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Vardhan NS

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last updated on July 15, 2024
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In one of my previous blogs, I had extensively detailed out What is DevSecOps, and why companies should embrace the cultural and tooling changes that it advocates. In case you haven’t read it, I recommend you to read that blog first. But in case you are aware of the basics, then you can continue reading this blog on the top 10 most important DevSecOps best practices to implement now.

What is DevSecOps?

DevSecOps (short for Development, Security, and Operations) is an approach to software development that integrates security best practices into existing DevOps workflows. This ensures that security is a fundamental aspect of the software development life cycle rather than just being an afterthought. 

There are numerous reasons why security best practices need to be prioritized before any software is facilitated for end users to use. The increasing frequency of cyber attacks, the growing sophistication in attack vectors, ever-growing reliance on software systems, the financial impact on individuals and organizations alike, and reputational damage are some of the prominent reasons. In case you need more context on this subject, I would recommend you to read why CI/CD pipelines need to be secured by security professionals.

In the interest of time, now let me delve straight into the best practices that organizations need to keep in mind while implementing DevSecOps. I have broadly classified these best practices into cultural changes and tooling changes. 

Top 10 DevSecOps Best Practices

1. Embracing Shift-left philosophy 

2. Improved Collaboration between Dev, Ops, and Security teams 

3. Maximize Automation 

4. Developer Education and Awareness

5. Leverage Application Security Testing tools

6. Prioritizing Container security & Infrastructure as Code security 

7. Embrace Cloud-native technologies and tools 

8. Compliance and Auditing

9. Continuous Monitoring

10. Incident Response Planning

Let me explain each of these in more detail. 

Best Practices for Implementing DevSecOps

1. Embracing Shift-Left Security in DevOps

The philosophy of ‘Shift-Left Security’  in DevOps refers to implementing security best practices during software design and development instead of waiting until later stages such as delivery/ deployment stages. 

Key benefits:

  • Early Security Integration: Security is embedded from the start.
  • Developer Awareness: Developers are aware of security expectations from the beginning.
  • Cost-Efficiency: Avoids costly and time-consuming fixes later in the process.
  • Team Harmony: Reduces friction between Dev, Security, and Ops teams, ensuring smoother collaboration.

 

Shift-Left Security in DevOps

By embracing Shift-Left Security, developers write more secure software code, leading to better overall security and efficiency.

2. Cohesion Between Dev, Sec, and Ops Teams

Effective collaboration between development, operations, and security teams is crucial because each team has expertise in a specific area. The amalgamation of these skills is what solves business problems.

Breaking down team silos and enabling open communication channels among these three teams not only allows for early identification and mitigation of security risks but also promotes joint ownership of security concerns.

3. Maximize Automation

Automate as much as possible’ as the saying goes, is not restricted to just DevSecOps. It applies to technical operations in general. Speaking of automation, it is imperative that teams maximize automation as much as possible because it allows teams to invest precious time working on high-value tasks instead of manual toil.

Specifically in the case of DevSecOps, automation of security testing and compliance checks as part of your continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline will help you identify vulnerabilities and security issues early in the development process.

4. Developer Education and Awareness

When it comes to making systems more secure, ‘nip it in the bud’ strategy is the way to go. Training your employees in security awareness should be considered a ‘must-do’ activity, especially for developers writing code. By providing security training to developers, you can ensure they become aware of common security risks and best practices, thus empowering them to write secure code and make informed security-related decisions.

5. Automate AppSec testing by integrating security tools with the CI/CD pipeline

By integrating security tools with the CI/CD pipeline, teams can automate security tests on a continuous basis. As and when a commit or release is performed, AppSec (Application Security) testing can be automatically initiated.

The below table explains the various security tests that can be automated with the help of corresponding tools:

