GlobalSign Blog

DevOps vs. DevSecOps: Understanding the Evolution and Importance of Security

DevOps vs. DevSecOps: Understanding the Evolution and Importance of Security

With the need to deliver high-quality applications at high velocity, the DevOps culture has grown in popularity, with the market expected to exceed a worth of $20 billion by 2026, growing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 27.6% since 2019. However, with continuous testing and development comes security gaps within the process leaving it vulnerable to interference and compromise. This blog will cover the basics of DevOps and DevSecOps, the challenges of DevOps environments and implementation of DevSecOps as well as the benefits.

In this blog we will cover:

DevOps: A Quick Overview

DevOps, or Development Operations, is the collaborative process in which new software applications are built, developed and deployed. The DevOps lifecycle contains many moving parts with different teams developing and reviewing at each stage of the pipeline.
Under traditional software development , development teams would build, test and release software in a consecutive order. Now with growing philosophies and practices around the DevOps lifecycle, it has evolved into a continuous process of testing and patching, and been woven into the building and release phases, and under more contemporary models, continuously optimized applications.

The Security Gap in DevOps

So what are the security challenges facing DevOps teams?

  • Container vulnerabilitiesContainerized environments do offer some security advantages compared to traditional DevOps legacy environments due to their isolation from the operations element of DevOps. However, their foundation within the cloud, multiple moving parts and insecure container registries can still present some risk.
  • Cloud Security – Use of the cloud for virtual machines and containerized environments can present significant security risks due to its exposure to the public internet. Public APIs and cloud misconfiguration broaden the threat landscape for DevOps teams using the Cloud to secure their containers.
  • Speed – Timely engineering and deployment of applications is essential for software teams, but this often causes security vulnerabilities to be missed or overlooked. Often in DevOps environments, teams are forced to make the unconscious choice between prioritizing security over speed and efficiency.
  • The Skill Gap – There is still a prevalent skill gap between DevOps engineers and security experts with 38% of respondents to a Gartner survey report a lack of education around DevSecOps and 60% finding it technically challenging. While DevOps engineers are focused on the end goal of quick and agile delivery, security experts within DevOps teams are committed to thoroughly ensuring software and environment security. These gaps between two teams working together can create delays, and extra challenges in the DevOps space.

Learn about securing your DevOps pipelines with PKI

What is DevSecOps Why Does it Matter?

DevSecOps is the combination of processes and philosophies which seamlessly integrate security into the DevOps pipeline, with regular testing, vulnerability checks, auditing and risk management. DevSecOps places fundamental focus on security, and is growing in adoption rate due to new approaches and cultural shifts integrating security into DevOps. In 2022, a Gartner survey found that DevSecOps had been implemented by 36% of respondents compared to 27% in 2020, and even those who haven’t fully implemented DevSecOps, 96% have still integrated some of its core principles including the automation of security and compliance operations.

Key Differences Between DevOps and DevSecOps

The fundamental difference between DevOps and DevSecOps is the latter’s focus on security. Both are founded in the same framework, which centers seamless integration and collaboration but with an additional priority placed on security.

Just as DevOps includes testing at every stage of development, deployment and monitoring, DevSecOps integrates security checking at each stage of the DevOps lifecycle. DevSecOps also operates along a Continuous Integration/Continuous Development (CI/CD) pipeline, with security practices being applied throughout the development process, rather than before final release, as with DevOps environments, including security checks, asset management and regular auditing.

Many DevSecOps environments also employ penetration testing, also known as pen testing or ethical hacking. This simulates a real world cyber-attack or breach to test security strength and identify vulnerabilities within the infrastructure, code, and network.

Elements of DevSecOps Security

  • Continuous Security Monitoring: This is the primary function of a DevSecOps environment. It consists of ensuring that security risks are monitored at every stage through testing, risk assessment and asset management.
  • Secure CI/CD Pipelines: Continuous Integration/Continuous Development (CI/CD) is a combination of two DevOps practices that work together to automate the building, testing and deployment of applications. Continuous integration and delivery creates an ongoing end-to-end pipeline that facilitates the delivery and update of new features at a higher speed, creating a more efficient DevOps environment.
  • Infrastructure as Code (IaC) Security: Infrastructure as Code automates the configuration of development infrastructure through code, meaning that the management of systems, servers, applications, devices and other tools does not have to be reconfigured or updated with every stage of development. Not only this, but the environment remains the same every time a development infrastructure is deployed and does not have to be manually recreated, reducing the number of access points for a threat actor and standardizing environment configuration.
  • Application Security Testing (AST): There are different types of application security testing, including Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST), Static Application Security Testing (SAST), Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST), and Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP). Each is incorporated at a different stage of development to identify security vulnerabilities within the environment, identify vulnerabilities within the code, monitor application performance, and collect data to detect resolve security issues as they arise.
  • Threat Modeling and Risk Assessment: Both of these processes are used to identify vulnerabilities within a DevSecOps environment. They assess and categorize assets as well as security measures to identify where vulnerabilities lie. As well as this, threat modeling goes a step further by identifying prospective threat actors and common tactics to identify what assets they might target and how.

