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More and more organizations are abandoning the outdated waterfall development methodology for more practical and efficient Agile development practices. As this movement has occurred, development teams are moving faster than ever by employing Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Deployment (CD) practices that are serving to shorten development cycles and get new features into production faster.
This does, however, come with greater security risk in some respects. The speed at which new code is being released has the effect of not only pushing new features out quickly but also potentially creating new security vulnerabilities at the same time.
This is where DevSecOps comes into play. By implementing DevSecOps practices supported by sufficient log analysis, organizations can ensure a high standard of application security in a fast-paced development life cycle without slowing the speed of application delivery. Going beyond static analysis or a simple tool, DevSecOps, combined with consistent log management, is key to maintaining reliable and secure applications.
DevSecOps is the philosophy of integrating security practices within the DevOps process.
Traditionally, the software development process was all but complete before application security was considered. A system would be fully designed and the code written, then analyzed by a security team that would identify existing security issues within the application. These issues would then be resolved, allowing the application to clear the security controls for a production release.
This process no longer made sense with the introduction of DevOps and shortened development cycles. Modern cloud applications are no longer released as defined versions every set number of months but are iteratively or "continuously" developed, sometime multiple times a month, week or even day. Just as the CI/CD pipeline allowed for ongoing iteration and development, continuous security must be built into the software development lifecycle. As a result, DevSecOps was born.
DevSecOps mandates that all members of the DevOps organization be involved in the implementation and security testing of the application. They are all responsible for application security at some level. To succeed in implementing the practices of DevSecOps, developers need to code with security in mind, and testing needs to include application security testing rather than just general issues with the application’s source code.
Tools for source code analysis and automated test scripts that check for security issues within the application can assist an organization in making application security a priority at all phases of the software development life cycle. This will lead to an application being inherently secure from the project's outset, leading to fewer security issues after the development cycle that could delay a production release.
But implementing a DevSecOps tool is not the end-all and be-all of DevSecOps.
This transition also means the development team culture must shift to build security practices into daily thinking. It's more than just waiting for the security team to flag a vulnerability in the code. All developers have a role in coding with security best practices in mind.
Logging and log analysis are essential factors in achieving and maintaining application security. They are also essential for the success of a DevSecOps organization. One of the main concepts in agile development is the idea of continuously evaluating the application. Examples include continuously testing the application to catch errors at the earliest possible moment in the development cycle or continuously integrating code into a common codebase to allow for the detection of code integration issues at the earliest point possible.
Logging can provide telemetry of the internal workings of an application itself but can also contain historical data points on the development lifecycle, such as when code was updated, pushed into production, or modified. It's also common to correlate application logs against vulnerability-finding and access logs.
While developing, the software engineers should write code to log information regarding relevant security events such as authorization failures (and even successes), input validation issues, etc. In doing so, the developers will help build the foundation for a secure application and easier auditing of any security vulnerability. As they integrate their code into a common codebase to be deployed to test environments that mimic the specifications of the production environment, log files will be written that will be useful to security professionals for any investigation or reporting of security issues within the application.
These log files can then identify any lapses in application security that may occur throughout the development process or even post-deployment to production. This is where log analysis software can show significant value. While it is impossible for humans to manually read each massive log file produced while the application is being tested or utilized in production, log analysis software can assist in highlighting the vulnerabilities for your security team to investigate further.
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One of the most important aspects of the DevSecOps model is implementing security measures as early as possible in the development cycle. This essentially continues the “shift-left” approach common in modern development philosophy.
Implementing security thinking in development processes requires both developer buy-in and involvement. By educating your developers in secure development practices and training them to securely develop and log valuable security data for analysis wherever it is applicable, you will find your applications more secure when you get to the later phases of the development cycle.
This will then carry over into the post-deployment phase of the life cycle, where valuable log data will allow your organization to continuously monitor the application for security vulnerabilities that may have made it into production. As time passes and multiple releases of your organization’s application(s) occur, the DevSecOps team will become more efficient and more habitual about employing secure development practices to weed out any security flaw before it turns up in production. In this way, you will improve application security with each subsequent release.
Like anything in life, application security processes change and evolve. While long development cycles and fewer releases per year were once standard, this approach is no longer effective in today’s fast-paced development culture. This is particularly notable as it relates to modern cloud security. Isolated security teams detached from the application developers or system owners cannot effectively understand or triage security interests in today's complex environments.
As a result, DevSecOps is the future of application security. Using automation, developer buy-in and effective log analysis, an organization can build and maintain secure applications without slowing down software delivery.
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