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All you have to know about DevSecOps

The DevSecOps approach integrates security throughout the development process and IT operations. What does it mean for your business?
DevSecOps engineers working in the office.
Published on
April 19, 2023
Last updated on
March 27, 2024

A growing number of technology teams decide in favor of practicing DevOps and DevSecOps every day. Meanwhile, in many companies, leadership teams are left wondering what these methodologies actually are, what impact they have on business and its ongoing digital transformation, and whether these are worth implementing or just passing fads.

To answer shortly, DevOps and DevSecOps are both relatively recent approaches to software development. The first one integrates the development process with IT operations to optimize the software development lifecycle (SDLC). The second one throws security into the mix. When implemented successfully, these approaches allow companies to utilize modern technologies (such as cloud computing and microservices) more efficiently. As a consequence, the demand for experts in these fields is steadily growing.

As a result, DevOps and DevSecOps facilitate continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD pipeline), provide faster time-to-market, and mitigate IT-related risks. These ideas are not only “worth implementing” but also required to stay relevant and competitive in today’s software development environment.

Read further for a comprehensive definition of DevSecOps, a DevOps vs. DevSecOps comparison, and the top reasons to implement DevSecOps methodology. In the second part of the article, you’ll find lists of DevSecOps benefits, challenges you should expect, popular DevSecOps tools, and best practices to follow.

What is DevSecOps?

DevSecOps (short for development, security, and operations) is an approach to software development that integrates security with development and IT operations throughout the entire software development lifecycle (SDLC).

DevSecOps differs from earlier software development models, where development and security were separate phases that took place one after another. Formerly, an application would be developed first, and the security measures added later, often by a different team. However, such a traditional approach to security is unable to keep pace with rapid deployments enabled by cloud capabilities. As a result, taking advantage of modern software development capabilities necessitates incorporating security at every phase of the process. Building a secure code is easier when security is considered right from the beginning. 

In DevSecOps, security becomes a shared responsibility of every person involved in any application development stage. Consequently, it impacts how teams implement automation, design infrastructure, and perform quality assurance tasks.

How DevSecOps differs from DevOps?

There is no universal definition of DevOps. Its practitioners generally agree that it is a combination of practices, tools, and attitudes that brings together software development and IT operations. Its goal is to improve the reliability and speed of software delivery while maintaining its high quality. In practice, the DevOps process utilizes automation, calls for shared ownership, and promotes a culture of collaboration.

In such a context, DevSecOps can be understood as an extension (or a security-oriented implementation) of DevOps, similarly to how GitOps or SRE are explained. DevSecOps builds upon DevOps to create an even more holistic approach to software development.

Why is DevSecOps needed?

Cybercriminals continuously invent new ways of finding and exploiting software’s security vulnerabilities. Institutions of all sizes are regularly reported to suffer from hacker attacks. No organization is safe: small businesses, global corporations, governmental agencies, and even healthcare facilities have felt victim to such malicious actors before. Viruses, data breaches, and ransomware attacks routinely deal severe damage to companies’ income and reputation. As a result, information risk management and cybersecurity must become more prioritized. 

Meanwhile, technologies and methodologies used in modern software development enable developers to create applications much faster than before. DevOps, cloud computing, automation, and utilization of components improve time-to-market and customer experience - as long as the security team can keep up. Sticking with the traditional approach to security (where it comes after the development part is done) often creates a bottleneck in the software lifecycle that ultimately thwarts software engineering team efforts.

In the face of the constant growth of cybercrime activities, DevSecOps becomes a necessary practice for organizations that want to reap the benefits of DevOps while remaining secure from cyber threats.

Pros & cons of DevSecOps

DevSecOps offers many advantages to companies that use it. Still, there are also some challenges you should consider before the implementation.

Advantages & challenges of DevSecOps

Top benefits of DevSecOps

1. Collaborative culture

Implementing DevSecOps improves communication and collaboration between various teams within your organization. While this was already true for development and operations teams in DevOps, integrating the security team into all development phases brings your company’s IT experts even closer together. As a result, DevSecOps fosters cooperation, knowledge-sharing, and informed innovation.

2. Even faster development cycles

If a company doesn’t treat cybersecurity as just an afterthought, the traditional approach to security will create bottlenecks. With DevSecOps, teams find vulnerabilities faster, and security issues are resolved as they arise, resulting in rapid time-to-market. Additionally, fast software delivery of requested features and quality-of-life improvements positively impact customer satisfaction.

3. High quality and no compliance issues

Good security is fundamental for software to be considered a high-quality product. Customers across industries and countries have become increasingly security-conscious, often demanding the implementation of two-step verification or encryption-by-default measures. Similarly, the issue of cyber security is more often a topic of political discussion, and various governments introduce legislation intended to protect their citizens from cyber threats. DevSecOps approach enables security experts to influence the development process right from the start. Some issues can be avoided entirely by considering security and compliance requirements early, resulting in better overall quality.

