Security and the Speed of DevOps
February 07, 2023 / Katarina Rudela
Reading Time: 12 minutes
Security and the Speed of DevOps
DevOps has been a driving force behind software development for some time and sits at the heart of full-stack development processes. Merging software development with IT operations and tied together with quality assurance, it allows for shorter development times with a more budget-conscious approach to production.
The integration of security into DevOps, sometimes referred to as DevSecOps, has been the cause of some controversy in the software development community. Can security operations, traditionally a stand-alone process, be effectively integrated into development and IT processes without creating new issues?
While questions arose about the ability of security to fit into an overall DevOps pipeline, the jury is in: not only is it possible for security and DevOps to be fully integrated, it’s more beneficial to do so.
The article from Wired on myth-busting DevOps and security observes:
“DevOps is actually a boon for security folks, who can, with the right automation and operational tools, inject security earlier into the development process, and increase the security of the code that ultimately reaches production.”
Let’s dive into how security and DevOps can co-exist to deliver a more streamlined software production pipeline that delivers peace of mind for end users.
What is DevOps security? A brief primer
Effective security embedded within DevOps allows developers to fully integrate security measures throughout the product. This means inserting code analysis tools into the development process while continually testing these security measures through automated processes. Each additional software update can include automated security tools that ensure the most secure possible user experience.
Since DevOps is based on a continuous deployment strategy that allows developers to fix bugs and introduce new features through faster cycles, security can be constantly reiterated as the product evolves. This is especially important when software development uses third-party code prone to security risks, allowing developers to quickly address potential vulnerabilities as and when they arise.
Security in DevOps allows software coders, IT professionals, and security experts to collaborate rather than respond from isolated silos where communication suffers. Ultimately, it allows for successful software maintenance to be conducted as part of an ongoing process, leveraging the tools and processes needed to facilitate rapid and secure releases.
Security in DevOps - why is it important?
The introduction of security into a broader DevOps process is a relatively new stage in the evolution of software prototyping and also one of the most significant. It allows the software to be launched or updated with fewer errors, minimizing the risks from cyberattacks and other online security risks that might otherwise destroy consumer confidence in the software.
Some of the core benefits of DevOps and security include:
- Significant time saved during the development phase. With software development becoming a shared responsibility between IT, coders, and the security team, the product is developed more efficiently.
- Reduction in costs. Resolving issues can be expensive as well as time-consuming, and DevSecOps prevents many issues from arising in the first place.
- A continuous feedback loop. This feedback loop allows developers and security teams to highlight and address issues as soon as possible.
- Enhanced collaboration between individuals and teams. With the mindset that all team members are in some way responsible for the security of the software, their work takes on a more coherent and collective form.
- Stronger overall security. Last but certainly not least, the end result is a much stronger and more robust system capable of tackling numerous security challenges. Continuous review and testing are used to identify all weak spots and remove them before any new updates are pushed to consumers.
Ultimately, the mindset and processes that are embedded within security and DevOps extend throughout other areas of software development. As TechRadar observes in their overview of the importance of DevSecOps, “DevSecOps is a major route to rapidly increasing an organization's pace of innovation.”
For businesses developing their own custom software, choosing a full-stack developer that integrates security with DevOps is essential, conferring many benefits throughout the organization.
Challenges to overcome when implementing DevOps security
As we’ve briefly touched on, one of the biggest challenges faced when implementing DevOps security is handling the various conflicts between developers, IT departments, and the security team.
Developers seek to get software into a pipeline as swiftly as possible. At the same time, security experts approach development cautiously to ensure that as many potential security flaws as possible are eliminated.
This objective is particularly important in light of the increase in cyberattacks in recent times. For example, in November 2022, a sophisticated cyberattack took down the European Parliament website and disrupted services for several hours. One of several cyberattacks over a short time, it highlighted again the urgent need for software systems to be built with comprehensive security protocols in place. Moreover, the constantly changing tactics used by hackers and other cyberattack organizations strengthen the case for security as a continual process at all stages of development and beyond.
Additional challenges that need to be overcome when implementing DevOps security include:
Compatibility with legacy infrastructure
Organizations that are built around traditional legacy infrastructure are prone to a greater amount of challenges when combining DevOps and security. This is especially true for those who are new to cloud-based services and the hybrid environment created when adopted alongside legacy infrastructure.
