DevOps has dramatically changed the way IT businesses operate and innovate. It enabled them to develop and deliver products at a speed and scale. Amid this paradigm shift, the business realized that the traditional "bolt-on" security techniques and manual controls that are reliant on legacy practices are not keeping pace with high-velocity, continuous delivery software development. Indeed, in the DevOps ecosystem, the security aspect was tackled by a separate security team and quality assurance teams at the end of the software development cycle (as an afterthought), which created an unacceptable bottleneck. And DevSecOps seeks to solve this security conundrum by integrating security practices and controls throughout the software development lifecycle (SDLC).
DevSecOps addresses security issues as they emerge before they're pushed into production, when they're easier and less expensive to fix. Moreover, it makes the application and infrastructure security a shared responsibility of the development, security, and IT operations teams, rather than the sole responsibility of the security engineers. As security is backed into every phase of the DevOps lifecycle, the business can now build more secure, high-quality software at speed and scale.
However, for DevSecOps to be most effective, it needs to be automated. Automation in DevSecOps empowers developers, IT operations teams, and security engineers to collaborate and scale their perspectives across the SDLC regardless of the deployment environment – on-premises, private cloud, public cloud, or hybrid cloud. Let’s dig deep into the concept of DevSecOps automation and understand how you secure your application workflows.
What is DevSecOps automation?
DevSecOps automation is the process of automating the integration of security into DevOps CI/CD (continuous integration and continuous deployment) pipelines. This automation drastically reduces the number of errors that occur when security analysis is performed manually. While DevSecOps makes security a shared responsibility of Dev, Ops, and security teams, DevSecOps automation empowers everyone with the tools they need to ensure code and configurations are secure without any need to become security specialists. Simply put, DevSecOps automation provides developers with self-service security tools that help remediate vulnerabilities without the need to rely on the security team. These self-service tools not only empower developers to handle security without human bottlenecks but also encourage cross-team skill development.
With DevSecOps automation, security is no longer sacrificed for speed - in fact, it contributes to the high-speed delivery of high-quality products. The automation eliminates manual efforts like checking for software vulnerabilities, enabling teams to focus on productive and innovative tasks and deliver greater value. Automation in DevSecOps creates more visibility and observability across the software development lifecycle, which is critical for teams to analyze the root cause of vulnerabilities and act accordingly.
When is the right time to automate security in DevOps?
Organizations that have implemented DevOps methodologies to accelerate application delivery are under intense pressure to integrate and automate security throughout the software development lifecycle. One of the prime reasons for the increasing demand for DevSecOps is the rising concern over data breaches. And application vulnerabilities are the leading cause of data breaches, with 9 in 10 web applications having one or more exploitable vulnerabilities in them. Moreover, these vulnerabilities are pushed to production environments as they were never detected while the application code was being built, indicating that security wasn't integrated into the development process. These issues are only detected after an attacker exploits them or a user finds them.
Not only are the application vulnerabilities very risky and severe, but they are also exponentially high in number, making it challenging for DevOps teams to tackle them. In the first quarter of 2022, the National Vulnerability Database (NVD) published around 8,051 Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs), a 25% increase from the same period in 2021.
These dreadful facts about application vulnerabilities are making security automation the need of the hour. DevOps teams need automated security testing throughout the software development life cycle in order to automate code inspection and remediate the identified vulnerabilities before they reach the production environment.
So, if security is still an afterthought for your business, then NOW is the right time to automate security throughout the DevOps lifecycle in order to address security issues as they emerge, when they're easier and less expensive to fix, and before they are pushed into production.
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How to build a DevSecOps automation strategy
Although DevSecOps automation enables businesses to bring high-quality, secure products to market faster, it comes with its own set of challenges like tool sprawl, compatibility issues, and alert fatigue. These challenges can impede the successful integration of security into your DevOps pipeline. For the successful adoption of DevSecOps automation, you need a holistic approach and strategy to seamlessly automate security.
