Introduction: What Is Secure DevOps?
Secure DevOps, also known as DevSecOps, integrates security measures at every stage of the software development lifecycle. That is, from initial design to integration, testing, software deployment, and delivery.
What does this mean?
DevSecOps is a set of practices, approaches, and technologies that combine software development (Dev), IT operations (Ops), and security (Sec) to improve an organization's capacity to deliver applications and services at high velocity without compromising security. This enables secure software development at Agile and DevOps speed.
Before now, security measures were taken after the development cycle – in a waterfall model. This was usually done by a different security team – and tested by a separate Quality Assurance team.
Remember that software updates were only released once or twice a year, so this practice was possible at the time.
However, as software developers adopted Agile and DevOps practices to shorten software development cycles, the traditional approach to secure software development created a bottleneck.
The increased popularity of cloud computing in the early 2010s also brought new delivery and communication challenges to software engineers.
As a result, DevSecOps seamlessly deals with security issues as they arise. This way, they will be easier, faster, and less expensive to fix.
If helping to build secure software sounds exciting, you can learn DevSecOps fundamentals for free on Cybrary.
Why Is a Secure DevOps Role Important in a Cybersecurity Team?
When building a cybersecurity team, having a secure DevOps professional can be a boon for the entire organization. Here are some reasons why a secure DevOps role should be a mainstay in an organization’s cybersecurity operations.
1. Improves Secure Software Development
Security should be a collaborative effort that starts at the beginning and continues throughout the app's lifecycle. Without this, security threats can go undetected until the software is released to the public.
Thus, DevSecOps integrates cybersecurity into the development cycle from the start. The code is reviewed and tested for security issues throughout the development cycle.
This means any security issues are addressed immediately after they are identified. When potential security flaws are addressed early in the cycle, they become less expensive to resolve.
2. Provides an Adaptive and Repeatable Process
An organization’s security posture will grow as time passes. Fortunately, DevSecOps processes are repeatable and adaptable. This ensures that security is applied consistently throughout the environment as it changes and has new requirements.
A mature DevSecOps implementation will include robust automation, orchestration, configuration management, immutable infrastructure, containers, and serverless compute environments.
3. Enhances Collaboration
Collaboration is an essential component of the DevSecOps process. Having a secure DevOps professional ensures software and infrastructure security is a collective responsibility for the development and operations teams.
4. Shorter Development Cycles and Fast Deployment
One of the best benefits of adding secure DevOps roles to your cybersecurity team is they make development cycles shorter and more frequent. Short development cycles reduce disruptions while promoting seamless collaboration between teams that would otherwise be siloed.
In addition, shorter development cycles enable teams to respond to and resolve issues more quickly, improve team efficiency, test new features, and keep users satisfied.
5. Assures Quality and Reliability
Continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) practices ensure that changes are functional and safe, improving software product quality. Monitoring also keeps teams up to date on performance in real time.
6. Instils Automation
An organization that uses a CI/CD pipeline to ship its software can integrate cybersecurity testing into an automated test suite for its operations team.
Automated testing can ensure that incorporated software dependencies are up to date and that software passes security unit testing. Moreover, it can test and secure code using static and dynamic analysis before the final update is pushed to production.
Test automation also reduces the possibility of human error, freeing up resources to boost productivity and enhance product quality at every stage of the development process.
Exploring Different Roles & Responsibilities in Secure DevOps
As an organization looking to implement DevSecOps, there are essential roles you need on your team. Cybersecurity professionals who want to specialize in secure DevOps must also learn about the DevSecOps available.
Here are vital roles you’ll find in a comprehensive DevSecOps strategy:
1. Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
As the senior executive responsible for the entire organization’s security posture, the CISO is an essential player in any DevSecOps initiative. CISOs and their security teams' mission is to reduce risk and improve security in their organizations.
A great way to accomplish this is to allocate more security resources at the start of the development cycle rather than spending more on security later in the process or after a major flaw has been discovered.
2. DevSecOps Engineers
This is arguably the most critical secure DevOps role you'll need to fill. It's also the most popular choice among cybersecurity professionals planning to enter secure DevOps.
DevSecOps engineers select and deploy automated application security testing tools. They are responsible for educating users on how to take advantage of application security features.
They also monitor, automate, and test security processes and systems to protect organizational data and assets. A DevSecOps engineer must be familiar with cybersecurity software like those in other IT security roles.
3. DevOps Evangelist or The Security Champion
The DevOps Evangelist advocates for a secure DevOps philosophy. This cybersecurity professional acts as a change agent, ensuring buy-in from development and operational teams and identifying key roles to support DevOps delivery methods. They also make sure professionals are trained and empowered to make those changes.
