What is DevSecOps? Definition, Challenges, and Best Practices

June 23, 2022

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The DevOps culture transforms how IT teams operate, breaking down the silos between teams and facilitating open, transparent communication and collaboration. But with advances in technology, the systems have become more vulnerable to cyberattacks and data breaches. This made it essential to look into the cybersecurity aspects. This is where security was brought into the fold, and DevSecOps was born.

What is the DevSecOps Methodology?

DevSecOps represents development, security, and operations together as a part of the IT culture. It is a revolutionary new approach to culture, automation, and platform design that integrates security as a shared responsibility throughout the entire IT lifecycle. With DevSecOps, the aim is that the stakeholders would understand the importance of security in the IT lifecycle. Security needs to be woven into every step of the lifecycle and not added later on after all the steps are complete as an afterthought. It should be an essential consideration when planning the application or software, developing the application, testing the application, and at every step.

DevOps vs DevSecOps

DevOps brought together the development and operation teams, breaking down their silos. But to realise the full potential of this agile and responsive new culture, one needs to be mindful of IT security. In today’s fast-paced team, where vulnerabilities arise at the pace of technological advances, IT security has to be integrated into the complete lifecycle of the application and not just at the last stage just before the application goes into production. Outdated security practices can erase the benefits drawn from the most effective DevOps runs, making it essential to give security its due importance.

With DevSecOps, security becomes a shared responsibility among the teams, and it gets integrated throughout the lifecycle, complete from end to end, not just at the very end. Moreover, it is not just a practice that needs to be followed, but a whole mindset switch that draws the focus toward building security into the foundation of all DevOps initiatives.

What do the DevSecOps solutions involve?

Broadly, embracing the DevSecOps methodology involves the following:

  • Considering and planning for application and infrastructure security from the very beginning of every project

  • Bring in automation to power the security gates to prevent the slowing down of the DevOps workflows

  • Picking the required tools, frameworks, and approaches for ensuring continuous security integration, including Integrated Development Environment (IDE)

  • Plan and implement cultural changes to bring the work of the security teams into the DevOps folds

The key principle DevSecOps functions on is – “Everybody is responsible for security – not just one individual or one team”.

What are the DevSecOps best practices?

Some fundamental best practices should be a part of every DevSecOps Roadmap, as below:

Embrace secure coding

DevSecOps aims to build software and applications with high resistance to vulnerabilities and breaches. To ensure this happens, teams need to embrace and practise secure coding. You would need developers who have the necessary skills to make this happen. Developers need to strictly follow the laid down coding standards and write clean, secure code.

Introduce and practice automation

Manual tasks no longer fit into the DevSecOps roadmaps. While some tasks would still need to be conducted manually, automation must be embraced as much as possible. While the code delivery gets automated with the CI/CD pipeline, the security measures need to keep pace with this automated pipeline. This would also require picking the right automation tools for security testing. While static Application Security Testing (SAST) tools are generally preferred everywhere, the decisions need to be made on a case-to-case basis.

Take the ‘Shift Left’ approach

As we mentioned before, consider weaving security into every process of the IT lifecycle right from the very start. This will help locate bugs and vulnerabilities much sooner and resolve them much sooner. This may sometimes lead to disruption of the DevOps workflow. Still, it also works out to be cheaper and more effective as it is always beneficial to locate bugs and vulnerabilities as soon as possible.

Get your people, process, and technology in place

This would be it if there ever were a holy trinity that would bring you success in your DevSecOps initiatives. Getting people with the right skills and mindsets to work on your initiatives, defining and implementing the right processes in line with the DevSecOps philosophy, and picking the right tools and frameworks that your people could work with to run your processes is essential.

Educate the people about security

Everybody in the enterprise, especially the people who are a part of the IT lifecycle or are even remotely impacted by it or involved with it, needs to understand the importance of IT security and how they can contribute to it. Everyone across the enterprise has to follow the same standards and protocols for maintaining and upholding the security standards. The specific tasks could vary by individual roles, but everybody needs to be educated about IT security and its importance.

Encourage traceability and auditability

Traceability enables an enterprise to track the configurations throughout the IT lifecycle to check where every requirement was deployed and implemented in the code. Traceability eases out the process of meeting compliance, finding bugs, keeping code secure and maintainable, etc. Auditability, in turn, is essential in a DevSecOps environment for remaining compliant with the laid-out security standards and requirements. It implies that every build, every code, every practice, etc., would be compliant and under control if checked by independent third parties or even by the stakeholders. Auditability applies to technical controls, procedural controls, administrative controls, documentation, etc.

What are the benefits of the DevSecOps process?

