Securing DevOps environments is an increasingly important concern for chief information security officers (CISOs) and security teams. While developers often recognize security is important, it is not their top priority. More typically, the DevOps team prioritizes delivering new capabilities and features to the business and customers, often as part of a larger digital transformation initiative. And, developers often view security as something that will slow down deployments.
Security teams usually have limited DevOps knowledge or expertise. Too often the result is that DevOps adoption begins and even takes hold inside an organization before the security team gets involved. Consequently, security vulnerabilities are not always adequately addressed in DevOps environments and can drive unnecessary risk.
Integrating Security in DevOps
The priority is for the security team to take the lead in integrating security into the DevOps processes before poor practices become entrenched. But as both teams are often siloed and don’t tend to work collaboratively, how can security teams better engage, energize and collaborate with their DevOps counterparts to strike the right balance? In a nutshell, how can organizations bring their DevOps and security teams into alignment and establish collaboration for stronger overall security?
There are a few crucial steps to take to achieve true integration of security and DevOps.
- Establish the Requisite Skills to Get in the Driver’s Seat. Effective collaboration requires effective communication. While developers write the actual code, it’s important for security teams to gain knowledge about programming languages along with how applications are built, tested and deployed automatically. This will help them have more meaningful discussions and credible conversations. Security professionals can start by learning some of the fundamentals: PowerShell, Python and Rust, as well as how DevOps tools use REST calls and containerization technologies–particularly Docker and Kubernetes.
- Make it Easy for Developers to Do the Right Thing. You can’t be the manual cog in their completely automated process. Make it easy for developers to do the right thing by training them in secure coding practices and implementing a self-service model for security capabilities. For example, you could provide security policy as code that can be integrated into the developers’ automated processes.
- Establish Effective Ways to Collaborate. Set up formal systems to ensure DevOps practitioners understand security risks and implement good security practices across the organization. Consider how best to deploy security resources into existing or new organizational models and structures. This includes establishing centers of excellence, community leaders, security champions and embedding security team members inside development teams.
- Get Developers to Think Like Attackers. Educate DevOps teams on specific attacker tactics, show how sample code modules could expose secrets and provide examples as user stories. For example, “As an attacker, I would scan the organization’s code repositories looking for secrets.” Take the team through a penetration testing exercise or engage a red team to demonstrate how an attacker would compromise a CI/CD pipeline.
- Adopt Agile and DevOps Methods. Security should begin utilizing agile and DevOps methods within their own teams, not only to gain a deeper understanding of DevOps methodologies but also to achieve greater efficiency by automating tasks or delivering capabilities in smaller increments more frequently.
The bottom line is, it is crucial to understand how other enterprises approach secrets management challenges across DevOps and cloud environments. This can help encourage collaboration and help fast-track the security team’s own efforts. Ultimately, this will ensure agility is not just implemented for the sake of innovation, but companies reflect on their processes and prioritize security to make the most of their transformation.