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DevSecOps: Producing software quickly, continuously, and securely

DevSecOps combines business interests with the security needs of companies

DevSecOps is a model that enables software development companies to integrate security throughout the software lifecycle

When do software applications need to be secured? The answer may seem obvious, but it is important to stress it: always. Or, to put it another way, throughout its entire life cycle, from the time the solution is first conceived until it is withdrawn from the market. This is what an increasingly relevant practice in the software development sector seeks to achieve: DevSecOps.

According to OWASP, a genuinely global benchmark in developing cybersecurity methodologies, the DevSecOps approach aims to «detect security problems (by design or application vulnerability) as early as possible». DevSecOps aims to perform this immediate detection at all stages of software development.

In this article, we will analyze the importance of implementing DevSecOps and ensuring the security of software applications throughout their lifecycle to prevent security incidents that could threaten business continuity, undermine a company’s reputation, and have far-reaching economic and legal consequences.

1. What is behind the DevSecOps concept?

The DevSecOps concept is the result of combining the words development, security, and operations. DevSecOps practices advocate bringing together software development, technological operations, and the management of a company’s IT infrastructure and an organization’s cybersecurity within a single framework. This approach means doing away with silos and approaching security as a cross-cutting issue for a company as a whole rather than as an item to be handled solely by a team of professionals.

To this end, it is essential to create workflows that combine development, security, and operations activities and provide solid information for making decisions on software security throughout its lifecycle.

Likewise, the automation of security processes and tests also plays a fundamental role in detecting vulnerabilities early on in the development and deployment phases, ensuring that they never reach exposed environments where hostile actors can exploit them.

DevSecOps is an approach that is based on the idea that companies should implement optimized processes that guarantee:

  • Code security, verifying that it offers adequate defensive capabilities and does not include identified vulnerabilities.
  • Supply chain security (libraries, containers…).
  • Runtime protection to detect vulnerabilities before they are successfully exploited.

All professionals involved in software development must take security issues into account. Moreover, security should not only be addressed in the final parts of software development but from the very moment it starts to be planned in its design phase.

2. From DevOps to DevSecOps or how security emerged as a vital element of this era

The DevSecOps concept is the natural evolution of the DevOps methodology, which software developers have used in recent years to accelerate development cycles and facilitate the continuous delivery of solutions.

By incorporating the concept of security, software delivery to customers is fast and secure.

The DevOps work methodology seeks to implement processes of continuous integration, delivery, and implementation (CI/CD) of software, thanks to the use of tools to automate these processes. In such a way that a flow made up of development and operations practices is created:

  • Development:
    • Plan
    • Code
    • Build
    • Test
  • Operations:
    • Delivery
    • Deployment
    • Operate
    • Monitor

This optimizes feedback and reduces delivery times, detecting and correcting problems in the early stages of development.

The DevSecOps methodology has come to incorporate the concept of security, giving way to the inclusion of security practices throughout the entire workflow. For example, when planning software, it is convenient to perform threat modeling. When it comes to code, an analysis of the static code must be carried out in search of inadequate development practices that lead to vulnerabilities.

In this way, by opting for a DevSecOps approach, companies can produce quality software quickly, continuously, and securely.

The DevSecOps approach advocates securing the entire software lifecycle

3. Benefits of DevSecOps

Everything we have described in this article materializes in a series of benefits linked to implementing a DevSecOps methodology within an organization.

  1. Reduction of delivery times and software production costs. The key to the DevOps approach is to streamline the software delivery process, making it possible to release more updates. At the same time, cost reductions are achieved through automation and improved workflows between developers and operations team professionals.
  2. Secure software development from design, preventing problems and avoiding additional costs associated with vulnerability mitigation, response, and recovery actions in the event of security incidents.
  3. Optimization of vulnerability detection and mitigation capabilities, opting for a proactive approach in the search for weaknesses that hostile actors can exploit.
  4. Adopting a security culture that is cross-cutting throughout the company reduces the possibility of a security incident resulting from bad practices by a company professional.
  5. Strengthening supply chain security. Supply chain attacks are one of the main threats faced by companies that develop software and companies that employ third-party solutions.
  6. Complying with an increasingly demanding regulatory framework for cybersecurity, especially regarding data protection and resilience for companies operating in critical sectors such as finance, energy, or healthcare.

4. Automation as an ally when implementing a DevSecOps model

Throughout this article, we have emphasized one of the essential aspects of DevSecOps: automation.

Automating processes allows developers to produce software in less time and at lower costs. But, in addition, as far as security is concerned, automation makes it possible to introduce security controls, define metrics from the beginning of the software lifecycle, and perform a permanent monitoring task in search of problems.

In addition, implementing a DevSecOps approach involves strengthening security testing to detect and assess vulnerabilities throughout the software lifecycle and find security flaws. Depending on the phase of the lifecycle and the components analyzed, different types of analysis are introduced: SAST, DAST, IAST, SCA, IaC, etc.

Today, cybersecurity professionals can use tools and solutions to automate the search for vulnerabilities by integrating them into code repositories and continuous software integration (CI/CD) processes.

