For almost two decades software developers have increasingly been transitioning to the adoption of DevOps practices. The increased adoption of DevOps practices and philosophies in software development teams has been successful in seamlessly integrating product development and IT operations to create high-quality applications at a high velocity with greater efficiency through the use of CI/CD (Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery) pipelines.
While the adoption of DevOps practices allow for more efficient and rapid delivery of software applications, it is not without its disadvantages. DevOps practices primarily operate on a continuous basis, testing and patching throughout every stage of the pipeline, but when it comes to security practices, vulnerability checks and security monitoring tend to be tagged on the end before product deployment.
By treating security as an afterthought, software development and technical environments are exposing themselves to greater risks of cyber-attacks and data breaches. This afterthought is not something that DevOps environments can afford with the global cost of cybercrime expected to reach $10.5 trillion by 2025 (up from $3 trillion since 2015).
However, the shift-left in technical environments and more recent emergence of DevSecOps have been set to remedy this significant cost by factoring security into product development and successful deployment. According to Gartner®, DevSecOps practices are expected to be embedded in 85% of product development teams by 2027, in comparison to a 30% adoption in 2022.
Security has already become an integral priority for many development organizations worldwide but many are still yet to embrace a sewn-in security approach. For those looking to mitigate risk and practice better security in their DevOps pipelines, Gartner has recommended embracing a shift-left approach to organization security infrastructure.
The road to DevSecOps adoption can be complex and whilst there are some initial set up costs in the short term, businesses can see significant savings in the long run; especially with the average cost of a data breach estimated at about $4.24 million between 2020-2021. In this blog, we will explore how product development teams can avoid this costs and some of the best recommended practices for transitioning to DevSecOps adoption.
DevSecOps and the Shift-Left Approach
The shift-left approach to security has been around for some time now and has slowly begun to pick up momentum in the software development sector. Just as DevOps practices operate on a CI/CD pipeline, shift-left embeds security from the beginning of development in the planning phase and throughout the rest of the DevOps lifecycle, by embracing DevSecOps practices.
Traditionally, security processes are usually isolated from the rest of the CI/CD stream, causing a bottleneck towards the end stages of the pipeline, limiting agility and hindering delivery. This security structure also leaves technical environments and organizations vulnerable to breaches as it only leaves space for security at the end of the pipeline, meaning that there are a number of opportunities missed to identify vulnerabilities and attacks earlier on in the development process.
Shift-left is the technical environment’s answer to delivery obstructions and weak security structure. Embedding security throughout the DevOps lifecycle with DevSecOps practices eliminates halted delivery caused by late-stage testing and identification.
Making Space for Compliance and Regulations
Much like security, adherence to compliance and regulatory requirements tends to come as an afterthought in DevOps environments. Not only do organizations risk fines and penalties when they do not keep regulations in mind, but they are missing opportunities to create a security plan with regulations as a foundation. Organizations are increasingly faced with more complex industry requirements as evolving attack techniques arise and the risk of a subsequent breach continues to increase.
However many organizations struggle to keep up with regulatory standards whilst simultaneously delivering software, and this is usually because consideration for compliance is placed at the end of the DevOps pipeline. The way to resolve this is by addressing industry regulations from the preliminary stages. Organizations should consider compliance and security throughout every stage of the development lifecycle, including a standardized list of requirements that the product must meet, so that any vulnerabilities or issues that arise can be corrected throughout the pipeline before they reach the release phase.
Performing the necessary compliance and security assessments in tandem with vulnerability scans early on in the development phase can save organizations time in the long run and preserve resources for DevOps teams.
Addressing the Skill Gap in DevOps Security
Embracing a shift-left approach to security helps to educate developers on best practices and how to identify vulnerabilities within the early stages of the pipeline. There is currently a discontinuation between DevOps environments and the understanding of security, causing a broad skill gap within the industry as most developers are not cybersecurity experts.
Security and trust should be everyone’s responsibility, so organizations need to prioritize developer training and education if they are looking to prioritize and improve security practices. There are a few ways that they might seek to do this:
- Instill a Collaborative Culture: Whilst security is the responsibility of each individual at an organization, it is important to instill a trusting, collaborative culture that facilitates a shared ownership for security. Developers must work together with security experts to identify and correct vulnerabilities to keep assets secure. By encouraging a collaborative security culture, it creates an awareness of potential security risks and facilitates a preventative approach to security.
