How to Ensure DevOps Security in CI/CD Environments | Hacker Noon

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Sadie Williamson Hacker Noon profile picture

@sadie-williamsonSadie Williamson

Developing blockchain solutions since before it was cool and I’m in Auckland, NZ

The DevOps methodology is the best way of delivering an application in today’s fast-paced business environment. Some teams even prefer scheduling daily releases in a bid to keep pace with changing user requirements.

According to Verizon, 58% of enterprises suffered data breaches in 2020, and 41% of these breaches occurred due to software vulnerabilities. While CD almost guarantees that user requirements will be met, app security is often compromised in a rush to deliver the latest iteration.

Locating security vulnerabilities in such workflows isn’t simple. These days, security is a product feature like everything else, and everyone involved in the DevOps workflow is responsible for it. Here are some key measures that will ensure greater application security in a DevOps lifecycle.

Integrate Security at Every Step

Traditionally, security and development are different worlds. Security validates code at pre-arranged checkpoints before releases, and the project continues. However, in a CD environment, periodic checkpoints will result in the security team falling well behind release schedules.

The only solution to ensure complete DevOps security is to embed security into every step of the process. Every team must have a member whose sole task is to ensure security guidelines are met. In addition, a central security team can develop code templates that have been pre-validated for security.

Thus, developers can begin coding with security features taken care of right from the start. Automated tests before code releases will reduce the burden faced by security teams. By creating standard automated smoke tests for security, developers can receive quick feedback and address issues within their constrained time frames.

From an organizational standpoint, increasing collaboration between development and security teams is a good way to introduce both worlds to each other. Encouraging developers to increase their security skills is also a good way of integrating both functions. 

Consider promoting a person with a development background to head security to encourage collaboration within your organization. Give security requirements high priority in your dev backlog to promote a culture of security in development.

Install Robust Change Management

A CD environment is fast-paced, but this doesn’t mean change management has to be relegated to a lower tier. If anything, change management helps you deliver a more secure product because it creates an audit trail that you can use to fix errors quickly.

Some developers might feel pressured to push changes through at the last minute, thanks to receiving requirements late. However, implementing a well-documented change management workflow to prevent such additions from being released. 

Good change management identifies the source of the error, defines the change approval workflow, and documents every step. Needless to say, you need to use the right tools at every step, and these tools must use a combination of automated error detection and manual approvals. 

For instance, if you’re using Kubernetes to manage your CI/CD pipeline, use a tool that helps you troubleshoot K8s-native issues across your entire stack and identifies the ripple effects. Pair this with a change documentation process that will help you revisit common issues and the steps your team took to address them.

Thanks to such robust change management workflows, you’ll reduce your error rates as time goes on and develop best practices that your teams can instantly adopt.

Evaluate Production

Most DevOps teams focus intensely on delivery and forget that production versions are what users are exposed to. Monitoring production for new security issues and user workflow patterns is essential to developing better products. After all, that’s where new requirements come from.

Another reason to monitor production is that attack vectors change all the time and your production version is the one that’s exposed to changing threats. Make sure your security team is constantly testing and simulating attacks on your system to ensure your dev teams understand the rationale behind future security enhancements.

Implement vulnerability assessment tools into your workflow. These tools automate security monitoring and testing and can give you a detailed view of your current weaknesses. Using them in the dev lifecycle helps eliminate many potential issues before they reach production.

Review Access

Good DevOps workflows rely on the least privilege model, where access is provided only to those who need it. Common access models rely on seniority or job titles, and they don’t make sense in a CI/CD environment. 

Always review user access periodically so that loopholes don’t appear. Pay special attention to users who have been granted root or admin privileges. 

Document the decision to grant such privileges and route them through approval workflows. These processes create an audit trail that you can rely on to spot potential errors and issues.

Constant Improvement

The DevOps model is about constantly improving a product’s features, and security is no different. Review your current practices and keep enhancing them to remain ahead of the curve. Above all else, integrate security into everything you do, and you’ll create great products that provide your users a secure environment.

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