What is DevSecOps?

DevSecOps definition

DevSecOps, which stands for development, security, and operations, is a methodology by which security is addressed from the very beginning of the software development process. The DevSecOps methodology combines automation, a knowledge-sharing culture, and platform design practices to integrate security into the entire IT lifecycle. It aims to foster shared responsibility for security between teams, and more quickly streamlines the process of identifying and fixing vulnerabilities.

By sharing visibility, feedback, and known threats such as potential malware or data leaks, DevSecOps helps all teams keep security in mind — from development to production.

DevSecOps Continuum Diagram

How does DevSecOps work?

DevSecOps works by automating the integration of security into every stage of the software development cycle. It integrates application and infrastructure security into the processes and tools used in Agile and DevOps software development.

Agile development is an iterative, incremental approach to development that focuses on team collaboration. DevOps — development and operations — is a methodology that aims to optimize workflows by automating delivery pipelines using a CI/CD (continuous integration, continuous delivery/deployment) cycle.

Both Agile and DevOps are process optimization-geared methodologies that aim to expedite delivery cycles, ensure incremental and frequent releases, maintain continuous feedback loops, and cut down on delays. When security is integrated into the beginning of the software development cycle — and then at every stage of it — you get DevSecOps.

DevSecOps integrates security by making it, at an organizational level, everyone's responsibility. With the IT operations team, development team, and security team working in concert, DevSecOps enables the automation of secure software delivery: "software, safer, sooner."

By "shifting left" security considerations — meaning to the beginning of the development cycle — DevSecOps ensures that security holes are identified and patched early on to prevent more serious problems later on and in production.

DevSecOps uses automation for security testing, vulnerability assessments, and deployment processes. To do so, DevSecOps uses automated tools that can scan code, configurations, and infrastructure. Automation ensures comprehensive visibility, increases efficiency, speeds up delivery, and enables consistent and repeatable security checks.

DevSecOps implements security into every stage of the development process. It does this with:

  • Automated testing: Automated security testing at every stage of development and deployment ensures that the product or software remains secure.
  • Continuous monitoring: At every stage of the cycle, security teams monitor for vulnerabilities in code.
  • Feedback loops: A collaborative environment that breaks down silos between development, operations, and security teams enables development teams to address security issues promptly.

Why is DevSecOps important?

DevSecOps is important because as companies produce more software at a faster pace and in more complex environments, the likelihood of security flaws increases exponentially.The speed at which code is released increases security vulnerabilities down the pipeline.

Cloud-native technologies aren’t suited to static security policies. Their architectures and components — serverless, microservices, containers in microservices — offer more flexibility to developers but also mean more complexity from a security standpoint. The importance of cloud security, with the growing necessity to iterate faster than before and increased cybersecurity concerns, means that DevOps is forced to adapt. This new development landscape is the reason that DevSecOps is valuable and necessary.

Additionally, by increasing efficiency and ensuring better software security, DevSecOps is important for users. Faster delivery of a safer product translates into customer satisfaction that has implications for the bottom line. DevSecOps not only helps streamline compliance by supporting a more proactive security stance, but it also signals to the customer that security is paramount to the service or product provided.

Benefits of DevSecOps

DevSecOps benefits various stages of the development lifecycle, and by extension has positive impacts on customer satisfaction. Some key benefits include:

  • Improved security posture: A DevSecOps security posture is inherently a proactive one. By integrating security at every stage of the process, DevSecOps enables teams to identify and resolve security vulnerabilities early on — before they cause time-consuming and potentially expensive issues down the line. A proactive approach to security reduces the risk of disruptive and potentially devastating data breaches and cyberattacks.
  • Faster responses to threats: By taking a proactive approach, DevSecOps eliminates security holes early on, limiting the number of threats that software or applications might be vulnerable to when live. This streamlines security processes and enables faster responses to threats. What’s more, automation, which helps early detection and mitigation, also ensures that patches or updates are deployed quickly, minimizing the attack window. This ensures a safe integration and deployment or delivery cycle.
  • Breaking silos: DevSecOps encourages and promotes collaboration between development, security, and operations teams. This collaboration means that teams can break down their silos, benefiting the common goal of swift, safe, and successful software delivery.
  • Improved visibility: Key to the health and efficiency of today’s complex, hybrid, and cloud-native tech stacks is overall visibility or observability. Getting better visibility at every stage of the development process from a functionality, application performance, resource usage, and security point of view is crucial to a successful observability solution, which in turn is crucial to a healthy, optimized, and secure digital environment.
  • Compliance: DevSecOps integrates compliance checks into the development pipeline. In doing so, it ensures that organizations are adhering to geolocation-specific regulations and standards at every step of the process.
  • Reduced time to market: By integrating security into the DevOps cycle, DevSecOps eliminates the traditional security bottleneck that occurs when security is an afterthought in the development process. The use of automation in DevSecOps also reduces manual intervention. The result is faster time-to-market for products and updates. Faster time-to-market, and proactive security afforded by DevSecOps also have an impact on cost savings. Faster deployment means increased efficiency and increased productivity, while proactive security ensures fewer security breaches, downtime, and emergency fixes.
  • System resilience and adaptive process: With continuous monitoring and testing that helps identify and address vulnerabilities, DevSecOps helps build system resilience. By being an adaptive process that can mature alongside an organization and its security needs, DevSecOps further contributes to system resilience. A system that evolves in response to threats and that can scale as needed is a resilient one.

