The Agile development process and the DevOps culture have enabled organisations to develop and deploy applications faster, more frequently and in a more flexible way, than if they were using traditional processes.
However, there is a crucial element that these processes fail to address effectively: security.
The role of DevSecOps
A few years ago, before DevSecOps was a thing, security was perceived as an afterthought. It did not come up until the final stages of the development lifecycle. The main focus of organisations was to develop and deliver products as fast as possible, which was further fuelled by the emergence of flexible and iterative methodologies like Agile, DevOps and CI/CD (Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery).
The security-as-an-afterthought approach couldn’t keep up with the adoption of these trending practices. Rather than integrating seamlessly into the Agile development process, traditional security hindered its efficiency and agility.
DevSecOps brought a solution to this problem. By integrating security into every stage of the development lifecycle, from the design phase to the final deployment to production, DevSecOps ensured that security is no longer an obstacle to the efficient DevOps process.
In this article, we present three important factors to consider when deciding to adopt DevSecOps within your software development process.
Shift-Left security approach
In a traditional DevOps workflow, after the development team has undergone all stages of the development lifecycle, and right before deployment to production, the final product undergoes a security audit.
With the security team acting as a gatekeeper, this security audit represents a bottleneck in the development lifecycle, where delays in deployments often occur.
To address this, instead of treating security as a point-in-time activity to be conducted later in the development process (and we saw how much of a bad idea that is), the development team can adopt the practice of Shift Left.
This approach involves shifting security to the early stages of the project, with security being a part of every phase of the development lifecycle.
Security by Design principle
The design phase holds paramount importance where security is concerned, as it sets the ground for anticipating and mitigating potential weaknesses and vulnerabilities early in the development process.
By integrating security into the design phase, the Secure by Design principle aims to proactively identify and address security vulnerabilities, resulting in secure and resilient applications that can withstand different types of threats.
Common security activities to integrate during the design phase include the Security Risk Assessment, Threat Modelling, Security Requirements Definition, and Secure Architecture Design.
By adopting the Shift-Left approach, we encounter an additional challenge: with security now becoming a part of every stage of the development lifecycle, there is the potential for it to introduce delays at each stage of the process.
Security considerations and assessments are conducted continuously throughout the entire development lifecycle, which results in additional time invested in each stage, due to security-related activities.
This is where automation can provide a solution to this challenge. For security to be streamlined and seamlessly integrated into the development pipeline, it is crucial to leverage the power of automation.
By automating security tasks, such as static and dynamic security testing, code analysis, security compliance checks and vulnerability scans, development teams can ensure that security does not cause any significant slowdown or disruption.
Adopting the DevSecOps culture
When adopting DevSecOps, the most significant aspect to consider is the cultivation of a security-centric culture within the development team. The developer should not perceive security solely as the responsibility of the security professional alone. Instead, it should be embraced as a shared responsibility across the entire team. Security should be prioritised and valued throughout the development process.
In order to achieve this, training can be provided to all team members to enhance their security knowledge and raise awareness about the importance of integrating security into the development process.
Additionally, collaboration and open communication channels must be established between the development, operations, and security teams. This can help them jointly identify and address security challenges early on.
No matter whether the organisation integrates security early in the process, includes security activities in the design phase, or leverages automation for security tasks, if it does not foster a security-conscious culture within the team, it risks overlooking critical security considerations, resulting in reactive fixes which may delay the deployment later in the lifecycle.
By shifting security left, leveraging automated security, and cultivating a security-centric culture, organisations have a good recipe for effectively addressing security challenges, while maintaining the speed and agility of their DevOps processes.