DevSecOps refers to the integration of security practices into a DevOps software delivery model. Its foundation is a culture where development and operations are enabled through process and tooling to take part in a shared responsibility for delivering secure software.
The definition of DevSecOps Model, at a high-functioning level, is to integrate security objectives as early as possible in the lifecycle of software development. While security is “everyone’s responsibility,” DevOps teams are uniquely positioned at the intersection of development and operations, empowered to apply security in both breadth and depth.
In other words, DevSecOps a portmanteau of Development, Security, and Operations, represents a fundamental shift in the software development paradigm. Historically, security was often an afterthought in the software development process, typically addressed in the final stages before deployment.
This reactive approach was fraught with challenges, as vulnerabilities often went undetected until late in the development cycle, leading to expensive and time-consuming remediations. Enter DevSecOps, a methodology that advocates for the integration of security practices right from the inception of a project. Rather than treating security as a separate entity, DevSecOps embeds it within the DevOps process.
This ensures that every piece of code, every infrastructure change, and every application update is developed with security at the forefront. The philosophy behind DevSecOps can be summed up as “security by design.”
What Is the Difference Between DevOps and DevSecOps?
The difference between DevOps and DevSecOps is, to put it simply, the culture of shared responsibility. DevOps is a concept that has been talked about and written about for over a decade, and many definitions of DevOps have emerged. At its core, DevOps is an organizational paradigm that aligns development and operations practices as a shared responsibility.
The Need for DevSecOps
The digital landscape is rife with threats. Data breaches, ransomware attacks, and vulnerabilities are rampant, posing significant risks to businesses and consumers alike.
As software becomes more intricate and as organizations increasingly rely on digital solutions, the potential attack surface for malicious actors expands. DevSecOps, with its proactive stance on security, offers a robust countermeasure, ensuring that applications are not only functional and efficient but also secure.
Best Practices for 2023
1. Shift-Left Approach
- What it Means: Instead of waiting for the testing phase or post-deployment, security is introduced at the very beginning of the software development lifecycle.
- Benefits: Early detection of vulnerabilities, reduced remediation costs, and improved software quality.
2. Automate Security Checks
- What it Means: Utilizing tools that automatically scan for vulnerabilities within the code, infrastructure, and configurations.
- Benefits: Consistent application of security protocols, early detection of potential risks, and reduced manual overhead.
3. Continuous Training
- What it Means: Regularly updating the team’s knowledge on the latest security threats, mitigation techniques, and best practices.
- Benefits: A well-informed team that can proactively address new security challenges, fostering a culture of continuous learning and security awareness.
4. Collaborative Culture
- What it Means: Promoting open communication and collaboration between development, operations, and security teams.
- Benefits: Faster resolution of issues, collective ownership of security, and a unified approach towards securing applications.
5. Embrace the Cloud, with Caution
- What it Means: While cloud platforms offer unmatched scalability and efficiency, they come with their own set of security challenges.
- Benefits: Flexibility in deployment and operations, but with an emphasis on ensuring robust cloud-specific security configurations.
6. Feedback Loops
What it Means: Mechanisms that allow for the continuous refinement of the DevSecOps processes based on real-time feedback.
- Benefits: Enhanced agility, swift adjustments to security protocols, and continuous improvement in security postures.
7. Infrastructure as Code (IaC) Security
- What it Means: With infrastructure configurations being treated as code, it’s essential to ensure that these scripts are free from vulnerabilities.
- Benefits: Consistent and secure infrastructure deployments, reduced manual errors, and robust infrastructure security.
8. Compliance and Regulations
- What it Means: Adhering to industry-specific security standards and regulations.
- Benefits: Avoiding legal repercussions, building trust with stakeholders, and ensuring that security measures meet industry benchmarks.
9. Incident Response Plan
- What it Means: A predefined strategy detailing the steps to take in the event of a security breach or incident.
- Benefits: Swift containment of breaches, reduced potential damage, and systematic recovery post-incident.
10. Frequent Security Testing
- What it Means: Conducting manual security assessments, including penetration testing and red teaming, to simulate real-world attack scenarios.
- Benefits: Identifying potential weaknesses in the system, validating automated checks, and ensuring defenses can withstand real-world attack scenarios.
Why are DevSecOps practices important?
Digital transformation has become an existential requirement for almost all enterprises. Such transformation includes three significant motions: more software, cloud technologies, and DevOps methodologies.
More software means more of the organization’s risk becomes digital, raising the level of technical debt and therefore application security, making it increasingly challenging to secure digital assets.
