Devsecops banner

What is DevSecOps? Explaining the neo-norm redefining modern software development

“DevSecOps is toppling the conventional wisdom on how security should be tackled across the software development lifecycle. Instead of being dealt with like an afterthought, it is now being deliberated right from the start with everyone on the team accountable for it.”

Introduction to DevSecOps methodology

The acronym DevSecOps stands for development, security, and operations. Lately, it has been a topic for boardroom discussions with CISOs espousing its many benefits to make software development far more secure, strategic, and cost-saving. But is DevSecOps worth the hype?

Before we delve into the finer details of DevSecOps, let’s catch up on DevOps first. Just so you know, DevOps is an enterprise practice that enables proactive, agile collaboration between development and IT operations teams. It offers a gold standard in software development by improving an organization’s ability to develop and deploy applications faster and help its customers shorten their go-to-market and stay hyper-competitive in today’s landscape.

DevSecOps expands the DevOps mindset and emerges as a methodology where security is of the essence. It advocates baking in security at all phases of software development and bringing individuals across all technology disciplines to take necessary decisions in favor of it. DevSecOps reinforces security more as a culture and not as a tailpiece—and stresses the need for boosting collaboration between developers, IT, and security professionals in an ecosystem led by values such as agility, scalability, and transparency.

DevSecOps closes security loopholes early.

Back in the day, security was a responsibility assigned to a specific team, and it was meant to be dealt with during the final stage of development. This wasn’t problematic since development cycles lasted for months, even years, at that point in time.

As soon as the competition started to flare up, enterprises demanded market-ready solutions in weeks and even days to be at an advantage. While DevOps solved the dilemma and proved to be a significant disruptor, transforming development cycles as more rapid, flexible, and frequent, outdated security practices kept sabotaging even the most efficient efforts.

Vulnerabilities kept finding a way in, giving a hard time to organizations and making it tricky to release apps faster. A good deal of time was lost during the development lifecycle in back-and-forth movements, and even after investing it all, security loopholes still weren't closed. Another severe bottleneck was obsolete compliance monitoring and security tools that failed to cater to evolving security needs. And, since these were complex and expensive, replacing them at the pace of change was challenging.

An image representing DevSecOps Life Cycle
          An image representing DevSecOps Life Cycle

In a survey report, Forrester noted that over 57% of organizations suffered security incidents related to exposed secrets in DevOps. DevSecOps makes a valuable impact by fostering a foundation where security decisions are made immediately, backed by:

  • Automation of security controls and compliance channels to ensure DevOps at speed.

  • Agile, effective feedback to stem security threats before they turn intense.

  • Adoption of new tools to amplify human efforts in securing DevOps pipelines.

  • Continuous collaboration to aid problem-solving endeavors in real-time.

SDLC (software development lifecycle). The general DevOps process defines continuous integration and delivery, ensuring that code is tested and verified during agile development. DevSecOps integrates security auditing and penetration testing into agile development. Rather than adding security as the last part of the job, DevSecOps advocates building it into the product right from the beginning and making SDLC more resilient.

Breaking down a typical DevSecOps workflow

With DevSecOps, automated testing and continuous integration can be a part of an organization's workflow to boost the quality of their code and increase security and compliance.

An image representing the DevSecOps workflow
                                                   An image representing the DevSecOps workflow


Advantages of DevSecOps

DevSecOps drives benefits in terms of security and speed of software development. Shannon Lietz, co-author of the ‘DevOps Manifesto,’ says, “The purpose and intent of DevSecOps is to build on the mindset that everyone is responsible for security with the goal of safely distributing security decisions at speed and scale to those who hold the highest level of context without sacrificing the safety required.”

Some of the benefits DevSecOps delivers are as follows:

  1. Cost-effective software delivery
    Fixing the code and security issues can often be time-consuming and costly. With the advantage of DevSecOps’ rapid, secure delivery, organizations can save time and money by reducing the hustle and minimizing the effort to fix security issues.

  2. Higher-quality coding
    DevSecOps puts integrated security practices at the core of software development, thus making coding more efficient and cost-effective by reducing duplicate reviews and unnecessary rebuilds.

  3. Quick vulnerability response
    The DevSecOps culture brings teams across disciplines to work on a shared vision: bolstered security. As a consequence of such collaboration, security response strategies and design patterns are developed quickly, and the software development company is positioned at the cutting edge of disruption.

  4. Improved uptime
    DevSecOps minimizes the frequency of security breaches and leads organizations to focus on other strategic priorities. Vulnerabilities are detected and fixed consistently at a pace, helping developers accelerate the speed of delivery and ensuring no downtime keeps their customers waiting.

