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5 Trends That Will Shape Application Security in 2023

Harshil Parikh
Published: December 6, 2022

The digital transformation and cloud-native movements are driving DevOps practices and open-source code libraries increase the speed at which applications are developed and delivered. However, security has not always been a top priority in the DevOps journey. In order to ensure that applications are secure, it is essential to make security a part of the process. Organizations can achieve this integration by including security in the development process, automating security tasks, and fostering a culture of security throughout the entire organization.

I’ll outline five current trends shaping the future of application security and how modern AppSec programs can get ahead of the curve by reducing developer friction, integrating security into CI/CD pipelines, and making security a first-class citizen of software development workflows. By understanding and acting on these trends, organizations can make security a more integral part of their software development process.

5 Application Security Trends and How to Capitalize on Them

Trend 1: At the Speed of DevOps

The widespread adoption of DevOps practices, CI/CD tooling, and the extensive use of cloud platforms have empowered developers to deliver software quickly and efficiently. However, security tools and processes have not been part of the DevOps journey and have not yet caught up with this trend. Security tools and processes must be integrated into the DevOps process to ensure that software is delivered securely.

Most security teams operate reactively, meaning they have no visibility or control over the security of the code going through the CI/CD pipelines. This lack of visibility and control can leave applications and systems vulnerable to attack. Some modern application security programs can help change this, but most teams are still unprepared.

Organizations must integrate security into DevOps processes to ensure that they are securely developing their software. This means that security needs to be considered from the beginning of the development process, not simply added as an afterthought. Security scanners must be run as part of the CI/CD pipelines, but this is only the beginning. The overall goal should be to build holistic security capabilities into DevOps processes so development teams can design software quickly and securely.

Trend 2: Wide Adoption of Open-Source Software

Open-source software is more prevalent and extensive than ever; this software reuse allows developers to move and build software quickly. The benefits of moving and building software promptly come with the risk of vulnerabilities introduced by third-party code. On the positive side, most software teams standardize how they use open-source software, deploying standard package management mechanisms.

Several modern software composition analysis (SCA) tools, with native integrations into CI/CD pipelines, have emerged to help organizations address the challenges of understanding their exposure to security and licensing risks from open-source software. These tools make it relatively easy for developers, security teams, and legal departments to understand their risk exposure. This integration of open-source library analysis with CI/CD helps get an accurate and real-time view of security risks from open-source software.

Trend 3: More Adoption of Security Tools in CI/CD

The release of new AppSec tools built with CI/CD integration in mind is helping to shift scanning activities left in the development lifecycle. These tools enable developers to scan for security vulnerabilities early on; before code is checked and released. Additionally, traditional software development platforms are releasing security features, helping to make AppSec a first-class citizen in the developer tooling ecosystem.

AppSec has an opportunity to make security a core part of automated development workflows. The first step toward this is automating security testing as part of CI/CD pipelines. However, it is critical to be mindful of communicating too many noisy alerts to developers. Inundating developers with false positives and unactionable alerts is counterproductive. There must be some curation of what gets transmitted to developers as actionable signals.

Trend 4: Developers Assuming Ownership of Security

In most cases, when security analysts find issues in code, they need to go back to the developer to get it fixed. This process can be slow and cause friction between different teams.

As security tooling shifts towards being integrated into DevOps workflows, more and more development teams are responsible for running and automating security tools and tests. These expanded responsibilities go beyond application security and include infrastructure-as-code, containers, and cloud platforms. With the right tools in place, developers can catch security issues early in the development process.

This trend allows security teams to focus on more critical tasks and challenges, such as providing higher-value work and maintaining security oversight. By running automated remediation campaigns around the most vital issues, they can get the correct information to the right engineers immediately and without supervision.

The AppSec team will continue to be responsible for making risk-based decisions and driving security accountability, even though developer teams may own tactical security tasks.

Trend 5: Developer Autonomy With Security Guardrails

It is nearly impossible for AppSec teams to maintain control over an organization’s rapidly changing technology stack in a centralized fashion. The conventional AppSec practices of manual assessments and penetration testing are too time-consuming. Trending DevOps practices provide more decision-making power to developers and allow them to choose their own programming languages, software libraries, and dependencies.

In modern security-conscious environments, avoiding security gates requiring assessments and approvals is best. Instead, focus on building security guardrails upfront that define the security requirements and best practices. This approach will create a more secure environment overall. Developers can build security guardrails into their CI/CD pipelines to help enforce safe patterns and eliminate entire bug classes. AppSec teams have successfully used these guardrails to provide continuous security feedback to developers.

Developers with security guardrails can move fast and deliver high-quality software. Security guardrails continually raise the bar for security in organizations, ensuring that developers constantly think about security implications when coding.

Developer-First Is the Future

To build the right amount of security into the software development lifecycle (SDLC), modern AppSec teams must have modern cloud-native tools to help them determine what they need to fix and how. These tools can help reduce the noise generated by traditional  tools so that the team can focus on what, how, and why.

The trends discussed in this article are exciting and encouraging. By integrating security into CI/CD, AppSec programs can provide visibility, automate security controls, and eliminate manual work. This allows AppSec teams to keep up with the pace of modern development and scale  application security programs.