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Modern cloud environments have more moving parts, interdependent teams, and high-speed processes than ever. This complexity makes it difficult to implement security practices across the entire software development lifecycle (SDLC) and get the involved teams to participate consistently.
Securing modern-day development environments requires a DevSecOps approach: effective collaboration between security and DevOps, from code to production. This is an entirely different approach from security practices a decade ago, which didn’t consider security until the end of the development process.
But, it takes the right knowledge and strategy to put security practices into the existing DevOps workflows of your organization. This post is a great place to start. We’ll give you the definition of DevSecOps, along with a guide on implementing DevSecOps practices in your organization.
DevSecOps is a mindset of shared security responsibility that permeates an organization’s culture, processes, and tool choices. As the name suggests, development, security, and operations teams work together to deliver secure applications while adhering to the foundational principles of DevOps: collaboration, automation, and culture.
What's the difference between DevOps and DevSecOps?
DevOps is a methodology that relies on small, iterative releases (agile), automation, and frequent testing to produce high-quality software rapidly. It unites development and operation teams and sometimes includes application security best practices such as code quality testing.
But, typical DevOps processes don’t include developers in most security-related efforts. In addition, a DevOps cycle for a modern application emphasizes a fast rate of change, exists primarily in the cloud, and relies on containerization and infrastructure as code (IaC) — all without including security. This makes it virtually impossible for security teams to keep up with the fast pace of modern software development, which could lead to potential security risks in applications.
Enter DevSecOps, which empowers development and operations teams to perform security tasks while writing and shipping code. This differs from DevOps because it puts security practices early in the software development cycle, such as integrating at the IDE-level or Git pre-commit hooks, and enables developers to assume the responsibility of their application’s security posture. This avoids tacking in security later in the process, which is more costly, or push responsibility — “the security team’s problem.”
As you consider how to implement DevSecOps in your organization, think of it as more than plugging new tools and processes into the SDLC. Instead, it’s a whole mindset change. Developers need to see the value of security, while security teams need to make security practices as straightforward and developer-friendly as possible. DevSecOps successfully bridges the gaps between the security, development, and operations teams by promoting mutual understanding and clear communication.
1. Recognize it’s a culture shift
The first step to a successful DevSecOps approach is a culture shift. This change happens across four different areas:
DevSecOps best practices start with the humans who code, ship, and secure the applications. All involved teams need to practice empathy: seeking to understand the priorities, goals, and bandwidths of their counterparts. For example, let’s say that a security team wants to implement a new security tool but developers need to log in to a new system to use it, it is outside of their workflows, and it provides a lot of false positives. Instead, the security team should consider security tools that blend with developer workflows and make them productive while not frustrating the team with false positives.
DevSecOps requires strategic processes as well. Define what success looks like for your DevSecOps initiatives, then set up ways to promote accountability. Also, break down any processes that make the security team a gatekeeper. Security gating practices force teams to reach a certain threshold of risk mitigation before progressing past certain checkpoints. This eventually becomes a major bottleneck. Instead, run security tests early and often, identifying security issues early in the process and empowering the developers to mitigate the risks themselves. This makes security a guardrail that keeps developers safe without slowing them down
When implementing DevSecOps, pick developer-first security tech. A few telltale signs of a developer-friendly tool:
Integrates well with DevOps tools, CI/CD pipelines, reporting/alerting software, etc.
Requires a relatively small learning curve
Works well with familiar development environments and workflows (some tools even sync directly into development CLIs!)
Provides remediation guidance for developers to follow
Consolidates several aspects of application security into one place, eliminating security tool sprawl and the extra responsibilities that come with it
Offers automation options for easy integration into existing flows
Governance demonstrates that your security efforts are succeeding over time. Security teams are able to set and enforce policies, and guardrails that help ensure business risk is within expected measures. Tracking the effectiveness of these measures requires using comprehensive metrics — collecting them and reporting their significance. So, your teams must focus on achieving positive growth over time, as reflected in metrics and KPIs.
2. Get security teams involved in the design process
Development and security teams must design secure architecture from the start, building DevSecOps into the foundation of their applications. Here are a few ways to make this happen:
Kick off your DevSecOps journey with threat modeling. This examines the architecture of your existing applications, getting to the root of any initial security issues.
Look at any code and open source components at the very beginning of the SDLC. Institute ways to find and mitigate insecure code/components as early as possible. For example, you could use Snyk Advisor to check the security of open source packages before including them in your application for example.
3. Practice continuous integration (CI)
Continuous integration (CI) is an important piece of the DevOps puzzle. It aims to include developers in operations tasks by putting them in charge of testing their new code early, then bundling and storing it in a central source code repository with version control. Development teams usually rely on automated CI tools to perform these functions.
Many organizations implement a DevSecOps approach by coupling security tests alongside routine quality tests (e.g., unit tests, regression tests, etc.) throughout the CI process. Then, whenever new code snippets go into the source code repository, the development team can assume they’re both secure and high-quality.
4. Employ DevSecOps tools/testing
But, which types of DevSecOps testing should you include throughout your CI/CD pipeline? Start with these three:
Static analysis security testing (SAST) focuses on scanning your proprietary source code, bytecode, or assembly code for vulnerabilities. A developer-friendly SAST solution — like Snyk Code — flags these vulnerabilities and then provides step-by-step instructions on how developers can fix them.
Software composition analysis (SCA) fits into the beginning of your pipeline alongside SAST. It identifies any third-party components and dependencies with known vulnerabilities, then provides guidance for the developers to swap out the vulnerable components for better options. While SAST solely focuses on code composition, SCA also considers open source licensing and versioning. Snyk Open Source covers all of these concerns.
Dynamic analysis security testing (DAST) fits into the end of the CI/CD pipeline, alongside integration testing and other end-to-end reviews. It tests your application from the outside in by simulating attacks.
Implementing a DevSecOps approach takes more than just throwing security tools at your development processes. It requires a culture shift woven deeply into your development and operations teams’ existing workflows but the overall impact of DevSecOps is transformative.
Snyk works with organizations to create a comprehensive approach to all application security activities. Our developer security platform empowers developers to incorporate security from their first lines of code, throughout their IaC and containers, and into cloud deployment. Want to give our DevSecOps tools a shot? Try scanning your applications with Snyk for free today.
Next in the series
Technologies are what enable your people to properly execute DevSecOps processes. When most people think of DevSecOps and CI/CD, tooling is often top of mind. The ability to integrate and automate various development, security, and operations processes lies at the heart of a successful DevSecOps implementation. The following is a collection of technologies organizations must consider as they seek to implement a successful DevSecOps methodology within the enterprise.Keep reading