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What is DevSecOps?

DevSecOps involves the implementation of security early in the application development lifecycle to minimize vulnerabilities. It involves incorporating security as a natural part of the application development process instead of using a retroactive approach.

Primarily, DevSecOps considers the nature and infrastructure of an application from the beginning of the development process. It also automates security measures to maintain speed during the DevOps workflow. DevSecOps makes the development process more agile because with security already "baked into” the application’s structure, developers can create and innovate as they wish—without having to worry if an idea will expose the final product to unpredicted vulnerabilities.

The DevSecOps process is a shift “to the left,” bringing security teams into the development process earlier than in traditional development models. This requires enhanced collaboration between teams that might not have crossed paths until much later in the development process.

DevSecOps is growing in importance, particularly because it is a natural complement to the modern methods of software development. One of the primary benefits of the DevSecOps pipeline approach is it helps enable DevOps security without interrupting the quick release cycles typical in modern application development. When the gap between security teams and DevOps is bridged early on in the process, it is possible to design, test, and deploy solutions that are both effective and secure.

DevOps and DevSecOps are very different, and an examination of DevOps vs. DevSecOps reveals why. Even though an application using the DevOps approach can be made secure further down the development chain, DevSecOps makes security an integral component of the development framework.

How To Integrate Security into a DevOps Framework

To integrate DevSecOps into the DevOps workflow, you have to systematically incorporate security design and checks and balances throughout the development process. In this way, DevSecOps also represents a significant cultural shift. 

In a traditional application development structure, the DevOps team would rely on the security team to find vulnerabilities. They would then take the security team’s feedback and incorporate it into the next round of changes to the application. By combining forces with the security team early on, security becomes part of the original solution, and developers have a better chance of producing a secure application within the first few iterations. 

The integration process involves the following:

  1. Automation: Many security processes can be automated, preventing time-consuming, repetitive, manual entry.
  2. Code analysis: The code developers write can be analyzed by security experts to identify potential vulnerabilities.
  3. Regular threat assessments: As the application’s development progresses, the threats it is vulnerable to are bound to change. Regularly assessing potential threats enables the team to incorporate security at one stage before moving on to the next. This also prevents the team from going back and changing a foundational element of the application, which, in some cases, could necessitate altering subsequent facets of the program.
  4. Configuration tracking: If the configuration of an element of an application or how the application interacts with others changes, it has to be known and tracked. This is because each configuration change could result in vulnerabilities.
  5. Security training: While many developers have a basic understanding of security principles and techniques, more in-depth training is necessary. Knowledge of the inner workings of security threats and solutions will help them better integrate security into the development process.

Benefits of DevSecOps

DevSecOps enables a development team to deliver and deploy code quickly without sacrificing security. This results in several auxiliary benefits.

Save Time

Delivering code quickly is fairly easy. A DevOps team could write the code and release it—often without noticing or even ignoring—potential security issues. However, over time, the vulnerabilities that were not addressed in the development process may come back to haunt the organization, the development team, and those the application is meant to serve. This would likely result in the developers having to waste time going back and addressing security issues.

With development security operations as an inherent part of the process, vulnerabilities are addressed at each design phase. Therefore, the development team can release a more secure iteration of the program faster.

Reduce Costs

Security issues can cause expensive, time-consuming delays. The person-hours necessary to develop an application greatly increase when developers have to go back and redo much of the coding to address vulnerabilities. Not only does this involve more time invested in a project but also keeps those same professionals from working on other projects that could benefit the organization’s bottom line.

If an organization uses a DevSecOps lifecycle, on the other hand, the need to go back and make changes can be significantly reduced, conserving person-hours and freeing up the development team to engage in other work.

In addition, this could lead to a better return on investment (ROI) for your security infrastructure. As the security team fixes problems upfront in the design process, their work precludes many future problems. This not only results in a more secure application but also reduces the number of issues your security infrastructure will have to deal with down the road.

Proactive Security

Vulnerabilities in code can be detected early if you implement a DevSecOps approach. The DevSecOps model involves analyzing code and performing regular threat assessments. This proactive approach to security enables teams to take control of an application’s risk profile instead of merely reacting to issues as they pop up—particularly those that would have been detected during threat assessments.

Continuous Feedback

DevSecOps creates a continuous feedback loop that interweaves security solutions during the software development process. Whether your DevOps is done using on-premises servers or you use cloud DevOps, developers get constant feedback from the security specialists on the team. Likewise, the security team obtains continuous feedback from developers, which they can use to design solutions that better fit the application’s infrastructure and function.

Continuous feedback also improves the development of automated security functions. The security team can gather information about the application’s workflow from the development team and use that feedback to design automation protocols that benefit processes specific to that exact application. 

Furthermore, continuous feedback allows the team to program alerts signaling the need for adjustments in the design of the application or tweaks to its security features. Knowledge regarding what each team needs to be aware of and how that affects the process of building the application can be used to decide the various conditions that should trigger different alerts. With well-designed secure DevOps automation, the team can produce secure products in less time.

Build Collaboration Between Teams

A more collaborative environment is one of the cultural benefits of a DevSecOps approach. Throughout the entire development lifecycle, communication is enhanced because team members must understand how each facet of an application interfaces with the necessary security measures. As the different teams combine minds to solve this puzzle, collaboration is increased, and in the end, you get a more cohesive organization and product.

How to Build Your DevSecOps Pipeline

In some cases, you can execute a DevSecOps approach by having one or just a few security experts on the development team. This may be preferable to having several security team members involved, particularly if they are already preoccupied with other initiatives. Regardless of how many security people you have on the team, there should be a program of regular testing, code analysis, and threat assessments.

You may also be able to incorporate a DevSecOps model by having members of the security team train developers on how to perform security evaluations during the design process. In this way, you “teach a man to fish,” giving the development team the knowledge they need to produce a more secure product without committing security personnel to the DevOps team long-term.

The implementation of a DevSecOps model is easier with the right tools. You can use secure software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) to create more efficient paths for the testing and communication essential to the DevSecOps process. As you expand and adjust your development team, it is also beneficial to incorporate zero-trust network access control (NAC). FortiNAC can help ensure only those who need to have access do and that they are only allowed to enter specific areas after they have verified their credentials.