In today’s rapidly evolving technological world, application development and operations are key to increasing agility and production speed. However, security is always bolted on later, posing security risks to app development and user information.
In a bid to improve their cybersecurity approaches, forward-thinking organizations are integrating security policy, controls, and privacy into DevOps methodology and tools. This calls for a radical shift in the mindset of DevOps teams to incorporate security in the app development and operations stage. Welcome to DevSecOps!
What is DevSecOps? When did it come into play?
DevSecOps seeks to have security automated in every software development stage, such as initial design, integration, software testing, and the final delivery. DevSecOps is a short form for development, security, and operations, meaning that it is supposed to harmonize different yet essential teams—the development and operations team in security matters.
DevSecOps is a natural and essential evolution of how software development organizations approach security. DevSecOps departs from the traditional waterfall design where security matters come after the final stage of development, often as an afterthought. Security was bolted on by a different security team and went through the steps of quality assurance in the hands of another QA team.
At first, this was manageable because software updates were released annually or biannually. However, it has become increasingly difficult to continue this trend. Software development companies integrated DevOps and Agile approach intending to reduce software development cycles to a couple of weeks or even a few days. Development teams work towards efficiency while the operations team is focused on speed; therefore, harmonizing these two teams created bottlenecks, which necessitated the launch of devsecops technology.
DevSecOps seeks to live up to its motto of “software, security, sooner” by automating safe and secure software delivery hence eliminating bottlenecks in the software delivery lifecycle. DevSecOps embeds infrastructure and application security flawlessly into DevOps and agile tools and processes.
This is an important technique where software developers install security measures and solve security issues as they arise. It is economical, faster, and easy to fix at this stage before you put the software into production.
In simple terms, DevSecOps lays app and infrastructure security in the hands of both development and operations teams. This harmony is much more effective than leaving security responsibilities to a single security team.
DevSecOps & DevOps: how they relate
There are myriad apps and software for running routine tasks and solving day-to-day problems in this fast-paced technological world. These apps and software collect personal data, which the users expect businesses and developers to protect during any transaction or engagement. Yet, it is becoming harder to protect this sensitive information because malicious actors come up with the new ways to take advantage of these vulnerabilities, even in coding and releasing lifecycles.
These security concerns translate into a force that has prompted many businesses to revise their approach to app development and operations or DevOps. In this way, the software, the company, and the users are safeguarded.
Due to the increased demand for quick releases, traditional app security measures cannot meet the challenges caused by rapid software release circles and ever-changing detailed cloud-native architectures. The main reason for the failure of the conventional approach to application security is slow production. This forces businesses to compromise user and application security by skipping security scans and quality assurance scans to meet delivery timelines.
Many organizations resort to DevOps and Agile approaches by combining software programming and operations to speed up their software development lifecycle and enhance security. DevOps harmonizes the operations and development teams to design, evaluate, release, and revise software efficiently and quickly. Under DevOps, security tasks such as troubleshooting and eliminating vulnerabilities are done by a separate security team, using different tools, often conflicting with the delivery timelines.
These security concerns, coupled with the need for first production lifecycles, create a demand for integrating security measures into DevOps workflow, and that is where DevSecOps appears in the picture. Similar to DevOps, DevSecOps calls for a radical change to integrate security tools and measures into every step of application development. DevOps harmonizes workflow between double teams at either end of the software development lifecycle, while DevSecOps integrates security measures into these teams. Everyone in the production line must shoulder extra security responsibility to minimize error. Thus, putting security in between the development and operations teams led to the new DevSecOps concept.
The culture of DevSecOps. Why are DevSecOps Practices Important?
Security is effective when done throughout the development process, not after
In the traditional setup, such as the waterfall design, security testing is carried out later in the development stage, meaning it shifts right. While the DevOps approach has greatly improved this process, DevSecOps harmonizes the three phases of developing, testing and operating into a single effort managed by a centralized team accessing similar data. The left-shift method allows developers to troubleshoot and solve security issues prior to production.
Security may shift either left or right
Shifting left is essential in addressing pre-production issues to improve efficiency in development. It’s also important to secure applications during development. Remember that applications are connected to the web during production, which means unknown entities with malicious intents can access them. This creates the need for security at every stage of the application development lifecycle.
Security may also shift right, which is not advisable. Shifting right means delayed malware detection, that affects the whole programming and delays delivery schedules. The only case where this may be helpful is when all employees, including those in the operations and delivery teams, adopt some primary security mindset. Bug detection may be late, but all is not lost since the issue will be corrected before the products get to the consumers.
