What is DevSecOps? A Complete Guide

Nippun Ohri

Feb 23, 2024

What-is-Devsecops

DevSecOps is a crucial discipline integrating application security into rapid software delivery pipelines. This guide explains DevSecOps - what drives adoption, key principles and practices, implementation tactics, tooling ecosystem, success metrics, and future trends.

By the end, you’ll understand how DevSecOps enables building secure systems rapidly through cross-team collaboration, automated security orchestration, and a culture upholding shared responsibility - driving innovation, customer trust, and competitive advantage.

Defining DevSecOps

DevSecOps combines practices from three domains - Development, IT Security, and Operations - embedding security responsibilities and automation across teams, enabling nimble responses to threats while providing business value through feature builds.

Some key attributes of DevSecOps include:

  • Tight collaboration between developers, ops, and security teams - breaking down barriers.
  • Security shifts left into the continuous delivery lifecycle alongside functionality development from design through deployment.
  • Automating security tasks like static analysis, vulnerability scanning, and configuration enforcement using pipelines.
  • Shared ownership and visibility of application risks and protection.
  • Delivering code speed and safety - frequent releases that are hardened.
  • Measurement-driven approaches towards calibrating defenses and catching issues preemptively during software delivery workflows.

In contrast with retrofitting app security post-development, DevSecOps weaves assurance into processes comprehensively via preconfigured toolchains - securing infrastructure, dependencies, and data flows as code progresses from commit to production.

DevSecOps vs DevOps

How does DevSecOps differentiate from core DevOps methodology?

  • DevOps upholds speed, stability, and scale of software delivery through practices like CI/CD, infrastructure as code, and monitoring. But security is an afterthought.
  • DevSecOps layers application and system security - access, data, and configurations - natively into DevOps pipelines. This enables cross-team responsibility for end-to-end protection and risk reduction as code flows downstream, ultimately safeguarding customers.

Purpose of DevSecOps

Goals driving the adoption of DevSecOps include:

  • Reduce software vulnerabilities through earlier security testing and remediation cycles as code gets written. This minimizes production defects and post-deployment fixes.
  • Lower risk posed by weaknesses across expanding hybrid cloud and on-premise application infrastructure by automating policy enforcement natively into technology delivery pipelines.
  • Protect brand reputation and customer trustby upholding stricter security posture - validating controls and assessing exposure proactively during build workflows through orchestration.
  • Enable business growth securely despite rising data privacy regulations and threat landscapes - ensuring organizations innovate reliably while meeting compliance obligations by design. DevSecOps confers confidence that systems both perform AND protect.

Why Adopt a DevSecOps Strategy?

Beyond fulfilling expanding regulatory and industry security mandates, DevSecOps strengthens application resilience and protects companies in four meaningful ways:

Rapid Remediation of Vulnerabilities

Finding and eliminating weaknesses early during software construction reduces late-stage rework costs by over 10x. Preemptively removing risks accelerates time-to-market.

Avoiding Data Breach Impact Costs

Forrester estimates the average cost of a data breach at $4.35M. Beyond fines, revenue losses and legal liabilities erode over time. Breaches prompt customer churn. Integrating preventative security controls minimizes the probability and blast radius of incidents.

Smoother Regulatory Compliance

Models like PCI DSS, HIPAA, GDPR, CCPA, and SEC cyber guidelines embed specific security processes and technical control requirements into software management. Embedding compliance by design through automation ensures adherence.

Protecting Brand Reputation

Headline-grabbing breaches dent consumer confidence, trust, and loyalty - ultimately impacting sales and valuation. Reliably securing systems and data proactively fortifies credibility and nitrocharges efforts upholding customer commitment in competitive markets.

The Four Pillars of DevSecOps

To enable this accelerated delivery of hardened systems, DevSecOps relies on four reinforcing pillars upholding the necessary culture, actions, components, and tracking:

Culture

Instilling confidence that security receives equal priority alongside functionality and time-to-market. Promoting shared app sec responsibilities between all contributors - designers, developers, ops engineers, and end users.

Automated Processes

Embedding preventative security - access, data flows, configurations - across the continuous integration, delivery, and runtime lifecycle using standardized pipelines and workstream integration.

Technology

Orchestrating interoperable toolchains spanning validators, scanners, secret storage, policy enforcement, and controls needed to validate system protections operating as intended reliably across cloud and on-prem environments.

Measurement

Quantifying residual risk, functional impact, and key performance indicators of security efficacy through dashboards analyzing deployment rates, defects, coverage, open threats, and business risk exposure for continuous tuning.

These pillars uphold information radiators, allowing teams to govern security posture - enacting fixes collaboratively before threats escalate. Now, let’s examine some cultural priorities propelling DevSecOps.

