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Overcoming DevOps Security Challenges: Tips for CISOs

As the expansion of DevOps into DevSecOps shifts into higher gear, CISOs are struggling to balance the accelerated automated software development cycle and associated DevOps Security Challenges.

The key in doing so is to take DevSecOps at face value and do what the technology demands — move the application and infrastructure security to the front of the software development line while maintaining a fast-paced DevOps workflow in the process. Ensuring that security provisioning, patching, hardening, and configuration is applied through code would save both time and money.

The data bears that sentiment out. A 2019 study from Puppet, CircleCI and Splunk, Inc. shows that software teams earning the highest DevSecOps security development grades are the ones who have accomplished two key tasks:

  • Automating team wide security policies.
  • Having the ability to get the team going right out of the gate in the software development lifecycle, especially in deploying key planning and design initiatives.

The Study says and CIOs have gone a long way in meeting the toughest DevOps security challenges. After all, a growing enterprise may loosen the strings when it comes to performance, upgrades or development in crisis, but never on security.

The reality, unfortunately, is that most C-level executives are unwilling to sacrifice speed for security. Data from Threat Stack shows 68% of business executives say their CEO doesn't allow DevOps teams to deploy any security measures that slow the company down. Compromising on security for a faster-time-to-market often damages the main cycle of trade at the time of catastrophe.

The following three DevOps Security challenges will likely keep CISOs up at night, with no clear resolution in sight if left unattended. We are talking about the top three DevOps Security Challenges and how CISOs can attend them while keeping the deliveries on time.

Security Integrations slow the Development Pipeline

The conventional wisdom has been that DevOps developers have to integrate security check gates into their coding and continuous cycles. So, what happens when developers fail to do the same?

The waterfall gatekeeping approach continues but in Agile style where developers help security integrations responsible for slowing the pipelines.

The Threat Stack study shows that 57% of businesses note their software development teams "push back" against system security best practices. Furthermore, 44% of software developers are not trained to code securely. Until software and security get on the same page and collaborate on DevOps security and collaborate more efficiently, expect more pushback and less push forward on security issues.

The Solution?

Usually CISOs bring in new testing tools and processes and expect Developers to adapt to the new realities. Brining in new tools, processes, and security vendors who can adapt to existing Developer processes would be a better option.

Second tip for CISOs is DevOps is not just about deploying code as often as few minutes or seconds, but also providing feedback to developers in those few minutes or seconds when your new code is being deployed. This feedback should not just limit to testing but it must involve end-to-end security scans for applications and codes.

There is a clear advice for CISOs – Integrate your security toolchains and processes throughout the CI/CD pipelines. Replace the old, traditional, heavyweight, and time-consuming practices with new, easy-to-integrate, lightweight, and automated tools and processes. This represents a significant shift for CISOs to instil a security mindset right organization wide.

Perfecting the Security is a Myth

Perfect security integration with zero risk and fail proof applications or systems is a myth. CISOs focusing on removing all vulnerabilities and producing error free applications are putting futile efforts. The idea of DevSecOps is to build teams that work in an integrated style, led by security-savvy team leaders. This, unfortunately, is not always the case as too many companies adopt silo approaches with team leaders and developers.

Both are kept at arm's length from the knowledge they need to build better DevSecOps solutions and are unable to fully comprehend what tools to use — and how to use them — to better safeguard company-wide software security.

The Solution?

There is an analogy that fits here very well. The Chinese theory of Confucianism's emphasis on authority, regulation, and perfection that matches with waterfall security style, where neither the perfection is achieved nor the timelines. Whereas Taoist philosophy is a new, dynamic leadership style that believes things spontaneously transform and naturally achieve perfection when they are supported and allowed to evolve naturally. This is the new-age DevSecOps.

Identify and Remove Open-Source Vulnerabilities

Open-Source Software (OSS) gives the entire repository of frameworks, codes, libraries, templates to developers. With this most of the applications have very less originally written custom code. This means applications require thorough scan of OSS codes. CISOs must work with team members and Application leaders to come with programs where –

  1. If developers are directly downloading and using the code in applications, it must pass through security checks with minimum threshold.
  2. If developers are not allowed to access the Open- Source directly, security teams can build, vet, and maintain the open-source repository internally. This requires continuous work and knowledge sharing between development architects and information security to open source to date, and a way for developers to request new frameworks and libraries.

Another issue with Open-Source is Compliance and legal implications.

Most CISOs want to accommodate key regulations like SOX, HIPAA, GDPR, and PCI/DSS. The risk of not doing so can lead to financial loss and company reputational loss. Performing SOC audits at least once a year adds an added layer of integrity and trust to the clients and stakeholders. SOC audit need not be an external one all the time.

An internal System and Organization Control reporting can not only reduce compliance costs and time spent but also proactively addresses risks across the organization and increases trust and transparency.

While there is an impetus to comply with data security mandates and regulations, that disconnect between DevOps (which prioritizes speedy turnaround times) and DevSecOps (which emphasizes the curbing of risk and meeting compliance goals) gets in the way of true compliance security practices.

One solution gaining steam is having the security teams automate compliance testing, which enables the process to move apace with automated data checks and still gain optimal results. Once the software development team sees that security is being efficient timewise and control outcomes are favourable, the easier it will be for teams to work together, emphasize agility, and produce consistent results — both on DevOps as well as DevSecOps side.

Finally, DevSecOps not only redefines the SDLC but also improves the quality and efficiency of the product through security. The leaders must enable their organizations to get over the above-mentioned DevOps Security challenges and work towards making security a part of business strategy. Get in touch with our DevOps Consultants to explore the best path for your company.