Cloud means use of newer technologies that introduce different risks, change faster and are more publicly accessible — eliminating or redefining the concept of a secure perimeter. It also means many of the IT and infrastructure risks are moved to the cloud, and others are becoming purely software-defined, reducing many risks while highlighting the importance of permission and access management.
Lastly, DevOps means a change to how software is developed and delivered, accelerating the cycle from writing code to delivering customer value to learning from the market and adapting. Empowered development teams ship software continuously and faster than ever, making technology and implementation decisions autonomously and without intermediaries. The traditional slow feedback loops that bog down development are not tolerated as teams increasingly prioritize being self-sufficient — you write it, you run it.
As the rest of the organization evolves, security teams are faced with greater demands and often become more of a bottleneck. Legacy application security tools and practices, designed for the slower-paced pre-cloud era, put security teams in the critical path of delivering high quality applications.
These teams, understaffed due to the severe security talent shortage, become a bottleneck and fail to keep up. As a result, dev teams ship insecure applications, security teams burn out, and security becomes a naysayer, negating the acceleration the business is seeking.To deal with these challenges, people started changing their practices and this gave birth to DevSecOps.
A DevSecOps culture brings security into the DevOps fold, enabling development teams to secure what they build at their pace, while also creating greater collaboration between development and security practitioners. It allows security teams to become a supporting organization, offering expertise and tooling to increase this developer autonomy while still providing the level of oversight the business demands.
6 Benefits of the DevSecOps Model
- Faster delivery: The speed of software delivery is improved when security is integrated in the pipeline. Bugs are identified and fixed before deployment, allowing developers to focus on shipping features.
- Improved security posture: Security is a feature from the design phase onwards. A shared responsibility model ensures security is tightly integrated—from building, deploying, to securing production workloads.
- Reduced costs: Identifying vulnerabilities and bugs before deploying results in an exponential reduction in risk and operational cost.
- Enhancing the value of DevOps: Improving overall security posture as a culture of shared responsibility is created by the integration of security practices into DevOps. The Snyk/Puppet 2020 DevSecOps Insights Report found this to be the case in mature DevSecOps organizations.
- Improving security integration and pace: Cost and time of secure software delivery is reduced through eliminating the need to retrofit security controls post-development.
- Enabling greater overall business success: Greater trust in the security of developed software and embracing new technologies enables enhanced revenue growth and expanded business offerings.
DevSecOps Adoption: Integrating Security into the CI/CD Pipeline
Most modern DevOps organizations will depend on some combination of continuous integration and continuous deployment/delivery systems, in the form of a CI/CD pipeline. The pipeline is an excellent foundation from which a variety of automated security testing and validation can be performed, without requiring the manual toil of a human operator.
Empowering DevSecOps Culture
So how can an organization make the evolutionary climb from “DevOps” to “DevSecOps”? It’s not as simple as just handing an already busy DevOps team a set of security KPIs and calling it a day. It needs to be a collaborative, shared culture of rapid iteration.
If integrating security objectives early is the goal, it needs to be as painless as possible to do so. The burden of integrating security teams and objectives into the value stream should not fall to the developers. Adding additional steps will only lengthen the time it takes to deliver features to customers. Security should be a nimble organization, with a pragmatic approach to applying security with minimal disruption.
During the planning process, particularly as it relates to infrastructure, security engineers should be involved in discussions, empowered to push back on poor/insecure choices, but knowledgeable enough to offer alternatives. Oftentimes, overburdened security teams simply say “no,” and outsource the finding of alternatives to the DevOps teams. Again, this goes back to empowering security organizations with the right level of resources.
With security and DevOps collaborating early and often, security objectives have been tightly woven into the fabric of the infrastructure. Features and applications that are deployed to production will be the result of a comprehensive and effective collaboration between security, development, and operations.
Security won’t have to go ask for extra features or auditing from development teams after the fact; they will know these were built in from day one. If your organization has evolved to practice DevSecOps, you know that not only are you iterating quickly, delighting your customers with new features and improved functionality, but that you are delivering that experience with a level of security to match.
As the software landscape continues to evolve, so does the nature of threats. Adopting the DevSecOps methodology is no longer just a recommendation—it’s a necessity. By integrating security throughout the development process, businesses can ensure that they’re not only delivering functional and efficient applications but also solutions that stand firm against the ever-present cyber threats.
In a world where digital is ubiquitous, ensuring the sanctity of our digital assets, platforms, and services is paramount. By embracing DevSecOps and its best practices, we pave the way for a more secure, resilient, and trustworthy digital future. Contact us for more information.