6 Steps to Comprehensive DevOps Security

Eylam Milner
Apr 18 · 9 min read

DevOps has evolved into a standard practice of software development. According to a 2020 DevOps Trends survey, about 99% of enterprises reported positive changes after adopting DevOps practices. Higher quality deliveries and faster time to market are two of the most mentioned results that organisations experienced. In fact, the DORA State of DevOps 2019 report found that with DevOps, businesses released applications 106 times faster. 

This methodology is undoubtedly helping organisations achieve their goals of time-to-market and customer satisfaction. However, the rapid application development approach brings with it new risks and security challenges. Your traditional measures to safeguard the application lifecycle fail to serve the automated delivery and deployment.

DevOps hasn’t just revolutionised software delivery but also IT security needs. To effectively safeguard this agile development process, you will have to heavily infuse security across the development and operations stages.

Before we go into further details of DevOps security, let’s take a look at some of the steps you can take to ensure a successful and secure development lifecycle.

6 Steps to protect DevOps application cycle

  1. Implementing security policy-as-code you can do away with manual configuration of servers & systems.
  2. Adopting cloud-native development enables you to incorporate microservices by breaking down applications into smaller manageable services.
  3. Ensuring that repositories that store code are free of vulnerabilities that could expose confidential & critical information.
  4. Automating security screening mechanisms such as rotating passwords, keys, and other authorization data.
  5. Employing transparency and visibility across the DevOps lifecycle to give your team context and changes in plans.
  6. Measuring stats and metrics to ensure optimal performance at every stage of the development lifecycle.

One major consequence of security issues is downtime, as it can have massive implications on your overall business performance. Service outage doesn’t just affect businesses financially, but it may also damage their reputation. Yet, one in three companies faces at least one disruption in five years, according to a Forrester-Disaster Recovery Journey report.

An IDC survey claimed that businesses lose up to $100,000 per hour whenever their infrastructure fails. Such terrifying figures should give you an understanding of the role that best practices play in effectively implementing DevOps.

6 DevOps Implementation Best Practices You Must Follow

DevOps has garnered immense popularity because it speeds up the deployment process and ensures that the developed code is bug-free. However, implementing DevOps is a detail-oriented and process-rich practice. To ensure that your team exacts maximum benefits from the DevOps approach, you need to follow the best practices.

Figure 2: DevOps Best Practices, Source: Author

Below are six important best practices that will optimise your development process.

1. Create a Collaborative Culture

The concept of DevOps evolved out of conflicts between the goals of the development, operations, and quality assurance teams. It emerged as a practice that enables effective collaboration between teams by eliminating silo-philosophy. DevOps demands a complete change in culture, which could present a challenge when you’re starting off. Ultimately, however, it unites all your teams with a common goal of delivering quality software to your customers.

With DevOps, both development and operations teams are responsible for the entire lifecycle. It promotes promising collaboration and coordination between them. 

2. Adopt Agile Project Management

Agile is a methodology that empowers your team to deliver projects faster and offer a high-quality experience to customers. It is an approach where your teams can work in smaller units incrementally. This allows your team to quickly evaluate projects for lapses, implement feedback and make changes continuously. This means that your project evolves in line with business requirements, while smaller packets of work enable easy implementation of changes.

By infusing DevOps with agile methodology, you make a powerful project management process. For example, you can release a single feature and evaluate it with real-time customer response. This allows you to make continuous improvements, which accelerates your product development and is faster than releasing the entire software in one go after a really long delay. 

3. Leverage CI/CD Methodology

One other concept that helps you speed up software development with DevOps is CI/CD. Continuous Integration (CI) lets you automate the early part of the software supply chain including build automation and test automation. The automation is achieved by storing code in a central repository called the source code version control system. This lets you maintain the correctness of code that comes from different developers.

Continuous Delivery (CD), meanwhile, enables you to deploy software in a low-risk and efficient manner. The deployment is done on-demand regardless of its complexity.

4. Monitor Metrics for Optimization

Monitoring and tracking the right performance metrics ensures that your DevOps lifecycle operates without unnecessary delays. By effectively measuring metrics like lead time, detection time, build completion time, and issue severity you can keep your pipeline healthy and stable. You can put an alert mechanism in place for timely detection and quick mitigation of any process challenges. 

Through the use of analytics and insightful data, you can optimise DevOps pipeline configurations, improve processes, assess costs, and estimate project conclusion timelines. 

5. Add the Edge of Microservices

Figure 3: Microservices, Source: Author

Microservices is the practice of developing a single software as a set of different modules. These modular applications are deployed as individual software services and then connected through an application programming interface (API).

Microservices complements DevOps well. It enables you to break your large application into smaller simplified pieces. Different modules of the same complex application can be built individually. This simplifies not just the application architecture but also allows steady development.

6. Automate DevOps Pipeline

Automation sits at the centre of DevOps practice and can be implemented across the development pipeline. You can streamline the lifecycle and mitigate tedious tasks by employing automation. Your team can automate the CI/CD implementation of regularly updating the code or code changes in the main repository. This approach adds great value when you implement frequent commits. Automating tests – both integration tests and performance tests – is another significant method to improve the process of identifying and fixing code issues.

You can also automate collecting and analysing key metrics, and sending them to the concerned team. The extensive use – and subsequent benefits – of DevOps has led to the emergence of DevSecOps. It simply means that security objectives are integrated into the software development pipeline. This approach was introduced to proactively detect and resolve security challenges, instead of acting on them post hoc.

