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The important role that DevSecOps plays in your security

PostsSoftware development
Georgina Guthrie

Georgina Guthrie

June 30, 2021

Before DevOps, developers and IT operations worked separately. No one really knew what the other team was doing — and if an issue popped up, finger-pointing was soon to follow (“It’s not my code, it’s your machines,” and vice versa).

DevOps is an agile way of working, with teams collaborating on the product life cycle. Releases are faster, better, and more consistent, which means fewer failures and a shorter lead time. But there’s a missing piece of the puzzle: security.

Having security QA as an add-on was fine when releases took months — but nowadays, rapid and frequent release cycles mean that security checks need to happen quickly and often. If there’s a security issue, outdated security checks can lead to bottlenecks and delays. The bottom line? If you want to be fully agile and responsive, you need to integrate security into your DevOps approach, making it a shared responsibility. Cue DevSecOps.

Let’s take a closer look at what this is.

What is DevSecOps?

DevSecOps is a portmanteau of Development, Security, and Operations. As a philosophy, it’s much the same as DevOps, but with the automatic integration of security throughout the entire development lifecycle.

Previously, professionals treated security in DevOps as a bit of an add-on — secondary to development and operations functions. DevSecOps seeks to redress that by bringing the occasionally siloed security team into the fold. This helps eliminate bottlenecks that often occur as QA teams check the security of a new release or update.

In line with DevOps best practices, DevSecOps integrates security applications seamlessly into existing processes and tools. Much in the same way that continuous deployment picks up code issues as they appear, DevSecOps locates and addresses security issues as they happen, so they’re caught up faster and are therefore easier to fix.

Benefits of DevSecOps

DevSecOps comes with all the benefits of DevOps, but with security checks brought into the mix. Here are some of the main advantages.

Speed and security

When software is developed in a non-DevSecOps way, security issues can cause huge, costly delays as developers scramble to fix code issues.

Thanks to automatic, continuous security testing, Dev teams are able to avoid bottlenecks and deliver more secure code faster. DevSecOps also seeks to make app security a shared responsibility, rather than letting it become a siloed responsibility of the security team.

Cost-effective software delivery

Fixing issues is time-consuming and expensive. When your team picks up issues faster, the amount that the ode developers will need to go back over is much lower because they caught problems in time. Otherwise, they would find and fix these problems  retrospectively when dependencies are present. This cuts unnecessary rebuilds and minimizes duplicate reviews.

Stronger security

Weaving security throughout the entire product development lifecycle ensures it’s in every stage of the project. There are no weak spots because the team is continually reviewing and testing the code for issues.

Additionally, bringing the security team into the DevOps process improves collaboration, which, in turn, boosts response times when issues occur.

Faster vulnerability patching

Your developers will catch common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs) faster because DevSecOps integrates vulnerability scanning and patching into the release cycle.

A streamlined process

DevSecOps can be integrated with other automated continuous integration/continuous delivery pipeline test suites. This ensures security checks happen at the right patch levels and that approved software is secure.

How DevSecOps works

The aim of the game is to create short, frequent release cycles with integrated security measures — all while fostering close-knit teamwork and using containers and other technologies that make the process smoother.

When it comes to deciding what to automate, you need to consider the whole DevOps environment — from containers, microservices, and APIs, to the continuous integration/continuous delivery pipeline. Here are some common focus areas:

  • Every service should have strict restrictions — only grant access privileges to those who absolutely need it to minimize unauthorized usage.
  • Integrate security into your containers by adding them to the registry.
  • Isolate containers running microservers, so they’re neither connected to each other nor the wider network. This should include at-rest and in-transit data, both of which are particularly vulnerable to attacks.
  • Implement authentication mechanisms into multiple key points to keep your microservices secure.
  • Automate security testing throughout the continuous integration process, including scanning items as they’re pulled into the pipeline (especially those with known security vulnerabilities) and running static analysis tools during builds.
  • Automate the acceptance test process, including verification authentication and authorization features. This minimizes the chances of these being missed due to human error.
  • Make sure data between apps and services is encrypted. Use container orchestration platforms with security integration.
  • Automate security updates and patches. This minimizes the need for admin access.
  • Automate configuration management and audits. This improves compliance and lowers the risk of human error.
  • Use secure API gateways, which improve authorization and routing visibility.

DevSecOps best practices

DevSecOps works best when there is clear definition for processes and best practices in place.

Knowledge and education

Organizations should begin by getting everyone on board with DevOps as a concept. Individuals will be more included to follow guidelines when they see the importance of whatever it is they’re doing.

Alongside this, the processes should have clear definitions in place so everyone — from developers to engineers to QA teams — is following the same standards. This includes making sure everyone is familiar with security testing and best practice, Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) top 10, how to perform compliance checks.

Strong leadership

A good leader is vital for moving the project forward, promoting positive change, and communicating the importance of security to the different teams. This helps foster a sense of ownership, with developers, IT operations, and security professionals all taking responsibility.

The right tools

Good visibility is especially important in a DevSecOps environment. Teams need to constantly monitor the development of the project. Things like instant alerts are a must in the case of a cyberattack — so invest in a project management tool that can do that in real-time. Not only does this help the team catch issues quickly — it helps foster a sense of ownership and accountability.

Project management software can also help you track configurations throughout the whole development cycle. This is important for reducing bugs and making sure software is compliant and secure. Meanwhile, keeping important data stored in one secure place makes it easier to achieve auditing compliance (not to mention saving you time going through badly organized folders on the server).

Final thoughts

DevOps is continually ushering in a new way of working that leaps the industry forward for the way app and services development. The more those benefits became apparent, the more companies adopt these practices and never look back.

The same goes for DevSecOps. Integrating and automating security checks means that not only is the product more secure — it’s also quicker, easier, and with fewer bottlenecks. Why do things any other way?

To add an extra layer of efficiency to your DevSecOps operations, consider using a project management tool. Developers and security experts can stay on top of issues or breaches thanks to real-time alerts, while automatic tracking and data storage means compliance is under consideation of when it comes to audits. No checks are missing and no data disappears because automation takes care of it and stores it in one safe place.

Backlog — our own project management tool — has built-in Git and SVN repositories. It also comes with private repositories and real-time updates, helping you and your team stay up-to-date throughout the entire development pipeline.

Want to learn more about the full software development lifecycle? Make sure to check out our DevOps Guide.



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