How DevOps and Security Fit Together

How DevOps and Security Fit Together

Agile methods such as DevOps are now an integral part of software development. If you don’t pay close attention to security right from the start, you risk a lot of money and the reputation of your company.

How DevOps and security fit together

Better, faster, more efficient. This says it all about the requirements for modern software development. For this reason, agile strategies and DevOps concepts are increasingly being put in place. But unfortunately, this not only increases the speed of development but also the security risk, because the high pressure of time and innovation often leads to security vulnerabilities not being detected in time.

Often, these are only identified in the final stages of development – then, when the elimination of the error is associated with great effort and high costs. Another reason for this is the still widespread silo thinking: production and security teams often work side by side. On the other hand, there is hardly any exchange.

According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), fixing security vulnerabilities in the production phase is 30 times more expensive and in the test phase 10 times more expensive than in earlier development phases. As a result, more and more teams are adopting what’s known as the Seamless Application Security Development Model, which allows security vulnerabilities to be ironed out early in the product lifecycle.

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The vulnerabilities of DevOps

Since the DSGVO came into force, more than 12,000 data breaches have been reported in Germany. Media reports about various mega-leaks, which seem to occur at increasingly shorter intervals, are just the tip of the iceberg. Due to regulations such as the DSGVO or the CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act) in the USA, companies must expect horrendous fines in the event of data breaches. Why DevOps pose a particular risk against this background can be traced back to a handful of factors:

Speed still seems to be the most important goal when it comes to DevOps

The value of DevOps to an organization is measured primarily by how much the concept speeds up the development process. A 2017 Gartner report predicts that by 2020, every app will need to be updated 30 times a year to continuously ensure it meets customer and partner requirements. This greatly reduced time-to-market often forces development departments to work reactively and at the risk of major financial and reputational risks.

Working in the cloud

DevOps is typically cloud-based and connected to a micro-services environment, which means that development teams are never in full control when it comes to security. In addition, often large parts of the new development architecture are built on open source tools, whose developers in turn struggle with security issues of their own. Many of these tools feature inconsistent standards, logging formats, and API hooks, making it difficult to keep track of the numerous components that make up a fully functional app.

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DevOps teams are typically scattered across multiple locations

Because DevOps teams typically work “in the cloud,” it is essentially no longer necessary for stakeholders to all be in the same office. This gives companies the opportunity to benefit from the skills of a global team of experts regardless of location. However, this development also means that there is no unified infrastructure and teams use different tools (for QA and monitoring, for example), which is a potential security risk.

The Master Key

By necessity, there are relatively few restrictions around DevOps when it comes to accessing network and production environments. As a result, hackers often have an easy time with it.

The solution to these many challenges lies in the evolution from DevOps to DevSecOps and seamless application security. This creates an environment where security becomes part of the development culture. Above all, this includes ongoing, flexible collaboration between release engineers and security teams.

5 Steps to seamless application security

Security planning and security checks must become a fundamental element integrated into the Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/DC) pipelines. This creates a DevSecOps approach. This includes a methodology for seamless application security and a five-step process that brings DevOps and security together.

Step 1: Security must be deeply embedded in the development process

Most organizations employ significantly more developers than security experts. Therefore, it proves useful to enable developers to evaluate their own code for security. But it’s not just a matter of training developers accordingly. It’s also important to have the right tools to help identify security vulnerabilities in real time.

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Step 2: Test, test, test

Static testing for application security has proven to be a best practice. The method makes it possible to identify the root causes of security risks at the very beginning of the coding process. Tools that provide real-time feedback on security also enable DevOps teams to establish an ongoing testing process.

Step 3: Security as part of lifecycle management

DevOps is characterized by the fact that development is decentralized. Therefore, strong lifecycle management tools are required. These perform security scans as part of the build process and can detect security vulnerabilities immediately. This gives teams the information they need to fix vulnerabilities in a timely manner.

Step 4: Automated security tools

Most organizations operate with limited human resources. Security testing should therefore be automated, just like module testing or integration testing. Automation significantly increases the frequency of testing for a modest investment.

Step 5: Post-release monitoring

Another important security tool that companies should consider is Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP). The focus here is on applications that are already in production. The solution protects the environment from changing risk profiles and zero-day vulnerabilities.

At the end of the day, it’s about finding a seamless approach to application security that doesn’t interfere with the development team’s work. The most important step here: integrating an end-to-end application security solution that spans the entire software development lifecycle.