DevSecOps Culture and Mindset

Beyond technology integration, three cultural norms enable DevSecOps impact:

  • Shared responsibility - Security-centric thinking is owned across all roles. Vulnerabilities are viewed as everyone’s responsibility. Appsec is given equal weight to feature development.
  • Inclusion and learning- Welcoming security team involvement throughout lifecycles. Absorbing domain expertise. Promoting transparency into threats and open questions without blame.
  • Safety over speed - Pragmatic balance of risk appetite and first act upon highest value protective priorities. Security risk progress is monitored in the context of business risk tolerance.
  • Leaders uphold principles through recruiting skills, budget allocation, enablement resources, testing environments, and collaborative rituals upholding security and compliance as a shared north star guiding technology workstreams.

DevSecOps Best Practices

DevSecOps

Various coding philosophies and system design approaches help realize DevSecOps outcomes:

Shift Security Left

Tackling security earlier during software engineering - through requirements, design, and implementation phases - increases prevention success over inspecting quality post-development. Building safer systems demands thinking through risks preemptively.
Fixing code is also far quicker than reassessing deployed infrastructure. Intercepting issues while projects remain small curbs escalation as complexity compounds.

Compliance as Code

Embedding regulatory and security policy adherence - encryption, access rules, dependency checking - into review automation using frameworks like InSpec, BDD-Security, and ServerSpec bakes in safeguards reliably across cloud toolchains as infrastructure dynamically scales through code.

Infrastructure as Code

Tools like Terraform, CloudFormation, and Kubernetes enable declaring infrastructure elements like networks, firewalls, and containers as configuration - simplifying version control, access management, peer reviews, and reuse.

Uniformity conferred boosts system integrity as changes get promoted across environments. Infrastructure deviations become visible, prompting realignment towards validated and hardened specs.

Continuous Security Testing

Analyzing code risks frequently using automated scans for secrets, passwords, and weak crypto; dynamic tests for SQL injection, XSS, and input fuzzing; coverage gaps find weaknesses early when less disruptive to address.

Embedding OWASP validation against known vulnerabilities into CI/CD pipelines bakes in consistent safety checks with alerts radiating risks to engineering and operations contributors.

Managed IT Services

Implementing a DevSecOps Pipeline

Weaving app security across continuous integration, testing, and deployment workflows involves various practices per pipeline phase:

  • Code - Static analysis security testing (SAST) analyzes source pre-change-in for secrets, crypto policy, buffer flaws, and injection attack vectors using tools like CodeQL, Checkmarx, Sonarqube, and Veracode.
  • Build - Component analysis checks dependencies and open-source libraries for outdated packages with published vulnerabilities needing upgrades. Software composition analysis tools like Snyk and Blackduck scan artifacts.
  • Test - Dynamic application security testing (DAST) probes running apps at endpoints mimicking attacks - SQL injection, XSS, data exfiltration. Interactive analysis (IAST) confirms the control function expected during execution using platforms like Contrast Security, AppViewX, or Rapid7.
  • Release - Runtime application self-protection (RASP) instruments apps with threat detection and response capabilities activated post-deployment - monitoring network traffic, resource access, and data use automatically blocking anomalies.

Now, let’s explore the technology ecosystem upholding security best practices across the pipeline.

DevSecOps Tools Landscape

Myriad commercial, open source, and managed solutions secure systems across languages, infrastructure, and deployment archetypes:

  • Code analysis - Sonarqube, LGTM, CodeQL, Checkmarx, Veracode, etc., ensure secure coding practices through SAST scanning secrets, licenses, and flaws statically in repositories.
  • Secrets management - HashiCorp Vault, AWS Secrets Manager, and Azure Key Vault encrypt and selectively grant access to credentials needed across environments, reducing checked-in plaintext risks.
  • Infrastructure security - Twistlock, Aqua Security, and Sysdig Falco lock down cloud host and container run time threats through IPS, anomaly detection, and firewalling for deployments.
  • DAST/IAST Testing - Contrast Security, AppViewX, Rapid7, and HCL AppScan test pre-production environments, mimicking attacks, probing defenses, and business logic risks once apps get assembled.
  • Operations monitoring -Datadog, New Relic, and Splunk ingest signals from hosts and hardware monitoring app traffic patterns, resource access, and network events detecting intrusions.
  • Emerging categories - Policy as Code, Risk-Based Vulnerability Management, and Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) continuously tune configurations and permissions relative to the organization's risk appetite.

Now that we’ve surveyed the landscape let’s walk through an example pipeline covering these techniques.

Sample DevSecOps Workflow

Jill's application team codes in Python, storing sources on GitHub using feature branches. Jenkins automation builds docker containers running on Kubernetes. Datadog monitors production. As code gets checked in, the CI pipeline:

  • Uses Bandit to statically scan Python source code, detecting secrets or unsafe crypto use.
  • Leverages Blackduck will check dependencies for vulnerable libraries needing upgrades.
  • Pushes images to twist lock, which scans containers pre-deployment, finding risks.
  • Invokes OWASP ZAP on staging environment to confirm SQL injection and XSS protection.
  • If risks surface, the code gets fixed or automatically held from promotion. Email alerts notify engineers.
  • Once criteria are passed, changes can be deployed while runtime signals feed to Datadog SIEM detecting anomalies.

