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What is SecDevOps? + How It Differs From DevSecOps

SecDevOps is essentially DevOps with an emphasis on moving security further left. DevOps involves both the development team and the operations team in one process to improve deployment performance and service customers faster.

5 minutes read

What is SecDevOps?

SecDevOps is essentially DevOps with an emphasis on moving security further left. DevOps involves both the development team and the operations team in one process to improve deployment performance and service customers faster. 

Security has always been a part of the DevOps workflow, as seen in The DevOps Adoption Playbook, which states that “DevOps is not designed to maximize speed at the expense of security.” But later, the terms DevSecOps and SecDevOps were coined to draw attention to the importance of baking security into all aspects of the software delivery lifecycle.

Figure 1: SecDevOps and DevSecOps

SecDevOps is different from DevSecOps because of its stronger emphasis on security in terms of shifting it further left. In this article, we will broadly discuss what a SecDevOps architecture looks like and explore eight possible ways of bringing security further left in your DevOps pipeline.

SecDevOps architecture

SecDevOps entails the security, development, and operations teams working together to improve performance while enforcing a strong security posture. To effectively achieve this, you need to integrate security as early as the concept stage and maintain it throughout the software development lifecycle (SDLC).

Figure 2: SecDevOps

Figure 2 shows an example of security practices involved in the SecDevOps workflow, while Figure 3 provides various tools available today to help companies implement them. 

Figure 3: SecDevOps tools

Note: The concept of continuous security is not only a technological shift but also a change in mindset—from viewing security as a set of security tools or products to seeing it as an ongoing process.

8 steps to achieve a SecDevOps workflow

Moving security to the left is a long-term process that requires accepting security as everyone's responsibility. A great starting point for organizations facing security vulnerabilities in their DevOps workflow is to refer to The Rugged Manifesto, created by Josh Corman, David Rice, and Jeff Williams in 2010. 

Once this new mindset is established, you should adopt the following practices to achieve a successful SecDevOps workflow.

1. Automation

Security experts are expensive and difficult to hire. According to JFrog documentation, the current developer-to-security team ratio is 200:1. While achieving a more balanced ratio is a long-term goal, in the short term, automation can help your organization accomplish more with the same number of people.

The OWASP DevSecOps Automation Matrix (DAM) offers 64 key controls for security engineers, DevOps teams, and CISOs to leverage automation and build security directly into their development process.

Figure 4: OWASP DAM (Source: OWASP)

2. Componentization

Smaller, isolated, manageable, and independently deployable components (i.e., microservices) allow security teams to test one area of an application at a time. This means you don’t have to test the entire application at once. Each component can be configured independently, allowing for unique security tests to be integrated into your continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipeline.

Also, logging becomes more straightforward, as each component generates its own logs, which can later be aggregated and analyzed with tools like the ELK stack or Splunk.

3. Shift-left security testing

You can ensure security is “baked in” early in your SDLC via a variety of security testing methods, including:

  • Static application security testing (SAST): Examines application source code, or binary code, for vulnerabilities; does not involve code execution 

  • Dynamic application security testing (DAST): Reviews apps by executing the source code and simulating attacks

  • Interactive application security testing (IAST): A hybrid security testing approach that combines elements of SAST and DAST. IAST tools analyze an application from within, using instrumentation to provide real-time insights into vulnerabilities during execution.

  • Software composition analysis (SCA): Test third-party and open-source app dependencies to identify known Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs)

  • IaC Security (Infrastructure as Code Security): Security practices applied to infrastructure provisioning scripts (e.g., Terraform, CloudFormation, Dockerfile, Helm and Kubernetes manifests, etc.). IaC security ensures that infrastructure configurations are secure and compliant with policies before deployment.

  • Secrets detection: The process of detecting and identifying sensitive information such as API keys, passwords, and tokens that are accidentally hardcoded into source code repositories. This helps prevent unauthorized access to systems and data

  • Threat modeling: Detects potential security issues, with security and dev teams working on various possible scenarios

4. Security as code (SaC)

SaC is a practice where developers create and document security policies and checks directly as code. These secure code practices act more like guardrails to help reduce the attack surface. Tools such as CodeQL and Semgrep SAST help automate this process. 

5. Developer security training and engagement

Aside from the right tools, devs also need the right mindset, which can be promoted via proper training, security-first leadership, security risk awareness, and investment in security certifications, among other measures.

6. Enhanced monitoring and response

Monitoring enables organizations to promptly detect and address security issues for faster, improved incident response. Various monitoring tools are available on the market for this purpose, depending on your use case; these include Prometheus, Grafana, ELK stack, Falco, Splunk, and Datadog. 

7. Dependency management

In modern software development, having secure coding practices is not enough. According to the “Rugged Handbook,” 90% of the code in modern software is made up of third-party components, including libraries, frameworks, modules, components, and utilities developed by outside stakeholders. 

It’s impossible not to rely on dependencies and write everything from scratch since these components bring much value to a product/service. Of course, depending on these external dependencies also makes your applications vulnerable. This issue may compound when you have further sub-dependencies, which may also be vulnerable. For example, even if a primary dependency is considered secure, it might use other libraries that are outdated or have known security flaws. According to snyk.io, 76% of its users discover security flaws in their apps as a result of the Node.js package versions they use. 

Making sure your dependencies are secure is critical. This can include setting up a central repository and package scanning procedure for installed dependencies. For vulnerability scanning, there are tools such as Wiz or GitHub’s dependency review. Also, projects may require regular code reviews to ensure you have the latest version.

Figure 5: Actions when vulnerable components are detected (Source: Microsoft Learn)

8. Integrated compliance checks

In a SecDevOps setting, integrated compliance checks involve building security and compliance controls into the software development and deployment process early on. These can be archived using several techniques including policy as code, automated security scanning, compliance monitoring in CI/CD pipelines, and infrastructure compliance.

Challenges in SecDevOps

Like all positive developments, challenges to adoption exist. 

Skills shortage 

One of the biggest hurdles to achieving SecDevOps is talent scarcity, as it requires developers and operations engineers who are highly experienced in security best practices. Furthermore, because of this skills shortage, the existing pool is expensive and harder to acquire—not to mention retain. Some of the steps in the previous section can help address this issue.

Compromised performance

SecDevOps can also easily distract teams from improving performance, as shifting their entire focus to eliminating risk may take away from a business’s primary goal. The right balance between security and speed is thus a priority. Remember, security means managed risk, not the elimination of risk.

Conclusion

SecDevOps represents a strategic evolution in the integration of security within the DevOps pipeline, emphasizing the importance of addressing security throughout the development lifecycle. 

As organizations strive to balance speed, performance, and security, SecDevOps offers a framework where security becomes a shared responsibility, ingrained in the culture and processes of developer, security, and operations teams. 

Going forward, SecDevOps practices will likely focus on:

  • Enhancing integration tools and methodologies

  • Improving the seamless automation of security checks

  • Fostering a deeper cultural shift towards security across all phases of development

How Wiz can help

Solutions like Wiz offer comprehensive security and compliance monitoring across SecDevOps workflows. Wiz’s ability to shift security left by providing deep insights into the health of your DevOps lifecycle ensures your infrastructure will remain secure and compliant.

See for yourself how our industry-leading platform can secure your SecDevOps processes and the rest of your cloud infrastructure. Schedule a demo today.

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