More than 10 years after organizations began implementing DevOps, responsibility for security still resembles the proverbial chicken and egg dilemma.
GitLab’s 2020 Global DevSecOps Survey asked developers, security team members, operations pros and testers about sole responsibility for security in their organizations.
About 28% of developers, 33% of security teams, 21% of ops pros and 23% of testers said responsibility for security rested only on their shoulders. At the same time, 29% of security teams said everyone was responsible, nearly as many as said they had sole ownership.
Confused yet? So were many of our survey respondents, who had a lot to say about the fluid – and frustrating – nature of DevSecOps.
“The team is trusted to do its own security research and implementation. We don’t know how good or bad we are.”
“I am the only one who actually cares about security in my organization.”
“I regularly put security suggestions in the box of suggestions, only to be ignored.’”
“There’s a security team, but it doesn’t involve face to face with us, the dev team. So we just run the dev process without counting on them.”
The Blame Game
There’s a long history of developers and security pros not seeing eye to eye. In GitLab’s 2019 Developer Survey security pros were very expressive on the subject of developers simply not doing enough to enable security. Developers were equally unhappy, citing security’s “heavy-handed approach.”
This year, we drilled down further to see if we could understand why dev and sec continue to see the world differently.
Differences between the teams quickly became apparent. According to the survey findings, 65% of security team members told us their organizations have shifted security left. But the devil is in the details, and the details do not really support a shift left.
A solid majority of developers are not running SAST, DAST or container scans, and only about half conduct compliance scans. Even if the scans are run, less than 19% put SAST results into a pipeline report a developer can access. Dynamic application security testing (DAST) fares even worse – less than 14% of companies gave developers access to those reports.
So, developers don’t have easy access to critical data. On the other hand, security pros are frustrated that developers continue to either miss bugs altogether or find them too late in the process. Over half of security respondents (61%) agreed at some level that vulnerabilities were mostly found by security pros (not developers) after code is merged in a test environment (which is relatively late in the process). In other words, when asked how developers find bugs versus security teams, 93% gave developers credit for discovering only 25% or less of the bugs to be found in existing code, leaving three-quarters of the bugs for security to find at a later stage in the process.
And as if that wasn’t sufficiently frustrating, 69% of security team members complained it was difficult to get developers to remediate bugs, even if their organizations included security as a developer performance metric.
How DevSecOps Can Work
Clearly, there is work to be done to get developers and security on the same page, but we are seeing a few glimmers of hope. Security pros are not quite the lone wolves they once were; many told us that DevSecOps has brought a welcome change to their responsibilities. Nearly 28% reported being part of a cross-functional team focused on security and almost the same number (27%) said they were more hands-on and involved in the day-to-day development activities. Almost 23% said they were now focused more on compliance and about 20% said they did not see any changes in their roles.
In perhaps the most significant (and promising) finding, GitLab asked what skills would be most important to a security professional’s future, the majority (almost 28%) said soft skills like communication and collaboration. Interestingly enough, a majority of their developer counterparts agreed with that.
So, while no one agrees just yet on who owns security or even how to prioritize security, it’s encouraging that both developers and security pros realize they need to prioritize communication and collaboration.
At least one respondent reports success in figuring it all out:
“We don’t have separate security, developers and operations; we are DevSecOps (and more).”