- Security Coaching: Organizations can improve security culture by recruiting, training, and assigning security coaches from within product teams. Encouraging developers to volunteer for security coaching positions allows organizations to create a bridge between developers and IT teams, by educating developers on how to plan for security and compliance requirements at every stage of the pipeline. Security coaches can also be assigned to respond to issues and encourage open communication about them between developers and security experts, rather than leaving vulnerabilities unaddressed.
- Invest in Tools and Integrations: Investing in automated tools and integrations not only helps developers to create a seamless workflow and efficient environment, they also act as a security buffer while IT teams work to close the knowledge gap within product teams. While developers are still being educated on how to prioritize security needs and identify vulnerabilities, automating security processes with a variety of tools and integrations can ensure that organizations do not become exposed due to human error in the meantime.
Automating for Security in DevOps
As new threat surfaces appear and industry regulations become more complex, more organizations are looking towards automation to keep up with security demands. Employing automation platforms and services, such as identity management integrations or protocols such as ACME, will help to support better security structure within DevSecOps teams and reduce the possibility of vulnerabilities.
There are a variety of ways that DevSecOps teams can automate their environments to reduce the burden of security management and integrate it more easily within the pipeline:
- Digital Identity Platforms: Digital identity platforms, such as Atlas, have the scalability to manage a broad range of identities and certificates, including end users, machines and servers, as well as supporting a variety of protocols to integrate and secure multiple endpoints, and automating tasks such as key management. Digital identity platforms replace the need for in-house private Certificate Authorities (CAs) by connecting with trusted public CAs and centralizing certificate inventories.
- Automated Certificate Management: Certificate management platforms automate manual processes including issuance, renewal and revocation requests. This works to streamline Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) management and secure every endpoint within the organization’s network. This type of integration reduces the burden placed on security teams and removes the risk of vulnerabilities caused by human error, like lost or expired certificates. Organizations can also implement protocols like ACME to manage SSL / TLS certificates with minimal manual intervention by connecting clients directly with CAs and removing the need to manually engage certificate servers or repeatedly fill out Certificate Signing Requests (CSRs).
- Technology Integrations: There are a number of integrations and protocols that organizations can choose from or combine to strengthen their PKI security armor. Integrations with the likes of HashiCorp Vault and Venafi work together with CAs to automate and manage tasks like key, asset, and secrets security.
Automation reduces friction within the development pipeline and creates a more efficient, seamless workflow without sacrificing security. As well as supporting DevSecOps teams, automated processes also reduce the risk of a security breach by scanning, identifying and remediating security gaps much more quickly, which is especially important for zero-day vulnerabilities.
In DevOps environments, security has traditionally been treated as an afterthought, placed on the end of the pipeline, but with the shift-left towards security and the growing emergence of DevSecOps practices and philosophies, organizations and product teams are beginning to recognize the need for a woven in approach to security. This has largely been fueled by the pursuit to keep up with growing emergence of new attack techniques and changing regulations within the security market.
Much of embracing a shift-left approach to security comes down to planning – when DevOps teams include space for security planning and compliance assessments in the initial phases of the pipeline, this acts as a framework for developers to adhere to and prevents hold ups at the latter stages of the lifecycle due to unresolved vulnerabilities.
Organizations can ensure that security issues are addressed throughout the pipeline by instilling a collaborative accountability culture into product teams, the business as a whole and recruiting security coaches for support. Nurturing an open environment of trust encourages developers to address and resolve issues themselves, and code security into the product, rather than leaving a compounding list of issues for IT teams to resolve or exposing the organization to risks.
Automating with tools and protocols can streamline a secure environment reducing manual intervention and the risk of human error as the gap between security experts and developers is being bridged. Automation can also identify vulnerabilities, protect keys and assets and allow for the reallocation of time and resources that would otherwise be spent on arduous manual processes.
With one successful breach potentially costing individual organizations an average of $4 million, businesses cannot afford not to factor security into their timeline from the get go. The loss of assets is one thing but the subsequent loss of business and answerable fines added on top can result in a complete project or even organizational shutdown. By comparison, implementing shift-left and DevSecOps practices would cost an organization less and can even expediate product deployment by preventing delays in the pipeline, as such, prioritizing security that can directly impact the chances of a successful product.
Secure Your DevOps Pipeline With GlobalSign’s Solutions
With the challenges facing DevSecOps teams evolving, there is a host of benefits that come with integrating certificate lifecycle management tools into the pipeline including; authentication, securing toolchains, containers, codes and endpoints.
If you’re ready to secure your DevOps pipeline and give a boost to security, get in touch today.
Gartner, 3 Essential Steps to Enable Security in DevOps 1 March 2023, Daniel Betts Et Al.
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