In this scenario, security practices integrate across various technologies - repositories, pipelines, infrastructure - upholding policy enforcement and vulnerability elimination before reaching customers.

Overcoming DevSecOps Challenges

However, adapting robust application security widely faces common adoption hurdles:

  • Organizational realignment - Close collaboration between developers, ops, and security teams often needs help gaining footing within legacy reporting lines. Executive sponsorship with small federated pilots socially reinforces joint ownership for protection wins.
  • Legacy system constraints - Monolithic architectures strain to embed updated controls technically. Prioritizing high-value subsystems for modernization first containing risks proves pragmatic over wholesale conversions, likely draining budgets quickly despite idealism.
  • Talent shortages - Appsec skills still need to be improved. While pockets of internal competency strengthen, leveraging managed security partners strategically can uplift capabilities temporarily while teams skill up long-term and toolchain mastery solidifies.
  • Budget limitations - Instrumenting large complex pipelines fully challenges budget makers needing help to validate return on investment. Starting small, focusing on coverage over depth offers to lay the foundation. Quantifying reductions in auditor findings and public exposures grounds value.

Measuring DevSecOps Performance

DevSecOps

To steer progress, these metrics provide inputs on securing systems more quickly and robustly:

  • Speed - Faster time to remediate vulnerabilities shows a preventative approach is working. Lead time remains short despite additive reviews. Deployment frequency is maintained, indicating ministry barriers were not introduced.
  • Incidents - Reduced attack severity and quantity signal risk reduction. Quicker mean time to recovery promotes operational rigor. A smaller blast radius minimizes business disruption.
  • Exposure - Drops in detected flaws across codebases and infrastructure by severity level boost quantifiable security posture improvements. Audit issue shrinkage reaffirms compliance.
  • Functionality - Feature team output and customer satisfaction retain priority, balancing security creep. Monitoring productivity indicators ensures app sec policies enable rather than hinder project throughputs.

The Future of DevSecOps

As software systems grow more interconnected across partners and geographical boundaries, security practices will continue advancing:

Automation and AI assistance will streamline manual appsec tasks - policy translation, threat prioritization, and remediation choreography - to empower understaffed teams struggling with tool sprawl and configuration complexity across hybrid ecosystems.

Adoption expanding beyond software verticals will enter devices, industrial systems, and physical infrastructure as attack capabilities advance, making telemetry and resilience imperative for operational continuity and public safety.

Composable app security services will ease integration complexity, allowing builders to configure and deploy modular controls rather than force-fit monolithic platforms when applicable. Decoupling fosters choice.

Deeper embedded intelligence moves beyond reactive security orchestration towards predictive, behavioral threat detection capable of counteracting novel attacks in real time based on assessed risk and automated responses.

Conclusion

DevSecOps manifests immense cultural and technological shifts in how modern software teams operate - carefully balancing feature output, market responsiveness, and system protection.

Adoption progresses contextually - aligning security automation with current team preparedness - technology groups uplift their ability to reliably build, deploy, and monitor solutions, upholding availability, integrity, and confidentiality commitments made to customers and stakeholders.

Collaborative security orchestration scales offense and defense simultaneously - enabling trustworthy innovation.

FAQs

DevSecOps integrates application security practices into the DevOps software delivery lifecycle. It brings together development, IT operations, and security teams to collaborate on building secure software faster.

Whereas DevOps focuses on the speed and stability of software releases, DevSecOps layers in security - embedding protections earlier into continuous coding, testing, and deployment workflows, allowing teams to deliver secure systems rapidly.

 

Enablers include automating security scans and testing, infrastructure as code, shared responsibility between teams, shifting security earlier into development lifecycles, and optimizing the speed of detection and recovery when issues inevitably occur.

DevSecOps is powered by various open-source and commercial tools for static analysis, dynamic testing, coverage checks, secret storage, configuration management, container scanning, and runtime application self-protection, among other use cases.

Shifting security left to earlier coding and testing phases finds and fixes defects faster when cheaper to remediate. Removing vulnerabilities preemptively reduces risk and technical debt accrued later down release pipelines and post-production deployment.

Key performance indicators include lower change failure rate, faster lead time and recovery, decreased severity and quantity of production incidents, shrinking known vulnerabilities backlog, and improving audit findings.

We'll see expanded use of automation, artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, and composable appsec microservices. At the same time, DevSecOps will enter devices, embedded systems, and physical infrastructure as risks grow.

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Nippun Ohri
Nippun Ohri
Nippun Ohri is a Principal Associate specializing in public cloud platforms, containers, and orchestration—a passionate advocate of open-source methodologies.