DevOps Security Best Practices

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According to Forrester’s research, more than 58% of companies have experienced a data breach in the last few years, and 41% of this breach was due to software vulnerabilities. Such security breaches cost millions of dollars to the organization, and the reputation goes for a toss. 

Nowadays, application development is done using the DevOps principles and tools. In DevOps, the complete application is released iteratively and requires many iterations daily. Finding security issues daily in the iterative releases is not feasible. You cannot do a penetration test of your application daily. Therefore, security has become a very important factor in the DevOps process. Now, all the teams – development, testing, operations, production are responsible for taking the necessary steps to keep the application secure.

Here are the top 10 DevOps security best practice which you must follow to keep your software away from security issues.

1. Implement DevSecOps Model

After DevOps, the most trending term in this domain is DevSecOps. And it is the most important DevOps security practice that most organizations have started to apply. DevSecOps, in simple terms, is security as a code practice where you integrate your DevOps lifecycle with security tools. In DevSecOps, security starts from the beginning of the DevOps lifecycle, i.e., from development where a developer writes code for the application.

Adding security to the DevOps process is going to help you build secure applications without any vulnerabilities. This transformational shift incorporates tools, practices and cultures in every phase of DevOps. By implementing the DevSecOps model in your organization, you will be able to remove the silos between dev, security and ops teams.

These are the practices that must be implemented a/c to the DevSecOps model:

  • Create threat models in collaboration with dev and security teams
  • Prioritize all the security requirements in the product backlog
  • Add security tools like Checkmarx, Contrast Security in the development integration pipeline
  • Create automated tests evaluated by security experts
  • Review security policies related to infrastructure before deployment

2. Conduct Vulnerability Management

You should scan your application to identify the vulnerabilities in it and remove them before they are deployed to the production environment. To do this, you can choose one of the vulnerability snacking and management tools available. This should be done frequently to identify the vulnerabilities as soon as they occur. You must conduct penetration testing on your application to find its weaknesses, which can be a target for hackers. Once you identify all the loopholes, the development team can rework their code and patch the issues identified immediately.

3. Update and Enforce Governance Policies

You must create governance policies to implement better security practices in your organization, which must be followed by the development, security, operation, or any other team involved in developing and deploying the application on production. And time to time, keep updating these policies to cover all the cases related to security. These policies need to be transparent, which will help every employee to understand and follow them. Obviously, just creating the policies is not the end goal. The end goal is every team adhering to the governance policies created, and this will only happen when it is enforced by the organization. 

4. Threat Modelling

Threat modelling is a process of predicting and finding priority threats and vulnerabilities in your application and providing a solution to mitigate them. This model helps your answer some important questions such as what can go wrong with the application, what should be done next if something goes wrong, etc. It is a manual process but very important for securing the design and development of an application. It also helps you bring development and security teams together and removes silos between them.

5. Secure coding standards

Developers often think about just creating the application and its functionalities and nothing about security because that is not their priority. They would not even know if they were coding in an insecure way. So, training the developers to do secure coding is a big challenge, but it is very important. With the emergence of DevSecOps, many tools have received limelight, which helps developers in identifying the security issues in real-time while they code. Isn’t that amazing? With the help of these tools, developers will get to know about the vulnerabilities in their code, and then they can immediately correct their code to remove those vulnerabilities.

6. Apply Network Segmentation

All the assets which include organization servers, applications, etc., should not be running on the same network. It will be a single point of failure if any hacker is able to get into that single network. That is why you should create logical units and have all the resources running on separate networks. For example, the development environment and the staging environment will be running on a different network. This way, you ensure that even if a hacker is able to get into one of the organization’s network, the other networks are still safe and the hacker does not get all the access.

7. Secure Access and Secret Management

You should minimize the number of people having administrative privileges. Select a group of people that you want to give access to and chop that up into different sections to make sure everyone has the access that they need and only the access they need. Implement Role-Based Access Control for your environment where only admin has all the privileged access rights, and others have access only related to their tasks. For example, the development team should not have access to the containers running in the production environment, but the production team has all the access to the development environment. You can set this up using RBAC.

Also, make sure codes, public files, and scripts should not have any credentials embedded in them. You can store all the credentials at a centralized, safe location and use API to call for these credentials. 

8. Secure Continuous Integration

CICD is most common in DevOps and frequently used for building applications. More than 70% of organizations use Jenkins for continuous integration, so security on Jenkins becomes very important. For starters, try to keep your Jenkins shielded from the internet. Try using firewall rules and put Jenkins behind a VPN if possible. If you’re on a cloud provider that provides you with a firewall for your machine, then you can use those. You block all the ports and you only allow access to your office IP or your VPN if you have a VPN running. Jenkins is a tool that you should only use internally, so there is no need for any external people to have access to it. It is best to seal it away from the Internet and use firewall rules and a VPN to allow only the people who are working in a company to have access to it. If you put it behind a firewall, you will need to whitelist the bitbucket and GitHub IP address for push requests.

9. Keep Up to date

Keep your DevOps tools up to date. If you don’t update them to the latest stable version, you might get a lot of vulnerabilities in the older version of the tool. There are sometimes security vulnerabilities that come out for Jenkins. 

Always upgrade to the latest version. If you want a stable version, use the LTS version, the long-term support edition. If you want the stable version, that one is less updated than the last one. If you’re using docker, you can use the LTS or the latest tag and do a docker or docker-compose pull and restart a container to get the latest version. 

You will also have to read the changelog. In the changelog, it will show you what changes have been made to the latest version of the tool, and now maybe you have to take some action on some things. So, it’s always useful to read the changelog. 

Always keep the plugins up to date as well. When you install plugins on an environment, make sure you keep those up to date as well. The latest versions of tools like Jenkins also give you some alerts if bugs are found in plugins. It gives you the warning to update, but it’s good to just always keep them up to date.

10. Automate Security

Implementing security practices is good, but doing it manually is not a good idea. With security tools for code analysis, vulnerability management, credentials and secrets management, configuration management, etc., you must automate all your security processes. Automating all the processes will also minimize human errors and the vulnerabilities associated with them. Deploying the security tools in your organization should be a priority. The faster you do it, the closer you will be to securing the DevOps processes.

Conclusion

Security today is a very important factor for the success of any organization. Implementing security practices in the DevOps processes provide a productive synergy and will help you save a lot of money. So, go ahead and implement these DevOps security best practices for faster and secure product releases.

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