What Is DevOps?
A methodology in the software development and IT industry, DevOps comprises of practices, tools, and cultural philosophies that integrate development (Dev) and operations (Ops). This collaborative approach allows for improved efficiency, issue resolution, scalability, and other benefits.
Though DevOps is common at many companies, it hasn’t always been that way. The idea of combining development and operations didn’t gain traction until about 2007 when the inefficiency of the software development industry became widespread and hard to hide.
Historically, the development teams were separate from the IT operations teams that were required to support the code in the long run. Because these teams didn’t work together and had different goals and different processes, companies became siloed and their software applications suffered.
Industry leaders knew something had to change. Slowly and through incremental changes, companies began adopting a DevOps mindset to break down barriers between teams and help their code be successful.
There are several different software methodologies and frameworks that DevOps teams can adopt, depending on their needs and goals.
Lean. Lean development methodology is designed to help save money and resources, while also continuously delivering software. Using the Lean methodology, teams try to deliver maximum value by eliminating any waste in the production process.
Scrum. The Scrum framework is made of sprints that help develop new product versions regularly. It’s designed to help developers not only improve applications and code but also address any vulnerabilities or issues at the same time. The team and Scrum master maintain a product backlog and address these tasks in each sprint.
Kanban. The Kanban framework helps teams visualize tasks on a Kanban board, so they always know the status of tasks in real time. The Kanban board, whether virtual or physical, is designed to help increase transparency, efficiency, and collaboration. Typically, kanban boards have three stages: to do, in progress, and complete.
Waterfall. Waterfall methodology is a linear framework, where each stage must be completed before moving forward. It has five stages: requirements, design, implementation, verification, and maintenance. It’s typically best for applications that have clear goals defined from the beginning.
Agile. Agile is an iterative methodology that is designed to help both development and project management teams work faster and more efficiently. The cross-functional approach is faster-moving than the Waterfall methodology and allows teams to make continuous, incremental improvements. Moving fast, however, comes with risks, like lack of documentation and or loosened security measures.
Choosing the right methodology can help your team work faster and more efficiently—while also helping keep security vulnerabilities at bay.
Key terms to know:
- Software development methodologies. Methodologies are different processes or approaches to developing software. Teams use different methodologies, depending on their goals and their team structure.
- Agile development methodologies. Agile methodologies require small, iterative changes for continuous improvement.
- Waterfall software development methodology. Waterfall methodology is a linear process with five stages: requirements, design, implementation, verification, and maintenance.
- DevOps. DevOps, or development operations, is the process of combining development and project management teams to create a more collaborative and faster-moving process.
- Software development lifecycle (SDLC). The SDLC is the process used to develop a new software application. It usually has six phases: planning, analysis, design, development, testing, and maintenance.
- Predictive approach. Similar to Waterfall methodology, predictive development is a linear approach that involves designing, developing, and deploying a project step-by-step.
- Responsive approach. When compared to traditional approaches that require manual planning and implementation, a more responsive approach to the management of the IT infrastructure allows for optimum efficiency and agility in terms of product deployment, version control, and issue resolution.
- Iterative approach. An interactive approach to development requires making small, incremental changes instead of sweeping changes all at once.
- Hybrid approach. The hybrid method is a blend of Agile and Waterfall methodologies. Typically, this includes upfront Waterfall planning and Agile development.
- Collaborative approach. Collaborative development allows development teams to partner cross-functionally with other teams, like project managers, to work more efficiently.
DevOps Security Challenges
DevOps has helped streamline the development process for companies all over the world—but that doesn’t mean it’s a flawless approach. While DevOps has plenty of upsides, teams must still be vigilant about security measures to protect their organization and application from hackers and other malicious actors.
As cybersecurity threats expand and cybercriminals become smarter, DevOps teams must also evolve to keep up. Cybercriminals are now actively targeting vulnerabilities in both the software supply chain and the pre-production development environments. Let’s take a look at several challenges teams must face to create a security-centric culture:
Risks of Agile Methodologies
Because faster development often leads to missed security checks or coding errors, it has opened the door for hackers to take advantage. Agile methodologies prioritize working products over documentation, which can make it easy to lose track of changes. Reference documentation is critical to secure development.
