4 DevOps Security Challenges and Solutions
DevOps involves adopting iterative software and application development workflows and leveraging automation to enable frequent releases. It relies on deploying and maintaining programmable infrastructure.
Various cultural and technical challenges can impact DevOps security, but the main security issues generally derive from the gap between the security and development teams. While developers want to deploy the software quickly, the security team prioritizes fixing security bugs, often slowing down development.
Failure to Embrace Security
DevOps teams often fail to take responsibility for security due to hesitant workplace culture. They often see security as a hindrance for someone else to handle. However, addressing security early in the development pipeline is less time-consuming than retroactive fixes in the long run.
Standardizing Cloud Security
Many organizations rely increasingly on the cloud and have to protect a larger attack surface than traditional on-premise environments. Achieving security in the cloud in an automated and consistent manner is an important challenge to overcome in DevOps pipelines.
Managing Risks Related to Tools
DevOps models typically rely on tools to increase productivity. However, these tools also present risks for the DevOps environment. For instance, containerized applications are easy to run in the cloud but often lack observability.
Weak Access Controls
Weak access controls, privileges, and secret management often expose DevOps environments to attack. Malicious actors can hijack access permissions to slip through inadequate controls and conceal an attack.
Best Practices for DevSecOps
Secure DevOps application development has some challenges, but there are ways to integrate security into the DevOps pipeline.
The DevSecOps model integrates security into the DevOps lifecycle. It requires a culture of shared responsibility and collaboration. The DevOps staff may need extra training to acquire security skills, while security teams need to learn to code.
Securing the Source Code
Most enterprise software projects use open source code, which is useful for improving productivity and development velocity. However, this source code often contains vulnerabilities that easily make it to production. Organizations must have clear security policies to detect and prevent vulnerabilities from reaching production.
For example, automated builds can provide visibility into software dependencies, while containers can isolate and mitigate the damage caused by vulnerabilities. Developers should not use untrusted components. They should regularly check for vulnerabilities in open source databases and apply the latest software patches.
Leveraging XDR Technology
Extended detection and response (XDR) is a security platform that cuts across silos, collecting data from networks, endpoints, cloud systems, and other IT systems and automatically constructs the attack kill chain. The XDR model helps organize security workloads with a threat-driven approach.
Without XDR, each aspect of the IT environment, such as cloud environments or on-premise endpoints, is a separate silo with its own security solutions, alerts, and metrics. Many security issues affect multiple parts of the environment, making them invisible to the organization. XDR helps adopt DevSecOps by unifying data across silos, improving visibility and enabling collaboration between teams responsible for different IT systems.
Using Secure Coding Practices
Secure coding practices are integral to DevOps, especially for securing open source components. There are many secure coding best practices. Some of the most common are validating external inputs, properly encoding outputs, testing interfaces such as databases and APIs, and addressing vulnerabilities specific to the programming languages or frameworks being used.
Additional secure coding practices include robust encryption and implementing the principle of least privilege. Users must only have the access level they require to perform their task.
In this article, I introduced security challenges facing DevOps teams, and suggested four ways to address them:
- Adopting DevSecOps—fostering close cooperation between developers, security, and operations teams.
- Securing source code—establishing strong access controls for the “crown jewels” of the development lifecycle.
- Leveraging XDR—adopting security technologies that cut across silos and provide a unified view of threats.
- Using secure coding practices—developers must take responsibility for secure coding, and have the tools and knowledge to avoid security vulnerabilities in their code.
I hope this will be useful as you improve the security alignment of your DevOps team.