From humble beginnings in basic IT configuration automation, DevOps has become the de facto standard for organizations looking to ship software faster. “Shift left” approaches combined development processes and methodologies with traditional operations tasks, putting more work on development teams in exchange for freedom from fire drills and production fixes.
It wasn’t long before security followed, with DevSecOps now shorthand for modern application security—and everything from SAST, DAST and SCA shoehorned into developers’ toolchains and workflows.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the shift from DevOps to DevSecOps and discuss some practical tips for your organization when moving from a DevOps to DevSecOps environment.
Fun fact: In 2010 I was doing ‘development operations’ for a small engineering team. Imagine my surprise that people were starting to shorten what I did:
DevOps, a term coined from 'Development' and 'Operations,' was born out of the need for better collaboration between software developers (the team responsible for creating the software) and IT operations (the team that manages and maintains the software). Prior to DevOps, these two teams often worked in isolation, which led to delays, miscommunication, and inefficiencies.
The DevOps movement aimed to bridge the gap between development and operations by fostering a culture of collaboration, communication, and shared responsibility. The result? Faster, more reliable software delivery and a better experience for everyone involved.
As technology advanced and security threats became more sophisticated, it became evident that security should be an integral part of the software development process: Enter DevSecOps.
DevSecOps takes the DevOps approach one step further by incorporating security practices throughout the entire software development lifecycle. Instead of treating security as an afterthought, the DevSecOps process makes it a priority from the very beginning. This proactive approach ensures that potential vulnerabilities are identified and addressed as early as possible, reducing the risk of costly breaches or downtime.
It’s easy to pay lip-service to “DevSecOps” by dropping code scanning or basic vulnerability assessment into the development lifecycle, but often approaches like that leave teams overwhelmed with false positives and other noise from security alerts. This ends up slowing down development and creating friction between development and security leadership.
To successfully “do the DevSecOps”, teams need to focus instead on making several changes in their culture, process, and responsibilities.
Here are some steps to help guide your organization as you implement a DevSecOps approach:
Begin creating a DevSecOps environment in your organization by cultivating a culture that values security as much as speed and efficiency.
Each team should understand the importance of their role in the software development process and how their actions can impact security. This includes educating developers about secure coding practices, ensuring that operations teams understand the implications of configuration management, and making sure that the security team is involved in the design and implementation of security measures.
Too often, security only receives recognition when there’s a breach. By celebrating security work on a regular basis and highlighting the mitigations and defenses created by application security teams, security gains visibility as a valuable part of your process.
To be successful, the culture shift into a DevSecOps environment needs to happen at all levels of the organization. It’s not enough for developers to be trained on secure coding practices if their leaders are only accountable for velocity metrics and not security ones.
Security KPIs need to make their way to the boardroom where executive leadership and board members review them regularly. By treating security outcomes as business-critical at the top, they become equally important in the day-to-day work of all teams—including engineering.
One of the mistakes many organizations make when adopting DevSecOps is shifting security testing left without first ensuring alignment between security and development teams on priorities.
Consider the example of Log4j. While it has a severity score of 10.0, critical by every standard, it might not be a high-priority fix for developers. They may consider the risk of exploitation to be an edge case, or think that it's too difficult a patch for the level of risk it imposes.
However, security teams will flag issues like this as a must-fix, simply due to the CVSS score being critical. By having conversations around priorities in the early stages of development, security and development teams can align on application architecture, expected risks, and prioritization of different types of issues.
This will lead to faster security remediation in later stages of development, because when testing is done, there’s less need to have drawn out conversations on priority or alignment. By defining security needs upfront and ensuring that teams are aligned before code is first committed, teams can increase velocity of delivery without sacrificing the security of their code.
When you think of DevOps or DevSecOps, the idea of “taking something that happened at or after deployment and putting it in the build process” is one of the most common tropes, along with automating and “shifting left” security processes into the development pipeline.
Putting static or dynamic tests into the build process is commonplace and absolutely critical for successful DevSecOps. Teams should regularly review manual application security processes and identify areas where manual effort can be eliminated and replaced with automation.
Automation is a cornerstone of both the DevOps and DevSecOps process. By automating security processes like vulnerability scanning and patch management, you can save time, reduce the risk of human error, and ensure that security measures are consistently applied. Automating security processes also allows you to keep up with the constantly evolving security landscape.
Continuous monitoring of your systems and applications is essential to detect potential security threats. Establish a process for detecting and responding to security incidents in real-time. Additionally, measuring the effectiveness of your security practices is crucial to refining and improving your DevSecOps processes. Collect data and use it to refine your security measures and improve your overall security posture.
Finally, remember that the shift into a DevSecOps environment is an ongoing journey. Keep learning, iterating, and improving your security practices to stay ahead of emerging threats and ensure the long-term success of your organization.
Transitioning from a DevOps to DevSecOps process requires a shift in culture, mindset, and procedure. It’s a journey that requires continuous learning, improvement, and collaboration between teams. But by integrating security into every step of the software development process, you can improve the security of your applications and systems while delivering high-quality software.
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