Sprints are also prioritized over security. But moving too fast and leaving all security testing to the end of development can also cost you both time and money. When mistakes are caught too late in the game or vulnerabilities are exposed, teams may have to start from scratch to ensure the security of the code or application.
Getting traditionally siloed teams to work together can be a challenge—and security flaws can come about as a result as things slip through the cracks. Prioritizing security in your SDLC and collaboration between development and operation teams are vital to enhanced security.
In addition to collaboration between development and operation teams, organizations should strive to include security teams as well. This approach encourages collaboration but integrates security into every touchpoint to help keep your SDLC protected.
Though convenient, cloud-based development provides a wider and potentially more exposed surface for attackers to latch on to. This exponentially increases security risks, opening the door for hackers to take advantage of any weaknesses and increasing overall security threats.
Open-source code can create a weak link in your SDLC. Any attacks or weaknesses in this code are then absorbed into your software supply chain, creating a higher level of risk. Widespread usage of third-party code allows weak spots to form in your security armor.
Once you have a collaborative DevOps team, it may seem like your security problems are solved. But it’s vital to remain vigilant to stay protected. As more teams and contributors are working on a single project, access control can become a problem. Weakened access control, leaked passwords or tokens, or lax adherence to the principle of least privilege can all compromise the security of your code and lead to leaks or vulnerabilities. Be sure to remain vigilant, even as teams grow and evolve, to prevent unauthorized access to any component of your software supply chain.
Knowing these security challenges upfront will allow your team to anticipate any issues and resolve them faster, setting you up for longer-term success as you begin to reorient your org with security at the core.
Key terms to know:
- Software supply chain. A software supply chain includes all of the components used to develop software.
- Access control. Access control allows you to determine who has access to certain information, allowing you to protect any sensitive data.
- Principle of least privilege (PoLP). The principle of least privilege is the concept that people only have access to the information that they need to complete their particular task.
- Open-source tools. Open-source tools are tools and applications that have been created using open-source code.
- Vulnerabilities. Vulnerabilities are any weaknesses in code within your software supply chain that open you up to a cyber threat.
- Legacy technology. Legacy technology refers to obsolete systems or applications.
- Workload containerization. Containerization requires bundling code with all dependencies and files required to run the application.
- Repository. A software repository is a library where all code is stored and cataloged for reference.
- Deployment artifacts. Deployment artifacts are files or documents that have the information necessary to run an application.
- Configuration errors. These errors occur when there is a mistake in settings that cause failures or unintended outcomes.
- Container apps. Container applications are those that run within a single, isolated container.
Why DevOps Will Be Replaced by DevSecOps
While DevOps was an improvement to earlier development styles, it still didn’t go far enough. With methods like Agile and Lean opening the door to security vulnerabilities and cybercrime becoming more and more common, it’s more important than ever that organizations adopt a security-centric approach—which is why DevSecOps is vital for the future.
Without a security-first mindset, security will likely break down, and teams and organizations may face devastating consequences. While some may think that DevSecOps takes up too much time or resources, it’s an easy way to save time, money, and hassle. Keeping security in mind throughout the process ensures you don’t need to repeat work or fix costly mistakes. It also has a wide range of other benefits:
Increased security automation. Automated tools and workflows are a faster and easier way to protect against malicious actors. Whether you build your own tool or use a third-party application, automated security tools allow you to take certain parts or risk management off of your plate while still maintaining a high level of security.
Find vulnerabilities earlier. DevSecOps isn’t just about meeting regulatory requirements—it’s about creating a more secure SDLC. Prioritizing security early on in the process allows you to identify—and fill—any gaps and resolve any vulnerabilities or flaws that may otherwise have been overlooked.
