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Vardhan NS

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last updated on May 16, 2024
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At OpsMx, we are constantly talking to DevOps and Security leaders from large enterprises. One of the themes that almost always dominates our discussions is, will OpsMx’s Delivery Shield be able to provide end-to-end visibility of their application security posture? 

The short answer is, yes! Infact, in this blog I’ll explain how it forms the bedrock of an effective AppSec program.

#1 challenge faced by large enterprises when implementing AppSec Posture Management

The Role of Application Security Posture Management (ASPM) in SDLC

As a consequence of increased supply chain attacks, enterprises are finally realising the need for a robust AppSec posture. The most misunderstood fact in AppSec is people thinking it is probably restricted to a specific phase in SDLC. This couldn’t be any farther from the truth.

AppSec (Application Security) is not a process confined to a specific phase in the SLDC or bound by said tools. AppSec is a practice that spans across the entire Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) ensuring there is no security gap anywhere for threats actors to exploit. 

In essence, an effective ASPM program ensures that your AppSec posture is healthy all the time. An alternate way to put this is, ‘ASPM ensures that ‘security’ and ‘reliability’ is engineered into your product lifecycle’.

Importance of end-to-end visibility in SDLC

Q: How can a team establish an effective ASPM program?

There’s a philosophical saying that goes like…”all of mankind’s wisdom started with knowing”. Echoing the same sentiment in software delivery, understanding the health of your deployments starts with having complete visibility into the security posture of your application.

Having end-to-end visibility into the security posture of your application plays a significant role in managing the software development process – minimizing risks, delivering high-quality products, and driving continuous improvement. In addition to this, visibility not only aids in better decision-making, it also makes teams more accountable when they collaborate with each other.

Consequences of non-visibility into AppSec posture

On the other hand, consequences of non-visibility can be pretty severe, affecting both the organization and its stakeholders. Here are some potential consequences:

  1. Increased Security Risks: Without visibility organizations are blind to potential vulnerabilities and threats increasing the risk of security breaches, and data leaks.
  2. Compliance Violations: Non-compliance due to lack of visibility can result in hefty fines, legal penalties, and reputational damage.
  3. Intellectual Property Theft: Non-visibility into application security posture can make it easier for malicious actors to steal intellectual property, trade secrets, and proprietary information, without a trace.
  4. Loss of Competitive Edge: Failing to prioritize application security visibility can lead to loss of competitive edge to competitors who instead demonstrate a stronger commitment to cybersecurity and customer trust.

Overall, the consequences of non-visibility into application security posture can be severe, encompassing financial, legal, operational, and reputational impact. Therefore, investing in tools and processes that provide comprehensive visibility and management of application security is essential for modern organizations.

Achieving End-to-End Visibility for effective ASPM

For easier understanding, let me break down end-to-end security visibility of the SDLC into 3 phases: 

  1. Development: Securing the initial development phase 
  2. Deployment: Ensuring safe deployment to production
  3. Operations: Maintaining security post-deployment

Now let me go into each of these individual phases and explain what level of visibility is needed to ensure a healthy AppSec posture along with the capabilities of OpsMx Delivery Shield in providing that visibility.

security threats by sdlc phases

1. Visibility into Development: Securing the initial development phase

Traditionally, the initial development phase was the most vulnerable part of the pipeline as the code checked-in by developers could potentially contain malicious or vulnerable code. Infact vulnerabilities could also be present in artifacts and dependencies used in the source code. There are two important practices that can be performed to get security posture visibility from this phase.

A. Source Code Scanning

Various application security testing tools and techniques can be used to analyze vulnerabilities in source code such as SAST, DAST, SCA, etc. 

  1. SAST (Static Application Security Testing) is white-box testing strategy that looks for vulnerabilities inside the application and code
  2. DAST (Dynamic Application Security Testing) however is a black-box testing strategy that looks for vulnerabilities that could allow an outside attacker to get in. 
  3. SCA (Software Composition Analysis) tools identify all open source packages in an application and analyze those packages for known vulnerabilities.

