Continuous integration for better security

One of the big advantages to smaller deploys and continuous integration is that it can make it easier to provide more proactive security. In short, continuous integration (and the associated automated testing it enables) makes it easier to focus your security team on analyzing areas where the security risk is higher.

If the notion of rapid development, rapid deployment, and continuous integration make your security team nervous you may be able to get them engaged by sharing proven ideas from companies who’ve made this approach work well in the real world.   For example, I was recently flipping through a presentation from Etsy on SlideShare, and discovered a clear explanation of how continuous integration enables better security.

Slide34At right, you see slide 34 from this (very long but clear) deck. this is the first in a series of slides that talks about how you can identify high-risk areas of code, then use those designations to drive  automated checks for changes to those areas of code.  The power comes in when you automatically alert the security team that someone has just check in code which changes one of the high-risk areas.

This seems like a commonsense way to focus high attention on high risk.

Another positive benefit of this approach is that it forces the conversation upfront about what constitutes a high-risk area code. This is an opportunity to get security, ops, and the business on the same page about where risk is likely to occur. When you incorporate this approach with periodic reviews of where things stand, it allows you to refine your approach to automated analysis based on your experience. In other words, during post-incident review if you discover one of those”Gee I wish I’d known that I had of time” sorts of situations, you can add a check into the automation library that looks for those conditions in the future. This sort of continuous improvement model benefits everyone.

Oh, by the way – one of the scenarios this approach can check for is the introduction of new third-party libraries. In today’s climate of elevated concern over third-party risk (as well as fears of security flaws in open-source components) having that capability can be a very good thing.

What about you? How are you integrating continuous security checks into your continuous integration?

About the author  ⁄ Dwayne Melancon

Dwayne Melancon

Dwayne Melancon, CISA is Tripwire's Chief Technology Officer, where he is responsible for driving and evangelizing the company's global overall product strategy. His current passion is helping organizations connect security's value to the business and establishing metrics and methods to enable objective decisions and informed action in information security. Dwayne has a history of research and curiosity about IT practices and security, and was a contributor to both the Visible Ops Handbook and the Visible Ops Security Handbook. Dwayne blogs for Tripwire at and personally at