November 3rd, 2021 By The Guide

Modernize & secure your lifecycle with DevSecOps

Short for development, security, and operations, DevSecOps is the automatic integration of security into every phase of the software development cycle. It can be looked at as a natural evolution throughout the entire development lifecycle, from the initial design stage through to integration, testing, deployment, and software delivery. This is a change from security only being considered at the end of the development cycle – treated like an afterthought to the extent that a separate security team and separate quality assurance team are the only ones responsible. Until something goes wrong… 


Traditional Security 

Before the introduction of DevSecOps, traditional security involved doing the penetration tests and vulnerability assessments at the end of the build, or even on a periodic basis after going to production and being used by customers. 


By the time engineers get feedback on the security, the product will have passed through all the development stages. If a security risk was identified, it would involve reworking many lines of code, which could be a drag on both productivity and morale. But there was a legit concern with this type of approach: Security, tested and revised at the end of the process, was viewed as somewhat of a necessary evil, and as such, not a lot of investment was put into this part of the development cycle. 


Because software updates are no longer just released annually or biannually, but now reduced to weeks or days, security needs to be part of the process, not a bottleneck. Having security tacked on at the end of the development cycle can no longer work. DevSecOps helps to make this change. The focus of this approach is on securing your application and achieving automation within the development process. 

Note that DevSecOps will involve implementing security at each point within the CI/CD pipeline. As you look into integrating DevSecOps into your cycle, you might recognize that the practice is based on the principles of DevOps.


Why DevSecOps Is Important 

DevSecOps is significant in that it helps manage and minimize any vulnerabilities in software while still practicing the DevOps methodology. Essentially, DevSecOps reduces the vulnerabilities in a software product, while also gaining the operational efficiencies and improved time to market that DevOps can provide. Firms with regulatory requirements for software development have faced increasing security requirements for quite some time, but given the increase in vulnerabilities and security breaches, all firms, not just those under regulatory requirements, must raise the bar and secure the software supply chain. It just requires a DevSecOp approach. 

DevSecOp practices change the overall organization perspective on security. Instead of security thought of as an afterthought or necessary evil, now all individuals throughout the software delivery lifecycle are involved and have visibility into security practices.


Benefits of DevSecOps 

Done right, DevSecOps will encourage better collaboration between the different teams and members throughout the product development lifecycle. Collaboration accelerates product development and security. This translates into improved developer productivity and enhanced customer satisfaction. 

The DevSecOps approach also means that you can identify vulnerabilities as soon as they occur and that these are corrected almost immediately, improving accountability. Overall, this approach to identifying and solving threats will save time and money while also improving quality.

How to Implement DevSecOps 

The initial step for most organizations, but not the last, is integrating security scans into pipelines to run automatically. Find and resolve the vulnerabilities faster, when it’s cheaper to do so, before they affect customers. It’s important to also start change management efforts towards raising the level of security in your organization. When security is everyone’s responsibility, the transformation has more relevance.

Security should be in the forefront of everyone involved, from the planning stage. Feature descriptions should include acceptance test criteria and threat models with an overall approach of “how do I make this work and stay secure?”

Make sure teams are performing small batch releases frequently, so vulnerabilities can be checked constantly and resolved quickly. In addition, best practices for avoiding vulnerabilities – such as secure design patterns and performing proper code reviews – should be used as well.

Automated build tools that enforce standards for artifact generation, which meet policy requirements, should be used. Then tests should run frequently, and automatically as much as possible, including front-end, back-end, API, database, and more.

The security of your CI/CD pipeline is an additional consideration. Here, your team will be analyzing any embedded code and looking to detect any APIs or private keys that are not being versioned and properly control. An audit of your operational and security hygiene, which includes reviewing your password policy, is also a consideration when you want to achieve DevOps security. 

Automated provisioning of environments with Infrastructure as Code can speed up deployments, plus ensure that configurations don’t change along the process. Automation makes actions repeatable without human interaction, reducing risk of changes that could introduce new threats.

Real-time monitoring to track system performance and identify anomalies for swift action continues the journey towards DevSecOps. Identifying a problem quickly and taking immediate action can reduce the overall impact, plus having an easy rollback mechanism can keep your stress levels low and customers happy.

Challenges to the Implementation of DevSecOps 

Executive sponsorship and a long-term plan are essential to gain and maintain momentum. That’s because DevSecOps implementation often faces cultural challenges and requires proper change management, probably the main challenge to a successful transformation. 

For example, the initial step of integrating security scanning tools into the process can cause developer’s focus to shift. Where developers previously may not have had insight to all vulnerabilities, now there may be a high volume that needs remediation. Also, if security efforts were running completely independently from the process, there may be shifts in roles and responsibilities that need to be addressed in a supportive way.

Aside from the change management aspects, if the technology used does not support the change, it can prevent a successful transformation.  

The Driving Forces behind the DevSecOps Movement 

The primary force driving the DevSecOps movement is the competitiveness within the current marketplace. To remain competitive, your business has to be faster and more innovative. This introduces a code review paradox within your business process, which could see your team ignore the code’s security needs.   

Now, suppose your developers download and use open source components and other frameworks for your project. You are inevitably subjected to a security threat. If you rely on the traditional continuous delivery life cycle, the chances are that your team will circumvent the security checks and processes. DevSecOps comes in as a holistic approach in which you are able to meet both IT and business needs without compromising on security. 

Automation within the DevSecOps Approach 

Similar to DevOps, DevSecOps is based on some level of automation. This automation is meant to ensure that your code can keep pace with the security needs within the CI/CD environment you choose for your product development. The automation that is possible with DevSecOps comes in handy, especially when you have to push various versions of code to production a couple of times per day. 

With this automation, you benefit as a lot of security and compliance checks are done. For starters, the vulnerabilities of any new libraries you include during the development stage are checked. After that, your licenses are checked to ensure that none are expired. Additionally, your systems are checked for any exposed passwords, misconfigured Kubernetes components, and if all the practices adhere to the standards you have set for your organization. Overall, while this automation makes your work easy, it also helps with analyzing if there are any pertinent issues with the product and the processes adopted by your business. 

DevSecOps is the much-needed solution to the various security challenges within the software delivery cycle. It plays into the need for rapid and secure code delivery. With this approach, everyone within your organization gets to contribute to the overall security of the project. 

At Guide-Rails®, we understand that security should not be treated lightly, it cannot simply be part of siloed operations. Our platform was built to provide a technical foundation for security and compliance, allowing you to focus on the people and process. We help you to be successful with implementing DevSecOps by making sure technology does not get in the way. We invite you to reach out and learn more about the Guide-Rails® platform.