What Is DevSecOps? Exploring the Benefit & Role of DevSecOps
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The abundance of cloud-based software, and the pressure to continuously release new features, has dramatically changed the software industry—and not always for the better. Such a high demand for new updates has condensed software development life cycles, pushing organizations to rethink their approach to secure software development. So in response, many have begun employing what’s known as DevSecOps.
DevSecOps—which stands for development, security, and operations—is the practice of baking security into the application development process, rather than tacking it on at the end during software testing. “Security used to be an afterthought in the software development process, but in the last 10 years there’s been a push by upper management to instill the importance of security in the organization as a whole,” said Mark Feferman, a DevSecOps engineer at CheckMarx, an application security testing company headquartered in Israel.
Keep reading to learn more about this exciting (and lucrative) intersection of software development and security.
What Is DevSecOps?
DevSecOps works by treating security as a shared responsibility throughout the IT lifecycle, rather than the sole purview of the security team. DevSecOps combines automated software testing, as well as manual tests run by dedicated QA teams, to identify vulnerabilities in the code as it’s being written.
“Security is not just the responsibility of a single department or a single individual; it takes a village,” said Feferman. “Everyone has to be involved with their security hat on to make sure things are done properly.”
More importantly, DevSecOps automates how code is transferred between developers and IT teams, so that they stay in communication continuously, and so that any vulnerabilities in the code are immediately flagged for developers to rectify.
Until recently, university-level computer science programs did not emphasize the importance of writing secure code, and the onus still falls largely on organizations to provide training. According to a recent report by ESG, only 20% of newly hired developers have received secure coding training.
Why Is DevSecOps Important?
DevSecOps is important because data breaches are frequent and costly. Between 2019 and 2020, 80% of companies experienced a data breach of some kind, many of which occurred due to misconfigured access controls. Last year, the average cost of a data breach rose from $3.86 million to $4.24 million, according to a report from IBM.
Additionally, consumers increasingly care about data privacy. So companies need to build secure applications that protect sensitive customer data to safeguard their reputation. An insecure software release must eventually be sent back for patching, which costs money and may harm an organization’s reputation.
The Role of DevSecOps
DevSecOps is a philosophy, not a technology stack. Making security a priority throughout the software development process means reorienting workflows and code hand-offs, and automating testing throughout.
“It’s a combination of people, process, and technology,” explained Feferman. “The culture has to be instilled by upper management in the early days. It doesn’t work when security teams try to drive change from the bottom up.”
However, when organizations implement DevSecOps effectively, it runs quietly in the background. “It’s like oxygen,” said Kramar. “You don’t think about it until you don’t have it.”
How Does DevSecOps Work?
DevSecOps works by implementing security policies and automation tools that detect and identify security issues and vulnerabilities while code is being written. These automated processes include security scans, code quality checks, and automated security checks.
As part of the DevSecOps process, the security team also trains the dev and ops teams to interpret the output of these tools. When security tools are integrated into the IaC (Infrastructure-as-Code) pipeline, developers will receive automated output on the application security status, detailing what issues need to be fixed. If there are none, the pipeline will deploy and release the application.
What Are the Benefits of DevSecOps?
DevSecOps reduces the cost of security operations and the financial repercussions of inadequate security.
Automating security best practices reduces the likelihood of human error, while also reducing disruptions to a developer’s workflow. By integrating security into the ticketing systems developers already use, developers can fix code vulnerabilities more quickly.
What Are Some Examples of DevSecOps?
Here’s what DevSecOps looks like in action.
Integrated Application Security Controls Into the CI/CD Toolchain:
Vulnerability assessments and security automation should be part of the software development process. Conducting risk modeling during the design process helps identify potential environmental threats. Also, using ticketing systems that are integrated with application security features can help developers manage their pipeline.
Formally Documenting Application Security Best Practices:
Documenting security hazards can help developers write more secure software. For example, it’s important to document the best practices for using open-source code, which may contain bugs and vulnerabilities.