4. Improved security awareness

Routine cooperation with cybersecurity experts facilitates recognition and understanding of security issues throughout all teams involved in the company. Security becomes an everyday concern. Such thinking influences how much attention employees pay to safety measures, not only in software, resulting in an all-around more secure workplace.

Key challenges in DevSecOps implementation

1. Process complexity

Today, the software development lifecycle consists of many stages performed cyclically in order to improve upon existing software continually. Integrating security into all of them further complicates an already fairly complex process. DevSecOps necessitates excellent teamwork.

2. Lack of expertise

Only some people in your development team will have adequate knowledge of security practices. Similarly, some of your security experts may not follow fresh development trends that close. Besides introducing cross-team knowledge-sharing sessions, consider staff augmentation services to bring in interdisciplinary specialists who can help your organization close the knowledge gap.

3. Resistance to change

Even as creative and innovative people as software engineers can get accustomed to certain ways of doing things. As a result, a part of your team can resist necessary changes, even unconsciously. However, it’s nothing that bold leadership and a well-defined vision can’t overcome. Ensure your employees understand why these changes are happening and how they will impact everyone’s growth.

Technologies used in DevSecOps.

Practically every team that embraced DevSecOps uses a unique selection of numerous solutions and technologies available. The choice depends on the languages and frameworks the company already uses, engineers’ skills and tool preferences, local differences in customer expectations and existing regulations, and the organization’s unique business goals and strategies. Attempting to make a complete list of those would be arduous and unhelpful. The general descriptions of crucial concepts below are more likely to shed some light on how DevSecOps fulfills its goals.

Containers, microservices, and automation

While traditional static security methods can’t keep up with cloud technologies, DevSecOps is fully compatible with the usage of containers and microservices. These popular solutions improve software’s scalability and reliability but demand security as an ongoing and integrated practice rather than a singular checkpoint.

Following DevSecOps methods enables teams to create tight access control needed to properly secure microservices, isolate containers, and encrypt communication between them, resulting in an overall improvement in cloud security. Many of those tasks would be highly time-consuming or outright impossible without automation.

Software Composition Analysis

Using components is a standard practice in software engineering. Breaking a large codebase into smaller elements reduces the complexity of each piece, and the ability to reuse previously made elements to solve new issues can seriously speed up the development process. Many popular components are publically available to use under open-source licenses. These are often widely utilized and time-tested solutions to common issues that a developer can just use instead of reinventing the wheel. 

However, introducing such components comes with various security threats, as updates can introduce new vulnerabilities and compatibility issues. Meanwhile, components that are not updated can become obsolete. The process of analyzing software to identify and evaluate these components is called software composition analysis (SCA). SCA is routinely practiced in DevSecOps environments.

Static, Dynamic, and Interactive Application Security Testing

Utilizing various security testing methods, such as Static application security testing (SAST), dynamic application security testing (DAST), and Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST), enables a more thorough investigation of potential flaws and vulnerabilities. 

  • SAST is a static analysis of the source code (application’s inner structure) to identify potential security issues. 
  • DAST is a method to analyze the applications from the user’s perspective to find weaknesses existing in their functionalities. 
  • IAST combines both, as interacting with the program is coupled with source code observation.

DevSecOps best practices

Shifting security left

When depicting a process visually, the beginning is usually on the left, and the stages continue toward the end, which appears on the right. Traditionally, security occupied the territory near the end of the development process (on the right). 

The term "shift left" refers to such depictions and is meant to encourage developer teams to move security from right to left (from the end of the process to its beginning). Carefully planned and executed code is less likely to need a complete overhaul because of a vulnerability if the possible vulnerabilities are considered even before the programming work starts.

Traceability, auditability, and visibility

Successful DevSecOps implementations often introduce concepts of traceability, auditability, and visibility to create genuinely secure environments. Similar ideas apply to other industries, such as manufacturing.

  • Traceability is the capability to track and record information throughout the whole development lifecycle. This allows for easier code maintenance and compliance with relevant standards and regulations.
  • Auditability refers to other team members’ ability to comprehensively examine conducted security checks by maintaining proper documentation that is available to anyone who might need it.
  • Visibility is a practice of continuous, real-time monitoring of changes and threats that increases the team’s security awareness and provides accountability.

Threat modeling

Threat modeling is a security method used to predict, identify and prioritize various risks. It consists of performing system analysis to identify possible threats and developing procedures on how to act when such threats really happen to mitigate security risk. Identified vulnerabilities can be later actively monitored to minimize the potential exploit impact.

Maxima’s approach to DevSecOps

Taking full advantage of possibilities brought to software development by cloud computing, automation, and agile methodologies is not possible when security exists as a separate, singular phase in the development process. DevSecOps should be seen as a natural evolution of widely utilized DevOps practice. All modern companies should include DevSecOps in their digital transformation strategies and strive for its successful implementation. However, this is not always easy, and many organizations will need specialized support to achieve desirable results. 

At Maxima, we have provided such help to businesses across the globe since 1993. Send us a message and schedule a meeting to learn what we can do to aid your company’s unique needs.

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