Automated workflows. Before the integration of teams in a DevSecOps world, dedicated security teams were known for slowing things down. But when developers are also involved in security, it automates the development process from the beginning. That way, code is more secure from the second it’s written, minimizing vulnerabilities and enhancing security.
Security at scale. Native CI/CD platforms like GitHub Actions are becoming more and more common, making it easier to adopt security-first practices at scale. They allow you to keep your pipeline secure—and we expect that these options will only continue to grow.
Increased developer agility. By taking antiquated security teams out of the equation, developers can move further, faster. Because they’re built with security in mind from Day 1, it ensures that they help avoid major pitfalls from the start and can adapt and adjust to prevent vulnerabilities throughout the development pipeline.
More complete security control. Collaboration between developers, operations, and security teams often offers more complete security coverage and control than a siloed approach. Instead of separate workflows where things fall through the cracks, a streamlined and holistic approach helps guarantee added control and enhanced risk mitigation.
Enhanced collaboration. Cross-functional teamwork is vital to the success of DevSecOps, and it helps eliminate troublesome silos across an org. By breaking down barriers and encouraging teams to work together from the initial planning stages, it fosters a more collaborative environment that results in stronger, more secure applications in the long run.
A sense of shared responsibility. Before DevOps and DevSecOps became the expectation, the security responsibility fell mostly on security teams alone. With this new approach, there is a sense of shared responsibility for security within development teams, taking the burden off of a few individuals and spreading the responsibility more widely across an organization.
All of these benefits work together to make DevSecOps the logical evolution of DevOps across organizations.
Key terms to know:
- DevSecOps. DevSecOps is an approach to development that combines development, security, and operations.
- Shift-left mindset. A shift-level mindset is the practice of testing and evaluating very early on in the development process before any code has been written.
- Model of shared responsibility. This is a security framework that details how cloud service providers and companies can work together to ensure a commitment to certain security measures and protocols.
- CI/CD. A CI/CD pipeline is the practice of continuously integrating and delivering new versions of your software or application.
- SSDLC. SSDLC, or the security software development lifecycle, is the process of developing software with a security mindset. It has six phases: planning, analysis, design, implementation, testing, and maintenance—all executed with security at the core.
- Product development lifecycle. The product development lifecycle is made up of all of the steps it takes to create a product from start to finish, including ideation, planning, design, testing, deployment, and maintenance.
- NIST. NIST, the National Institution of Standards and Technology, helps organizations understand and improve their cybersecurity risk management.
- OWASP. OWASP, or the Open Web Application Security Project®, is a non-profit organization that helps to improve software security.
- Cyber threat. A cyber threat is a vulnerability that opens you up to potential cyber-attacks.
- Cyber attacks. A cyber attack is a malicious action by a hacker or other cyber-criminal that compromises your computer, network, or application.
DevOps Security Tools
As DevOps teams try to move as fast as possible, they must leverage every possible tool at their disposal. Security tools are designed to help teams keep their code secure, all while also increasing productivity and collaboration.
Using these tools and putting security at the center can help your DevOps team evolve into DevSecOps, keeping security as a priority throughout the SDLC. As cyber criminals get smarter and security breaches become more and more common, a commitment to security is critical. But you don’t have to do it alone. Onboarding the right security tools can help you monitor your code, dependencies, and CI/CD pipelines to continuously assess vulnerabilities and stay ahead.
Because these tools are designed with security teams in mind, they make integrating security into your existing workflows simple to save time and hassle. You can even automate a large portion of tasks to take to-dos off of your plate and ensure you’re still being protected.
Vulnerability Scanning of Pre-Production Development Environment
You can use vulnerability scanning throughout the SDLC process to scan code, pipelines, systems, infrastructure, and dependencies. Vulnerability scanning tools are designed to detect security vulnerabilities early in the process, ensuring you can maintain compliance and prevent issues from snowballing.
