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What is DevSecOps: A Comprehensive Guide

by
Emily Heaslip
,
November 30, 2022
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The rise of cloud, containers, and microservices has shifted the way software developers work for good. Whereas traditionally, software developers would release a new version of an application every few months, today’s platforms allow teams to work faster and more streamlined. These advancements have led to the rise of “software, safer, sooner” — also known as DevSecOps.

DevSecOps follows the same trend as Agile and DevOps: how can developers create software that’s better, faster, and less expensive? This next iteration in the evolution of software development not only creates products faster, but also more securely. Security best practices are baked into rapid-release cycles in an effort to reach true security/development integration. 

In this guide, we’ll break down the DevSecOps approach, how it differs from the DevOps methodology, and some of the key benefits of integrating the DevSecOps mindset into your company’s development practice. 

What is DevSecOps?

DevSecOps is an acronym for development, security, and operations. This practice automates the integration of security at every phase of the software development lifecycle. To better understand DevSecOps, let’s start by comparing DevSecOps vs DevOps. 

DevSecOps is a variation on DevOps, or development operations. The goal of DevOps is to bring together formerly siloed roles, such as IT operations, development, QA, and security, to coordinate and produce better, more reliable products. Ultimately DevOps makes every team responsible for the success of the project: instead of separating development and operations, the unified effort of both functions leads to high-quality results. 

“DevOps is an increasingly popular trend in recent years—a shift that makes developers more accountable for operational issues. The idea is that when a system goes down, it’s everyone’s responsibility to fix it,” wrote GitHub

DevSecOps follows this same principle but with a security lens. All stakeholders who participate in the application development lifecycle are responsible for the security of the final product. With DevOps, the goal is fewer outages; with DevSecOps the goal is no data loss.

The DevSecOps model

As more and more companies adopt the DevSecOps approach, experts are beginning to develop frameworks to standardize industry best practices. The most common model currently in use is the OWASP Maturity Model: 

Source

This model may be confusing, but essentially, it divides the maturity of an organization’s DevSecOps practice into four levels. Each level has its own approach to operations. Level One is the most basic understanding of security practices, while Level Four represents the most advanced deployment of security practices at scale.

In our guide, “How To Implement DevSecOps,” we get into more granular detail to help understand how to integrate the DevSecOps mindset into your operations.

Benefits of DevSecOps

When done right, DevSecOps allows teams to deliver code faster, with fewer security vulnerabilities, and at a lower cost.

“The purpose and intent of DevSecOps is to build on the mindset that everyone is responsible for security with the goal of safely distributing security decisions at speed and scale to those who hold the highest level of context without sacrificing the safety required,” said Shannon Lietz, co-author of the “DevSecOps Manifesto.”

The DevSecOps approach helps add transparency and coordination to the product development lifecycle. When different teams work independently of one another, the approach leads to inconsistent implementation and a fragmented approach to development. This alternative approach enables teams to collaborate throughout the process, providing visibility to key stakeholders every step of the way.

Additionally, this visibility reduces bugs, misconfigurations, and other issues that can prove time-consuming and costly to fix later in the process. DevSecOps minimizes the need to re-do work to address security issues further along in the development lifecycle.

Ultimately, this approach also makes the product more secure. Code is audited and reviewed throughout the development cycle to test for security issues. These issues can be resolved as soon as they are identified, lowering the risk of vulnerabilities being built into a finished product. And, there are no additional dependencies introduced on shaky code.

Trends in DevSecOps for 2022 and beyond

DevSecOps has quickly become the industry standard with the rise in cloud-based work environments. Experts are predicting these key trends will continue to fuel the adoption and maturity of this approach to product development.

The adoption of Infrastructure as Code (IaC)

Gartner predicts that “By 2025, 70% of organizations will implement structured infrastructure automation to deliver flexibility and efficiency, up from 20% in 2021.”

IaC manages IT infrastructure as hardware rather than software. This approach enables developers to automatically manage and monitor IT resources through code rather than manually configuring devices. And this approach will further accelerate the use of DecSecOps.

“Enshrining infrastructure in code provides a foundation for automation and testing—both of which are crucial for DevSecOps. It does so by creating repeatable, automated software-driven processes,” wrote one expert. With the rise of IaC, companies are able to work more flexibly, more productively — and more securely.

The rise of GitOps

Perhaps the next iteration of DevSecOps is GitOps. GitOps uses Git repositories to deliver infrastructure as code, creating a standard workflow for application development. This approach advances the principles of IaC as well as creates a framework to maximize the results of DevSecOps.

GitOps expands on existing processes using familiar Git-based workflows with which developers are already familiar. This means that teams can more easily track changes that happen throughout the application life cycle, from development to deployment. Each change is saved in the Git repository, which further enhances the security element of DevSecOps.

An added benefit of GitOps is that developers can code at their own pace without relying on approvals from the operations team. Notably, GitOps will require companies to properly secure GitHub. GitOps is only secure as long as the Git repository is secure — and IT teams can set up regular scans to automate this security. Nightfall detects a wide range of potentially sensitive data in GitHub repositories, ensuring data like secrets, PII, and more are kept safe.

[Read more: Nightfall Cloud-Native DLP for GitHub]

Continued threat from third-party code

Unfortunately, DevSecOps, as a practice, only provides a way for IT teams to keep their internal code safe. As organizations partner with other third parties, they may become vulnerable to any code or code libraries that they incorporate into their proprietary software. This is where monitoring and remediation tools like Nightfall can help.

Nightfall is a data loss prevention tool that can automatically detect a broad set of sensitive data, including PII and credentials & secrets, using Nightfall’s ML-trained detectors. With Nightfall, IT teams can identify sensitive data across public and private repositories and easily manage remediation workflows. Easy set-up empowers developers to discover unknown unknowns with no prior tuning or tagging needed. Nightfall has partnered with companies like Snyk to expand security coverage throughout the SDLC.

As DevSecOps matures, it will continue to advance more securely, more flexibly, and with more collaborative approaches to code development. It’s not, however, a failsafe solution. Without the right data loss prevention tools, companies may continue to leave valuable information at risk for exfiltration and insider threats.
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