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DevSecOps Best Practices Checklist

In this article, we’ll look at the emergence of DevSecOps and then discuss actionable best practices for integrating DevSecOps into your workflows.

Wiz Experts Team
7 aANyg+

A brief overview of DevSecOps

DevSecOps is a pivotal methodology that integrates security into the entirety of the DevOps life cycle. As the software development landscape continues to evolve at breakneck speed, DevSecOps has become an integral safety net. And by positioning security as a fundamental component of the entire software development lifecycle—instead of tacking on security measures right before deployment—teams are able to work smarter.

In this article, we’ll look at the emergence of DevSecOps and then discuss actionable best practices for integrating DevSecOps into your workflows. Let’s dive right in.

The evolution from DevOps to DevSecOps

DevOps revolutionized the software industry by merging development (Dev) and operations (Ops), which significantly accelerated the speed of deployment. However, as the pace of development increased, it became apparent that security was often sidelined or delayed until the end of the process, leading to vulnerabilities and costly delays.

Enter DevSecOps. The shift from DevOps to DevSecOps signifies a proactive stance on security, where potential threats and vulnerabilities are addressed continuously, and security compliance is an ongoing concern.

But integrating security into a well-established DevOps environment is not without its challenges. One of the essential DevSecOps best practices is maintaining a delicate balance between rapid deployment and robust security so that security measures don’t impede the speed and efficiency that define DevOps. Adopting tools and practices that automate security controls and checks without slowing down the development pipeline help teams perfect this balance between security and agility. Let’s explore other ways to maximize the potential of DevSecOps. 

Development and deployment best practices

1. Use secure coding practices

Secure coding involves crafting code for systems, applications, and services in a way that safeguards the confidentiality and integrity of information and services. Implementing secure coding practices is a crucial means of preventing common vulnerabilities and reducing applications’ attack surface. Simply put, secure coding leads to more robust software, minimizing the risk of security breaches.

The following Python code snippet demonstrates a critical aspect of secure coding: input validation. A fundamental coding practice, input validation ensures that the user input is alphanumeric, helping to prevent common security issues like SQL injection attacks. Alongside other fundamental practices like proper error handling and consistent use of encryption, input validation contributes to a robust foundation for secure software development:

# Secure Coding Example: Input Validation in Python

def validate_input(user_input):
    """
    Validates user input to prevent security vulnerabilities such as SQL injection.
    Only allows alphanumeric characters.
    """
    if not user_input.isalnum():
        raise ValueError("Invalid input: Input should only contain alphanumeric characters.")
    return user_input

# Example Usage
try:
    user_input = input("Enter your username: ")
    valid_input = validate_input(user_input)
    print(f"Username {valid_input} is valid.")
except ValueError as e:
    print(e)

2. Automate security testing

Automated security testing involves integrating security testing tools into the CI/CD pipeline, allowing for continuous and automated code scanning for vulnerabilities. Automation significantly reduces the time and effort required for security testing, ensures consistent testing across all code, and helps identify vulnerabilities early in the development cycle.

This YAML snippet demonstrates a simple CI/CD pipeline configuration where automated security scanning is an integral part of the process:

# Sample CI/CD Pipeline Configuration for Automated Security Testing
pipeline:
  build:
    stage: build
    script:
      - echo "Building application..."
  test:
    stage: test
    script:
      - echo "Running unit tests..."
  security_scan:
    stage: security
    script:
      - echo "Running security scans..."
    # Use a security scanning tool like SonarQube, Fortify, or OWASP ZAP
    when: always

3. Prioritize container security

Ensuring the security of containers has become a key part of DevSecOps as containerization has reached mass adoption. To maintain container security, it’s important to secure container images, container runtimes, and orchestration environments like Kubernetes. Proper container security practices prevent unauthorized access and make sure that containers are free from vulnerabilities, safeguarding the applications running within them.

Figure 1: Clair security scan in Red Hat Quay (Source: Red Hat Docs)

Operational best practices

1. Implement real-time security monitoring

Real-time security monitoring means continuously monitoring applications and infrastructure to detect and respond to security threats as they occur. This proactive approach lets teams quickly identify and mitigate security incidents and minimize potential damage. Real-time security monitoring is essential for maintaining the integrity and availability of services in a dynamic DevOps environment.

Figure 2: Google Cloud Armor monitoring dashboard (Source: Google Cloud Docs)

2. Conduct regular security audits and compliance checks

It’s best practice to systematically examine your security setup to make sure it aligns with internal and external security standards and regulations. These audits identify security gaps and ensure compliance with various regulatory requirements, reducing the risk of legal and financial penalties and enhancing your overall security posture.