Security is a part of design, not an afterthought
While no application can claim to be failproof, those hardcore apps that have survived malicious attacks had security incorporated into their design all along. They don’t rely on ‘tacked on’ security measures probably placed there as an afterthought. Their developers invited the security team when drawing the application blueprint to get their advice before production.
The toughest applications happen to be those whose developers installed security considerations at every stage of development and operations. DevSecOps practices allow the security team to participate in the initial app development design and provide security suggestions instead of bolted protection after development. Otherwise, security measures crafted after production slow down the software rollout.
Security should be a collective responsibility
It’s already hard enough to bring two disparate development and operational teams to work under the same roof. But it is even harder to incorporate the security team into the mix, since there’s no love lost between the teams. Most DevOps teams don’t work together with the security staff. The reason for this hostility is that they think the security team is slowing them down. A better idea is convincing each team to incorporate the best security practices in their line of duty to create a unified responsibility model for the waterproof security system.
Complete elimination or partial breakdown
There are usually invincible barriers between organizational delivery departments since each department manages things in its unique way. This causes inconveniences in sharing essential information. DevSecOps aims to create a standard playground of shared data, solutions, and security programs through the app delivery lifecycles. Shared resources in turn create a unified workflow, helping break down silo walls to a certain degree.
Integrated security boosts automation
Both development operations and DevSecOps aim to ease app development and production processes through automation. DevOps uses automation for streamlining design, software testing, and speeding up application development. DevSecOps enables security integration in the earlier stages of software development, which allows the software development teams to print out, solve and prevent software susceptibilities before and during production. It, therefore, becomes easy to automate susceptibility identification and security methodology into the app development lifecycle.
What are the Advantages of DevSecOps Model?
Early Bugs and Vulnerabilities Detection
While the developers may be well versed in their respective fields and do their best to install basic security checks, avoiding security vulnerabilities in this huge open-source digital ecosystem is next to impossible. A comprehensive DevSecOps workflow integrates security early on, enabling developers to spot any susceptibilities before they begin coding using open-source libraries.
DevSecOps Enables Businesses to Take Advantage of Open-source Components Confidently
The open-source society provides unlimited access, which has increased security risks, since malicious actors poison the system using malware as standard open-source packages. While the security team may gradually notice this, the development team may be at an advanced coding stage utilizing the compromised components. DevSecOps supports automatic scans, which may help the company evade these security hurdles and the subsequent embarrassment.
Just imagine how frustrating it can be when you start a project, carry it to the completion only to have multiple vulnerabilities warranting its shutdown. DevSecOps enables early detection of vulnerabilities, helping developers and project managers look for secure design software from the word go. This will save on the cost of managing resources, person-hours, and software purchasing costs.
Raise Developers’ Awareness
Remember that DevSecOps aims to make security a shared responsibility. Many developers either lack basic security knowledge or are limited by tight delivery schedules, leaving security work to a separate team. DevSecOps methodology ensures you remind the developers to exclude suspect components. This habit eventually forces the developer to look for contaminated open-source components, thus enforcing security constantly.
Reduce Legal Liability and Risks
This is a no-brainer. There’s going to be an uproar when your customers’ sensitive data falls into the wrong hands. This may taint the company name as you may come out as a complacent and irresponsible partner. Some of these people may even decide to sue the firm, which attracts potential litigation and fines.
What are the challenges in DevSecOps Adoption?
Unwillingness to Integrate
At the center of DevSecOps lies the integration of teams. Development, security, and operations teams need to be reading from the same page in their line of duty rather than acting independently of each other. Based on current trends, this is difficult as every team wants to stay in their comfort zone.
As mentioned earlier, it is difficult enough to string the DevOps together. It is even more difficult for the security team to jump on board because they are treated with hostility by the two other teams, who claim they slow down the development process. Additionally, all the teams are accustomed to their roles, and therefore, comfort triumphs over exploring the unfamiliar.
Clash of Tools
The three teams usually run their duties apart in silos, thus developing specific tools to use in achieving their goals. The problem lies in how to integrate them and convince each team to compromise for security purposes. Team unification, drawing a shared understanding of common integration areas while still adhering to the company goals, is a challenging task.
Considering the three teams have been working apart for a long time now, it’s understandable that they have different metrics and tools. Unifying the three, coming to a mutual agreement of where it makes sense to integrate and where it doesn’t, and keeping in mind the company’s goals can be an uphill battle.