Risk Scoring and Alerting
Risk scoring allows you to properly prioritize security risks. By tackling the biggest vulnerabilities from the beginning, you can more effectively use your team’s time and keep your pipeline secure. Many security tools also make it alert you to unusual activity, allowing your team to quickly jump into action without wasting valuable time—allowing them to better protect your organization.
Automated Remediation Workflows
Once vulnerabilities have been identified, it’s vital to address them as quickly as possible. Many security tools make it possible to create remediation workflows to manage alerts and resolve vulnerabilities within the development pipeline.
While these tools all have different features and functionality, they share similar goals:
- To provide visibility and traceability for software releases and their security posture through the pre-production development environment
- To provide visibility into insecure developer practices, such as cloning of insecure code repositories, or insecure configuration of SDLC systems.
- To ease the burden of managing secure access management/control across systems and infrastructure across the pre-production development environment.
Finding the right tool or the right combination of tools is critical to improving your security and making the transition effectively from DevOps to DevSecOps.
Key terms to know:
- SCA. A software composition analysis, or SCA, determines what open-source code is used in your applications to help you identify any security weaknesses.
- SAST. Similar to an SCA, static application security testing, or SAST, evaluates all of the source files within your application to determine if there are any security vulnerabilities within the code.
- Automated testing. Automated testing is used to determine if an application is functioning properly.
- Vulnerability scanning and issue management. Vulnerability scanning helps you identify weaknesses and vulnerabilities within your software and application, while issue management is the process of mitigating those risks.
- Application security testing tools. These third-party tools help you identify any security vulnerabilities within your software.
- AppSec. AppSec, or application security, is an umbrella term that includes all processes used throughout the software development lifecycle.
- Risk scoring. Risk scoring allows you to determine how serious potential security vulnerabilities are.
- Remediation workflows. A remediation workflow is a framework that allows you to resolve any identified security vulnerabilities.
DevSecOps Implementation & Best Practices
While DevSecOps is critical for organizations looking to amp up their security, it’s not something that happens overnight. Correctly implementing DevSecOps and outlining the right best practices for your org can help set you up for success and ensure that all teams are working together to achieve the strictest security possible.
Implementation has a few important steps:
Security from the Top Down
Start by instilling a security-first mindset from the top down for a long-lasting cultural change. Leaders across your organization need to be aligned in their messaging to ensure that it’s a cross-functional change. Development and security leaders especially should work to change the mindset of their teams, which can sometimes be resistant to change.
Implement Secure Coding Practices
When it comes to security, automation is your friend. Taking advantage of automated security measures can help minimize—if not eliminate—human error, keeping your code more secure. You can run automated code dependency checks as part of your SDLC to ensure it is correctly configured and meets your standards.
Identify Gaps in Security Coverage
Traditionally, development, security, and operations teams were siloed. This prevented end-to-end visibility at security checkpoints along the SDLC. But DevSecOps creates a unique opportunity to look at the entire process from start to finish, making it easier to identify and mitigate any gaps in security coverage for enhanced protection.
Commit to Continuous Improvement
DevSecOps isn’t a one-and-done process. Maintaining heightened security throughout the SDLC requires a continuous improvement approach. A continuous iteration and security improvement process can help you better stay ahead of cybercriminals.
There are also a few DevSecOps best practices you should keep in mind when establishing this philosophy within your org:
- Automate security practices as early as you can, and whenever possible, to reduce human error. Use automated security tools to gain necessary security coverage and take the burden off of your team.
- Use risk scoring results to foster meaningful and pragmatic collaboration between your Security and Development teams. When working together, they can prioritize and mitigate according to your organization’s guidelines.
- Threat modeling, though tedious, is always necessary. Don’t skip this vital step in your SSDLC.
- Perform continuous secure coding training for the development team to stay on top of secure coding best practices.
When following these implementation steps and best practices, organizations will foster a sense of collaboration across their organization—while always keeping a security mentality at the forefront.
Key terms to know:
- Automated security tools. These are third-party applications that are designed to identify security vulnerabilities.