Requiring Developers To Participate in Application Security Training Programs:
Secure development training helps developers learn to write more secure code. This is done by teaching developers about the different types of vulnerabilities, and how to avoid them. Training developers to write secure code means that fewer security issues will be present in the testing stage.
Track Security Issues During the Code Development Process:
Testing early and often is the best way to implement secure software development. Development teams should also document software security requirements alongside the functional requirements.
The Role of DevSecOps Engineers
DevSecOps engineers are responsible for managing the DevSecOps process. They usually start by testing a company’s network and IT infrastructure for vulnerabilities. Then, they create a plan to embed security protocols into the existing DevOps processes. They also educate developers and IT teams about the DevSecOps process.
What Do DevSecOps Engineers Do?
DevSecOps engineers serve a crucial role in every stage of the software development life cycle. Their main responsibility is to educate dev and ops teams on application security features using a triad of people, processes, and technology. DevSecOps engineers also deploy automated application security tools, and help dev and ops teams understand how various checks and reviews will improve their output. Finally, a good engineer will set and measure metrics to determine the effectiveness of their DevSecOps program.
What Are the Skills and Requirements Needed To Become a DevSecOps Engineer?
DevSecOps engineers need the technical skill set of an IT security professional, as well as knowledge of the DevOps approach. That means a thorough understanding of popular programming languages such as Java, Ruby, Python, and PHP, as well as CI/CD tools including Jenkins, GitLab, CI/CD, CircleCi, and Puppet. They also need to know software frameworks for building, running, and managing containers on servers and cloud applications. A background in computer science or cybersecurity is strongly recommended.
How Much Can DevSecOps Engineers Earn?
According to Glassdoor, the average annual salary for a DevSecOps engineer is $124,130.
How Does DevSecOps Fit Into the Software Development Process?
DevSecOps vs. DevOps
DevSecOps evolved from DevOps so that teams can quickly release code while maintaining security and compliance. Both approaches use automation to expedite software delivery, but DevSecOps emphasizes automated security checks to proactively recognize security risks. While DevOps requires dev and ops teams to work together, DevSecOps also involves security teams throughout the software development process.
DevSecOps vs. Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting and securing computer systems, networks, and applications. It is primarily concerned with identifying vulnerabilities in an organization’s IT infrastructure and finding solutions to patch those weaknesses. DevSecOps, on the other hand, focuses on secure application development, which is just one part of an organization’s overall cybersecurity approach.
DevSecOps vs. Agile
Agile software development refers to a group of methodologies—such as Scrum and Kanban—that prioritize a flexible software development process and release code iteratively. This allows for the rapid delivery of high-quality software, which is also the primary objective of DevSecOps. Both Agile and DevSecOps have a lot in common, and both are meant to work together. Agile sets the framework for the development process, while DevSecOps factors in security needs.
What Is the Future of DevSecOps?
DevSecOps is part of a larger movement in the software industry known as “shifting left,” which means embedding security and compliance measures at the beginning of the software development timeline. As more cloud-based organizations move to containers and serverless architectures, DevSecOps is becoming increasingly critical.
Is DevSecOps the Same As Cybersecurity?
DevSecOps is one piece of a cybersecurity strategy. While cybersecurity is concerned with an overall approach to securing an organization’s networks and IT systems, DevSecOps is focused on secure application development.
When Should You Consider Implementing DevSecOps for Your Organization?
A DevSecOps approach is best when a company begins to deploy new code on a regular basis, because each time a company releases code, it creates a potential attack vector for cybercriminals to exploit.
Is DevSecOps a Good Career?
Those with skills in DevSecOps will enjoy a long and profitable career. Organizations can’t simply “buy” a DevSecOps software solution. They have to hire people who understand the DevSecOps philosophy, and who can lead teams geared towards greater collaboration and more rapid software delivery.
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