5 DevOps Security Challenges You Should Know About

Shane Brennan

Chief Information Security Officer

DevOps security challenges are top-of-mind for business IT leaders as they implement faster development cycles and migrate workloads to cloud-native environments. While advancements in the software development process have led to unprecedented innovation and transformed the way development teams contribute to overall strategy, they’ve also created new risks that IT security teams must continually address to avoid adverse security events.

The average number of security events (like data breaches and cyberattacks) increased by 15% in 2021. To boot, more than 40% of companies feel that their current security strategies are not keeping pace with digital transformation.

As DevOps and the cloud take over IT operations for companies in every industry, it’s clear that a new approach to security management is needed. In the sections that follow, we’ll walk through 5 of the most commonly experienced DevOps security challenges and discuss how a DevSecOps approach can help to mitigate them.

Quick Takeaways

  • While traditional IT security happens at the end of a sequentially-phased development process, DevOps security must happen continuously throughout the SDLC.
  • The faster development speed enabled by DevOps increases the risk of coding mistakes, bugs, and other errors that pose security risks.
  • Collaboration, process integration, and containerization all power innovation through DevOps but also open the door for potential security gaps to occur.
  • DevSecOps is the full integration of security throughout the entire SDLC.
  • Using a shared responsibility model, DevSecOps requires all SDLC contributors to be accountable for security.

The Shift to DevOps

Software security testing traditionally occurred at the end of the development process after a sequentially phased waterfall approach. Teams worked in siloes at each stage of development, and security testing was a comprehensive last step before final deployment.

That model no longer works in a DevOps environment.

DevOps is a highly collaborative, iterative, fast-paced development process in which developers, engineers, and other contributors work to create better end products through agile methods.

Graphic visualizing the waterfall vs. DevOps approaches to software development

Like development itself, security now needs to be integrated throughout the entire software development lifecycle (SDLC) to mitigate risk and protect against sophisticated cyber security threats.

This requires both a change in execution approach and a cultural shift in which developers and engineers willingly collaborate with security teams at every stage. Not surprisingly, this comes with a set of challenges that organizations must address in order to keep their IT infrastructures protected.

Let’s walk through 5 of the most important DevOps security challenges you should be aware of and address at your company.

5 DevOps Security Challenges You Should Know

Development Speed

DevOps facilitates a shorter, faster SDLC and a more rapid pace of change, meaning there’s more to keep up with from a security perspective. Speed can lead to coding mistakes, bugs, and other errors that the security team must be able to identify and address before they’re deployed. This isn’t an easy adjustment for security teams used to performing a once-over assessment prior to deployment.

Collaboration

The highly collaborative nature of DevOps has led to more frequent and rapid information exchange. With this comes a higher likelihood of compliance issues, data privacy breaches, and configuration issues.

Process unification can also be challenging. As development and operations teams combine, they may not know, understand, or follow security protocol related to processes they aren’t yet familiar with.

Containerization

Containerization has become ubiquitous in cloud-native environments and become a necessity for running software across complex and hybrid IT environments. That said, it comes with a unique set of DevOps security challenges, including vulnerability scanning and implementation of proper controls.

Cloud Security

Cloud-native infrastructures have less defined network boundaries and offer a wider attack surface for cyber threats looking to compromise them. Without security fully integrated into the DevOps process, organizations position themselves at significant risk for an attack at any time.

Process Integration

The process integration required to implement a new DevOps strategy comes with new levels of sharing — information (as mentioned), API tokens, access credentials, SSH keys and more are all shared by development and operations teams as well as other DevOps contributors.

For security teams, this means developing a far more sophisticated security strategy that can oversee the numerous and complex components of the SDLC.

How DevSecOps Helps

DevSecOps is the full integration of security measures into the DevOps process, shifting it left so that it happens earlier in the development cycle and is threaded throughout every subsequent stage. As you can see below, true DevSecOps means security is no longer just an overseer of the SDLC but a natural part of its execution.

DevOps vs. DevSecOps models

The benefits of DevSecOps are manifold: automated security, reduced overall risk, and faster speed of recovery are some of the most important. DevSecOps also contributes to the cultural shift mentioned earlier in this article — one in which security is a shared responsibility of everyone involved in software development. Pioneered by hyperscale cloud providers like AWS and Azure, a shared responsibility security model means accountability at an individual, team, and organizational level across the SDLC.

Build Confident Cloud Security Posture with Protera

Protera’s integrated SecOps model creates a security baseline for comprehensive governance and managed services to enable continuous security posture reporting.

In addition to strengthening your enterprise with data security and application risk protection services, Protera functions as a key strategic partner by continuously assessing security posture, managing and improving it to stay ahead of the risk curve, and communicating effectively with stakeholders and board members.

Learn more about Protera’s IT Security and Governance Services.

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