May 15, 2024

What is DevSecOps? Embrace more secure DevOps & integrate the database

Representing a transformative shift in DevOps culture that prioritizes security alongside development and operations, DevSecOps integrates security workflows into the development pipeline for better-protected workflows and deployments. 

Threats have only grown more sophisticated. Increasing security concerns combined with demands for more frequent and higher quality application releases beg the question: 

How do DevOps teams move quickly without neglecting security or treating it as an inefficient, inadequate, and external component of modern software delivery?

DevSecOps presents the solution. 

Explore the core principles of DevSecOps, why it's crucial for modern software development, and how integrating database management can lead to a more secure, efficient, and robust DevOps environment. By embracing the strategies and benefits of DevSecOps, teams can build security into the fabric of their development processes from the ground up. Plus, they bring security into the same cycle of continuous optimization, ensuring ongoing enhancements. 

Defining DevSecOps

DevSecOps = Development + Security + Operations. It’s an evolution of traditional DevOps that combines the roles of software development and IT operations with a foundational element of security throughout the cyclical development lifecycle. 

DevSecOps says, no, security shouldn’t be left until the final stages of development – or worse, as post-deployment fixes. That might have worked well enough in the early days of DevOps, when software updates were less frequent and more sporadic, and teams had ample time to address security issues post-development. The pace of today’s CI/CD pipelines have made that post-deployment approach obsolete and unmanageable. 

Waiting until the end to focus on security creates bottlenecks that delay deployments and can lead to significant vulnerabilities.

DevSecOps addresses this by embedding security practices at every phase of development, from initial design through integration, testing, delivery, and deployment. This integration ensures that security considerations are not an afterthought but a driving force of the development process. By doing so, it enables teams to detect and resolve security issues in real-time, as they develop. Managing problems within the pipeline enhances security and accelerates the speed and efficiency of development workflows. 

This holistic approach optimizes security and seamlessly aligns it with the ongoing tasks of development and operations teams, ensuring a unified and effective approach to application releases.

DevOps vs DevSecOps: What’s the difference?

Going deeper into the differences between DevOps and DevSecOps helps identify the benefits of advancing to a security-minded approach, especially in vulnerable industries.

While DevOps and DevSecOps share a common goal of enhancing software development practices, their approaches to integrating security into the development lifecycle pose an important choice for development teams. Can outdated, post-deployment security measures stand up to today’s threats? Or is a shift to DevSecOps necessary for security to adequately permeate the pipeline and protect digital assets?

Focus and origin

DevOps fundamentally merges the practices of development and operations to streamline the software development and delivery process. This methodology focuses on eliminating the barriers between traditionally siloed teams, enhancing collaboration, and accelerating delivery times to meet business demands. 

DevSecOps extends these principles by embedding security directly into the DevOps workflow. This approach doesn't just add security checks and balances as another layer, but integrates critical security practices like automated testing, real-time code analysis, and compliance monitoring into every development phase. This ensures that security considerations keep pace with rapid development cycles.

Responsibility

In traditional DevOps environments, security is often managed by separate teams. These teams conduct periodic audits and compliance checks, which can lead to bottlenecks and delays if issues are discovered late in the development cycle.

DevSecOps shifts security responsibilities across all teams involved in the development process. Developers, operations staff, and security professionals collaborate from the outset, making security a collective responsibility and a continuous focus throughout the application lifecycle. This shared responsibility ensures that security is not an obstacle but an integral part of daily operations.

Goals

DevOps is driven by the need for agility and rapid delivery. While this can accelerate product releases, it may also increase risk if security vulnerabilities are overlooked. This can lead to vulnerabilities in production environments, which are costly and challenging to address after deployment.

DevSecOps, while maintaining the agility and collaborative spirit of DevOps, places equal emphasis on security. The goal is to balance the need for fast development cycles with robust security protocols, ensuring that the final product is both delivered quickly and securely built. This is achieved by integrating security measures early and often, starting from the initial design phases through to deployment. Code changes are subjected to rigorous security scans and must pass predefined security criteria before they can be deployed to production. 

This proactive stance helps prevent security issues from reaching production, safeguarding both the application and its users.

With more similarities to its DevOps pal, the core principles of DevSecOps solidify the safety-first approach. 

Core principles of DevSecOps

DevSecOps, while rooted in the collaborative and innovative spirit of DevOps, incorporates distinct principles focused on integrating security into every aspect of software development. These core principles are not only about implementation techniques but also about embedding a culture and mindset that prioritizes security alongside development and operations.

