of access control, i.e., ensuring that only authorized users are able to get access. Access control not only prevents unauthorized people from using the dApps but ultimately protects sensitive data and leads to enhanced compliance.

Developers must implement a permission system whereby different functions are restricted depending on the user’s access. 

(4) Timelocks on smart contracts

Timelocks are a nifty potential feature of smart contracts. With these, you can freeze particular smart contracts for specified periods. During these periods, nobody can make changes to the contract.

Timelocks are a great form of protection during cyber attacks, as they prevent anyone from tampering with the contracts for malicious reasons. 

(5) Multi-signature wallets

As the name suggests, multi-signature wallets require multiple signatures to authorize transactions. Users have to get signatures from particular parties so that they’re able to make a specific transaction. As with timelocks, these are great during cyber attacks as a single user can’t make transactions, reducing the risk of transactions taking place because of compromised users.  

(6) Formal verification 

Unlike traditional testing, formal verifications use mathematical proof to ascertain the validity of a smart contract. In situations where extremely sensitive data or significant sums of money are involved, this may be the way to go (paired with the other secure measures I’ve mentioned). 

However, remember that it’s very time-intensive and requires significant skill.

(7) Staying informed and up-to-date

You know the old saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”? Well, no matter how much you consider yourself an “old dog,” you must be ready to learn. In the world of cyber security, keeping up to date with the ever-evolving best practices is paramount.

To do so, I’d suggest doing some or all of the following:

  • Network with other developers on platforms such as LinkedIn.
  • Join online forums, reach tech-related online publications, and participate in discussions and debates.
  • Take online short courses and watch YouTube tutorials to upskill yourself. 

And in addition to all of this, developers should be aware of any changes to platforms they work on to ensure compatibility. 

Don’t underestimate the importance of good security 

The importance of the security of dApps can’t be understated. Security breaches can be highly damaging to users and developers. Sometimes, a security breach can severely damage someone’s financial well-being or personal safety. And while we all know that no security measure is foolproof, we must do our utmost to protect our users.

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