Dealing with security vulnerabilities in the Cloud
Software development increasingly utilizes the Cloud for numerous aspects of the development process. It’s an effective way to ease the strain on native computing power while alleviating the need for an extensive array of servers while more easily connecting coders and other developers who may be working remotely.
It’s not without potential flaws, however; using the Cloud to build software can increase vulnerabilities and lead to additional security issues. This means even slight misconfiguration risks exposing the organization’s critical resources to outside networks, leading developers to rethink what protecting a given network’s perimeter means.
Securing privileged credentials
With a broader selection of developers and other key staff, all working on security and DevOps in tandem, a more complex set of credentials and authorization is required. This means the environment in which DevOps and security occur needs to consider more complex controlled privileged access, from basic passwords to API access tokens users require to access resources.
When these access controls are weak, it opens the door for hackers to compromise and gain access to the infrastructure, steal private data and otherwise disrupt the operation.
Implementing security into DevOps - best practices
Blending security with DevOps requires adherence to several guiding principles and best practices. The best software developers will adhere to these principles throughout the development cycle to ensure it delivers optimal results.
Some of these principles and best practices include:
Educating developers on the core principles of DevSecOps
Knowledge is power, and the first step to implementing security into DevOps is ensuring everyone is aware of the underlying guidelines. All processes involved in development should have clear definitions in place so that everyone involved is working to the same standards. This includes documenting the best practices for testing security and performing compliance checks.
Update policy and governance documentation
If security and DevOps represent a new mandate for software developers, IT teams, and security experts, it should conform to compliance policies and overall enterprise security. Once this has been done, development can continue with the assurance it meets the existing security requirements of the organization.
Embed the security policy as a code
The concept of “infrastructure as code” - sometimes referred to as the immutable infrastructure - underpins all security and DevOps processes. This surpasses the previous model in which software and servers are configured manually, removing the necessity for configuration processes prone to error from the outset.
Adopt a proactive approach to security
Security and DevOps require strong security practices to come first, not as an afterthought once the software is nearing its public launch. It also requires a holistic approach to identifying vulnerabilities throughout the development process, with an acute understanding of how hackers and other cyberattacks might exploit them.
This means developing security systems that identify standard patterns of use so that anomalies and other aberrant behaviors can be quickly spotted, preventing malicious actors from doing irreparable damage. Regular vulnerability scans help ensure developers remain on top of these issues at all times.
Automate security processes
One of the foundational guidelines around security and DevOps is the use of automated security processes, both throughout the development cycle and once the software has been launched for widespread consumption. These automated processes help streamline the product's development, removing human latency and the need for manual intervention.
Developers can enhance security through automated processes such as rotating security procedures such as keys, passwords, and certificates. They can also be applied to react to security breaches, terminating user sessions whenever a security breach is logged.
Methods for measuring and improving the quality of security
The constantly evolving nature of cybersecurity threats is one of the main reasons why quality assurance is a vital element of software development and is necessary for hunting down vulnerabilities throughout the development pipeline.
In addition to quality assurance, there are several other ways to measure and improve the quality of security when implementing it alongside DevOps. These include:
- Ensure the security team is directly involved in the development and design process from the earliest possible stage.
- Using security tools specifically designed for DevOps to scan everything from open source libraries to dependencies and containers for vulnerabilities.
- Deploy Static Application Security Testing (SAST) tools to analyze the source code.
- Maximize the continuous integration/continuous delivery pipeline that underpins DevOps to automate security.
- Make sure security reviews are integrated into each phase of the software’s development.
No matter how great a piece of software is, the end user will avoid using it altogether if it remains susceptible to vulnerabilities and can be compromised by hackers. And with cyberattacks continuing to dominate the news cycle regularly, it’s become an issue at the forefront of many people’s minds.
Business leaders looking for a full-stack software developer to build custom software for their organization should be clear on the necessity for integrated security within the development cycle of their product.
Baytech is passionate about the technology we use to build custom business applications, especially enterprise solutions that optimize business processes. We’ve been delivering software solutions in a variety of technologies since 1997. Our success is due to the skill and efficiency of our senior staff, which includes software engineers, project managers, and DevOps experts. All of our engineers are onshore, salaried staff members.We focus on the quality, usability, and scalability of our software and don’t believe in mitigating cost at the risk of quality. We manage project costs by implementing an efficient development process that’s completely transparent and uses the latest standards and practices to build software right the first time. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your business. Find us online at https://www.baytechconsulting.com/contact.