What Is DevSecOps and What Do You Need to Succeed?

What Is DevOps Security (DevSecOps)?

DevSecOps, a combination of Development, Security, and Operations, is an approach that integrates security practices within the DevOps process. It emphasizes collaboration between development, operations, and security teams to ensure software applications are built securely, vulnerabilities are mitigated, and risks are minimized throughout the software development lifecycle.

DevSecOps promotes the “shift left” concept, which means incorporating security measures at the earliest stages of development, rather than addressing them as an afterthought. By automating security processes and creating a culture of shared responsibility, DevSecOps enhances a company’s overall security posture, reduces the time to market for applications, and fosters a proactive response to security threats.

This is part of an extensive series of guides about CI/CD.

In this article:

DevOps vs. DevSecOps: What Are the Differences?

DevOps is an approach that combines software development and IT operations to streamline the software development lifecycle, fostering collaboration, automation, and continuous integration and deployment. It aims to reduce development time, enhance application reliability, and improve responsiveness to market changes.

DevSecOps, on the other hand, extends the DevOps methodology by incorporating security practices and measures into the development process. While DevOps focuses on speed and efficiency, DevSecOps emphasizes building secure applications by integrating security from the earliest stages of development. It shifts security to the left, promoting collaboration among development, operations, and security teams to proactively address vulnerabilities, minimize risks, and improve the overall security posture of the software.

Learn more in our detailed guide to shift left security

How Does the DevSecOps Model Work?

The DevSecOps model works by integrating security practices within the DevOps workflow, ensuring that security is addressed at every stage of the software development lifecycle. The typical DevOps workflow consists of the following stages:

  1. Plan: During the planning phase, developers, operations, and business stakeholders collaborate to identify requirements, set goals, and define the scope of the project.
  2. Code: Developers write, review, and version-control the source code while ensuring adherence to coding standards and guidelines.
  3. Build: The source code is compiled, and dependencies are resolved to create a build artifact, such as a binary or a container image.
  4. Test: The build artifact is subjected to various tests, including unit, integration, performance, and user acceptance testing, to validate its functionality, performance, and reliability.
  5. Deploy: If the build artifact passes all tests, it is deployed to production, typically using automated deployment tools and continuous delivery pipelines.
  6. Operate: The deployed application is monitored for performance, reliability, and availability, with incident management and troubleshooting as needed.
  7. Monitor: Continuous monitoring of the application, infrastructure, and user feedback helps identify areas for improvement, feeding insights back into the planning stage for future iterations.

DevSecOps introduces security hardening at each stage of the DevOps workflow:

  • Infrastructure hardening: Security is integrated into the underlying infrastructure and configuration management. This includes practices such as applying the principle of least privilege, using secure network architectures, encrypting data at rest and in transit, regular patching, and implementing secure access controls. Infrastructure as Code (IaC) tools can be used to automate and enforce security configurations.
  • Pipeline hardening: Security is incorporated into the Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) pipeline, ensuring that security checks and tests are executed at every stage. This includes static and dynamic application security testing (SAST and DAST), container security scanning, vulnerability assessment, and dependency analysis.
  • Application hardening: Security is embedded in the application development process, with developers adhering to secure coding practices and guidelines. Regular code reviews and automated security testing help identify and fix vulnerabilities early in the development process.

What Are DevSecOps Tools?

DevSecOps tools are a collection of software solutions that help integrate security practices within the DevOps workflow, automating security tasks and facilitating collaboration among development, security, and operations teams. These tools encompass various aspects of security, minimizing risks in DevOps pipelines, identifying issues, and addressing security threats.

The main categories of DevSecOps tools include:

  • Infrastructure as Code (IaC) tools: IaC tools are used to manage and provision computing infrastructure through machine-readable definition files, rather than physical hardware configuration or interactive configuration tools. They help automate the process of setting up, changing, and versioning infrastructure, which can significantly reduce the potential for human error and make the overall infrastructure more secure and consistent.
  • Static Application Security Testing (SAST): SAST tools analyze source code, bytecode or binary code at rest to identify potential security vulnerabilities. This is done before the application is run, hence ‘static’. These tools help developers to detect and fix security issues early in the development process, thus reducing the risk of security breaches.
  • Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST): In contrast to SAST, DAST tools analyze applications during runtime. They simulate external attacks on an application and identify potential security vulnerabilities that could be exploited once the application is in production. DAST tools provide a dynamic analysis of the application, detecting issues that might not be visible in the code but could become vulnerabilities when the application is running.
  • Container security: This category of tools focuses on securing containerized applications. These tools scan container images for vulnerabilities, manage container deployments, monitor runtime activity, and provide visibility and control over network communications. They help to ensure that the containers, and the applications they host, are secure and free of known vulnerabilities.
  • Container networking: These tools manage and secure the network communications between containers in a microservices architecture. They provide features like network segmentation, load balancing, and service discovery, which help in managing inter-container communications effectively and securely.
  • Security monitoring and incident response: Security monitoring tools collect, filter, integrate, and link data to detect security breaches or anomalies. Incident response tools, on the other hand, are designed to provide a systematic approach to handling and managing the aftermath of a security breach or cyber attack, also known as an incident.

