SecDevOps is the Solution to Cybersecurity


Content By Devops .com

Anybody paying attention to world news will notice that the threats and risks perpetrated by cybercriminal actors, in many forms, is a serious problem on the rise, affecting individuals, organizations and nations daily. The cybersecurity threat space is indeed alarming and growing rapidly. The cybersecurity solution space is struggling to keep up. After all, there is no such thing as 100% security.

What is the Solution to Cybersecurity’s Problem?

In my opinion, the industry has long underestimated the problem of cybersecurity, which has resulted in solutions that do not sufficiently stand up to the cybersecurity threat space. What is clear is that solutions must come from rapid software changes that detect and plug security holes as fast as they are found, and continuously deploy innovative defensive solutions that keep bad actors off their guard. To do that requires Agile and DevOps continuous delivery practices coupled with a security-aware mindset.

Chris Krebs, former director of the U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, discusses trying to uphold election integrity while battling disinformation during his fireside keynote chat at #DevOpsConnect during @RSAC.

What is a Security Aware Mindset?

To put things in perspective, it is useful to consider the mindsets of design, QA, operations and security.

Design mindset – create a product or service that customers want, now. The Agile framework addresses this requirement.

QA mindset – verify a product or service works the way customers expect it to, when it is released, for all production configurations available at the time of the release. The DevOps framework addresses this requirement.

Ops mindset – ensure a product or service continues to work the way customers expect, for all production configurations, for the life of the product or service. The site reliability engineering (SRE) and ITIL frameworks address this requirement.

Security mindset – defend valuables for organizations that create or use a product or service against unintended and malicious actions, by people and organizations, both inside and outside of the organizations, for all production and non-production configurations, for as long as there is something of value to protect. The DevSecOps framework was created to address this requirement; as we have seen, this does not yet offer sufficient safeguards for the growing cybersecurity threat problems.

The security mindset has multiple additional vectors of thought required compared to the design, QA and ops mindset. This helps us to understand why the cybersecurity problem space is bigger and requires more comprehensive solutions.

Not long ago I considered security assurance to be a subset of testing practices. In 2016, in my blog, “Seven Pillars of DevOps – Essential Foundations for Enterprise Success“, I did not break out security as a separate pillar. At that time, this type of thinking was typical of developers. Security was someone else’s job. Perimeter defenses were deemed sufficient.

Soon after, I realized that way of thinking was naïve on my part. By the time that I co-authored a subsequent blog, “Nine Pillars of Continuous Security Best Practices,” I added a separate pillar for security specific practices, and also added security practices within each of the other pillars.

In parallel, DevSecOps became a thing in the DevOps world. The idea of integrating security practices into DevOps makes a lot of sense, because DevOps is the answer to continuous delivery of software, and security needs continuous delivery of defensive solutions. However, simply adding security to DevOps is not a sufficient solution, because DevOps was conceived to address specific problems associated with design, QA and Ops – not security. Simply adding security as another metric for releases is not enough. What is needed is a re-think of how DevOps can be used to deliver continuous security, as indicated in my book, “Engineering DevOps.” This is the same idea behind what is referred to as SecDevOps.

In my opinion, it is now time for SecDevOps to gain favor over DevSecOps when it comes to integrating security practices with DevOps practices. This represents a much more significant shift than simply putting security first in the name. With SecDevOps, security concerns within the entire development organization and at every stage in the DevOps value stream, are explicitly prioritized over other types of concerns. This makes sense, given the much wider blast radius of security events versus other quality concerns that DevOps was originally designed to address.

With SecDevOps, security tools and resources are weighted at the highest priority level. SecDevOps and secure coding practices are required training for application developers. Threat modeling is part of the value stream. Security tasks that are required to mitigate security risks are given the highest priority in backlog planning. At each stage in the DevOps pipeline, security concerns rise to the top of the priority list. Release and deployment readiness are weighted at the highest level. In short, SecDevOps explicitly plugs some important security holes that are not covered by DevSecOps. With SecDevOps, security becomes continuous, not just an add-on to DevOps.

What This Means

By explicitly plugging some important security holes that are not covered by DevOps or DevSecOps practices alone, it makes sense for SecDevOps to now emerge as the preferred framework to close the gaps between the growing security problem space with the evolving security solution space. SecDevOps offers the required security-first mindset and solves the need for rapid software changes that detect and plug security holes as fast as they are found, and continuously deploys innovative defensive solutions to keep bad actors off their guard.

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