Security Testing Type Definition Tools used
SAST (Static Application Security Testing) Analyzes source code or compiled binaries for security vulnerabilities without actually executing the program code SonarQube, Checkmarx
DAST (Dynamic Application Security Testing) Tests running applications in production (or other environments) for vulnerabilities by simulating an actual external attack OWASP ZAP, Burp Suite
Threat Modeling Identifies and addresses potential security threats and vulnerabilities in the design phase Microsoft Threat Modeling Tool, OWASP Threat Dragon
Static Code Analysis Examines source code to identify coding errors, bugs, and security vulnerabilities without actually executing the program Fortify Static Code Analyzer, Coverity
Penetration Testing Simulates cyber-attacks on a system to find exploitable vulnerabilities Metasploit, Nessus
Code Reviews Manual inspection of source code by developers to identify security issues and improve code quality Crucible, GitHub Pull Requests
Security Testing Type Definition Tools used
SAST (Static Application Security Testing) Analyzes source code or compiled binaries for security vulnerabilities without actually executing the program code SonarQube, Checkmarx
DAST (Dynamic Application Security Testing) Tests running applications in production (or other environments) for vulnerabilities by simulating an actual external attack OWASP ZAP, Burp Suite
Threat Modeling Identifies and addresses potential security threats and vulnerabilities in the design phase Microsoft Threat Modeling Tool, OWASP Threat Dragon
Static Code Analysis Examines source code to identify coding errors, bugs, and security vulnerabilities without actually executing the program Fortify Static Code Analyzer, Coverity
Penetration Testing Simulates cyber-attacks on a system to find exploitable vulnerabilities Metasploit, Nessus
Code Reviews Manual inspection of source code by developers to identify security issues and improve code quality Crucible, GitHub Pull Requests
Security Testing Type Definition Tools used
SAST (Static Application Security Testing)
Analyzes source code or compiled binaries for security vulnerabilities without actually executing the program code
SonarQube, Checkmarx
DAST (Dynamic Application Security Testing)
Tests running applications in production (or other environments) for vulnerabilities by simulating an actual external attack
OWASP ZAP, Burp Suite
Threat Modeling
Identifies and addresses potential security threats and vulnerabilities in the design phase
Microsoft Threat Modeling Tool, OWASP Threat Dragon
Static Code Analysis
Examines source code to identify coding errors, bugs, and security vulnerabilities without actually executing the program
Fortify Static Code Analyzer, Coverity
Penetration Testing
Simulates cyber-attacks on a system to find exploitable vulnerabilities
Metasploit, Nessus
Code Reviews
Manual inspection of source code by developers to identify security issues and improve code quality
Crucible, GitHub Pull Requests

6. Prioritizing Container security & Infrastructure as Code security

A common mistake that security teams make is, overlook the importance of container security and infrastructure security. 

In an era where the use of containers and microservices is mainstream, it is essential to ensure that containers and their images are built securely using trusted base images. This minimizes the attack surface and addresses vulnerabilities in third-party dependencies.

Security practices should also be applied to your infrastructure code to prevent misconfigurations and vulnerabilities. Implement tools that assess the security of your cloud infrastructure templates and configurations.

7. Adopt a Cloud-first strategy

The use of Cloud-native technologies and tools is on the rise. The whole world is moving to the cloud, and so should you. Since cloud native technologies are scalable, fault-tolerant and easy to manage, they are the preferred tooling solution for not just DevOps, but DevSecOps too. 

The biggest challenge teams will face with ‘on-premises’ technology is the lack of inter-connectivity and compatibility with security tooling. Hence, going Cloud-first will not only improve your DevOps practices, but will also improve your security posture. 

8. Compliance and Auditing

Conducting regular security audits is an integral aspect of DevSecOps. Audits help identify weaknesses and ensure that security controls are effective. However, audits alone are not enough.

DevSecOps teams, being well-versed in security best practices, should provide security gates or guardrails for developers to follow, much like a playbook. With the right tools in place, Policy-as-Code can secure workflows and ensure CI/CD pipeline compliance.

Integrating compliance checks and audits into your CI/CD pipeline ensures that your applications and infrastructure meet relevant industry standards and regulations.

9. Continuous Monitoring

Continuous Monitoring

Implement continuous monitoring of applications and infrastructure to detect and respond to security events and anomalies in real time. This helps in identifying and mitigating potential security breaches at its infancy.

For this purpose, various Logging and Monitoring tools can be used. Be it open-source or proprietary, these logging and monitoring tools can track system activity, collect them in the form of logs which can later be used to detect and investigate security incidents.

10. Incident Response Planning

This may be the last DevSecOps best practice on the list, but don’t mistake its importance to be any less than the others. Infact, the best DevSecOps teams will have a robust plan in place to fall back on during emergencies.

As a part of your DevSecOps workflows, you should have a well-defined incident response plan to address security breaches effectively. The role of each member in the incident response team must be well-defined; and the members taking up those roles must be familiar with their responsibilities and priorities at the time of a security incident. This will help your DevSecOps team manage vulnerabilities effectively with appropriate incident response measures. 

Conclusion

I hope this comprehensive list of DevSecOps best practices will help you structure your DevSecOps processes or atleast improve it in the slightest. The important thing to remember is that DevSecOps is an evolving practice, and it should be customized to your needs and priorities.

Most importantly, your DevSecOps team must regularly review and refine your DevSecOps practices based on lessons learned from past incidents, newer security threats, and update the processes based on emerging best practices.

About OpsMx

OpsMx is a leading innovator and thought leader in the Secure Continuous Delivery space. Leading technology companies such as Google, Cisco, Western Union, among others rely on OpsMx to ship better software faster.

OpsMx Secure CD is the industry’s first CI/CD solution designed for software supply chain security. With built-in compliance controls, automated security assessment, and policy enforcement, OpsMx Secure CD can help you deliver software quickly without sacrificing security.

OpsMx Deploy Shield adds DevSecOps to your existing CI/CD tools with application security orchestration, correlation, and posture management.

Tags : devsecops

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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