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How to Align Security with your DevOps Strategy

Joydip Kanjilal
Published: August 19, 2022

DevOps Tutorial

As more and more software development teams move to DevOps, it is important to make sure that security is taken into account from the very beginning. In this project management tutorial, we will talk about how to align security strategy with your DevOps goals to keep your data safe and some of the key challenges and considerations in this regard.

What is DevOps?

DevOps is a software development practice that can help your organization become more agile and responsive to change by optimizing the efficiency of the software delivery process through communication, collaboration, and automation. The core concept behind DevOps is “developer responsibility” – meaning developers are responsible for building, testing, and releasing the code they write.

The goal of DevOps is to reduce the time it takes to create new applications, improve deployment frequency, and make software more reliable. It can help you speed up your development and delivery processes, so you can get new features and updates out to your customers faster.

DevOps relies heavily on automation and continuous testing to ensure quality assurance. As part of this process, security should be an integral part of each team member’s development lifecycle (i.e., from inception through release). We have a tutorial discussing Continuous Testing for DevOps we recommend reading for more information.

DevOps relies on automation and collaboration between IT operations, development and security teams to achieve a faster, more efficient software release cycle. The goal of DevSecOps is to create an environment where tools, processes, procedures and people work together in harmony to ensure security is built into every stage of the process.

We have a great guide to DevOps if you want to learn more about the methodology: An Introduction to DevOps and DevSecOps.

Implementing Security in DevOps

As organizations move towards DevOps and continuous delivery, security must be built into the pipeline to ensure that the code being delivered is secure. Implementing security into the pipeline can help to find and fix security issues early on before they make it into production.

A security strategy is a plan to protect your business and its assets, employees, and data. It is important to include all of these things in your security strategy because they all play a role in protecting the company as a whole. A key part of creating an effective security strategy is knowing what you’re trying to protect before you start designing your plan.

Here are a few guidelines that can help you in implementing security into your pipeline:

  • Shift left: Security should be included from the beginning of the development process, not added on at the end. This means incorporating security testing into your Continuous Integration (CI) process.
  • Automate: Security testing should be automated so that it can be run frequently and integrated into the overall CI/CD process. Automated testing can help to find issues early on and prevent them from making it into production.
  • Integrate security tools: A variety of security tools are available, such as static code analysis tools, which can help find potential security vulnerabilities in your code. These tools should be integrated into your overall CI/CD process so that they can be run automatically and provide immediate feedback.
  • Educate developers: It is important to educate developers on secure coding practices to build secure code. Developers should be aware of common security vulnerabilities and the strategies that can be adopted to avoid them.
  • Enforce policies: Organizations should establish policies around security and enforce them throughout the development process. These policies can help to ensure that code meets minimum security standards before it is deployed to production.
  • Monitor applications in production: Even with all of these security measures in place, it is still essential to monitor applications for potential security issues once they are in production. This can help detect, and solve problems quickly before they become major issues.
  • Foster Collaboration: While security teams may have their own development and testing processes, they are not immune to the benefits of a collaborative culture. If you want to take advantage of DevOps while maintaining your security program, it’s important that you involve your security team in the process as early as possible and ensure they’re included in all phases of development.
    This means having developers work closely with security professionals on everything from requirements gathering and architecture design through testing and deployment. The goal is for everyone involved to work together so that everyone understands what’s being built—and why—so there are no surprises when it comes time for production launch.

By taking these steps, organizations can help to ensure that their code is secure and that any potential security issues are found and fixed early on in the development process.

DevOps Security Challenges and Considerations

As organizations adopt DevOps practices, it is important to consider best integrating security into the new workflow. DevOps can provide many benefits in terms of speed and agility, but it also introduces new challenges from a security perspective.

One of the significant challenges is the increased pace of change. With DevOps, there are more frequent code changes and deployments, making it harder to track what has been changed and deployed. This complicates the identification and mitigation of security vulnerabilities.

Another challenge is that DevOps often relies on automation and scripting, which can be a double-edged sword from a security perspective. Automation can help speed up processes and improve consistency, but it can also introduce new risks if not properly configured.

A holistic approach to security in DevOps is necessary to address these challenges. It means integrating security into all stages of the software development lifecycle (SDLC), which includes design, development, testing, and deployment. It is also essential to have strong communication and collaboration between the security team and other stakeholders, such as developers and operations staff.

Taking these steps can help ensure security is built into the DevOps process from the beginning, rather than being an afterthought. In summary, there are several challenges and considerations to consider when aligning security with your DevOps strategy.

By taking a holistic approach and involving all stakeholders in the process, you can help to ensure that your organization’s transition to DevOps is successful from a security perspective.

Read: Best DevOps and DevSecOps Tools

DevOps Security Best Practices

As organizations embrace DevOps and look to speed up the software development process, security must be a key part of the strategy. Here are some best practices for aligning security with your DevOps strategy:

  • Shift left on security: Security should be built into the development process from the start, rather than being an afterthought. This means incorporating security testing into automated builds and deployments.
  • Automate security testing: Automated testing can help identify issues early in the development process when they are easier and cheaper to fix. You should automate the security testing process by utilizing tools such as Static Application Security Testing (SAST) as well as Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST).
  • Secure your CI/CD pipeline: The CI/CD (an acronym for Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery) pipeline is a critical part of the software development process. Ensure your CI/CD pipeline is secured against attack by instituting proper authentication and authorization controls.
  • Implement a least privilege model: In a DevOps environment, it is important to follow the principle of least privilege, which requires that users only have access to the resources they need to do their job. This helps minimize the risk of data breaches and other security incidents.
  • Encrypt data in transit: As a security best practice, data in transit must be encrypted. This helps protect data from an unauthorized user.
  • Monitor for suspicious activity: Monitoring can help detect malicious activity and prevent breaches. Create alerts that will alert you when suspicious activity occurs both internally and externally.
  • Keep your systems up-to-date: Update your systems regularly: Make sure all systems have the latest security patches installed. It prevents attackers from exploiting vulnerabilities.
  • Plan for incident response: No matter how well you secure your system, there is always a chance of a security incident occurring. Be sure to have a plan for responding to an incident, including who should be notified and what steps should be taken to mitigate the damage.

Final Thoughts on Aligning Security to DevOps

Security teams and developers should work together to identify risks, identify potential solutions and determine how best to implement those solutions. When security is involved early in the development process, they can provide insight into application design that will help mitigate risks later on down the road. If your organization isn’t already incorporating security into its DevOps strategy, it needs to start doing so now before you experience any major problems.

DevOps can help organizations release applications and updates faster and more securely when implemented correctly. But to reap the benefits of DevOps, security teams need to work closely with their counterparts in engineering and operations. Organizations must embrace this change, but it should also be done in a way that aligns with your organization’s security goals and strategies.

Read more project management and software development lifecycle tutorials and tool reviews.