In this regard, it is essential to have an automated Software Bill of Materials (SBOM), i.e., an inventory of the elements used to develop all the software components. This inventory is essential for analyzing third-party elements used for vulnerabilities, using security tests such as SCA and SAST.

All the advantages linked to the automation of processes, controls, and tests must be complemented with a comprehensive consulting service provided by cybersecurity specialists who help companies analyze and prioritize the mitigation of vulnerabilities and failures in the software lifecycle.

5. The Tarlogic formula: Security testing using Checkmarx One and end-to-end consulting

The cybersecurity division of Tarlogic Security offers a service to implement DevSecOps that combines application security testing to evaluate enterprise software quickly and efficiently, with comprehensive consulting to prioritize and mitigate vulnerabilities and implement the necessary actions to strengthen defensive capabilities.

5.1. Application security testing

As mentioned in the previous section, Application Security Testing (AST) is essential to detect any security issues from the early stages of development.

Tarlogic has therefore signed an agreement with Checkmarx, a leading manufacturer of application testing technology, which allows the company’s professionals to use the Checkmarx One platform to perform application security testing services, including:

  • Static source code analysis (SAST) automatically analyzes an application’s source code for bugs or problems.
  • Software Composition Analysis (SCA) to detect vulnerabilities in the open source components used in a given software.
  • Supply Chain Security (SCS) is a test to find anomalies and prevent growing supply chain attacks.
  • Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST), focused on finding unknown vulnerabilities during software execution.
  • API security, mitigating risks by eliminating ghost APIs found in source code.
  • Infrastructure-as-code-Security (IaC) to assess IT infrastructure to remediate insecure configurations.
  • Container security is a test to analyze the security status of container-based systems.

Security is an essential aspect of software development

5.2. Addressing vulnerabilities and reducing risks

By performing these security tests on an ongoing basis to evaluate software from design and throughout its lifecycle, Tarlogic professionals can help companies increase the protection of their enterprise software.

How? By offering a comprehensive assessment to evaluate and prioritize vulnerabilities to mitigate them, taking into account the risk of exploitation, their level of criticality for the business model, and the impact of a security incident.

In such a way that the detection of failures and security problems gives way to efficient management of vulnerabilities to limit the risk of suffering a cyberattack and increase the resilience of an organization against the actions of hostile actors seeking to take advantage of software weaknesses to achieve their malicious objectives: hijack or exfiltrate confidential information, paralyze business activity, undermine the company’s reputation…

The DevSecOps model highlights the importance of having advanced tools to monitor IT infrastructure and detect vulnerabilities, as well as the need for highly specialized professionals to optimize defensive capabilities and fight against cyber threats.

6. DevSecOps, an approach to combine development, business and security

If the establishment of the DevOps model meant putting an end to the era of silos and creating workflows and continuous integration and deployment, moving from this approach to DevSecOps is crucial to combine efficient software development practices, meet business objectives, and ensure the security of an organization’s IT infrastructure.

As opposed to a conception of cybersecurity as a separate element, DevSecOps advocates placing security at the heart of the business strategy and placing it in direct relation to each company’s business model—all this, continuously and from the initial phases of any software development.

6.1. OWASP and DevSecOps: Moving towards software protection maturity

At the beginning of this article, we referred to OWASP to define the primary goal of a DevSecOps approach. Well, this foundation, at the forefront of developing methodologies and documentation at the service of companies and cybersecurity professionals, is producing valuable material to help companies implement this approach in their software development processes:

  • A guide to implementing DevSecOps within an organization, securitizing its development process, and instituting a culture of security.
  • DevSecOps Verification Standard (DSOVS) is a framework for defining the basic security requirements to be met by a software development company.
  • DevSecOps Maturity Model (DSOMM) is a framework that presents the security measures to be implemented when opting for a DevOps strategy to anticipate hostile actors whose tactics, techniques, and procedures are becoming increasingly sophisticated.
  • Software Assurance Maturity Model (SAMM) is a model that helps companies and cybersecurity experts analyze and improve the secure software development lifecycle.
  • A future Top 10 risks to consider when implementing a DevSecOps model in an organization.

6.2. A paradigm shift to place security at the heart of business strategy

In short, the DevSecOps approach has made inroads in the software development arena because it enables companies to:

  • Link business objectives to security needs.
  • Deploy workflows involving professionals from multiple departments.
  • Incorporate security experts early in the software lifecycle and not only after the software has been developed.
  • Use automation to improve software monitoring and vulnerability scanning.
  • Establish a security culture.
  • Successfully deal with an increasingly complex threat landscape and highly sophisticated cyber-attacks.

Can only large companies opt for a DevSecOps model? No, this approach is open enough to be adapted to any organization, and the emergence of methodologies and frameworks such as DSOMM and SAMM is evidence of this.

Tarlogic Security offers companies a team of professionals highly specialized in the DevSecOps model and in the implementation of security tests to detect vulnerabilities and prioritize their mitigation to prevent security incidents.

Software must be analyzed and protected from the design stage. Otherwise, it opens the door to the appearance of vulnerabilities exploitable by hostile actors.