Building Security into DevOps [New Series]By Adrian Lane
I have been in and around software development my entire professional career. As a new engineer, as an architect, and later as the guy responsible for the whole show. And I have seen as many failed software deliveries – late, low quality, off-target, etc. – as successes. Human dysfunction and miscommunication seem to creep in everywhere, and Murphy’s Law is in full effect. Getting engineers to deliver code on time was just one dimension of the problem – the interaction between development and QA was another, and how they could both barely contain their contempt for IT was yet another. Low-quality software and badly managed deployments make productivity go backwards. Worse, repeat failures and lack of reliability create tension and distrust between all the groups in a company, to the point where they become rival factions. Groups of otherwise happy, well-educated, and well-paid people can squabble like a group of dysfunctional family members during a holiday get-together.
Your own organizational dysfunction can have a paralytic effect, dropping productivity to nil. Most people are so entrenched in traditional software development approaches that it’s hard to see development ever getting better. And when firms talk about deploying code every day instead of every year, or being fully patched within hours, or detection and recovery from a bug within minutes, most developers scoff at these notion as pure utopian fantasy. That is, until they see these things in action – then their jaws drop.
With great interest I have been watching and participating in the DevOps approach to software delivery. So many organizational issues I’ve experienced can be addressed with DevOps approaches. So often it has seemed like IT infrastructure and tools worked against us, not for us, and now DevOps helps address these problems. And Security? It’s no longer the first casualty of the war for new features and functions – instead it becomes systemized in the delivery process. These are the reasons we expect DevOps to be significant for most software development teams in the future, and to advance security testing within application development teams far beyond where it’s stuck today. So we are kicking off a new series: Building Security into DevOps – focused not on implementation of DevOps – there are plenty of other places you can find those details – but instead on the security integration and automation aspects. To be clear, we will cover some basics, but our focus will be on security testing in the development and deployment cycle.
For readers new to the concept, what is DevOps? It is an operational framework that promotes software consistency and standardization through automation. Its focus is on using automation to do a lot of the heavy lifting of building, testing, and deployment. Scripts build organizational memory into automated processes to reduce human error and force consistency. DevOps helps address many of the nightmare development issues around integration, testing, patching, and deployment – by both breaking down the barriers between different development teams, and also prioritizing things that make software development faster and easier. Better still, DevOps offers many opportunities to integrate security tools and testing directly into processes, and enables security to have equal focus with new feature development.
That said, security integrates with DevOps only to the extent that development teams build it in. Automated security testing, just like automated application building and deployment, must be factored in along with the rest of the infrastructure.
And that’s the problem. Software developers traditionally do not embrace security. It’s not because they do not care about security – but historically they have been incentivized to to focus on delivery of new features and functions. Security tools don’t easily integrate with classic development tools and processes, often flood development task queues with unintelligible findings, and lack development-centric filters to help developers prioritize. Worse, security platforms and the security professionals who recommended them have been difficult to work with – often failing to offer API-layer integration support.
The pain of security testing, and the problem of security controls being outside the domain of developers and IT staff, can be mitigated with DevOps. This paper will help Security integrate into DevOps to ensure applications are deployed only after security checks are in place and applications have been vetted. We will discuss how automation and DevOps concepts allow for faster development with integrated security testing, and enable security practitioners to participate in delivery of security controls. Speed and agility are available to both teams, helping to detect security issues earlier, with faster recovery times. This series will cover:
- The Inexorable Emergence of DevOps: DevOps is one of the most disruptive trends to hit development and deployment of applications. This section will explain how and why. We will cover some of the problems it solves, how it impacts the organization as a whole, and its impact on SDLC.
- The Role of Security in DevOps: Here we will discuss security’s role in the DevOps framework. We’ll cover how people and technology become part of the process, and how they can contribute to DevOps to improve the process.
- Integrating Security into DevOps: Here we outline DevOps and show how to integrate security testing into the DevOps operational cycle. To provide a frame of reference we will walk through the facets of a secure software development lifecycle, show where security integrates with day-to-day operations, and discuss how DevOps opens up new opportunities to deliver more secure software than traditional models. We will cover the changes that enable security to blend into the framework, as well as Rugged Software concepts and how to design for failure.
- Tools and Testing in Detail: As in our other secure software development papers, we will discuss the value of specific types of security tools which facilitate the creation of secure software and how they fit within the operational model. We will discuss some changes required to automate and integrate these tests within build and deployment processes.
- The New Agile: DevOps in Action: We will close this research series with a look at DevOps in action, what to automate, a sample framework to illustrate continuous integration and validation, and the meaning of software defined security.
Once again, we encourage your input – perhaps more than for our other recent research series. We are still going through interviews, and we have not been surprised to hear that many firms we speak with are just now working on continuous integration. Continuous deployment and DevOps are the vision, but many organizations are not there yet. If you are on this journey and would like to comment, please let us know – we would love to speak with you about your experiences. Your input makes our research better, so reach out if you’d like to participate.
Next up: The Inexorable Emergence of DevOps