Observing the developer job market for the past two years reveals a surprising truth that has a profound impact on technology organizations. In the “new normal” of hybrid work, life moves fast and there’s no sign of slowing down. Since 2021, we’ve witnessed all-time record demand for software engineering developers. The emergence of privately held large and medium technology startups, fueled by a fear of missing out (FOMO) driven venture capital market, created vast growth opportunities for software engineer developers in particular. From developing and deploying new applications to scaling your business through multi-cloud environments, cloud and cloud-native companies are everywhere. Not only are cloud and cloud-native companies receiving enormous funding rounds, but worldwide spending on public cloud services is forecasted to grow 20.7% to a total of $591.8 billion in 2023.
This dramatic cloud growth is primarily driven by the warp speed developers are operating. Thanks to developers, every company is now a digital company and every industry is reaping the benefits of a cloud presence. A retail organization can now build and deploy an application for the holiday shopping season within hours, and workforces can access applications from their kitchen, local coffee shop, or halfway across the world.
However, as with any new, widely adopted technology, cybercriminals look to target and exploit organizations in their early cloud days as they begin to grasp and understand the technology.
It was reported earlier this year that the recent exposure of roughly a terabyte of Pentagon emails was likely due to a cloud configuration error. Cloud attacks are on the rise, and there is a major disconnect about who is responsible for keeping the organization safe. Developers who are told to build with speed don’t want their applications slowed down or user experience to be altered by security protocols. Still, accelerating application velocity has security teams caught between remaining responsive to application teams and securing an increasingly complex cloud environment. A major problem is bubbling up, and if security and developers teams cannot come together, the result can leave organizations vulnerable.
Developers and Turnover
In a recent survey, 75% of respondents reported a higher-than-usual turnover rate in DevOps. Similar to the well-documented cybersecurity talent shortage, multiple workplace stressors appear to be taking a toll on developers. The same survey reported that 38% of enterprises deploy code to production or release to end users every day, with 17% deploying multiple times a day. To put this into perspective, just two decades ago, developers were shipping limited updates one to two times a year.
Given the pressure to deliver new code every day, combined with security teams’ pressure to ensure that code is secure, it’s no surprise that we’re witnessing higher-than-normal developer attrition. Instead of pointing fingers at developers for unsecure code, security teams need to create tools and training that do not impede their number one priority: Shipping new code. We’re in a developer-friendly job market and organizations cannot afford to lose top talent because they are overburdening them with security tasks. Developers will find greener pastures.
By now, everyone in the industry has heard of shifting security left—the practice of moving security to the earliest possible point in the development process to ensure code is secure and limit timely and costly remediation. In practice, this means bringing security to where the developers operate so vulnerabilities and misconfigurations are caught early when they are easy to fix.
This approach has brought about a deeper level of engagement between application developers and security teams, especially in the design phase. However, while developers might now be embracing tools and processes that help them code secure applications, there’s still a limit to how much shift left responsibility they can and want to handle.
Shifting security left is certainly a recommended starting point, but simply equipping developers with DevSecOps tools isn’t a winning approach. Developers must be trained and have the desire to effectively use the tools. Like the old saying, give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. The same holds when shifting security left.
To ensure developers and security teams understand their security responsibilities within the organization, consider implementing the following:
1. Define a clear shift left strategy with developers and security teams
2. Provision the necessary security tools that effectively protect the organization but don’t create roadblocks for developers. Additionally, more tools don’t necessarily mean more security, so be strategic.
3. Train developers to be more mindful of cybersecurity issues. Most developers haven’t had formal cybersecurity training, so it’s up to organizations to make sure that particular skills gap is closed
DevSecOps is as much about changing culture and approaches as it is about acquiring new tools. Developers will, unfortunately, come and go, but it should never be because security teams are overburdening them.