Figure 3: Regulatory compliance dashboard in Azure Security Center (Source: Azure Docs)

3. Leverage threat modeling and risk assessments

Threat modeling and risk assessments help you to prioritize security efforts and resources. Effective threat modeling and risk assessments address potential security issues before they are exploited, significantly reducing the risk of security breaches. By identifying and evaluating threats and vulnerabilities early on, these processes enable organizations to implement targeted security measures, enhancing overall system resilience.

Figure 4: Process diagram for Microsoft Threat Modeling Tool (Source: Microsoft Docs)

4. Plan out incident response and recovery

Incident response and recovery planning give your teams guidelines on preparing for, managing, and recovering from security incidents. It’s essential to have a clear plan and set of procedures to follow in case of a security breach. A clearly outlined incident response and recovery plan enables an organization to rapidly contain and address the impact of a security incident, reducing downtime and limiting damage.

Best practices for leveraging tools and automation

1. Integrate security tools in the CI/CD pipeline

Integrating security tools into the continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipeline is a cornerstone of DevSecOps. These tools seamlessly conduct security checks during every stage of the software development life cycle. The benefits are huge: With continuous security assessments, any code changes are automatically tested for vulnerabilities. And integrated security tools significantly reduce the chances of security issues in production and accelerate the overall development process.

The following Jenkinsfile example demonstrates how a security scanning tool, ZAP (aka OWASP ZAP), can be integrated into a Jenkins CI/CD pipeline. The security scan stage is executed after the test stage so that the application is scanned for vulnerabilities before it’s deployed:

pipeline {
    agent any

    stages {
        // Build and test steps are omitted
        stage('Security Scan') {
            steps {
                // Integrating a security scanning tool
                echo 'Running security scans...'
                script {
                    // Example: Using OWASP ZAP for security scanning
                    sh 'zap-cli quick-scan --self-contained --start-options "-config api.disablekey=true" http://your-application-url'
                }
            }
        }
  ...
}

2. Use infrastructure as code for security

Infrastructure as code (IaC) handles the management of infrastructure—such as networks, virtual machines, load balancers, and connection topology—through a descriptive model. It employs the same versioning system for this infrastructure management as the DevOps team uses for their source code. By using IaC for security, teams can consistently apply security configurations, automate compliance policies, and quickly adapt to changes in the security landscape. IaC also ensures that the entire infrastructure can be re-created and restored securely in case of a disaster.

The following YAML snippet demonstrates a simple infrastructure as code configuration that includes security-focused elements like firewall rules and automatic patch updates:

# Sample IaC Configuration for a Secure Server Setup
server:
  type: web-server
  image: ubuntu-20.04
  size: medium
  security:
    firewalls:
      - name: web-firewall
        rules:
          - type: inbound
            protocol: tcp
            port: 80
            source: any
          - type: inbound
            protocol: tcp
            port: 443
            source: any
    monitoring: enabled
    patches:
      auto-update: true

As we’ve seen, DevSecOps best practices play a critical role in shaping a secure, efficient, and resilient software development life cycle. These best practices not only safeguard against potential vulnerabilities but also foster a culture of continuous improvement and a security-first mentality within teams.

Wiz's Approach to DevSecOps

When it comes to DevSecOps, Wiz stands out as an industry-leading, comprehensive solution. Wiz offers a number of capabilities that integrate security considerations into the entire development lifecycle:

  • Early Detection in CI/CD Pipelines:

    • Scan for vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and secrets: Wiz integrates with popular CI/CD pipelines like Jenkins, GitLab CI/CD, and CircleCI to scan infrastructure as code (IaC), container images, and VM images before deployment. This "shift-left" approach helps catch issues early and prevent them from reaching production environments.

    • Policy enforcement and remediation: Define custom security policies for your IaC, images, and cloud resources. Wiz automatically flags violations and offers actionable remediation suggestions, enabling seamless integration of security checks within the development workflow.

    Unified View from Development to Runtime:

    • Single platform for Dev and Security: Wiz provides a unified platform that gives both development and security teams visibility into security risks across the entire development lifecycle, from code to cloud. This fosters collaboration, breaks down silos, and facilitates informed decision-making.

    • Continuous monitoring and analysis: Wiz continuously monitors your cloud resources for runtime risks like misconfigurations, suspicious activities, and potential threats. This proactive approach ensures ongoing security posture management and timely response to vulnerabilities.

    Simplified Operations for DevSecOps:

    • Agentless architecture: Wiz scans your cloud infrastructure without requiring additional agents or complex deployments, minimizing overhead and simplifying integration.

    • Intuitive interface and reporting: Wiz provides a user-friendly interface for both developers and security professionals, making it easy to understand risk information and track progress. Comprehensive reports offer detailed insights into vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and remediation efforts.

    • Flexible integrations: Wiz integrates with various developer tools and security platforms, including IDEs, container registries, and ticketing systems, further streamlining DevSecOps workflows.

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