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DevSecOps (development plus security plus operations) is a management approach that combines application development, security, operations and infrastructure as a code (IaaS) in an automated, continuous delivery cycle.

The main objective of DevSecOps is to automate, monitor and apply security at all phases of the software lifecycle, i.e., plan, develop, build, test, release, deliver, deploy, operate and monitor. Applying security at every stage of the software development process enables continuous integration, reducing the cost of compliance and delivering software more rapidly.

DevSecOps means that every employee and team is responsible for security from the outset, and they must make decisions efficiently and put them into action without forfeiting security.

How DevSecOps works

A typical DevSecOps workflow is as follows:

  • Development is done within the version control system.
  • A different team member analyzes the changes in the application. The employee does this by considering the security weaknesses of the component that changes, the ultimate quality of the code and any possible bugs.
  • The application is deployed within security configurations.
  • Using test automation, the application is then tested in the back end, user interface, integration and security areas.
  • If the application passes the test, it is moved to the production environment.
  • In the production environment, various monitoring applications and security software monitor the application.

Differences between DevOps and DevSecOps

DevOps is a methodology under which developers and operations teams work together to create a more agile, streamlined deployment framework. DevSecOps aims to automate key security tasks by embedding security controls and processes into the DevOps workflow. DevSecOps extends the DevOps culture of shared responsibility to include security practices.

The DevOps and DevSecOps approaches are similar in some respects, including using automation and continuous processes to establish collaborative cycles of development. However, DevOps prioritizes speed of delivery, while DevSecOps shifts security to the left, which means moving security to the earliest possible point in the development process.

DevSecOps responsibilities
Four tasks in a DevSecOps model that should be performed or automated.

Benefits of DevSecOps

The benefits of adopting DevSecOps include the following:

  • improved quality and security of software;
  • faster software delivery;
  • enhanced communication and collaboration between teams;
  • faster speed of recovery in the event of a security incident;
  • better cloud service deployments with strong security protocols;
  • faster response to ever-changing customer needs;
  • earlier identification and correction of vulnerabilities in code;
  • increased use of automation, especially regarding quality control testing; and
  • more opportunities for automated builds and quality assurance testing.

Challenges of DevSecOps

Some of the top challenges of implementing DevSecOps are as follows:

  • Teams are reluctant to integrate. The essence of DevSecOps is the integration of teams so they can work together rather than independently. However, not everybody is ready to make the switch because they're already accustomed to current development processes.
  • Battle of the tools. Since the three teams have been working separately, they have been using different metrics and tools. Consequently, it's difficult for them to agree on where it makes sense to integrate the tools and where it doesn’t. It's not easy to bring together tools from various departments and integrate them on one platform. So, the challenge is selecting the right tools and integrating them properly to build, deploy and test the software in a continuous manner.
  • Implementing security in CI/CD. Generally, security has been thought of as something that comes at the end of the development cycle. However, with DevSecOps, security is part of continuous integration and continuous development (CI/CD). For DevSecOps to succeed, teams can't expect DevOps processes and tools to adapt to old methods of security. By integrating security controls into DevOps, organizations are adopting the new DevSecOps model to realize the full potential of CI/CD. When companies deploy security or access control technologies from the beginning, they ensure that those controls are in line with a CI/CD flow.

DevSecOps tools

DevSecOps tools include the following:

  • ThreatModeler is an automated threat modeling tool that can be deployed on premises or in a cloud instance. ThreatModeler continuously monitors threat models for cloud computing environments, notifying users of updates and changes. ThreatModeler provides a bidirectional application programming interface to easily integrate with CI/CD tools, enabling teams to build secure cloud infrastructures. ThreatModeler offers templates that can be reused and built-in threat information and frameworks.
  • Acunetix provides an all-in-one website security scanner to help developers find vulnerabilities as early in the development cycle as possible. Acunetix enables organizations to protect their web assets from hackers by providing specialized technologies that developers can use detect more issues and fix them quickly.
  • Checkmarx offers a static application security testing (SAST) tool that scans for security vulnerabilities that are analyzed in code. This tool lets developers deliver secure, completely analyzed and tested applications by incorporating security code analysis and testing into the development process. And Checkmarx integrates easily with any continuous integration and continuous development tool or environment.
  • Aqua Security is a security platform that specializes in the security of applications in containers and their infrastructures, preventing any intrusions or vulnerabilities across the DevSecOps pipeline. Aqua has very tight runtime security processes and controls in place. This tool focuses on vulnerabilities related to network access and application images. Aqua integrates with a variety of infrastructures, including Kubernetes, to secure clusters at the lowest network level and control container activity in real time using behavior profiles based on machine learning.

DevSecOps skills

DevSecOps engineers need the technical skills of IT security professionals as well as knowledge of the DevOps methodology. They also need deep knowledge of cybersecurity, including the latest threats and trends.

These are among the main skills DevSecOps engineers need:

  • understanding of the DevOps principles and culture;
  • knowledge of programming languages, e.g., Perl, Java, Ruby, Python and PHP;
  • strong communication and teamwork skills;
  • understanding of risk assessment techniques and threat modeling;
  • up-to-date knowledge of cybersecurity threats, latest software and best practices; and
  • understanding of such programs as ThreatModeler, Chef, Puppet, Checkmarx, Immunio and Aqua.

Best practices for supporting a DevSecOps team

Here are three best practices for supporting a DevSecOps team:

  • Implement automation to secure the CI/CD environment. One of the key aspects of the CI/CD environment is speed. And that means automation is necessary to integrate security in this environment, as is embedding the essential security controls and tests across the development lifecycle. It's also important to implement automated security testing to the CI/CD pipelines to enable real-time vulnerability scanning.
  • Address open source technology security concerns. The use of open source tools for application development is increasing. Therefore, organizations need to address the security concerns around the use of such technologies. However, since developers are too busy to review open source code, it's important to implement automated processes to manage open source code as well as other third-party tools and technologies. For example, utilities such as the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) can check that there are no vulnerabilities in code that depends on open source components.
  • Integrate application security system with task management system. This will automatically create a list of bug tasks that the information security team can execute. In addition, it will provide actionable details, including the nature of the defect, its severity and the necessary mitigation. As such, the security team can fix issues before they end up in the development and production environments.
This was last updated in November 2020

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