Here are the steps to build a DevSecOps automation strategy:
1. Determine your DevSecOps needs
As you move to adopt DevSecOps automation, it's imperative to assess your current security practices and procedures. Based on the assessment, choose DevSecOps tools and technologies that foster speed and accuracy. The abundance of tools can often overwhelm software developers and security engineers. Implement a development strategy that adheres to your security needs and objectives while leveraging the most appropriate tools and resources.
2. Check code dependencies
As many organizations are outsourcing software development, there's a huge scope that a significant amount of application code coming from third-party, open sources. Such code may come with bugs and flaws that are not automatically identified and remediated. And, DevOps teams are often hard-pressed for time to evaluate the code.
Automated security testing helps address this concern by routinely testing the open-source and third-party code components. DevSecOps automation ensures that third-party code does not have any known vulnerabilities and is being updated as it should be during the development phase of a product. It checks a database of known vulnerabilities for concerns with code dependencies and prevents third-party threats from entering the program.
3. Leverage the right tools
Choosing the right set of security tools is key to the successful implementation of your DevSecOps automation. Make sure that your security technologies seamlessly integrate with the DevOps CI/CD cycles, rather than hampering the process. Your DevSecOps tools should be fast, accurate, and actionable, without any need for manual intervention of developers and security teams for double-checking the findings. Also ensure that the tools are simple to use, making it easier even for coders to identify and address security flaws while they write code.
4. Implement threat modeling
Ensure that a threat modeling methodology is part of the DevSecOps lifecycle to empower developers to perceive the software from the perspective of a malicious actor. This enables the team to build secure code. The threat modeling also enables your team to identify architectural and design issues that previous security checks may have overlooked. Moreover, continuous threat modeling helps security experts understand the application’s security posture, which helps deploy the right security tooling for DevSecOps automation. However, threat modeling can hamper development speed as it cannot be automated. But it is critical for implementing a solid security strategy.
5. Automate security testing
Your DevSecOps automation strategy must ensure that all the security testing procedures, such as code analysis, configuration management, and patching & vulnerability management, are automated to the fullest. And leverage automated security technologies to identify potential risks, susceptible code, and challenges in the process and infrastructure. Moreover, ensure that security automation is closely aligned with the DevOps process to reduce cultural barriers.
Implement security testing and controls across the development lifecycle to build a secure CI/CD pipeline. However, your security automation solutions shouldn't overburden the CI/CD pipelines, while facilitating flexibility for various tech stacks, security tools, and production environments. Leverage test automation solutions that come with a wide range of capabilities, from source code analysis to post-deployment monitoring.
7. Monitor continuously
Continuous monitoring is key for any successful DevSecOps automation. It ensures that your automated security processes and controls are working effectively while improving observability, traceability, and auditability. These aspects allow your team to quickly identify and address security issues before they break down operations. Moreover, it helps avoid costly rollbacks while improving the production user experience.
8. Implement cross-training
For successful implementation of DevSecOps automation, you must ensure that your team is well-versed in all the security procedures and tools. Ensure that all the team members are trained on building secure applications to make security a shared responsibility between developers, security professionals, and the operations team. Implement robust communication channels for seamless collaboration between security professionals and developers. This enables the security team to educate developers on secure coding practices. Moreover, organization-wide training helps enforce stakeholders’ accountability towards security. These training practices help drive the crucial behavioral change required to automate security controls.
10 benefits of DevSecOps automation
Simply put, the prime benefits of DevSecOps automation are speed and security. DevOps teams deliver better, more-secure applications faster. Let’s dig deep into the benefits that make DevSecOps automation a key part of the software ecosystem:
1. Accelerates SDLC
DevSecOps automation transforms the software development lifecycle into a quicker, more secure software release process. It speeds up many steps in the SDLC and ensures that continuous code integrations are handled at the speed of DevOps. As the automation framework can be built and executed during the deployment phase of the SDLC, the applications can be placed into the framework, where security functions are integrated, tested, and pushed automatically into production.