Organizations should introduce a security champion program and identify someone (or several people) on their team who are passionate about risk mitigation to act as a liaison between the Dev and Sec components.
This person would advocate for incorporating security into the code and would work to persuade Dev to support the idea.
4. Code Release Engineer/Manager
Release managers or engineers are responsible for managing and coordinating the product's development up until production. These cybersecurity professionals will typically work more on the technical aspects of the software development process, which the traditional project manager isn’t usually involved in.
The release engineer oversees the coordination, integration, development, testing, and deployment for continuous delivery. They maintain the end-to-end application delivery tool chain, track the DevSecOps process, and must have a firm grasp of leveraging agile methodologies.
5. Automation Architect
Earlier, we mentioned how automation and adaptability are essential elements in secure DevOps. Thus, the automation architect creates processes that reduce manual tasks through automation.
Automation architects use lean thinking to create more efficient operations by finding the right tools as required.
6. Software Developer/Tester
Software developers create software that drives organizational innovation. So, it's only natural that they are among the key players in the development cycle. They must also contribute to the mission of increasing security. And they play a significant role in this because they are the ones who write code, which cybercriminals often exploit to launch cyber-attacks.
In secure DevOps settings, the developer also conducts unit testing and deployment, including ongoing monitoring. This makes the developer's role more complex than traditional developers who only write code.
Organizations must break down silos or barriers between developers and security teams. This will make software developers get into their secure DevOps roles and feel a part of a cohesive unit.
7. Experience Assurance (XA) Expert
The Experience Assurance Expert is similar to quality assurance but more focused on the customer experience. The XA ensures the final product has a positive user experience, including security-wise.
This professional in a DevOps team is akin to the customer advocate. They ensure the final product works properly, has the necessary features, and is also simple to use.
8. Security and Compliance Engineer (SCE)
This can be a standalone secure DevOps role or merged into the duties of the DevSecsOps engineer. Compliance with regulatory requirements and industry standards is important within a DevSecOps environment.
The SCE collaborates with development teams to incorporate their security recommendations during production rather than after. They cooperate with all teams and roles to ensure the company's data is secure and under the necessary regulations.
Best Practices for DevSecOps
Adopting DevSecOps requires organizational, cultural, and technological changes. In the next paragraphs, you’ll learn the best practices for implementing secure DevOps in your organization for a seamless and effective experience.
1. Prioritize Automation
Speed is essential to secure DevOps. Getting code out the door and into production as quickly as possible outweighs almost everything else.
Security controls and tests must be embedded sooner and throughout the development lifecycle and be automated to be a part of this workflow. Automated security testing is also a good idea, especially since numerous automated application security testing tools are available.
2. Implement Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD)
If you haven't already started using continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD), now is the time. CI/CD are critical components of DevOps and are required to implement DevSecOps best practices.
Teams can use CI/CD to build, test, and deploy code changes automatically. This helps in the integration and delivery of code changes in a timely and efficient manner. It also helps to reduce the possibility of human error.
3. Adopt a Microservices Architecture
Microservices is an architectural technique that involves breaking up an application into a collection of smaller, more manageable services.
Adopting a microservices architecture in DevSecOps ensures these smaller services can be developed, tested, deployed, scaled, and updated independently.
A microservices architecture also makes security controls easier to implement. For example, rather than deploying security controls at the application level, you can deploy them at the service level.
4. Conduct Threat Modeling
It’s recommended that you perform threat modeling before moving to DevSecOps. Threat modeling helps your security team understand potential threats to your assets, how sensitive your assets are, the existing security controls, and any vulnerabilities that need to be addressed.
This might be a little challenging because you can't automate the process, and it might slow down the CI/CD environment. Still, it helps your developers build the software from the perspective of a potential attacker.
5. Leverage Data Obfuscation
Obfuscation makes your code difficult to understand, which protects it from reverse engineering. If attackers can’t understand your code, they can’t find vulnerabilities. Some obfuscation techniques include white-box cryptography and encryption.
Secure DevOps is introduced early in the product lifecycle to ensure that security underpins all application and system development aspects. This, in turn, improves availability, lowers the risk of data breaches, and guarantees the development and deployment of a powerful technology that meets business needs.
Unfortunately, the investment in training the development team on secure DevOps is a huge challenge for many organizations. Thankfully, Cybrary’s accessible and affordable platform offers a guided pathway to learn DevOps security. Create a free account today.