How Can DevOps Increase System Security

Security in any software system

Security is the most important aspect of any widely used software system. There are some traditional ways in which security is achieved in software. Security of any system heavily depends upon the number audience it has, what precautions were taken during development, what kind of security strategy was taken throughout the project and what kind of testing the software has undergone.

Many large IT companies are attacked around thousand times per day throughout the world. This poses a serious threat to the security of a system, as one little mistake or a small loophole in the security can be catastrophic in this case. Thankfully most of the attacks on such large organizations are white hat, meaning if the attack is successful then the attacker comes forth and claims his/her bounty for breaking and entering a corporate level system.

Mostly security can only be proven over time. For instance, if a system works just as well as it did 2 years ago and have withstood many attacks/ attempts to break. Then we can say that security is high for this particular system, or this system is more secure. But in the traditional software development processes, the testing phase comes very later after the development is done. A software quality assurance team tests the software for any bugs, and the security team implements the security after development is done. This process is a bit time consuming and often some huge vulnerabilities are left in the system because there is no continuous integration on the security side.

Security in DevOps

In DevOps, things are a little different. There is a lot of automation of processes, tasks like continuous integration and continuous deployment happen at such a speed that it almost feels like magic. Security is embedded within this continuous integration and deployment. The test cases are written by the developers for each new feature/change after these tests are passed then the code moves to the next phase in the pipeline.

In DevOps you have the power to set up custom pipelines, meaning you can apply a bunch of rule to test the code before deployment. Apart from the test cases that developers write themselves the security team can also have their own mechanism in place to check the security of the code before each deployment. This is the place where the security team (if there is one apart from the development team) can provide some ground rules to be checked, for example; password field must be encrypted and hashed. Tons on such rules can be defined once and before each release, these are checked automatically. If anyone of these fails then the whole build fails and there is no deployment until the issue is fixed.

This is the part where DevOps really shines. In DevOps, there is frequent communication between all involved teams so such rules and tests can be made with everyone’s input which enhances the overall security. To identify the loopholes for which such security measure is needed, the security team, development team, and operations team need to work collaboratively. This can be done by either taking DevOps training online or acquiring the best DevOps certification.

How DevOps increases system security

The are various ways in which DevOps increases the security of a system. A few are discussed below.

  • Continuous Security Checks
    The continuous deployment runs the code through the security pipelines in which any bug or defect is caught at first hand. Even security loopholes can also be caught at this stage. As this continuous process runs very frequently throughout the development phase, all the previous and new security checks are run every time there is some code change.

  • Less delay in action
    The deployment process is stopped whenever there is a security issue in the new code, the build will only be made when it is fixed. Any security issue in existing code is also highlighted by new security checks and you will see massive alerts to fix it in the dashboard. Since changes occur very rapidly in DevOps, there is a high chance of breaking changes in the code. But you can rest assured they will be fixed instantly otherwise there will be no deployment.

  • Everybody is testing the security
    All the teams involved are playing a role in security in DevOps. A new suggestion or future security issue can be highlighted by anyone involved. Even the client sometimes point out some key security issue that the developers and security/operations team cannot find. Since all the teams are involved in security throughout the project, everyone is doing quality assurance in parallel. This improves the security of a system as a whole.

  • All security issues are visible
    In the dashboard view in DevOps, every single task to any developer is visible in a bird’s eye view. The issues concerning security are also visible to everyone involved and people can assign themselves to an issue if they’re needed. People can make new issues or relate security issues to each other. This way the individual who is working on an issue can track sub-issues and also call in help from anyone who might have worked on a similar issue.

  • Missing security implemented instantly
    When the developer writes the test for a new feature, all the teams involved views that feature along with the test. The first thought in terms of testing is what other features can benefit from this same test and where can it be duplicated. The second thing is what previous functionalities are affected by this new feature, and whether they lack security too.

  • Security upgrades with each change
    With every new feature, some new security rules and tests are added to cater to that particular feature. This in return directly keeps adding to the existing security of the system. The previous tests are also kept intact, working alongside new ones.
    At any time some previous tests might become outdated due to implementation of some new feature or a massive code change then in this case the previous tests are removed and replaced with new ones. Hence, security is upgraded every step of the way.