Challenges in Implementing DevSecOps

There are however some challenges faced by DevOps teams when transitioning to DevSecOps models.

As DevOps and DevSecOps evolve, teams need to continuously stay up-to-date on new technologies and threats, alongside the development process. When integrating DevOps security into the development pipeline, different teams will require different security protocol as an added phase of the lifecycle, interrupting streamlined development processes.

Not only this but the growing complexity of tools and integrations utilized by teams creates an added layer of processes to secure and monitor – at the potential risk of human error, or exploitation by threat actors. Not everyone in DevSecOps is a security expert, however, the continuous nature of the DevSecOps lifecycle means that security must be prioritized at every phase of the pipeline. This means re-skilling members of DevSecOps teams to be accountable for security and work with security experts to identify and resolve any issues, as well as working it into the DevOps framework.

The DevSecOps lifecycle naturally relies on a rapidly moving pipeline to complete software development and deployment, and so prioritizing the Security aspect of this process can be challenging. Software applications need to be engineered, tested and released quickly, and adding good security practices into the mix can often add extra steps to a process that already contains numerous elements.

However, successful development often relies on the integration of security practices to protect assets and prevent production from being halted indefinitely. In August 2022, and February 2023, password management company LastPass, suffered two breaches which resulted in the unauthorized access of their corporate vault, containing key information, cloud based resources, and critical database backups. This demonstrates the critical need for constant security monitoring and updating within DevOps environments, ensuring strong key and vault security.

Learn more about securing secrets with HashiCorp Vault

Square Campaign Promo.pngEach of these elements has unique security requirements. When integrating DevSecOps into software development environments, the process should be as seamless as possible to integrate properly into the development pipeline. Automating many of the processes necessary for DevOps security alleviates the pressure that is often felt by DevOps teams and security experts, and offers a stronger security posture within the development pipeline.

Benefits of Adopting DevSecOps: Shifting Security to the Left

DevOps environments present many vulnerabilities that can be difficult for their teams and security experts to stay on top, as well as a continuously broadening threat landscape. Transitioning to DevSecOps holds the key to many solutions to these problems, as a DevSecOps culture prioritizes security at every stage of development and embeds a philosophy that enables the following:

  • Enhanced Application Security -  Implementing and automating security processes at every stage of development allows the ability to weed out vulnerabilities earlier on in the pipeline, decreasing the likelihood that there will be issues in later stages of development and operations and strengthening application security upon release. 37% of respondents to a GitLab survey who reported using a DevSecOps platform cited ‘better security’ as being one of their top reasons for implementation.
  • Earlier Detection of Vulnerabilities – Continuous testing allows for DevSecOps environments to identify problems within their infrastructure much more quickly, reducing the possibility of a breach, loss of work, or delays within the pipeline, especially with practices such as penetration testing.
  • Faster Remediation of Security Issues – Applying and automating security practices throughout the pipeline reduces the resources required when issues arise. Earlier detection allows these issues to be caught before they result in a breach and need much less time and resources to resolve. 90% of developers using a DevSecOps platform feel that their organization makes it possible for them to identify and mitigate security vulnerabilities, while have implemented test automation or plan to within the next year.
  • Improved Compliance and Governance – There are fewer compliance risks that come with the application deployment and release as security checks are implemented at every part of development, reducing the risk of a breach.

The Role of PKI in DevSecOps

Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) is the cryptographic process in which identities are managed, and supports DevOps security practices through the deployment of digital (SSL/TLS) certificates. This type of security is crucial for DevSecOps teams who rely on secure key management, continuous security testing, and timely vulnerability detection to secure their environments and assets. The shift left in security has seen an uptake of PKI implementation within DevSecOps with 45% of respondents to a HubSpot survey citing it as a top use-case this year, compared to 40% in 2021 while DevSecOps is the fastest growing use-case for PKI overall.

What’s more, PKI security offers strong automation solutions to assist DevSecOps teams in security management throughout the development lifecycle. PKI for DevSecOps environments offers centralized visibility and control of all certificates to allow for simplified access and real-time certificate deployment to secure environments quickly, with fewer resources and reduced risk.

Learn more about the Benefits of PKI

PKI also supports the integration of automating DevSecOps processes. Protocols like ACME reduce the pressure placed on DevSecOps teams to manage security and certificate inventories as well as the risk of human error when managing certificates to safeguard assets.

Automating PKI security is a growing requirement for DevSecOps teams, with a growing threat landscape, a widening skill gap and a comparatively small implementation cost. DevSecOps can relieve teams of the pressure of managing asset and key security through automating many security processes and reducing the need for resources. Automation can help with scalability, visibility, efficiency and compliance across your DevSecOps pipeline, so let GlobalSign take certificate management out of your head and into our hands.

Campaign CTA.jpg

Share this Post

Recent Blogs