The shortest possible answer to this question would be – speed and security. With DevSecOps, teams can deliver better, more secure code faster at lower costs. Some of the benefits of embracing the DevSecOps solutions are:

Quick, cost-effective product delivery

Security issues in software developed in a non-DevSecOps environment can lead to long delays in releasing the builds. Locating the bugs in the final code, finding a fix for the issue, implementing it, and then re-releasing the build can be not just a time-consuming process but also an expensive one. DevSecOps rules out this issue by ensuring security is baked into every step of the IT lifecycle.

Improved security by being proactive

With DevSecOps, IT security is no longer an afterthought added in at the last stage but something that everybody on the team is responsible for at all stages and at all times. A DevSecOps environment calls for the code to be reviewed, scanned, audited, and tested for security issues and other issues at every stage. This prevents the occurrence of incidences, and the security vulnerabilities can be identified quickly and resolved right away.

Quicker security vulnerability patching

As technology advances, so do security threats. This requires the security capabilities to be updated regularly and constantly evolve to keep up with the changing threats. DevSecOps enables teams to identify the new security vulnerabilities, scan them, and patch them before releasing the build into the production cycle. This also limits the threat’s exposure and opportunity to bring down the system.

Enables automation

Automation is the way to go for every development environment and lifecycle. Manual processes can no longer keep up with the fast-paced environment and needs. DevSecOps is extremely conducive and supportive of implementing automation. The DevSecOps process fits well into the CI/CD pipeline of the enterprise and can automate security testing and checking seamlessly. Both static and dynamic analysis can be done smoothly with automation in a DevSecOps environment.

Make processes repeatable, adaptive, agile, and responsive

The key to IT success is to replicate successful practices and processes. The processes need to be easily adaptive, agile, and responsive to changes in the environment. DevSecOps ensures this happens. Even when the environment evolves and changes, it can adapt and respond to the new requirements with ease.

Keep in mind that a mature, successful Cloud DevSecOps implementation would be characterised by seamless automation, robust configuration management, smooth orchestration, usage of containers, deployment of immutable infrastructure, and usually even serverless compute environments.

Challenges of DevSecOps Solutions

No matter how good and effective, every process comes with its limitations. Moreover, implementing a new process also brings challenges. Some of the major challenges of the DevSecOps process are:

Roadblocks to implementing a cultural shift

DevSecOps is not a new tool or a newly introduced practice that would impact a few individuals. It is a whole new mindset and a new culture for the entire enterprise, definitely for the IT teams. This could lead to resistance and push-backs from the teams. Security has traditionally been viewed as an extra feature and not a part of the regular culture, so changing that mindset would need a lot of effective change management and planning.

Lack of skilled professionals

DevSecOps calls for professionals who are skilled in working with the new tools and frameworks and those who understand the importance of security in the system. A study by Security Compass has highlighted a lack of awareness about the importance of security and a lack of skills to implement the initiatives are the top challenges encountered when implementing DevSecOps in an organisation.

Need for complex tools and integrations

DevSecOps calls for using new tools and frameworks and then integrating these into existing systems and processes. Some of these tools could be open-source, while some would require subscriptions and additional budgets. The key to overcoming this challenge is to find a tool or platform which would help you address all your security concerns to as large an extent as possible.

Being Agile

Getting complacent is not an option when embracing DevSecOps. The framework calls for everybody in the team to be on their toes and be agile and responsive to the changing needs. This is not an easy task, but it is worth the results. DevSecOps does make everybody’s lives easier over time, but it also requires teams to be agile. Once the teams realise its importance, it gets easier to implement.

Conclusion

DevSecOps essentially calls for a new way to look at security – something considered at every step and every stage, something that is everybody’s responsibility. DevSecOps helps an enterprise realise the full potential of their DevOps initiatives and go above and beyond to offer a great user experience, bring down costs, and improve the productivity of its teams. If an enterprise has already embraced DevOps or is implementing the framework, switching it up to DevSecOps would be a natural progression to make it grow. If you are new to the framework, it couldn’t get better than starting with DevSecOps itself. That way, you begin by weaving security into everybody’s mindsets right from the beginning.

DevSecOps is changing the way businesses look at and approach security. It offers countless technical and business advantages for the enterprise and will be the way for the future. Every new initiative meets some challenges, and DevSecOps will be no different. Still, once these challenges are overcome, the enterprise can uncover amazing benefits and a transformed IT lifecycle marked by security, speed, high productivity, agility, responsiveness, transparency, auditability, agility, and so much more.

About the Author Sandeep Kumar is a Director at RV Technologies. Having an inclination towards software development, Sandeep always ensures to stay on top of the latest development technologies and how to implement them in real-world projects. He is always ready to share his insight with the developers so that they can also leverage the modern-day tech stack and build futuristic digital solutions for clients. Apart from overseeing all the development projects, Sandeep also likes to write down and share his insights with the world to familiarize people with the latest technologies and their potential in our everyday lives.

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