What is DevSecOps

Learning objectives
  • Understand the way DevSecOps works
  • Explore the benefits of DevSecOps
  • Learn DevSecOps best practices

In an automated development environment, a DevOps team is a combination of developers and operations people who work together to speed up software deployment and automate many repeatable procedures that don’t need human interaction. During the automation process, vulnerability scans and testing can be added to ensure the safety of data and integrity of the application. A DevSecOps team—short for development, security, and operations—adds security professionals to development and operations staff so that every automated step includes the right standards and protocols that test your applications for common vulnerabilities. Security professionals build protocols and standards built into your DevOps procedures from penetration testing for vulnerabilities to protecting infrastructure from a compromise.


DevOps vs. DevSecOps

How does DevSecOps work?

DevOps is meant to speed up development time, but automation can open new vulnerabilities that won’t be detected until the organization falls victim to a cybersecurity incident. DevSecOps tools on the market help improve the security of an application automatically compiled and deployed to production. Many of these tools can also be integrated into current DevOps automation so that developers and security professionals can be alerted to any cybersecurity issues found during a scan without any manual overview during deployment

In a typical development environment, developers deploy code to a testing environment where quality assurance (QA) runs automated and manual tests on the code. This step is meant to find bugs and other issues in the application, but it’s not meant to test for vulnerabilities. By adding security protocols into the testing and deployment automation process, you can reduce the number of vulnerabilities that could lead to critical data breaches in the future. These security protocols and standards are meant to find vulnerabilities before the code is deployed to production. It’s referred to as “shift left” where cybersecurity is implemented automatically during the testing instead of scanning in production.

A typical workflow for DevSecOps is:

  1. A developer creates and adds new code to the application repository (e.g., Github).
  2. The developer creates a merge request.
  3. At this point, DevOps automation compiles the code and then runs a series of tests.
  4. Application code is deployed to a staging or testing environment to test before merging with the main branch.
  5. DevSecOps automation uses scripted scans to find any common vulnerabilities in the application including configurations that could add risk of a compromise.
  6. If the application passes all tests, it can then be scheduled for deployment to production.

Automated tests check for many configuration issues, application crashes, and bugs that could allow an attacker to execute their own code (e.g., buffer overflow). By continually testing the application before it gets deployed to production, developers can offer better security and results and have fewer bug fixes in the future.

What are the benefits of DevSecOps?

Vulnerabilities in production software can lead to serious data breaches. Some of the world’s largest data breaches start from a vulnerability in software. For example, the Equifax data breach started with an unpatched server application program with known vulnerabilities. Although automated tools can’t find every vulnerability, they can find common ones that many attackers scan for across the Internet.

Finding vulnerabilities early in the development process isn’t the only benefit. Having security professionals integrated with developers and operations helps all three collaborate better. It also helps operations and developers better understand cybersecurity and the many ways infrastructure and applications can be hacked. Developers that understand software vulnerabilities better can create code with fewer bugs and fewer possible risks.

You could have security professionals manually code review and scan for vulnerabilities, but this takes potentially weeks to complete. Manual security reviews are still necessary in some scenarios, but scanning for common vulnerabilities can be automated to speed up development time. Risks can be caught before code is deployed to production, so developers can prioritize bug fixes instead of rushing remediation for a known issue in production.

Compliance is another benefit in having a DevSecOps team. In many compliance standards, testing, patching and monitoring the application are components in cybersecurity requirements. By practicing DevSecOps, you can catch many of the common vulnerabilities that would put your organization out of compliance and could cost millions of dollars in fines. With the right scanning tool, you find unpatched software faster so that you can update it, leaving a smaller window of opportunity for an attacker.

When security personnel work with devs and ops teams, better communication is facilitated among all team members. This will streamline software development, security testing, and deployment.

DevSecOps best practices

If you don’t already have security integrated into your development process, some staff structure changes are often necessary. Adding security staff to your development team should be a painless process, but you should build some best practices into your new structure. These best practices will help you continue using automation testing for bugs but add security scans to your process.

Here are some best practices that you can follow:

  • Automate repeatable processes that don’t need manual interaction. An automation tool can be used to ensure the software compiles without issues, scans for bugs including ones that create vulnerabilities, and identifies configuration issues. By adding security scans into the automation process, you can cut down on delivery time from manual code reviews.
  • Integrate tools that speed up the process and help automate security. Teams that work with a DevOps mindset use several tools to automate software delivery, and each tool has its own pros and cons. Find a security scanning solution that fits well with your current code deployment and delivery tools.
  • Educate developers and operations on the latest threats and risks. Developers who better understand cybersecurity will keep vulnerabilities in mind as they structure their code. When developers understand cybersecurity, they are less likely to deploy buggy software and deployment will be faster.

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