These tools play a crucial role in ensuring a secure and efficient software development lifecycle in a DevSecOps environment.

Learn more in our detailed guide to DevSecOps tools

Best Practices for Implementing DevSecOps in Your Organization

Foster a DevSecOps Culture and Mindset

DevSecOps can be defined by collaboration, automation, learning, measurements, and sharing (CALMS), a concept introduced by Jez Humble and later adopted by Meera Rao from Synopsys. The core of DevSecOps lies in fostering a culture where cross-functional teams align towards a common goal of continuous software security.

To instill a DevSecOps culture, start with self-driven project teams that share the organization’s strategic goals for DevSecOps implementations. These teams will find a balance between security, agility, and scalability by integrating the DevSecOps culture into everyday processes. Successful pilot teams serve as role models for other teams to adopt DevSecOps.

Promote a DevSecOps culture by proceeding iteratively, scaling up from individual project teams to the entire organization.

Enable Teams to Build Security In

Though it seems logical to “build security in,” putting it into practice is challenging. Teams often face a lack of understanding and resources to incorporate security into their software. Helping teams overcome these obstacles is essential to facilitate secure software development.

Security starts even before writing the code. Threat modeling and architecture reviews inform security requirements and controls that will be implemented throughout the software development lifecycle (SDLC). Providing adequate training to development teams on secure coding practices allows them to address security vulnerabilities.

Increase awareness of security vulnerabilities by ensuring visibility to identify and fix them. For instance, using IDE-based scanners allows developers to spot insecure code during the development process, which enables them to code securely and rectify issues early.

Start Early and Start Small

When initiating security activities and scanners in a DevSecOps pipeline, organizations often attempt to cover too much ground. This negatively impacts DevSecOps adoption, as developers are overwhelmed by large numbers of security findings and solving them all becomes an uphill battle.

Starting small and early is crucial. Begin security testing as early as possible in the software development lifecycle (SDLC) and gradually expand the scope. Instead of exhaustive scans, limit the ruleset to a manageable number of vulnerabilities for pre-commit security checkpoints. Later stages of the SDLC can include comprehensive scans and reviews to ensure security before release.

Treat Security Vulnerabilities as Software Defects

Security vulnerabilities are often reported separately from functional and quality defects, leading to reduced visibility and the risk of overlooking key security problems.

By aggregating security and quality findings in one place, teams can treat both types of issues equally. Keep in mind that security findings from automated scanners may yield false positives. Refining security tools over time by evaluating past findings and adjusting filters and custom rulesets can help focus on critical issues.

Pursue Scalable Governance

Traditional governance models can hinder software delivery speed, contradicting the primary aim of DevSecOps – rapid, safe, and secure software delivery. As a solution, automate governance activities whenever possible.

Using governance as code helps implement checks throughout the software delivery pipeline, with required triggers for manual intervention to manage escalations, exceptions, and compensating controls. For example, sign-off gates can be used to assess security before crucial SDLC milestones. Encouraging collaboration and buy-in from development and operations teams ensures inclusiveness and adoption of the governance model. Implement various feedback mechanisms, such as:

  • Pausing pipeline builds
  • Sending notifications
  • Creating and centrally tracking defects
  • Stopping the pipeline build entirely

Learn more in our detailed guide to DevSecOps best practices

Enhancing DevSecOps with Calico

With Calico, security and observability are treated as code. This means that security and observability are wired into the application and travel with the application through all stages of the development lifecycle. Integrating this approach into your CI/CD pipeline empowers developers and software engineers to make and implement security decisions, rather than pushing those decisions out to a separate team downstream.

Calico enhances DevSecOps in the following ways:

  • Deployment of new microservices along with the creation of necessary security policies is fully-automated, adding speed and predictability to the process.
  • No central manager or control point is required to create, review, or approve new policies, eliminating a choke point when microservice deployments scale.
  • Using policy tiers, Calico enables site reliability engineers (SREs) and developer teams to easily make self-service security policy changes to a cluster without the risk of overriding an existing policy.

Learn more about enhancing DevSecOps with Calico.

See Our Additional Guides on Key CI/CD Topics

Together with our content partners, we have authored in-depth guides on several other topics that can also be useful as you explore the world of CI/CD.

Unit Testing

Authored by Bright Security

DevOps Tools

Authored by Codefresh

Continuous Delivery

Authored by Codefresh

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