Driving DevOps Transformation: 5 DevSecOps Automation Best Practices


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Thursday, September 29, 2022

Follow these best practices to ensure you stand the best chance of successfully moving from a DevOps to an automated DevSecOps environment.

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Driving DevOps Transformation: 5 DevSecOps Automation Best Practices
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DevOps has now become a standard option for many firms to help streamline the software development life cycle (SDLC). By integrating development and operations into a single team, this allows for changes to be implemented faster and speeds up the time to production. However, there is another element that must be taken into account - security.

In a typical DevOps environment, this can be easily overlooked because undergoing testing processes to check for vulnerabilities can add unwanted time and complexity to the project. For instance, 71% of chief information security officers view the need to secure their systems as a barrier to a fast time to market.

However, the consequences of this can be significant. One in five leaders said at least half of their projects needed significant reworking due to security issues, and if these problems are not adequately addressed, it can leave firms open to serious data breaches, where costs can quickly run into the millions of dollars.

The need to move from DevOps to DevSecOps automation

Addressing these weaknesses is a major reason why all DevOps professionals should consider moving to a DevSecOps environment, as it will enable them to keep the efficiency gains that DevOps offers over traditional waterfall approaches without compromising on security.

Doing this will require a major shift in mindset from everyone involved. Putting security at the heart of the process will mean significant changes to the way people operate. The need to factor in security issues and testing at every stage requires developers to think differently about how they build, review and commit code.

A key part of any successful transition is how you add security automation technology into the DevOps environment. A DevSecOps solution that's still dependent on manual processes for reviewing and testing code for potential vulnerabilities won't be able to take advantage of the efficiency savings promised by DevOps. In fact, it could even end up costing you more time if the testing process creates bottlenecks.

Adopting the right automation tools not only speeds up these processes, but ensures all employees within the team, from security pros to developers, have more time to focus on the things that really matter.

5 steps to make the transition to automated DevSecOps as smooth as possible

So how can firms go about implementing security automation into their DevOps strategies as easily as possible? Here are five best practices to bear in mind.

1. Understand where the differences lie

Step one is to recognize and address the differences between a standard DevOps environment and a DevSecOps way of working. With DevSecOps, security activities are so closely integrated with the development process that it will be impossible to separate them. This means when you apply automated security tools, you'll have to do so throughout the process rather than at predetermined milestones, which in turn will impact your planning and feedback systems.

2. Automate early and often

Understanding when to add security automation tools to the process is another vital decision, and generally speaking the best advice is to add this as early as possible in the process and make sure it's repeated at regular intervals throughout. A 'shift left' approach to security is essential in making DevSecOps automation work properly, as this allows any issues to be identified and corrected before they have a chance to cause problems.

3. Ensure your developers embrace security

Because security is embedded so heavily in the process, it's vital these issues are not just left to dedicated professionals. Every developer working in a DevSecOps environment needs to have a security-first mindset. First and foremost, this means training them on secure coding techniques - as if this is factored into every line of code it greatly reduces the chances of vulnerabilities - but also ensuring they buy into the cultural changes required to make DevSecOps automation a success.

Learn more: How to Automate and Streamline Your DevSecOps Security Testing

4. Make threat modeling a priority

An effective threat modeling solution needs to be a top priority for any DevSecOps strategy. Without this, firms will have no visibility into where they need to be applying automation solutions. This is vital in giving you a clear idea of what assets you have, the protections that are in place and where any gaps lie.

This can prove challenging, as it is often seen as going against the principles of DevOps by slowing down the CI/CD process. However, do this correctly - ideally right at the start of a DevSecOps project - and you can see exactly where to focus your efforts by looking at your applications from the point of view of an attacker.

5. Improve your code review process

Following secure coding practices throughout the SDLC is only half the job. These also need to be effectively reviewed on a regular basis. This means fully documenting any issues found, documenting the process and maintaining constant feedback processes to see where improvements can be made and how effective automation technologies have been.

These practices shouldn't also apply to your own code. According to one survey, 96% of commercial applications use open-source components, while six out of ten of these applications contained known security vulnerabilities within these components. Yet despite this, only around a quarter of developers (27%) had processes for automated testing for known flaws in open-source software. Adding these capabilities is therefore a must for any successful deployment.

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