Shift Left and Shift Right Security

Shift Left Security involves integrating security measures early in the software development cycle, starting from the planning and design phases. This proactive approach means that security considerations are made when they are easiest and least expensive to address rather than as retrofits at the end of the development process. It entails performing security risk assessments, threat modeling, and secure coding practices from the outset, thereby embedding security into the project's DNA.

Shift Right Security, on the other hand, extends the focus on security beyond deployment into the ongoing monitoring and testing of applications in production environments. This continuous testing ensures that security is maintained throughout the lifecycle of the application, allowing teams to respond quickly to new threats and vulnerabilities as they arise.

Automation and integration

Automation is a cornerstone of DevSecOps, enhancing both the efficiency and effectiveness of security practices. By automating routine and repetitive security tasks such as code analysis, vulnerability scanning, compliance checks, and configuration management, teams can ensure these critical actions are performed consistently and without human error. 

Integrating automated security tools into the CI/CD pipeline facilitates rapid feedback on security issues, enabling immediate remediation and preventing bottlenecks in the workflow.

Culture and collaboration

DevSecOps seeks to dismantle the traditional silos between development, operations, and security teams, fostering a culture where security is everyone's responsibility. 

This collaborative environment ensures that all team members are aware of and contribute to security measures. Cultivating a security-aware culture also involves training and educating all team members on security best practices and encouraging a proactive attitude towards security challenges. Feedback loops play a crucial role here, allowing teams to learn from security incidents and continuously refine their security posture and processes.

Compliance and governance

Compliance and governance are integral to DevSecOps, ensuring that application development aligns with regulatory requirements and industry standards. By integrating security controls and policies directly into the development process, DevSecOps makes compliance an ongoing aspect of development rather than a hurdle to be cleared at the end. This integration helps organizations not only meet legal and regulatory standards but also build trust with customers and stakeholders by demonstrating a commitment to secure and responsible software development.

By embracing these principles, organizations can achieve a critical balance of security, productivity, and innovation that helps them stay competitive and compliant while moving at top speed. 

Benefits of DevSecOps

Integrating security into the DevOps workflow brings significant benefits that can transform the overall efficiency and security posture of an organization. Here’s a detailed look at the key advantages of leveling up from DevOps to DevSecOps. 

Stronger security posture

DevSecOps significantly strengthens an organization’s security posture by integrating security aspects early, so risks can be identified and resolved before escalating into serious threats. Continuous monitoring and automated security testing become part of the daily workflow, enabling rapid detection and response to emerging threats. This proactive approach greatly reduces the likelihood of successful attacks and costly data breaches.

Easier compliance

Maintaining compliance can be challenging due to the increasing complexity of regulatory requirements. DevSecOps simplifies this challenge by automating compliance checks and audits throughout the development process. 

This continuous compliance monitoring ensures that both applications and infrastructure consistently meet relevant security standards and regulatory requirements, significantly reducing the risk of non-compliance issues and associated penalties.

Faster, more frequent releases

One of the primary concerns with integrating security into the development process is the potential slowdown it could cause. However, DevSecOps addresses this concern by incorporating security automation within CI/CD pipelines. This automation integration ensures that security assessments and interventions don’t impede the speed and agility of development workflows. Consequently, organizations can achieve rapid and reliable deployment of secure software, reducing time to market and enabling a quicker response to market changes or potential threats.

Lower costs and risks

By proactively identifying and remedying vulnerabilities early in the development process, DevSecOps minimizes the costly repercussions of security incidents and breaches. This preemptive approach not only saves on the direct costs associated with addressing security failures post-deployment but also reduces the potential loss of business due to downtime or compromised data integrity.

Higher trust and credibility

Trust is a critical component of customer relationships, especially for organizations handling sensitive data or operating in highly regulated industries. DevSecOps enhances an organization's credibility by demonstrating a commitment to stringent security practices and proactive risk management. 

This commitment can increase customer satisfaction and trust, fostering stronger, long-term relationships and potentially opening up new business opportunities in sectors where security is a primary concern. 

These benefits collectively lead to a more robust, responsive, and reliable software development lifecycle, positioning organizations to scale and evolve safely. 

DevSecOps tooling

Effectively implementing DevSecOps depends on the right set of tools that support security without disrupting core DevOps best practices. These tools fall into four general categories. 

Static Application Security Testing (SAST)

Static Application Security Testing (SAST) tools are essential for analyzing application source code at rest. They help developers find vulnerabilities and compliance issues early in the development process, often before the application is run. 

SAST tools scan the code to identify potential security flaws such as input validation errors, insecure dependencies, and other common vulnerabilities that could be exploited once the application is in use.

Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)

Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) tools are used to test an application from the outside, mimicking external attacks in a way similar to how an attacker might attempt to exploit vulnerabilities. Unlike SAST tools, DAST tools do not require access to the source code and instead interact with the application through its front end to detect security flaws such as issues in user authentication, session management, and SQL injection. 

These tools are valuable for identifying vulnerabilities in a running application and are typically used later in the development lifecycle during testing and quality assurance stages.

Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST)

Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST) tools combine elements of both SAST and DAST. These tools are designed to monitor application behavior in real time from within the application. IAST tools can assess an application’s response to simulated attacks and other security tests, providing detailed feedback on vulnerabilities that may be exploited in the production environment. 

Since IAST tools work from within an application, they offer the advantage of understanding the application's context, resulting in more accurate detection.

Software Composition Analysis (SCA)

Software Composition Analysis (SCA) tools are crucial for managing the security of open-source components in software projects. These tools scan an application’s codebase to identify and track open-source components and their licenses to mitigate risks associated with third-party libraries, such as known vulnerabilities that might not yet be patched and licensing issues that could potentially lead to legal challenges. 

By automating the process of identifying unsafe libraries and outdated dependencies, SCA tools play a critical role in maintaining the security integrity of the software supply chain.

Integration in the DevSecOps ecosystem

While these tools are powerful on their own, they’re most effective when integrated into a unified DevSecOps ecosystem. This integration allows for continuous feedback loops, where security is consistently monitored, issues are immediately identified, and resolutions are swiftly implemented. Ensuring these tools are part of the CI/CD pipeline not only secures the software development lifecycle but also maintains the rapid pace of DevOps practices without compromising on security.

By effectively utilizing these DevSecOps tools, organizations can significantly enhance their security measures, ensuring that their applications are not only fast and efficient but also secure from potential threats.

But wait – what about the database?

DevSecOps for database change management

Integrating databases effectively into the DevSecOps pipeline is critical for enhancing the security, speed, and efficiency of database management. Automation plays a vital role in this integration, and database DevOps tools like Liquibase are pivotal in weaving database security considerations seamlessly into every phase of the development lifecycle.

Databases, the backbone of any application, require careful management and integration within DevSecOps practices to ensure they do not become bottlenecks or vulnerability points. Integrating database changes into DevSecOps involves automating database update processes, enforcing security policies from the start, and maintaining continuous monitoring to ensure improvement, compliance, and security.

Liquibase provides a robust framework for automating database changes and aligning database management with DevSecOps principles. Explore these database DevSecOps capabilities. 

Automate access controls

Liquibase facilitates automated access controls and logs events with granular detail to ensure comprehensive traceability. This automation extends to securely retrieving credentials from repositories or vaults, which minimizes human error and enhances security. Automated tools maintain an accurate log of database changes and access, providing clear audit trails, accountability, and observability.

Security of access credentials is paramount in database management. Liquibase integrates with tools like CyberArk, AWS Secrets Manager, and HashiCorp Vault to ensure the secure storage and retrieval of credentials at runtime. This method protects sensitive database access details from unauthorized use and reduces the risk of data breaches.

Eliminate manual database change reviews

One of the key advantages of using Liquibase is its ability to eliminate manual reviews and rework. By automating database changes with the right level of governance in place, Liquibase ensures that only secure and vetted SQL changes are pushed to production. This automation not only speeds up the development process but also significantly reduces the likelihood of introducing errors or vulnerabilities into the production environment.

Automatically enforce rules, policies, and standards

Liquibase strengthens database code safety through rigorous enforcement of rules and standards. Executable automatically or on-demand, these Quality Checks are a multifaceted DevSecOps solution. 

Before any database code reaches production, it undergoes customized validation to ensure it is safe and compliant with set standards. This layer of quality assurance is crucial for maintaining the integrity and security of the database throughout its lifecycle.

Detect database drift

To safeguard against malware and other malicious alterations, Liquibase employs drift detection technology. These capabilities utilize snapshots and diffs to monitor and detect any variances between the actual and expected states of databases. This proactive measure helps identify potential intrusions or misconfigurations early, allowing for quick remediation before any damage can occur.

Through these functionalities, Liquibase integrates databases into DevSecOps, ensuring that database management is as dynamic and secure as the application code it supports. By automating and securing database operations, Liquibase helps teams maintain a high standard of efficiency and security across the entire software development and deployment pipeline.

For more on the subject, dive into our comprehensive guide on database DevOps or watch the on-demand webinar: Bringing Database Observability to DevSecOps.  

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