DevOps: 7 Reasons to Automate Security in your Pipelines

The DevSecOps Evolution: Incorporating Security into DevOps Practices

According to IDC estimates, the worldwide DevOps software market achieved a level of $2.9 billion in 2017 and is forecast to reach $6.6 billion in 2022. Driven by the need for faster innovation, a shift towards microservices architectures, and the evolution of automation and collaboration tooling, the DevOps juggernaut has dramatically changed how enterprise software is built. However, despite 75% of companies in a recent survey recognising the business value of DevOps, only about one in five considered their adoption level to be high, pointing to plenty of untapped potential for companies to reap the benefits. It also begs the question as to why more companies are not further advanced in their DevOps journeys.

DevOps, however, is not easy. It’s more than a set of automation tools and agile processes; it’s a mindset and culture. And, for many traditional industries and organisations change is a journey with plenty of roadblocks in shifting mentality and processes to order to inject DevOps earlier in the development process. In making the transition, one major roadblock is around shifting traditional security processes so that they become embedded in your DevOps activities. In an emerging movement towards DevSecOps, DevOps teams aim to incorporate security into their CI/CD (Continuous Integration / Continuous Delivery) pipelines, in a “shift left” paradigm, moving from a final blocking security review into a layered approach across the whole software development lifecycle (SDLC).

Seven Reasons to Justify a DevSecOps Journey

In this post, we explore seven reasons why security needs to be embedded in DevOps practices.

1. Education

Lack of expertise is the number one security problem. It is a lot to ask software engineers to deliver the functional requirements but also the underlying non-functional requirements like performance, scalability or security. By leveraging DevSecOps practices throughout the software development lifecycle, your team is security-aware from the first line of code and the first component of infrastructure. This really changes the mindset and helps to deliver better products and services. By integrating security into your engineering processes, and establishing KPIs around this, you can set a path towards success.

2. Visibility

Companies are not always aware of all the potential security threats until they are exploited. Vulnerability scanners, monitoring tools, and penetration testing among others offer invaluable information about threats that may have previously been undetected. In a study conducted by 451 Research only half of the respondent organisations had incorporated application security testing elements despite the awareness of their importance.  Being able to identify vulnerabilities across your software and infrastructure components is a key part of a solid governance strategy.

3. Velocity

Contrary to popular belief, DevSecOps can help you speed up your release cycles. Traditionally, security has been a blocker as it entailed a series of non-functional requirements that were reviewed at the latter stages of the SDLC. With DevSecOps, this changes dramatically: security is pushed to the early stages of the process – this is called ‘shift left’ in the industry. The main advantage is the ability to identify and fix problems earlier on in the delivery pipeline, avoiding flawed builds being deployed into production, thereby saving time and resources.

4. Confidence

DevOps activities need to empower developers to release to production multiple times a day, with a single click. This can open a big security hole: the number of people who have access to mission-critical systems can grow significantly. However, by embedding security into DevOps automation, confidence in the system’s integrity increases. With the right combination of technology and processes, the required level of security can be achieved, such as enforcing PCI or HIPAA compliance.

Delaying security to the later stages of the development process is difficult to plan for. How can you know how many defects are spotted? How long will it take to fix them? DevSecOps promotes the idea of adding security checkpoints to every phase of the pipeline. This reveals defects from the very moment the software is conceived, allowing the engineers to fix them early in the pipeline. It also allows everyone to plan accordingly, as the final security review just ensures that all the steps have been properly assessed and vulnerabilities managed accordingly.

5. Forensics

Audit trailing is already a legal requirement in financial systems but we argue that it is now a must-have in most software components, as it allows the engineers to trace and audit entire transactions (user actions, automated operations, etc. ) in order to reproduce issues or attacks. DevSecOps encourages teams to build systems in a way that are easily auditable: log collection, event sourcing and event monitoring are just a few of the techniques used by DevSecOps engineers to allow your systems to be transparent and facilitate the required governance.

6. Automation

Containers filled with microservices get deployed and rescheduled unpredictably on your platforms. Only automated systems can keep up with that fluid behaviour. Intervention by humans can no longer keep up. Runtime monitoring coupled with rule-based or AI-driven automated containment is the only way to keep these highly dynamic application landscapes safe.

7. Unique Selling Point

It doesn’t matter if you are selling a service or a product, your customers need to have the confidence that their data is safe. Building your SDLC on a strong security foundation is a very strong selling point.  Security is now table stakes for many enterprises, even a requirement in cases where the customer is audited for ISO-27001.

Ready for the Journey to Secure DevOps?

Architecting DevOps processes and systems with a focus on security accelerate software delivery even further. By shifting security to “the left” and automating every security measure possible reduces surprises and frustration along every step of the process. No matter if you are starting a new project or thinking of transitioning into DevOps, security has to be in the centre of the stage always to prevent outages in your systems.

At NearForm, we are firm believers and practitioners of DevSecOps activities supporting companies on the transition with what we call DevOps AID: Assess, Implement, Direct. If you want to hear more about it contact us and we will provide a plan on which steps need to be taken to maximise your DevOps in a secure way.

Contact us if you would like more information about our DevSecOps consulting approach.

You may also find our latest e-book “5 Guidelines to Boost the Security of Modern Applications” very useful. Download your free copy today.

Christian Wiediger

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Published by David Gonzalez
1st October 2018