B. Artifact & Dependency Validation

Artifacts and dependencies are related, yet distinct concepts in software development. 

  1. Artifacts represent the built outputs of a software project such as executable files, binaries, libraries, configuration files, documentation, etc. Artifacts are created to distribute, deploy, or release the software to end-users or other stakeholders
  2. Dependencies however are external components or modules that a project relies on. It includes libraries, frameworks, modules, plugins, or other software components integrated into the project

It is necessary to validate each of these components before they are deployed to staging or testing or production environments. If they are passed on without necessary validation, it could potentially lead to security risks.

How does OpsMx Delivery Shield provide visibility into the Development phase?

As you can see from the below image, our Delivery Bill of Materials (D-BOM) provides a summary of your application deployment – results from AppSec integrating tools (SAST, DAST, SCA), vulnerabilities present in different stages, their severity levels, and security ratings from frameworks such as OpenSSF scorecard.

Developer to Deployment visibility - Delivery Bill of Materials

Being able to visualize these details can help your DevOps team decide whether to proceed with a deployment or not.

2. Visibility into Deployment: Ensuring Safe Transition into Production

Exploiting the development phase by targeting the source code is almost a forgotten practice. Exploits have become more sophisticated targeting the various tools and processes in the ‘deployment’ phase of late. So it’s imperative to get complete visibility into the security of the pipeline as and when the application is deployed. The following activities can be performed to get security posture visibility from this phase:

A. Vulnerability scanning

Vulnerability scanning is a standard practice followed by DevOps engineers (or SREs) after the application is deployed or during the testing phase of the SDLC. The purpose of this is to scan the runtime environment to identify known security vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and weaknesses in the network configuration, operating system, libraries, and dependencies.

B. CI/CD Security

CI/CD security has a larger scope, but for the sake of simplicity, I am referring specifically to two aspects of the pipeline: Build Security and Configuration Security. 

  1. Securing the build process within the CI/CD pipeline ensures that built artifacts are free from tampering, malware, or unauthorized modifications. This may involve implementing code signing, checksum verification, and secure artifact repositories and is closely associated with artifact and dependency validation
  2. Configuration Security deals with the security configuration of CI/CD tools, infrastructure, and environments to prevent misconfigurations, insecure defaults, and unauthorized access. This includes implementing least privilege principles, enforcing access controls, and regularly auditing configurations for security compliance

Thus, securing the CI/CD pipeline minimizes security risks, improves software quality, and accelerates the delivery of secure and resilient applications in an organization’s quest to achieve DevSecOps.

C. Image scanning & Container Security

Image scanning and container security are critical aspects of securing containerized applications in modern IT environments. 

  1. Image scanning is the process of analyzing container images for security vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and compliance issues before production deployment. This ensures that only secure and compliant images are deployed into production thus improving the security posture visibility of containers. 
  2. Container security has a broader scope to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of containerized applications and data. Best practices include implementing least privilege principles, regularly patching and updating container images, enforcing security policies, and monitoring containerized environments for security incidents and anomalies.

D. Policy Enforcement and Automated Security Checks during Deployment

Most enterprises are subject to strict rules and regulations pre-defined by governing bodies specific to the industry they are operating in. By enforcing policies, organizations can make sure that teams are not breaking any rules. Thus by enforcing policies during deployment, teams can prevent any out-of-compliance release and ensure reputation and financial stability.

Automated security checks are an extension to policy enforcement which provides visibility into the security posture of applications and infrastructure through dashboards, reports, and security metrics. When any of the security checks fail, the deployment is halted and the concerned personnel is immediately informed. Preventing a deployment in the event of a vulnerability, or due to failure of one or more security tests are scenarios of an automated security check in action.

How does OpsMx Delivery Shield provide visibility into the Deployment phase?

