Developer-First Security: How Dev-Friendly AppSec Boosts Security

Developer first security empowers developers to secure products and applications

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Today’s security teams need active engagement from their developer colleagues to succeed. Securing today’s complex applications and software supply chains is virtually impossible without developer participation.

To gain developer buy-in, security teams must make developers’ experiences with security as frictionless as possible. Adopting developer-first security practices is the best way to foster this seamless security experience. Developer security encompasses several best practices, such as integrating security testing into existing workflows, aggregating all security test results into one location, using contextual information to reduce faulty scan results, and educating teams on why an issue happened. These practices make it much easier for developers to test their work for vulnerabilities, then fix these issues straight from their coding workflows — like right in their IDE — rather than later in the build pipeline after already pushing the code. 

In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about making security approachable for developers, including:

Why is developer-first security important?

Developers play a significant role in today’s software development lifecycles. They don’t just write code; they also provision cloud infrastructure with IaC, orchestrate containerization with tools like Kubernetes, choose third-party resources such as open source components and container base images, and much more. 

In addition, development teams far outnumber security teams, making it impossible for security teams to secure every aspect of the software development cycle without support. Because developers are responsible for so many parts of the SDLC, it stands to reason that they should help to secure these various aspects. Developers are best positioned to mitigate security risks in their own code, cloud environments, and containers.

How does developer-first security benefit security teams?

Developer-first security tools and practices support the security team’s efforts in several ways. First, it extends their efforts, improving the entire organization's security posture. In addition, businesses that take a developer-first approach to securing their applications tend to see a much higher developer adoption rate, making the whole security program more effective. 

Developer-first security also improves the context for vulnerability management and remediation. By tightly integrating security tools and practices into the development pipeline, security teams can see the context and background of every security alert. It also enables a direct feedback loop — allowing developers to fix their own code in real time. This instantaneous feedback prevents security vulnerabilities from even reaching the repository in the first place.  

How does developer-first security support shift left?

Many of today’s organizations see the value in shifting left: conducting security tests early and often in the software development lifecycle and fostering a DevSecOps approach. In the past, teams implemented security testing at the end of the development process, making it overwhelming, costly, and ineffective in resolving critical security issues. 

Most of today’s agile teams opt for a shift-left approach to security instead. They implement smaller tests throughout the SDLC, making vulnerability remediation more cost- and time-effective. Developer-first security provides a strong foundation for shifting left by empowering developers to secure their code as they write it and catch vulnerabilities long before production. Many tools also include developer security training.

Developer-first security tools

Establishing developer-first security requires the right tools. Here are a few tools that teams use to implement developer-friendly security testing into every stage of the SDLC:

  • Vulnerability scanners. Many of today’s teams use two types of vulnerability scanners: SAST and DAST. Static application security testing (SAST) such as Snyk Code enables developers to scan their first-party code whenever they push changes to a repository. Dynamic application security testing (DAST) tests live applications by simulating front-end attacks. 

  • Software composition analysis (SCA). SCA tools such as Snyk Open Source empower developers to check the risk level of every third-party component brought into the environment. These tools consider several factors, such as the component’s update history, associated CVEs, and transitive dependencies. 

  • IaC security. These solutions enable developers to fix Infrastructure as Code (IaC) vulnerabilities directly within their workflows, across the SDLC and running cloud environments.

  • Container security. These tools can perform several functions, such as finding and fixing container vulnerabilities, automatically upgrading vulnerable images to a less risky version, and providing developers with a list of curated golden base images, check out Snyk Container to learn more.

  • Secrets management. Many of these mentioned security tools also support secrets management. Development teams can help keep sensitive data safe by building applications with minimal vulnerabilities in static code, open source code, IaC, or containers.

Developer-first security platforms. Some solutions combine many of these tools into one platform. When these tools can cross-reference data from each other, they can significantly reduce the number of false positives and redundant alerts. A full-fledged developer platform also provides end-to-end, contextual visibility of the entire SDLC from a single location.

Developer-first software supply chain security

A developer-first approach to security can significantly reduce software supply chain risk. Dev-friendly security tools and processes enable developers to find and fix vulnerabilities in every part of the software supply chain, including first-party code, open source libraries, container images, and cloud infrastructure. Using a centralized developer platform for security also helps teams see a full view of the entire supply chain, enabling them to pinpoint patterns and understand the context of every security issue.

Developer-first security with Snyk

Snyk’s security platform facilitates a developer-centric security journey, providing development teams with the tools and processes they need to secure the software supply chain. To increase developer productivity, our platform enables in-line fixes and easily-accessible developer security training on every flagged vulnerability. We also leverage AI to deliver accurate test results.

Snyk’s platform offers SAST, SCA, IaC security, and container security functionality, empowering teams to fix vulnerabilities throughout the SDLC. Our security testing solutions are built to work alongside existing development processes. Developers can use Snyk within their native workflows such as CI/CD pipeline tools, locally in a CLI, or via integration with IDEs

Ready to start on your developer-first security journey? Learn more about our developer security platform today.


What does developer-first security mean?

Developer-first security fosters a frictionless security experience for development teams. For example, a developer-first tool integrates directly into the CI/CD pipeline and interfaces with native workflows, such as the developers’ CLIs. A developer-first security approach also focuses on educating users who don’t have a security background, ensuring that they can fix issues regardless of their knowledge level.

What is a developer security platform?

A developer security platform unites the development teams’ security responsibilities into a single pane of glass. In a modern development environment, it’s common for a developer to be in charge of writing code, choosing third-party resources such as container base images and open source libraries, and maintaining infrastructure-as-code. A developer security platform can enable that developer to secure all these components from a single interface.

What's the role of developers in implementing application security?

When implementing application security, an organization should aim to fix vulnerabilities as early as possible in the SDLC. The further a vulnerability travels downstream, the more resources and time it will take to fix that issue. Security teams must partner with the development teams to integrate application security into the early stages of the SDLC. These developers can participate by finding and fixing vulnerabilities whenever they write code or choose new third-party resources.

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