Let’s talk about DevOps Security

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The pressure to accelerate time-to-market has software teams rushing to adopt the DevOps model to streamline the development process. By combining multiple teams and multiple steps into a single, automated process, IT organizations are beginning to dramatically reduce the time taken to develop and release a high-quality product. However, in the melee of integrated teams and processes, are we forgetting DevOps security?

In an age of increased security awareness and a sea of evolving regulatory requirements, embedding security into development processes from the inception is critical for success.

Read on to understand what DevOps security is, the challenges it presents, and some DevOps security tips and best practices.

What is DevOps Security?

Traditionally, security has not really been a priority for software developers. They have always been focused on delivering new features and functions to meet customer needs. However, DevOps practices such as automation, continuous monitoring, collaboration, and feedback provide a great foundation to build security into DevOps processes.

DevOps security refers to the discipline and practice of integrating security into every aspect of the DevOps life cycle and safeguarding the entire environment through strategies, policies, processes, and technology. By baking security in through inception, design, build, test, release, support, maintenance, and beyond, DevOps Security or DevSecOps allows developers can easily and routinely produce software that is devoid of vulnerabilities while accelerating delivery speed, and the quality of each release.

What Challenges does it present?

DevOps has ushered in a transformation in how product teams develop, operate, and maintain applications and infrastructure. By bringing traditionally separate teams together, and promoting cross-team alignment and collaboration, it relentlessly pursues velocity, automation, and the continuous monitoring of software development. Yet, when it comes to security, there are several challenges these teams need to address:

  • The challenge of culture:

The perception that introducing security will slow or derail the development process is normal in product teams. What they fail to understand is the time, effort, and cost of detecting a security flaw early in the design and development process is much lower than having to fix problematic code and weaknesses later in the development cycle. A high degree of automation can enable organizations to deal with less human error, and drift. Every aspect of security can be automatically configured according to specifications – without teams having to manually do anything.

  • Bridging the communication gap:

Although DevOps brings the development and operations teams together, security practitioners often have to fend for themselves when it comes to bridging the communication gap. Security teams need to move away from talking about breaches and vulnerabilities and focus on talking in a language that developers and operations staff would understand – how even the smallest of security risks can cause project delays and unplanned, unscheduled work, poor availability and high mean response time.

  • Keeping pace:

When it comes to security, DevOps could be intimidating to security professionals who are used to a completely different security outlook and rhythm. Since DevOps supports the development and delivery of code in very short time frames, it far outpaces the speed at which security teams are used to keeping up. Robust automation and orchestration tools can allow DevOps organizations to maintain proper security hygiene while reducing the chances of insecure code, vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and other weakness in application security. These gaps could otherwise be exploited by attackers or could contribute to performance issues.

What are the top DevOps Security best practices?

With security becoming a critical focus area of successful DevOps organizations, integrating security through every stage of the DevOps life cycle has become critical. Here’s how you can achieve DevOps security, without hampering speed, agility, and other essential DevOps aspects:

  • Ensure cross-functional collaboration and integrate security considerations such as identity and access management, code review, configuration management, and vulnerability management into every stage of the product development life cycle.
  • Integrate security tools and tests early in the life cycle – as part of the DevOps pipeline –to ensure that by the time the software gets to the deployment stage, all the things that should have been tested, are tested.
  • Empower teams to take ownership of security best practices within their role to enable efficient product releases, while avoiding costly recalls or fixes.
  • Enforce policy and governance across DevOps teams, and create transparent and easy-to-understand cybersecurity policies and procedures so the developed code meets security requirements.
  • Automate DevOps security processes and tools to scale security across DevOps processes, minimize risk arising from human error, and the associated downtime.
  • Prioritize deployment of automated tools to identify potential threats, vulnerable code, and process and infrastructure issues.
  • Make sure to match the speed of security processes to DevOps processes to reduce resistance to embedding security practices.
  • Ensure all devices, tools, and accounts are continuously discovered, validated, and brought under security management in accordance with the organizational security policy.
  • Ensure vulnerabilities are appropriately scanned, assessed, and remediated across the development and integration environments before they are deployed to production.
  • Adopt robust configuration management processes and rely on penetration testing and other attack mechanisms to identify and patch exploits, issues, and weaknesses in pre-production code.

Reduce the possibility of Data Breaches:

DevOps practices inherently provide a huge opportunity for improved security. Automation, continuous testing, fast feedback loops, improved visibility, better collaboration, and consistent release schedules provide the ideal environment for integrating security as a built-in component of your DevOps processes. DevOps security can be a key enabler of building a productive ecosystem, while identifying and remediating code vulnerabilities and operational weaknesses long – before they become an issue. Introducing DevOps security early in the life cycle ensures security can underpin every aspect of application and systems development while enhancing availability, and reducing the possibility of data breaches. As DevOps becomes the new normal for product development, DevSecOps must become the default way forward too.

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