DevSecOps is a philosophy that brings security into the software development process as a shared responsibility.

The fundamental principle is that everyone in the software development process is accounting for security. It also integrates automated security tasks within DevOps (a type of agile relationship between development and IT operations) processes.

To understand DevSecOps or Developer-Security-Operations, it’s helpful to know the history of business software development.

What Does DevSecOps Stand For?

The “Sec” in DevSecOps is security. In the past, application security wasn’t a primary concern for developers. Many companies treated security as an afterthought. Sometimes that meant taking on security features at the end of development. Sometimes, it wasn’t considered unless there was a breach.

Before the rise of cybercrime, there weren’t many financial reasons for security. It didn’t add value—or at least it didn’t seem to. Customers were left to look out for themselves. Security companies jumped in to write antivirus programs and firewalls, but this didn’t solve security for individual applications.

Data breaches became more frequent, and penalties grew more severe. Customers got frustrated, and companies started seeing higher costs associated with low security. By including security in development, the DevSecOps model creates shared responsibility between Development, Security, and Operations.

Top Three Virtualization Vulnerabilities

DevSecOps vs DevOps

DevOps methodology evolved from two industry practices, Lean and Agile.

In the early days of software, engineers wrote most applications. Business leaders set the specifications, and the software engineers would build applications to match. Users, support staff, and security had very little input during development. This led to apps that had lots of features but were harder to learn. It also created long development times and significant waste.

To trim the efficiency of software developers, businesses applied the Lean model. Lean manufacturing sought to reduce waste. By keeping only the parts that add value, companies could make software development more efficient. The Lean model also makes people more critical in the process. The goal with Lean was to get better software by improving the development process.

Lean grew another development philosophy, called Agile. Agile is a set of guidelines created by software engineers but aimed at business leaders. It focuses on communication, working together, and rapid change. These features helped software companies respond more quickly to the market by shortening development cycles. It also helped companies respond better to customer feedback.

The Lean and Agile models helped businesses break out of the old, clunky development model.

To improve software development, a model was needed that focused just on software development. That’s when DevOps was created. “Dev” refers to development, meaning anyone involved in writing software. “Ops” means anyone who operates the software, from users to support agents.

In DevOps, both teams are involved in writing software.

With operations involved, developers don’t need to wait on publication or testing to get feedback. Operations are included and help developers adjust to make better software.

With these two teams working together, apps can be better, intuitive, and easy to use. It also shortens the development cycle, putting review alongside development. Overall, this process leads to continuous delivery of new software features and updates.

unit level automated testing framework

Why The Change In Software Development Model?

Traditionally, a company implemented security after the software was created. It can be an easier way to include security but often works like a retrofit job. When the developers are finished, security reviews the software, and any changes are just tacked on.

Another security model is to compare finished software to an existing security policy. Any areas where the software doesn’t pass policy are kicked back to the developers.

Both of these methods are widely used, and often necessary. Some business platforms are used for decades and need to be adjusted as technology moves forward. Sometimes the market changes and software has to keep up. In other cases, an older feature like a database holds critical information, but it may not work with newer servers. Due to the high cost of rebuilding the database, some companies pile on updates and security features. This creates a compromise between cost and security.

A policy of patching at the end of development has its problems. One issue is that it tends to put the focus on reacting to incidents, instead of preventing them. One example of this is modern operating systems. The developer of an operating system publishes regular updates. These updates fix security flaws that are found during testing. This is an important process! However, hackers closely watch that list of updates. Then, they write viruses and scripts that exploit those very weaknesses. And it works, because many companies have a lag between when the patch is released and when it’s installed. Some companies are even stuck using older, unsupported operating systems. With no more patches available, a company is stuck with either expensive upgrades or possible security breaches.

With security testing being so complicated, some organizations see it as an obstacle.

The original DevOps model promoted speed and flexibility. Sometimes application security vulnerability is just put on the back burner, or even ignored entirely in the name of speed. This can help companies get an edge in a competitive market. However, with recent, massive data breaches, the “patch later” plan can be a costly gamble.

DevSecOps team working on security

Advantages of Developing With Security

One of the critical values of integrating collaboration with security teams is mindfulness. Security practitioners on the development team help everyone to be more aware of security.

That translates into developers making better choices while planning and writing software. It also means operations teams are more likely to promote secure practices and procedures.

DevSecOps promotes a culture of security. This is useful when developing an application because built-in security features are more effective and more accessible to enhance. The culture of security can also seep into the rest of the business. Operation teams may see the value in security measures, and avoid bypassing them to simplify their work. Developers have a clear view of the finished package they can build to. Security teams become partners and collaborators, instead of reviewers and critics.

Another feature of implementing security into DevOps is that its part of the natural structure. DevOps brings operations into software development. It’s a natural extension to bring Security in. With this in mind, operators are more likely to find ways to misuse apps and fix them, rather than let them slide. They may suggest effectively, but less intrusive, threat protection features.

Implementation earlier in development helps make security an integral part of the process. That might look like simple, secure authentication. It could also mean less retrofit security. In creating a coherent approach, everything works seamlessly together. Presenting a unified front acts as a strong deterrent against cyber attacks.

Automation of security best practices can be done using scripts or automated testing tools. Use automatic monitoring scans that only read the code that’s been changed.  Consider doing regular security audits.

Automated security testing reduces the time spent reviewing an application and overall costs.

example of agile software design

How To Implement DevSecOps Best Practices

Shifting to a DevSecOps model isn’t just a change in technology. It helps to think of it more as a change in philosophy.  Adopting will integrate security into the fabric of applications and business processes.

One way to implement DevSecOps is to bring security teams in alongside developer and operations teams. Have security teams conduct testing in development, just as they would run tests on IT infrastructure. The details might vary, but the overall process should resemble standard security services.

There are a few more target areas to focus on:

  • Use a change management service. These platforms track projects, users, and changes to the code. This helps bring continuous delivery and integration of code changes to everyone involved.
  • Analyze code in smaller units. It is easier to scan, and any changes can be corrected more quickly.
  • Maintain proper operations and security procedures. If an audit is done regularly (as it should be), your teams are more likely to pass.  Doing this also helps promote a culture of good security practices, which in turn lowers overall risk.
  • Compare new features and updates against evolving threats. Cyber attacks are becoming more complex. It’s critical always to be aware, and take measures to secure your environment against them.
  • When apps are in production, keep evaluating them. Look for new vulnerabilities and fix them. Evaluate and improve how quickly they can be fixed.
  • Cross-train developer and operation teams in security, and vice-versa.

If you’re familiar with DevOps, implementing security shouldn’t be too challenging.

If you’re not, think of it as a way of building function, ease-of-use, and security at the same time.  DevSecOps training creates coherent software that’s secure and intuitive.