In recent years, DevOps has been gaining a great popularity among IT decision-makers who have realized the benefits that it offers. DevOps is based on automation and cross-functional collaboration. However, not many IT executives are aware of the security risks in a DevOps environment. This article reviews the basic concepts of a DevOps pipeline and suggests several ways for securing it.

What Is DevOps?

The standard DevOps model focuses primarily on development and operations. It represents a collaborative or shared approach to the tasks performed by a company’s application development and IT operations teams.

While DevOps is not a technology, DevOps environments generally apply common methodologies. These include the following:

– continuous integration and continuous delivery or continuous deployment (CI/CD) tools, with an emphasis on task automation;

– systems and tools that support DevOps adoption, including real-time monitoring, incident management, configuration management and collaboration platforms; and

– cloud computing, microservices and containers implemented concurrently with DevOps methodologies.

A DevOps approach is one of many techniques IT staff use to execute IT projects that meet business needs. DevOps can coexist with Agile software development, IT service management frameworks, such as ITIL, project management directives, such as Lean and Six Sigma, and other strategies. In a DevOps security culture, all team members play an active role in securing software. It allows teams to test early and often throughout the software creation process. This enables them to analyze their software as they build it, reducing the likelihood they release buggy software.

How to Secure the DevOps Environment:

The following tips from this article can help you address DevOps environment’s security risks and ensure that any vulnerabilities are handled properly.

  • Establish Credential Controls

Security managers need to make sure that the controls and access to different environments is centralized. To achieve this, managers have to create a transparent, and collaborative environment to ensure that developers understand the scope of their access privileges.

  • Consistent Management of Security Risks

Establish a clear, easy-to-understand set of procedures and policies for cybersecurity such as configuration management, access controls, vulnerability testing, code review, and firewalls. Ensure that all company personnel are familiar with these security protocols. In addition, you should keep track of compliance by maintaining operational visibility.

  • Automation

Security operations teams need to keep up with the fast pace of the DevOps process. Automation of your security tools and processes can help you scale and speed up your security operations. You should also automate your code analysis, configuration management, vulnerability discovery and fixes, and privileged access. Automation simplifies the process of vulnerability discovery and identification of potential threats. Moreover, automation enables developers and security teams to focus on other tasks by eliminating human error and saving time.

  • Privileged Access Management

You should limit privilege access rights to reduce potential attacks. For instance, you can restrict developers and testers access to specific areas. You can also remove administrator privileges on end-user devices, and set up a workflow check-out process. Additionally, you should safely store privileged credentials and monitor privileged sessions to verify that all activity is legitimate.

Problems Addressed

DevOps solves several problems, such as:

  • Reduced errors: Automation reduces common errors when performing basic or repetitive tasks. Besides, automation is valued for preventing ad hoc changes to systems, which are often used instead of complete documented fixes. In the worst case the problem and solution are both undocumented and the underlying issue is never actually fixed, and is not much more than the fleeting memory of the person who fixed the issue in a panic during the last release.
  • Speed and efficiency: Here at PATECCO we talk a lot about “reacting faster and better” and “doing more with less”. DevOps, like Agile, is geared towards doing less, better, and faster. Releases occur more regularly, with less code change between them. Less work means better focus, and more clarity of purpose with each release. Again, automation helps people get their jobs done with less hands-on work.
  • Bottlenecks: There are several bottlenecks in software development: developers waiting for specifications, select individuals who are overtasked, provisioning IT systems, testing, and even processes (particularly synchronous ones, as in waterfall development) can all cause delays. The way DevOps tasks are scheduled, the reduction in work being performed at any one time, and the way expert knowledge is embedded into automation, all act to reduce these issues. Once DevOps is established it tends to alleviate major bottlenecks common to most development teams, especially the over-burdening of key personnel.
  • Security: Security becomes not just the domain of security experts with specialized knowledge, but integrated into the development and delivery process. Security controls can be used to flag new features or gate releases — within the same set of controls you use to ensure custom code, application stacks, or server configurations, meet specifications.

The fundamental value of DevOps is speed to market. However, companies that do not incorporate security into every stage of their development and operations environment risk losing the value of DevOps. To ensure a secure environment, you need to adopt a DevOps model, enable privileged access management, and secure your software supply chain.