The below image shows automated security checks and policy enforcement in action. You can either enforce your own organizational-policies or choose from a pre-existing set of policy compliance frameworks such as NIST 800-53, FedRAMP, MITRE-ATT&CK, OpenSSF ScoreCard, CIS Benchmark Kubernetes, etc. If the deployment fails any policy check, then the deployment is automatically halted without the need for manual intervention. These automated checks can also include pass/fail criteria of various security tests and/or image/ container/ artifact validation reports.

security checks by the deployment firewall - vulnerability management

The below image shows the list of vulnerabilities in various applications deployed along with the severity status. Such a consolidated dashboard which also highlights the particular component and application the vulnerability is present in can assist teams dealing with zero-day vulnerabilities in the most productive manner.

The below screenshot shows how open security issues are reported in the Delivery Shield dashboard. This is the level of visibility security teams need before giving a go-ahead to any deployment/ release

severity status of security threats

3. Operational Visibility: Maintaining Security Post-Deployment

A classical example of a zero-day vulnerability that had made its way into most production systems all over the world is Log4J’s Log4Shell (CVE-2021-44228) that was disclosed on December 9, 2021. This popular open source library was used by almost every large enterprise and this is a prime example of how operational visibility would’ve helped any large enterprise mitigate all traces of such severe visibility from their entire codebase. These are the following practices that can help provide better visibility in this phase:

A. Continuous monitoring: Vulnerability & threat detection

Deployed applications should be continuously monitored for threats and vulnerabilities. As was in the case of Log4Shell, a CVE could get reported well after a package/ library was deployed into production. Hence continuous risk assessment is fundamental to providing the necessary visibility into the AppSec posture.

B. Incident response and remediation capabilities

Incident response and remediation capabilities enable organizations to detect, respond, and recover from security incidents quickly. Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS), Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tools, and Anomaly Detection Systems monitor security events and anomalies and report discrepancies by sending notifications in real time. Alerting the incident response group helps in quick issue resolution and reduced turnaround time. 

In fact another underrated aspect of an effective ASPM program is the ability to show resilience during incidents. The resilience to quickly recover and minimize impact at customer’s end with full transparency is the mark of a mature ASPM process.

C. Audit readiness

Operational visibility is not just restricted to upper management and board members in the organization. Auditors and industry regulators often seek proof of compliance in established industries. Instead of scraping for data and reports on the day of inspection, having a tool that can record your policy adherence and provide audit reports showing compliance is the other mark of a team implementing an organized and effective ASPM program.

How does OpsMx Delivery Shield provide Operational visibility?

The image below is OpsMx’s DevSecOps dashboard which displays the security risk posture of all deployed applications at any given time. By constantly performing continuous risk assessment, OpsMx Delivery Shield is able to continuously evaluate and display the risk posture.

application status and deployment visibility

The below image shows how OpsMx Delivery Shield provides full visibility of an application health from Development through to Deployment – open security issues by stage, risk severity, tools stack used, last successful deployment, blocked deployments, the Delivery Bill of Materials, etc

application security posture

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Conclusion

I hope this blog helped you understand the need for AppSec visibility across the SDLC and how it’s a good recipe for a mature ASPM program. The world’s leading enterprises have turned to OpsMx’s Secure Software Delivery suite of solutions for their Application Security and DevSecOps needs.

OpsMx Delivery Shield has 100+ out of the box integrations available to seamlessly connect with your code repository, governance, CI, CD, observability, collaboration, notification, log monitoring tools, etc. To optimize overall costs of tools and for medium / small enterprises, Delivery Shield brings in security testing and scanning capabilities bundled in the product just in case these tools / capabilities are not available within an enterprise or if they want to consolidate their paid license costs.

To know more, feel free to request for a demo on OpsMx Delivery Shield or talk to one of the top security experts.

Vardhan NS

Vardhan is a technologist and a marketing professional, currently working as a Sr. PMM at OpsMx. His strength lies in understanding complex technologies, and explaining them in un-complicated ways. Vardhan is a passionate Product Marketer with a keen focus on Content, helping brands Position themselves uniquely with clear messaging and competitive differentiation. Outside of work, he is an athlete that is passionate about Football, Swimming and Surfing.

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