DevSecOps best practices to ensure quick and secure development

In a previous story here at TechGenix, we told you what DevSecOps is and why it is important for your company. Today, we will look at DevSecOps’ best practices to ensure you are getting the most out of this structure. The DevSecOps philosophy is hinged on integrating security practices within the traditional DevOps process. It’s a security-as-a-code mindset that fosters collaboration between security teams and release engineers.

Before DevOps came along, organizations would divide work between teams but didn’t foster continuous communication and collaboration between them. Workflows were strictly linear. Once one team completed its tasks, they would hand over the project to the next team. This assumed that their work was done and no additional input was required. The result was walls between teams. The security team was roped in at the project’s end. This method was accompanied by conflict, confusion, and rivalry between teams. The result was a product that took too long to get to the customer or one that was replete with vulnerabilities.

With DevOps, teams begin by establishing workflows, then create a feedback loop, and uphold a culture of experimentation. DevSecOps teams, on the other hand, have to incorporate security considerations throughout. They will, for example, identify the most urgent security risks and create a workflow for it. They’ll subsequently implement defense mechanisms against that risk and apply automation for constantly testing it. A feedback loop provides insights on known attacks and vulnerabilities so the appropriate teams and individuals can take remedial action. With each iteration, the commitment to security and development process gets stronger across the organization.

DevSecOps best practices

DevSecOps best practices
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Organizations that intend to unite application developers, security teams, and IT operations must integrate security into DevOps practices. The following DevSecOps best practices are crucial to doing that successfully.

1. Built-in security

DevSecOps emphasizes built-in security and not security as a function on the fringes of the project. Without built-in security, DevOps initiatives could find themselves grappling with the long cycles they were trying to overcome in the first place. DevSecOps brings to the fore the need to have security teams incorporated in DevOps initiatives from the start. With that foundation, they can develop a security automation plan and integrated information security.

It makes sure developers code with security at the top of their minds. Security teams share feedback, visibility, and threat insights. Developers may have to be taken through a fresh security training course since the DevSecOps model may be one they aren’t too familiar or comfortable with. Train IT and software engineers on security guidelines while providing routines they should follow. Increase efficiency and speed by ensuring any team member can submit changes. That should go hand-in-hand with a mechanism to check whether a change is positive or negative thus accepting or rejecting it.

2. Automating security

The DevOps framework is characterized by shared responsibility and that same mindset is extended to security matters hence the term DevSecOps. Shared responsibility can, however, make security feel like a hurdle to smooth progress. To prevent that from happening, automating as many security gates as possible is essential. Some tools can help you do just that but only as long as you don’t allow the tools to lead the process. Always remember that successful DevSecOps is more about cultural change where teams start to think and act differently in their resolution of security matters.

Make security testing quicker, more secure, and less disruptive by leveraging the power of automation. Numerous test automation tools are available for security testing and analysis in a DevSecOps context. They do everything from source code analysis through post-deployment and integration monitoring. These include Splunk, Metasploit, FireEye, InSpec, Tanium, Sonatype, Contrast Security, and Checkmarx.

DevOps has always been about delivery speed and this doesn’t have to be compromised because of security considerations. Automated security testing and controls from the start of the development cycle ensures you attain the right balance of security and speed.

3. Risk/benefit analysis

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An effective DevSecOps strategy must involve conducting a risk/benefit analysis and determining risk tolerance. What are the minimum acceptable levels of security controls for the app? How important is development speed and what security sacrifices are tolerable?

Maintaining short frequent development cycles, integrating security with minimal operational disruption, keeping up with containers, microservices, and similar innovative technologies, all the while fostering tighter collaboration, can be a tall order for an organization or team. While human action is at the core of the realization of these goals, the facilitator is security automation. But it’s unlikely that you can automate everything hence the need for robust risk/benefit analysis.

To know what and how to automate, organizations should assess the entire operations and development environment for high-impact opportunities. This includes container registries, API management, orchestration and release, CI/CD pipeline, and source control repositories. That also means always being in compliance with relevant security regulations and standards such as the EU’s GDPR and PCI-DSS.

Use threat modeling and investigation. With each update in code, identify potential threats as they emerge and respond quickly. Threat modeling helps you pick up vulnerabilities and plug control gaps. Identify the riskiest events across your infrastructure and build the requisite protection into DevSecOps workflows.

4. Code analysis and checking code dependencies

At the minimum, use code analysis to identify new vulnerabilities then evaluate how fast they are being tackled and patched. Code is delivered in small chunks which helps ensure vulnerabilities are identified early and addressed quickly.

In particular, pay attention to code dependencies. Why? Despite concerns around the use of third-party software components, enterprises are relying on open-source software more than ever before. Some of the third-party components will have known vulnerabilities that could be embedded in your application.

Developers struggle to find time to review open-source library code or read through documentation so automated processes are a fundamental requirement if DevSecOps is to work. You require a process for automatically identifying, tracking, and remedying flaws in open-source components. Mastering open source is central to a wider adoption of the DevSecOps philosophy and practices.

5. Issue tracking

Defects identified should be sent (preferably automatically) to an issue tracker accessed by development and quality assurance teams. Issues must be resolved rapidly to prevent delays on project momentum and reduce the need for rework further downstream when corrections are expensive and time-consuming.

Wrapping up DevSecOps best practices

DevSecOps best practices

In traditional software development, the project workflow was clear and had distinct stages. Work flowed in one direction only. Each stage had to be completed and approved before the next could commence. If bugs were detected towards the latter stages, the project had to be sent to the beginning for correction before it could resume the journey downstream. Security checks started right before the finished application could be deployed to production.

DevSecOps is a necessary and natural response to the hurdle that traditional security models create for the contemporary continuous delivery pipeline. A genuine transition to DevSecOps calls for a cultural shift in teams and organizations. Once it happens though, the results make it more than worth it. Instead of blocking innovation, focusing on security can accelerate it by lowering the odds of having to find and fix vulnerabilities later in the process. It bridges the gaps between security and development. Security silos are replaced by shared responsibility and increased communication.

Featured image: Designed by Katemangostar / Freepik

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