Continuous integration in DevSecOps

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What is continuous integration?

Continuous integration (CI) is part of the DevOps movement to involve developers in operations tasks. It uses a server to monitor your repository, executing specific tasks such as static analysis, compilation and bundling of code, and continuous integration testing. DevSecOps incorporates security checks, as used in the secure SDLC, in DevOps practices. These checks can also be executed as a CI task.

As your software project progresses, your team will likely grow. And while initially just two or three people are enough, soon a whole football team is needed to cover everything from design to implementation. But more people also means more errors.

Nobody is perfect, and when under pressure, there is a higher likelihood that issues will be overlooked. Moreover, opinions on best practices may differ, especially with bigger teams. With more people, it becomes even more important to ensure coding guidelines are well-defined so that everyone is following the same process.

Over 90% of development teams have already adopted some form of version control, according to the Stack Overflow Developer Survey. But version control only helps with syncing code between team members; you’re on your own when it comes to quality control and security. This is where continuous integration comes into play; it extends version control by executing tasks for every change committed to a repository. And with the Snyk vulnerability scanner plugin for VSCode, you can even scan your code for security issues before committing it to version control.

With these tasks running on all code from every developer, you can enforce quality control and security measures for your entire team. With automation in place, there’s no need to worry about forgetting to run tests on changes before deploying them to production.

How does continuous integration differ from continuous deployment?

Continuous deployment (CD) is the next step after CI. While CI will run tasks on your code repository in a test or staging environment, CD will deploy the changes to a production environment. Once all of the CI tasks have been successfully completed, CD will deploy the new version. This entire process is referred to as the CI/CD pipeline.

Without CD, you would have to deploy your build artifacts manually after CI finishes. This is often the case when your customers run your software on-premises, where you don’t have access to their network to make any changes.

CD additions to a CI pipeline can add a range of features to your deployment process. You can incorporate different types of rollout procedures, where you only show a subset of users the new version before shipping to all of them. You can also use automated rollbacks, for example, when you find a security vulnerability that doesn’t have a fix yet. Automated rollbacks revert your production system to a previous state to minimize the blast radius.

A central source of truth

A common problem with software developers is their insistence that their software works because it works on the computer they used for development. And the bigger the team, the more prevalent this “works-on-my-machine” attitude becomes.

This is where a CI server can help implicitly. Since the code is run on a central server, independent from the developer that wrote it, this server can become a primary source of truth for the project. The idea is to keep the CI environment as close to the production environment as possible, in order to identify problems in the CI environment instead of in production.

A gatekeeper for code quality

Developers are human and often abandon the rules when under pressure. A CI system enforces these rules programmatically, adding a layer of gate control with test scripts and security during deployment. This ensures higher quality software and frees developers from having to worry about quality issues, so the improvement for your team is twofold.

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CI/CD is a commonly used acronym in software development. It stands for “continuous integration” and “continuous delivery.”

Depending on the CI setup, the system may even be capable of finding more problems than a single developer with a computer ever could. Following test-driven development practices and running the tests on multiple hardware and software configurations in the CI environment often reveals surprises. For example, developer computers have a different memory capacity than production systems. But more memory can lead to overlooking memory exhaustion in a production system, while less memory can lead to less efficient systems because some of the production memory isn’t being used.

A security safety net

A CI system can execute a variety of tasks on your code, including security checks. In today's software industry, systems are built on third-party software. This includes operating systems, software frameworks or libraries, and execution environments like JVM,Node.js, Golang, PHP, Ruby, or Python.

No single developer can keep track of the security implications of all these systems and packages. That’s where DevSecOps comes into play, integrating security tasks into DevOps practices. If you can automate quality assurance, why not security testing?

Such a security extension usually includes services that check external security vulnerability databases for entries related to your code and the packages it uses. When a team member makes a common mistake or a security problem is found in a package, you’ll receive a notification so you can fix it as soon as possible. If you have a sophisticated CI and CD system set up, it may even be able to automate the implementation of the fix itself.

Keep your CI pipeline secure with Snyk

Snyk Code is an AI-powered security analysis engine that improves your security posture by:

  • Preventing you from committing hardcoded secrets into your codebase

  • Checking for type errors in dynamic languages

  • Notifying of potential buffer overflows

Snyk Code works in tandem with Snyk Open Source to keep your third-party libraries in check. It automatically fixes known vulnerabilities and alerts about problematic licenses—third-party code changes without your consent—which can be difficult to keep track of on your own.

As shown in Figure 1, Snyk Code notifies of issues found in your repositories. The problematic line of code is marked and explained, with step-by-step instructions for how to fix the vulnerability.

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Security issues found by Snyk Code

Running Kubernetes clusters is already challenging; keeping them secure is an even greater challenge. Snyk Container handles your container definitions, scanning Dockerfiles and recommending secure base images.

Snyk Infrastructure as Code scans all your IaC files, from Terraform to Cloudformation to Kubernetes, to prevent configurations with inferior security implications. What Snyk Code does for your application code, Snyk Infrastructure as Code does for your infrastructure arrangements.

Snyk services come with a range of integrations for the most prominent CI tools –  so you can plug them into your existing CI infrastructure and get DevSecOps ready in no time.

CI services include AWS CodePipeline, Azure Pipelines, Bitbucket, CircleCI, GitHub Actions, and many more.

Conclusion

Getting all the developers on your team to follow the same rules isn’t easy, and human error will always be a factor. Rules about routine tasks that don’t require creative thinking are often overlooked. From source code to third-party libraries and even your infrastructure configuration, Snyk helps you enforce CI best practices across your development team. Automate tedious recurring tasks so your developers can focus on writing code.

Up Next

Continuous security testing

Continuous security testing is an important part of the secure SDLC. Learn more about how to keep your pipeline secure.

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