Your Guide to DevSecOps Automation

In this article:

DevSecOps is a modern approach for application delivery that implements security as a shared responsibility throughout application development, deployment, and operation. Given the distributed nature of modern applications, automation is considered key to continuous integration of security analysis and threat mitigation of dynamic workflows. As an extension of DevOps principles,  DevSecOps automation helps administer security controls throughout the development process.

This article discusses the basic principles of DevSecOps automation and how they can help organizations secure their application workflows.

What is DevSecOps?

DevSecOps refers to the integration of security controls into the DevOps pipeline since the initial stages of an SDLC. The model promotes a culture where developers, operations, and security teams collaborate to ensure the enterprise delivers secure software. A DevSecOps practice helps organizations embrace a shift-left approach, where security tests and compliance checks are introduced earlier in the application lifecycle. 

Automation is at the heart of DevSecOps, with the security tools’ continuous monitoring and testing allowing DevOps teams and security experts to focus on activities that enhance business sense. DevSecOps automation simplifies the integration of security approaches into continuous integration and deployment pipelines, reducing the number of errors that occur when security analysis is performed manually. 

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Principles for DevSecOps Automation

Some guiding principles for automation in DevSecOps include:

Leverage Container Orchestration Platforms

Containers offer unmatched abstraction and can be deployed across any development or production environment. Since each container runs an isolated instance, containers provide the optimum granularity to deploy security measures from the initial stages of a software development lifecycle.

Container orchestration platforms, such as Kubernetes simplify the deployment and management of containers, allowing for seamless collaboration between DevOps teams and security experts. Orchestration platforms offer various deployment patterns with proposed architectures and components for securely designing and deploying cloud-native applications. 

Adopt a Software Bill of Materials (SBOM) Management Approach

SBOM is an inventory of various third-party and open-source software components used within a codebase. Within an SBOM, security professionals can list all direct and transitive dependencies in the deployment pipeline, making it easier to identify security threats from third-party integrations.

One of the primary purposes of an SBOM is to provide adequate granularity and visibility to deploy automated security tooling for continuous security monitoring and testing in modern applications. As an essential outcome, SBOM management tools relieve DevSecOps teams of the manual tasks involved in reviewing open-source software while helping with Static Code Analysis of the software inventory.

SBOM also includes additional valuable information for security analysis, including third-party licenses, software versions, and related patch status

Enforce Application Security Testing

Application Security Testing (AST) involves repeatable security checks to automate the review and assessment of code security through continuous scanning. Static Application Security Testing (SAST) is a mechanism that helps analyze the software source code for security risks and misconfiguration and is performed when the program is not running.

Unlike SAST, Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) is a black-box security testing approach that does not require access to the source code. DAST is a front-end security analysis where security researchers simulate attacks to uncover potential security issues within the application. Through DAST, security teams can find runtime security issues, such as server configuration and authentication flaws, typically visible in a production environment. 

Other application security (AppSec) mechanisms used within a development pipeline include Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST) and Runtime Application Self-Protections (RASP).

Enable Organization-Wide Training on Secure Coding Practices

An effective way to mitigate potential issues in production is to ensure they don’t exist in the code in the first place. To make security a shared responsibility between developers, security professionals, and the operations team, it is important to train every stakeholder on building secure applications.

The security team should educate developers on secure coding practices that help them embrace a security-first approach to their daily tasks. Training should also include establishing communication channels for seamless collaboration between security professionals and developers. Organization-wide coaching also enforces stakeholders’ accountability towards security, driving the crucial behavioral change needed to automate security controls.

Implement Threat Modeling

When creating the DevSecOps automation platform, security engineers should consider all the weaknesses in the system and how an attacker could exploit them. Threat modeling involves scanning the application through the eyes of a malicious actor.

Continuous threat modeling helps security experts understand the application’s security posture, which helps deploy the right security tooling for DevSecOps automation. Threat modeling acts as a blueprint for setting up a collaborative DevSecOps culture as it helps each team better understand their roles and objectives in maintaining application and infrastructure security.

Define Security Metrics

Security metrics enable key stakeholders of the application development lifecycle, including the operations team, developers, and security experts, to assess the intricacies of running applications in a safe environment. Optimally defined metrics help security engineers fine-tune remediation practices for accurate measurement and mitigation of cyber threats.

Continuous monitoring tools also rely on metric data to track the performance and security of applications in real-time. Security metrics are also commonly used to define Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and Service Level Objectives (SLOs) to help measure the performance of various software components of a tech stack.

Developers rely on DevSecOps metrics for SAST, SCA, and the acceptance test processes conducted before deploying source code into a continuous integration pipeline.

Some commonly used metrics in DevSecOps automation include:

  • Deployment frequency
  • Mean time to repair (MTTR)
  • Uptime/downtime
  • Patch cadence
  • Vulnerability density
  • Intrusion attempts and responses
  • Third-party risk
  • Security rating

Utilize Infrastructure as Code (IaC) Frameworks

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) enables the enforcement of cloud workload security by defining an entire security framework, including tools, protocols, and resources as machine-readable configuration files. The growth of SaaS and PaaS platforms over the public cloud has led to the development of production-ready configuration modules that can be deployed using coded manifests.

Programmable infrastructure through code-based configuration files reduces the skill, expertise, and effort that tech companies are required to invest in securing cloud-native applications. IaC platforms also offer enhanced visibility of various hardware and software components within a CI/CD pipeline, simplifying monitoring and management for cloud security.

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What are the benefits of automation in DevSecOps?

Some advantages of implementing automation through DevSecOps pipelines include:

  • Allows for faster remediation of potential security issues
  • Integrates security earlier in the development process
  • Eliminates manual tasks of monitoring and compliance checks, enhancing developer productivity
  • Supports transparency and visibility for the entire DevOps pipeline, allowing for easier monitoring and testing
  • Enables the development and deployment of applications at a rapid pace without sacrificing security
  • Provides consistent, traceable, repeatable, and scalable infrastructure security measures
  • Promotes enhanced collaboration between the operations team, DevOps, and security experts

What are the data sources for DevSecOps metrics?

Some familiar data sources for DevSecOps metrics include:

  • Vulnerability scanning systems
  • Configuration management and version control systems
  • CI/CD platforms (e.g., Jenkins)
  • Change-request interfaces
  • SAST and DAST tools
  • Application security monitoring tools 

How Can Crashtest Security Help?

While automation has numerous benefits in modern application development lifecycles, one key aspect of DevSecOps automation is continuous threat modeling and vulnerability scanning. Crashtest Security Suite includes a wide range of vulnerability scanners that help establish a robust security posture of your web applications and APIs.

Crashtest Security’s scanners are benchmarked against the Online Web Application Security Project (OWASP) security vulnerabilities to help identify known application vulnerabilities. The scanners uncover potential security issues with extremely low false positives while offering actionable recommendations to eliminate security threats.  

Try Crashtest Security for a free, 14-day demo and learn how you can initiate security scans of your applications and APIs within minutes.

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