Organizations are under tremendous pressure to deliver innovative products and stick to tight release timelines. To keep up with the rapid release schedule, engineering teams are adopting the DevOps model for its increased efficiency and agility. It has changed the way that development teams think. As a result, continuously improving performance and delivering releases faster have become standard.
As software increases in complexity, security becomes even more important. The potential for vulnerabilities and threats goes up while development teams are focusing on releasing as quickly as possible. A carefully implemented DevSecOps program is designed to manage these priorities. DevSecOps integrates into your entire organization. It’s a team-level effort that treats security as a business need.
Before coming to DevOps, organizations executed their products’ security checks at the final stages of the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC). Because the focus was predominantly on application development, this meant security was deemed to be less important than the other stages. By the time engineers performed security checks, the products would have passed through most of the other stages and been almost fully developed. The discovery of a security threat at such a late stage meant reworking countless lines of code, an agonizingly laborious and time-consuming task. Not surprisingly, patching became the preferred fix.
However, as infrastructure evolves, implementing security mechanisms becomes a concern throughout the DevOps process, with aims to prevent and mitigate security threats as they emerge across the software development process. The integration of security in DevOps incorporates development, security, and operations into the practice of “DevSecOps.” It automates security deployment during the product development lifecycle through design, configuration, testing, implementation, release, and delivery.
DevSecOps is a way of approaching security in the organization with an “everyone is responsible for security” mindset.
Securing the application is not to be done at a certain step; it needs to be done at every step throughout the DevSecOps process. Securing the application is a continuous process. This presents the question: how do we resolve security and compliance challenges?
Security and Compliance Challenges in DevSecOps
Implementing DevSecOps in an organization comes with several security and compliance challenges.
First, how can we automate DevSecOps? Its starts with building a Continuous Integration / Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) pipeline. This requires the effort to find the right tools for your environment based on your business use case. When it is implemented correctly, automation is incorporated throughout the software lifecycle with elements such as continuous planning, requirements, architectural analysis, and configuration management. The result is an automated pipeline with built-in security that can scale across your entire organization.
There are several tools available that you can use to improve security in the release process of your DevSecOps process:
- Security testing: Application testing is critical and should be run at each environment of the pipeline. For security testing, a vulnerability scan, software code analysis tool can be run on the deployment stack before it’s promoted into production.
- Container hardening: If your CI/CD builds over containers, container hardening must be added as one of the steps in the pipeline.
- OS network hardening: This ensures that builds implement host-based firewalls, data loss prevention (DLP) agents, or operating system firewalls.
It is also important to keep in mind that these CI/CD tools are the biggest consumers of secret and confidential data, having access to a lot of sensitive resources such as other apps and services and information like codebases, credentials, and databases. Ensure that your CI/CD pipelines are protected and secured and cannot be compromised. Hence, we need to think about ways to protect the pipeline itself.
Part of the release process is to ensure that the software is being delivered as securely as possible into secure environments. There are several security checks that should be performed such as a source code vulnerability scan, open source library vulnerability scan, secure open source version confirmation, and identification of compromised credentials.
Cloud Security Complications
The cloud introduces its own set of security considerations and potential vulnerabilities. Cloud computing provides a way for DevOps teams to use low-cost, scalable computing environments for developing, testing, and even running their apps.
Minor misconfigurations or vulnerabilities in the cloud can quickly lead to huge compromises in application security. Security teams should be using tools that monitor cloud usage for vulnerabilities. There also needs to be proper documentation of policies and procedures that gives guidelines on network policies, encryption, and privileged access controls.
Identify and Remove Open-Source Vulnerabilities
Open-Source Software (OSS) gives an entire repository of frameworks, codes, libraries, and templates to developers. This means applications require thorough scanning of OSS code. Security professionals must work with engineering team members and program leaders with the following considerations in mind:
- If developers are directly downloading open-source libraries and using that code in applications, they must pass through security checks with minimum thresholds for acceptance.
- If developers are not allowed to access the open-source directly, security teams can build and maintain the open-source repository internally in the organization.
Other issues with open-source are compliance and legal implications.
Compliance and audit secure systems
Another area where DevSecOps is of high importance is ensuring compliance with industry-standard regulations. For example, under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), one must be extremely cautious about data handling. DevSecOps helps organization leaders to provide a better framework for compliance and regulation.
A DevSecOps solution in the organization should meet all relevant industry security and privacy regulatory standards. Security teams inside the organization should accommodate key regulations. The risk of not following these regulatory standards can lead to financial loss as well as reputational damage. If applicable, organizations should also perform SOC audits at least once a year, adding an additional layer of security, integrity, and trust for the clients and stakeholders.
An internal System and Organization Control report can not only reduce compliance costs and time spent, but it can also proactively address risks across the organization as well as increase trust and transparency.
Any platform should also have an incident response process including a plan of how to respond to system alerts and security events.
By integrating and automating these various compliance checks, organizations create an environment of continuous compliance, which is built upon automated processes and workflows that promote compliance as a requirement. With these processes, developers build their software around the compliance requirements of the business from the very beginning instead of building and then checking whether it adheres to compliance frameworks.
Many organizations are also subject to compliance audits throughout the year. By using a continuous auditing tool integrated with your SLDC, you can create logs of all audit trails relating to compliance tasks. This information will be searchable, greatly helping the audit process.
Today, security is not simply an add-on to modern infrastructure and application management but a crucial part of it. That’s why DevSecOps is especially important; it’s needed to ensure that security provisioning, patching, hardening, and configuration are applied at all phases of the development process. DevSecOps is a methodology for approaching IT security with the mentality that security is the concern of everyone. The aim is to integrate protection into the software development process at any level.
DevSecOps can allow enterprises to maintain full compliance while simultaneously expediting the SDLC for applications and services via DevOps. When compliance checks shift this way in the SDLC, this allows SecOps to remediate compliance problems collaboratively with DevOps earlier in the development cycle.
The technological and business advantages that companies will gain from adopting DevSecOps are extremely promising. While there will undoubtedly be some setbacks when you first begin, DevSecOps can be extremely beneficial to your company in the long run.
About the Author: Ashish Shrivastava is a Cyber Security Architect and security blogger. He has been working in the computer security industry since the early 2004, having been employed by R&D divisions such as Novell, Samsung, and Philips, where he conducted cybersecurity research, and a position in Healthcare’s Security & Privacy division to protect the data of over a billion users.
He has a passion for educating security professionals through his speaking engagements on numerous security topics. Ashish has achieved the CISSP, CEH, and AWS Solution Architect Associate certifications.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.