2. Eliminates the manual tasks
DevSecOps automation allows you to automate repetitive operational tasks to create a seamless software development process. This includes the implementation and monitoring of security features within the applications. The DevSecOps tools can also automatically monitor newly launched applications and initiate a rollback to a previous version if any bugs are detected. However, there are many IT enterprises that still leverage Technical Security Review (TSR) to improve their code security. Though a TSR is a painful process, it helps improve velocity, directly impacting the developer productivity engineering (DPE). With security automation, we can reduce the process by 80% of TSR review, improving the development velocity and speed, while keeping the software secure.
3. Accurate code checks
In the DevOps ecosystem, speed of delivery often comes at the cost of code accuracy. With DevSecOps automation, you can implement automated code verification checks into your CI/CD pipeline. These accurate code checks help identify and remediate errors without impeding software updates and deployment schedules.
4. Uniform security
DevSecOps automation framework enables you to automatically integrate security controls across all software builds uniformly. This, in turn, creates a consistent security foundation, where security operations run in the same way every time code moves through the CI/CD lifecycle process.
5. Self-service security tools
DevSecOps automation facilitates your DevOps teams with self-service security tools, enabling them to rectify identified code vulnerabilities without the help of the security team. These tools not only empower the development team to handle security aspects without human bottlenecks but also foster cross-team skill development. In this way, the self-service tools foster a shared security responsibility among all the teams, thereby decreasing the developer-to-security people ratio. Moreover, Self-service tools can facilitate various security operations, such as application platform provisioning, configuration management, vulnerability tracking, and reporting and auditing. According to a recent State of DevOps report, highly mature DevOps enterprises, which have integrated security into all the software development phases, are facilitating their developers with more self-service tooling. This, consequently, helped them reduce the TSR review cycle and fix vulnerabilities faster.
6. AI-enabled threat analysis
DevSecOps automation leverages modern technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to simplify, streamline, and speed up complex DevSecOps operations. These tools can analyze software and OS logs and suggest code alterations to proactively identify code vulnerabilities.
7. High Scalability
Once the DevSecOps methodologies are deployed, it will be challenging to manually replicate them when more compute resources are needed. However, DevSecOps automation helps scale DevSecOps systems and processes as per the demand with just a few clicks.
8. Automated compliance
In order to align with regulatory compliances and industry standards, businesses need auditing and reporting functions that identify relevant information accurately and display it in an understandable manner. But auditing and reporting can be arduous given the lack of visibility, evolving compliance requirements, and wide range of manually configured tools that deliver different results.
However, with DevSecOps automation, teams can automate auditing and reporting tasks.
Some of the industry guidelines that help mitigate the attacks targeting the software supply chains are:
Gartner’s How Software Engineering Leaders Can Mitigate Software Supply Chain Security Risks
Google’s Supply chain Levels for Software Artifacts (SLSA): an End-to-End Framework for Supply Chain Integrity
The President's Executive Order (EO) 14028 on Improving the Nation's Cybersecurity
And, DevSecOps automation helps integrate and automate security and compliance controls and standards distilled from these industry guidelines and improve your software supply chain integrity.
9. Cost savings
When DevSecOps automation is implemented properly, teams can realize cost savings across the software development lifecycle. Gains include high speed of software delivery, low risk of a cybersecurity incident, reduced number of operations staff required, and decreased rollbacks. As the teams can protect the integrity of the software delivery process by securing the software development systems, open-source artifacts, and DevOps pipeline with DevSecOps automation, the organization can prevent potential loss of revenue, loss of customer trust, and loss of brand reputation.
10. Shifting security to the left
DevSecOps automation facilitates a shift-left approach to security. This means, the security testing begins earlier in the software development lifecycle, helping development teams deliver secure software with speed and at scale. So, instead of conducting all testing and security reviews when an application is released into production, DevSecOps shifts security testing to the left by including security scans into the developer’s workflow. This enables developers to identify and address vulnerabilities before the code ever leaves their computers. As a result, the number of vulnerabilities the security team requires to address decreases potentially, freeing them to focus on the most complex issues that need their skillset. Moreover, shifting security left also empowers developers to get involved in the remediation process early. As they still have their code fresh in mind, they can easily understand and resolve the alerts. This, definitely, helps them become productive and build long-term secure coding practices.