- DevOps pipeline. The DevOps pipeline is the process or workflow that development and operations teams use to build, test, and deploy applications.
- Source code analysis. A source code analysis allows you to analyze the code without running the application to identify any security vulnerabilities.
- Post-deployment monitoring. Post-deployment monitoring allows you to identify and mitigate any security vulnerabilities that arise after your code has been deployed.
- Automated security testing. Automated security testing is designed to identify vulnerabilities within your application. It is typically done using automated security tools.
- Open-source libraries. These repositories store code with open-source licenses, making the code available for anyone to use and modify for their own applications.
- Code dependency checks. Using a dependency checking tool, you can run a dependency check to determine whether all code is working properly and the application is functioning as intended.
The Future of DevOps
Just as DevOps transformed software development to be more productive, continuous, and automated, DevSecOps will do the same for security practices. In the future, DevSecOps will provide security across organizations’ end-to-end pre-production development environment and feature automated visibility, risk scoring, remediation, and vulnerability management. It will also foster increased security responsibilities across development teams and greatly improve the productivity of security teams, all at the same time.
Here are a few of our other predictions for the future of DevSecOps:
One of the primary benefits of DevSecOps is the ability to streamline manual processes and create time-saving automation. This enhanced automation will help to remove human error and reduce the risk of failure, leading to more secure products and allowing development teams to move faster. It’s even predicted that 10% of coding vulnerabilities could be automatically resolved with these automations.
Automation can identify and predict code vulnerabilities—but it’s imperative to have processes in place to address issues as they arise. Implementing the right tools and having documented processes will become the expectation for organizations as they work to mitigate risk and improve the security of their SSDLC.
Enhanced Collaboration Between Teams
As development, security, and operations teams continue to work together to foster a security-first culture, the lines between teams will continue to evolve. Individuals will begin to flex outside of their primary focus—like engineers beginning to work on infrastructure—and security will be the responsibility of all, not just the security teams. We expect job titles to evolve, expertise to become integrated, and siloes between these historically segmented teams to continue to break down.
Faster Development & Deployment
DevOps was the first step in starting to enable developers to start to move faster. This teamwork between development teams and operations helped to eliminate inefficiencies and create a more streamlined end-to-end process. DevSecOps, by integrating security throughout the dev process, instead of as a final stage at the end, will save even more time. This leads to faster releases and more innovation among teams, allowing orgs to debut new features, functionality, and applications at unheard-of speeds.
An Uptick in Attacks
As technology has become more advanced, cybercriminals have also become more sophisticated and determined—and we don’t expect that to stop anytime soon. Even though DevSecOps primes organizations to better protect themselves against attacks, hackers will continue to launch software supply chain attacks to capitalize on any vulnerabilities. Even with enhanced security protocols in place, organizations must stay vigilant and focus on producing secure code and infrastructure to stay ahead.
While we don’t know exactly what the future holds for DevSecOps, we know that it is still a vital practice for teams looking to move faster, enhance security, and increase collaboration.
Key terms to know
- Cloud-native applications. These applications are those that were designed to live in the cloud.
- Infrastructure-as-code (IaC). Instead of manually managing IT infrastructure, an infrastructure-as-code approach allows you to manage and automate everything using configuration files.
- Software supply chain attacks. This type of cyber attack is any attempt by hackers or malicious actors to compromise a component of your software supply chain.
- Data observability. Data observability describes how fully an organization understands its data. A deeper understanding empowers organizations to more easily fix problems and proactively address security vulnerabilities.
- Mean time to respond (MTTR). This describes the average amount of time it takes an application or system to recover from a failure or a cyber threat.
- Continuous improvement. Continuous improvement is an iterative approach that prioritizes small, incremental changes.
- Policy as code (PaC). Policy as code is the practice of writing high-level code that allows you to define rules and manage policies.
- Technical debt. This describes the associated cost when on development teams when they are tasked with creating a simple, easy solution for the sake of speed—and then later tasked with reworking a more comprehensive alternative.