Implementing Security in Continuous Integration/Continuous Development
Security always comes last in traditional software development lifecycles, but with DevSecOps, software architects have made security a part and parcel of continuous development and continuous integration. Getting security to shift left instead of the typical right can be also challenging since you need a change in mindset and new cybersecurity tools.
Adopting DevSecOps doesn’t happen overnight. It is a long-drawn process, and many companies get frustrated when they fail to get it right the first time. Insisting on perfection only hampers the work of developers.
What are DevSecOps Tools?
These are the tools that developers use to detect anomalies, remediate effects, get visibility into the development process, threat modeling, and test the apps for threats before they go live.
Alert tools notify developers of inconsistencies or anomalies that create vulnerabilities. These tools send notifications to the developers, indicating security defects and irregularities that the developers should investigate and resolve before the issues get out of hand. Examples include Contrast Protect, Alerta, and ElastAlert.
These are meant to reduce the time difference between the point when a human security manager discovers a security anomaly and resolves it. Automation saves precious time and resources. These tools constantly scan, detect and solve security issues up to a certain degree. Examples include Stackstom, CodeAI, and Veracode.
Dashboards are dedicated visibility tools that allow sharing and viewing information in one graphical mode right from the beginning of development to the end of operations. This is made possible by integrating multiple data sources such as log entries to create united operational data, time analytics, and application monitoring graphical view. Examples include Verizon dashboard, Grafana, and Kibana.
Threat Modelling Tools
TMT tools allow for proactive security by identifying, defining, and predicting threats based on the information users provide about their applications and systems. They process this information and project it on a visual interface, which enables security teams to identify potential threats and damage. These tools include ThreatModeller and IriusRisk.
The last but not least in this category – testing – also comes at a further stage before the application is released to the public. DevSecOps methodology requires apps to be tested for potential vulnerabilities before delivery to effectively prevent flaws in security and exploitation. Examples include Chef InSpec, Fortify, and Synopsys.
Executing Well on DevOps is Key to Enabling DevSecOps
DevOps cloud security is based on the principles of DevOps. It is an approach to software development security with an attitude that everyone takes up the security responsibility. Simply put, DevSecOps is injecting security into the business DevOps pipeline.
This means that DevSecOps success solely depends on how well the development and operations teams play their role. Nevertheless, it will require a radical shift in thinking and attitudes to bring the DevOps teams to collaborate with the cybersecurity team. DevSecOps is a culture and a way of thinking to incorporate security into DevOps, so the success of DevSecOps lies in how well the company adopts DevOps.
Examples of the World’s Leading (Tech) Companies Who Successfully Implemented/Transitioned to DevSecOps
Accenture global team is currently in the process of combining app development, infrastructure as code, security, and operations into a highly automated delivery cycle. This move being adopted in phases aims to replace administrative work in delivery and operations, thus increasing agility and engagement in both teams.
Verizon Information Technology team wanted a way to integrate secure DevOps practices as they migrated to the cloud. Something that would keep the IT team from being overloaded and facilitate a culture change within the company. The only feasible solution was to adopt DevSecOps security practices.
Verizon built a centralized dashboard that records in real-time how vulnerabilities get introduced into apps within Verizon’s business. The dashboard draws information from web and firewall logs, asset management, configuration data, version control, integrated developer environment tools, learning management system, third-party scanning tools, and code analysis.
The giant tech company also believes that they have successfully integrated DevSecOps culture into their workflow, according to Microsoft CISO Bret Arsenault. Poor communication and a lack of understanding constantly caused operational, developmental, and security teams to crash in the past.
To solve this problem, Microsoft adopted the DevSecOps methodology of prioritizing security through constant communication and training. Their security engineering teams and development teams leverage each other’s information, and they also regularly meet in what Microsoft calls Red Zone meetings. All Microsoft engineers go through Strike closed-session security training to help them understand the global vulnerability landscape.
Here’s a quick roundup. DevSecOps is a short form for development, security, and operations. DevSecOps improves the existing DevOps model by embedding infrastructure and application security flawlessly into DevOps along with agile tools and processes. It lays app and infrastructure security in the hands of both the development and operations teams. DevSecOps boosts threat detection through automation, thus improving efficiency by eliminating human errors. Lastly, DevSecOps makes all the above possible through software tools that developers use to detect anomalies, remediate effects, get visibility into the development process, threat modeling, and test the apps for threats before they reach the final consumers. The odds seem to be leaning in favor of DevSecOps but is it the future of software security? That remains to be seen.