How to Seamlessly Transition to DevSecOps

In the last few months, the cybersecurity world has been taken by storm following the discovery of the Log4Shell vulnerability. The zero-day had the potential to put much of the connected world at risk and left security teams scrambling to quickly apply security patches to software just before Christmas 2021.

As a result of the chaos caused by Log4Shell, many organizations kicked off the new year by carrying out security assessments to identify ways to improve detection and mitigation of future vulnerabilities. One approach that is gaining a lot of attention is DevSecOps.

DevSecOps introduces and automates security in the earlier phases of the software development life cycle rather than bolting it on at the end. The approach saves money, saves time on tedious manual tasks, helps organizations meet regulatory compliance requirements and significantly reduces the risk of critical security bugs being found after an application’s final build.

However, when it comes to kicking off DevSecOps projects, there are a few challenges for application security teams need to overcome first to ensure their programs fit seamlessly into CI/CD pipelines.

DevSecOps Isn’t Simple

While moving to DevSecOps delivers organizations clear benefits in the way of security, one of the key concerns for business leaders is that it slows down the delivery pipeline of software and applications. Today, being an agile software delivery machine is essential and a critical part of an organization’s survival, so no business leader wants to put development velocity at risk because of security testing.

Application security teams are tasked with ensuring DevSecOps fits seamlessly into software and application delivery, without causing delays or adding more pressure onto already over-stretched DevOps teams. As a result, they need to identify which tools are needed for security testing and integrate them into development stages seamlessly as well as which ones can be automated and which can scale to meet the demands of CI/CD pipelines.

The great news for application security teams is there are hundreds of security tools available; The bad news is choosing which to use and learning how to use them is a minefield, even for those with the right training and know-how.

A DevSecOps automation program needs lots of technical aspects to come together to make it work. Security teams need static analysis tools to check the code, third-party library analysis to check the dependencies, separate analysis to check the infrastructure-as-code configuration, scanners to check the containers for issues, tools to test the running system, cloud security checks and infrastructure testing for patches and ports. They also need to match these tools up to the right technology each team is using and keep up with the constant changes.

So, what are the most important features that application security teams should look for in DevSecOps security testing tools?

Tips for Approaching DevSecOps

Security teams need a way to manage their security tools so that tedious tasks are removed but collaboration with development teams is streamlined. They need a platform that handles the automation process, flags only the issues they want to flag and presents them in a way that is accessible to everyone, from execs to board members to developers.

You’re Going to Need a lot of Security Tools

We commonly see teams using 10+ tools to cover the needed checks, so be prepared to chain together multiple security tools. Some to check each source code language the development teams are using, more to check your containers, cloud setup and dynamic testing against the staging system, etc.

Tip: Be prepared to do some up-front analysis to establish which security tools are going to make up your DevSecOps initiative.

Think of the Day-to-Day ‘Security-as-a-Service’

How are you, or your teams, going to work with the security tools? Is someone going to check the output of 10 tools in every build? Are they going to compare each set of issues against the last to see what’s new? How will they handle the open source tools that don’t track false positives? This is a major part of the DevSecOps process, and a very common place where we see processes fail—if the automation of the tools leads to awkward handling of vulnerabilities, it’s doomed.

Tip: Have tools send their vulnerabilities to a centralized store for ease of use.

Tip: Track the difference between runs so it’s easy to see new and high-risk issues.

Tip: Think of how developers and security teams can more easily collaborate on issues.

Tip: Think of how false positives, duplicates or non-issues can be handled and tracked so developers are not flooded with the same issues over and over again.

Be Flexible With Your Security Tools

No matter how you intend to integrate security tools, know that different teams are going to need different tools. Some will use Docker, for example, others won’t. Often, different development teams end up working in different coding languages, which means there will also be different security tools required to scan. Some teams will be up and running with DevOps, others won’t be there. Keeping security testing consistent and repeatable is difficult.

Tip: Whatever DevSecOps platform you use or build, make sure you can slot in the right tools for the right job. If you’re too rigid, you’ll waste time running tools and dealing with nonsense issues and no one will want to play with you.

Work With the Existing SDLC Environment

If your teams use Jira to track development tickets, for example, work with that and have new issues entered and tracked there. If they use five different DevOps pipeline platforms, be prepared to integrate and work with each of them. If you have metrics for security, know how you’re going to track changes per repo, project, team, division, etc. for each pipeline run and all the various categories of tools.

Tip: Run your DevSecOps implementations where your development teams are, work with their systems and make security an easy extension of their existing workflows.

Tip: Be able to track historical metrics across categories of issues and tools, so you can show what good progress you’ve made, and where your security investments are (and are not) working.

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