  5. Effortless compliance
    Another benefit of DevSecOps is how it helps organizations gain rapid, ongoing compliance with industry standards. Regulations like GDPR are stern, are always evolving, and make enterprises increasingly cautious when dealing with data. With DevSecOps, management gains a more comprehensive view of these measures, thus promoting easier compliance.

Best practices for implementing DevSecOps

  1. Automation
    The real purpose of DevOps is to drive the speed of the software development process, and speed shouldn’t be hampered by tagging the element of security along. Integrating security tests and controls—backed by automation—early in the development cycle helps companies ensure that applications are delivered as quickly as possible.

  2. Threat investigation/modeling
    Organizations can conduct threat investigations to determine their security readiness. CISOs must keep an eye out to find potential threats, run regular security scans, and review code to keep up with security challenges. Similarly, threat modeling exercises can help organizations identify weaknesses in security controls and plug them.

  3. Compliance monitoring
    The role of compliance in corporate governance remains critical to an organization's success. Regulations aid in creating and modifying the code, which further facilitates real-time audits.

  4. Code analysis
    Software development companies can deliver code in small pieces to ensure vulnerabilities are spotted quickly. They must also revisit and improve code as and when required for pretty good patched-up software.

  5. SAST
    Static code analyzers not only detect violations in the best practices for coding but also diagnose vulnerabilities in the code and libraries imported. This is called SAST (static analysis security testing), and today’s cutting-edge tools integrate seamlessly into the continuous delivery pipeline. Note that you choose a SAST scanner compatible with the programming language.

  6. DAST
    Subsystems are built from several loosely coupled components and can be deployed to keep a tab on security vulnerabilities with DAST (dynamic analysis security testing). In contrast to SAST, DAST scours through an application while running, similar to what an attacker would do. DAST scanners do not necessarily require a specific language as they interact with the app from the outside.

  7. Personnel training
    With hands-on training sessions and certification courses, organizations can develop their capabilities and equip their teams with the necessary domain knowledge.

  8. Secure coding
    Coding performed in a fortified production environment ensures high resistance to security vulnerabilities and high-performance applications. However, when a company decides to give it a pass, it shoots itself in the foot and risks losing expensive data. It is, hence, vital that developers must secure their code, no matter how much time and effort it necessitates. Adherence to coding standards can help developers write clean and secure code.

Challenges to DevSecOps implementation

DevSecOps is revolutionizing software development processes. However, its implementation is not easy; thus, some obstacles and caveats must be noted.

  1. Resistance to change
    Change is uncomfortable and unwelcome; hence, a significant roadblock to shifting to the DevSecOps culture will be the reluctance one may face in their organization. The idea of leaving one’s comfort zone to embrace the new will be frowned upon, and there will be a lot of disenchanted employees out there.

  2. Team friction
    DevSecOps fosters collaboration between developers and security teams. But both teams are always at loggerheads. Whatever one team does is a headache for the other, and opinions are played down. This scenario results in two teams working in silos, defeating the DevSecOps principle.

  3. Deceleration
    DevSecOps packs all the punch; however, increased security is often perceived as a barrier to innovation and is believed to slow processes down. Developers are always in haste to deliver the code, but security teams are concerned with ensuring the code is clean. It is difficult for these two teams to coordinate their efforts with such divergent objectives.

  4. Skill gaps
    While the number of security breaches and cyber-attacks is increasing, there is a shortage of qualified cybersecurity engineers. The low availability of security professionals is a challenge that disproportionately affects low- and mid-level organizations.

DevSecOps: Decoding what the future holds

Traditionally, only a handful of experts had a say in matters of security. As a result, security workflows operated in a silo and were never looked upon with a fresh pair of eyes. DevSecOps flips that scenario to welcome a more agile, decentralized approach. Not only has security been tackled at all endpoints across SDLC, but it has also been innovated to keep threats at bay, no matter how sophisticated.

As DevSecOps firmly makes its case, we believe more and more organizations will be drawn towards it in the future and make DevOps a part of a more prominent DevSecOps approach. Moreover, more automation will be introduced to simplify DevSecOps adoption. If coupled with other offerings, implementing DevSecOps will no longer be a chore.

Speaking from a cultural perspective, we feel that DevSecOps will make more people aware of security aspects and nudge new minds. In the future, we envision a workforce that will be trained at different levels to manage security pressures and make their enterprises more resilient than ever.