DevSecOps is aimed at empowering your developers to handle the security goals of your project. It invites the IT security team to be part of the development pipeline, and expects developers to own the reliability of the code they release into production. The best way to include a security mindset in DevOps is through onboarding a highly efficient and reliable toolchain.

Let’s take a look at some of the top choices the market has to cater to your DevSecOps needs.

Best Tools for DevSecOps

1. Argon

Argon Security is a first-of-its-kind DevSecOps solution that secures your entire CI/CD pipeline. It safeguards your software from software supply chain attacks. It also detects and alerts issues such as misconfigurations, vulnerabilities, credential leaks, and exposed code. The unified security solution gives you complete visibility into your assets, processes, and tools.

Argon automates the resolution of identified vulnerabilities based on compliance regulations and DevSecOps best practices. This eliminates the need for manual intervention.

Figure 4: Argon, Source: Argon

Features:

  • Easy to deploy and integrate with multiple tools and frameworks
  • Effective threat detection including anomalies across the pipeline
  • Code Integrity Engine to validate code and avoid tampering issues
  • Prioritise risks based on severity score methodology

2. Acunetix

Acunetix is a web application security tool that helps you in scanning and detecting vulnerabilities. It comes with a list of about 7,000 vulnerabilities and the ability to resolve them at the early stages. The solution enables you to automate testing, prioritise high-risk vulnerabilities, and schedule scans. 

An easy-to-use solution, Acunetix can be deployed on the cloud or on-premise. It can effectively scan through your source code and also detect security lapses such as SQL injection and XSS opening.

Features:

  • Minimise false positives through automated scans
  • Identify the accurate location of vulnerabilities
  • Scan multiple environments parallelly
  • Empower developers to fix security flaws

3. Aqua Security

A cloud-native security solution, Aqua Security offers security throughout the DevOps pipeline including app security, Infrastructure-as-code, and container security. It empowers your team with complete control over deployment through dynamic configuration policies against threats.

Aqua Security comes with automated security CI/CD integration and end-to-end scanning capability. It manages complete workflow security including vulnerability management – detection, resolution, and testing.

Features:

  • Detect malware, vulnerabilities & exposed gaps in the codebase
  • Can be deployed on-premises or in the cloud
  • Tight runtime security controls & prevent intrusions
  • Full control over containerized environments

4. Codacy

Codacy enables your team to automate code reviews through a static code analysis tool. It will help you in identifying security issues and resolving them at the early stages. It proactively detects faults in code to ensure faster software development and bug-free release. 

Codacy supports over 40 languages and spots other development issues such as duplication and style guideline issues. It allows easy integration within your development pipeline and can be self-hosted under a firewall.

Features:

  • Easy integration with Git repository for streamlined workflow
  • Fully automated mechanism to handle quality control tasks
  • Receive alerts upon security issues, duplication, and complexity
  • Save time in code quality monitoring through static code review

5. Spectral

spectralops

Spectral is a DevSecOps solution that focuses on uncovering hardcoded secrets and microservice misconfigurations that hide in your code. In that sense, it is alike a next generation SAST solution for modern Cloud infrastructures.

Features:

  • Full Git and CI/CD integrations
  • Free account
  • Scan code for vulnerable libraries and open-source threats
  • Visualization of a distributed Cloud stack to see where your vulnerabilities are

6. ThreatModeler

An automated solution to detect threats, ThreaModeler enables your team to build threat models using a library of vulnerabilities. It allows you to customise a threat library for each of your projects. It automatically scans your development pipeline and initiates appropriate mitigation processes.

ThreatModeler comes in different versions for Cloud and DevOps with specific features. For DevOps, it offers integration with platforms like JIRA and Jenkins.

Features:

  • Effective tracking & analysis of threat profile through documentation
  • Automated threat models and reusable templates
  • Intelligent threat engine to quickly evaluate client applications
  • Rapid execution and easy-to-use even for non-security trained resources

7. SonarQube

SonarQube is an open-source project that automates code review to identify security issues including bugs and vulnerabilities. It offers a continuous code inspection methodology that is compatible with CI/CD functionality. It features two aspects: 1. Detecting Security Hotpots that need human intervention 2. Detecting Security Vulnerabilities that can be resolved through automated tasks.

It supports more than 30 programming languages. Although it is free, the premium version offers added features such as taint analysis and compliance tracking.

Features:

  • Open source static code analysis features
  • Effective change tracking through historic metric documentation
  • Integrates with IDE tools like Eclipse, and Intelli
  • Extensive plugin ecosystem to add more functionalities

8. WhiteSource

WhiteSource is an open-source vulnerability management tool. It tracks and alerts you in the instances of open source risks across your DevOps pipeline. Compatible with over 200 languages, it comes with a comprehensive database of components, vulnerabilities, and licences for a thorough scan and identification.

Figure 5: WhiteSource, Source: WhiteSource

You can automate WhiteSource and it runs continuously in the background scanning the licences and components.

Features:

  • Real-time alerting system for quick remediation
  • Extensive database of open source repositories
  • Integrate easily with Git and CI/CD pipeline
  • Guidance for resolving identified vulnerabilities

Conclusion

Security is becoming an increasingly critical aspect of software development in the wake of the extensive adoption of DevOps. With an accelerated software lifecycle and faster releases, it is of utmost importance that you aim for end-to-end security of your software supply chain. It can be best achieved by following the best practices listed here, as well as the modern supply chain security tools mentioned. 

Eylam Milner
Apr 18 · 9 min read

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