Challenges of DevSecOps

Implementing DevSecOps, despite its benefits, can potentially present some challenges.

Getting the team on board
DevSecOps is not just a new tool — it’s a cultural shift. Any cultural shift can be met with resistance, especially when it affects the way that teams are used to working. DevSecOps is intended to break down silos, which demands that operations and development embrace the notion that security is also their concern and responsibility.

An additional element in the challenge of getting teams on board is the necessity to develop new skill sets. Development and operations teams need to acquire security skills, and vice versa. This can be resource-consuming, and some organizations might struggle to find or nurture individuals to take on these new skills. Training and education are key components of a successful DevSecOps implementation.

Integrating new technologies
Automation, which is key to DevSecOps, requires new sets of tools for security testing and monitoring. These tools need to be compatible with current environments, and this can be time and resource intensive, for both ITDMs and their teams. Automation also requires time. It must be configured, tested, and then maintained for a successful DevSecOps workflow. Much like tool integration, automation requires an additional set of skills or a team reshuffling, which can be a challenge in certain organizations.

Getting to compliance
While compliance is ultimately a benefit of DevSecOps, getting there without sacrificing agility can prove a challenge. This requires an additional level of expertise, or an additional lift from the team to maintain agility while ensuring regulatory compliance.

While these challenges might shy organizations away from adopting DevSecOps, they are an argument for the methodology. Establishing cross-team collaboration to overcome and problem-solve these challenges is key to a successful adoption, and a successfully implemented workflow.

DevSecOps vs. DevOps

DevOps, which stands for development and operations, refers to a comprehensive culture that breaks down traditional silos between development and operations teams to expedite product and update deployment and increase cross-team collaboration for a more efficient and holistic workflow.

DevSecOps breaks down the additional silo of the security team and adds a third arm to the DevOps culture of collaboration. While in DevOps security is isolated to the final stage of development, with DevSecOps, security is integrated into the process from the start and throughout the development cycle.

Five tips for selecting a DevSecOps tool

While there are several tools available on the market for DevSecOps purposes, there are certain capabilities you want to keep in mind while selecting the one that’s right for your organization.

  1. Find a tool that integrates seamlessly with your current systems and workflows.
  2. Look for a tool that can provide complete observability of all your logs, metrics, application performance, and security.
  3. Find a tool that can monitor, measure, and analyze every step of your CI/CD pipeline.
  4. Look for a tool that protects, monitors, and reports deployment and container orchestration.
  5. Look for a tool that can scale as you do.

DevSecOps best practices

To fully benefit from the advantages of DevSecOps, consider these best practices to incorporate security into your development and operations workflows.

Shift left
This is the DevSecOps motto — and mantra. Shifting security to the beginning of the development process ensures that it is an integral part of the workflow and incorporated throughout the development process.

Shifting left enables teams to catch vulnerabilities early on and address them before they become more significant issues down the line. As a result, the development team will be thinking about implementing security for the application as they build it.

Implement tracing, auditing, and monitoring
Implementing traceability, auditability, and visibility are key to a successful DevSecOps process because they result in deeper insights. Deeper insights provide actionable information to improve system efficiency, resilience, and overall productivity. Tracing is used mainly for debugging but also plays an important role in securing code in application development and ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements.

Auditing technical, procedural, and administrative security controls is key to compliance. Having controls that are well-documented and adhered to by all team members is crucial.

Monitoring is key to a DevSecOps environment. Having visibility across the system and the development lifecycle is crucial to security. Implementing alerts also ensures team accountability, enables faster response to issues, and overall helps teams understand how their work intersects.

Think people, process, and technology
Implementing DevSecOps starts with people, which means culture. Education is a crucial component of changing culture, and empowering people on your teams to embrace DevSecOps. A successful shift requires strong and good leadership.

A shift in mindset affects a shift in process: this is necessary to give security room to shift left. The implementation of a DevSecOps process may also require new tools and more automation.

Training, training, training
Part of adopting a DevSecOps strategy should be robust training. Developers don’t necessarily have security skills, and vice versa for security professionals. Education, both from a culture and value perspective and a skills, knowledge, and tools point of view, will ensure a successful implementation of DevSecOps in any organization.

DevSecOps with Elastic

DevSecOps and Elastic go hand in hand. With its ELK tech stack, Elastic can unify all your data to help you monitor and troubleshoot systems that enable DevSecOps to work together more efficiently.