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Plutora Blog - DevOps, Digital Transformation, IT Governance, Software Development

Continuous Security Defined and Explained: A Leader’s Guide

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The cybersecurity landscape is more dangerous than ever, with cyberattacks increasing at an alarming rate. In fact, research indicates almost every cyberattack category increased in volume last year. And as we pointed out in a recent webinar, data breaches impacted about 281 million people last year alone.

As such, many DevOps teams are integrating continuous security strategies to cover their attack surfaces and protect their software and infrastructure from intruders. Keep reading to learn what continuous security means and the benefits that it offers to teams like yours.

What Is Continuous Security in DevOps?

When it boils down to it, there isn’t a single standard definition for continuous security; definitions can vary across different companies and environments. But through a DevOps or DevSecOps lens, continuous security refers to an end-to-end security strategy that spans the entire development and production spectrum. 

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It’s important to realize that continuous security in software engineering is a bit different than continuous security monitoring software. While DevOps continuous security integrates monitoring (more on that below), it encompasses a much wider range of roles, functions, and technologies. Continuous security monitoring is a strategy while security monitoring is an individual component or tool that companies deploy.

What Do You Use Continuous Security for?

DevOps teams use continuous security to fortify software deliveries, deployments, and production. Here are some of the top reasons why teams should consider deploying continuous security.

Maintain Proactive Security

Companies often experience cybersecurity incidents and data breaches because they fail to notice small vulnerabilities and weaknesses in development and production.

Continuous security helps uncover vulnerabilities before cyber criminals discover and exploit them. In other words, it prevents small problems from turning into larger threats. At the same time, catching issues earlier in the software development lifecycle (SDLC) lowers the cost of security and remediation. 

Bridge Security Gaps

Many companies have silos between development and operations teams. And silos lead to security mistakes and overlaps that cybercriminals can exploit.  

Continuous security helps discover and eliminate these gaps, resulting in greater unification and protection throughout the entire software delivery lifecycle. This strategy improves communication and collaboration and creates a single unified security strategy with end-to-end visibility.

Enable Continuous Improvement

With cybercrime rapidly evolving, it’s important for security teams to learn and adjust their strategy as well. 

A continuous security strategy ultimately provides engineering teams with the insights they need to identify weaknesses and tighten their security posture. This helps drive continuous improvement and create a culture of security and innovation.

What Are the Elements of Continuous Security?

In a continuous security framework, teams typically split security responsibilities between DevOps and SRE, with DevSecOps securing delivery and SRE handling production. In this section, we offer a general breakdown of what continuous security entails. 

Devsecops

Leadership

Continuous security won’t happen by itself. IT leaders need to recognize the threat that cybercrime poses and the benefits of prioritizing security—like happier customers, a better reputation, fewer incidents, and stronger profits. 

It’s also up to leadership to construct a viable continuous security model and enforce it throughout development and production.

Culture 

In order to maintain an effective continuous security model, IT leaders need to build a security culture. In some cases, this may require upskilling team members and cross-training them to develop software with security best practices in mind. 

Of course, it can take time to develop a cybersecurity culture—and a lot of it. But by making an effort to focus on security, leaders can respond to threats more easily and improve their overall security approach.

Design

In order to avoid bottlenecks, it helps to train developers to master best practices for continuous security. This way, developers can build and iterate safely and with speed. 

Designers should always pre-check source code changes, run component analysis scans, and document the security frameworks that they use. It also helps to scan third-party components for vulnerabilities during software builds.

Continuous Integration

Continuous integration is another important part of continuous security. This largely involves analyzing the impact that code changes have on software security.

With this in mind, it helps to centralize integration by using a software version management system. By doing so, you can track all code changes in one place. You can also avoid missing changes and updates.

Continuous Testing 

Security teams need to shift left and test earlier and more often. The more you test software during development and production, the faster and more affordable it is to catch and remediate errors. 

Most teams are now automating security testing throughout the development pipeline. This saves time and frees security teams to focus on higher-level responsibilities. As such, testing automation is critical for any fast-moving team that’s producing software at scale.

Continuous Monitoring

Policies, identities (both human and non-human), and configurations can change during development, leading to security threats. Oftentimes, these changes can be difficult or even impossible to detect—especially for busy or understaffed teams. 

Continuous monitoring helps teams identify changes in their software and cloud environments, so they can take action when necessary. In this light, continuous monitoring plays a critical enabling role in continuous security and it’s something that all teams should use.

Infrastructure Security

Continuous security also requires focusing on the underlying physical and virtual infrastructure that powers your software. 

Security should play an active role in IT infrastructure management and ensure that all systems have the latest updates, access controls, and filtering protocols in place. Infrastructure is a top target for cybercriminals, and security teams need to take active measures to keep their systems safe from attacks.

Best Practices for Deploying Continuous Security

Now that you have a better idea of what continuous security is and why it matters, let’s examine some best practices to help you hit the ground running.

Form a Continuous Security Integration Plan

Engineering teams often run into trouble when rushing into new development and security models without understanding the implications.

As a best practice, go slowly when integrating continuous security and determine your department’s overall readiness. Once your team is ready, ramp up to a full continuous security strategy.

Use Real-Time Communication 

Continuous security may complicate development and production, as it requires adding extra monitoring, testing, and integration components.

As such, it’s important to have real-time communication in place to prevent bottlenecks and enable team members to work together and solve problems. Using communications platforms like Slack, Discord, and Microsoft Teams can reduce security friction and keep workflows moving efficiently.

Deploy a Robust Enterprise Continuous Security Dashboard 

An enterprise continuous security dashboard provides end-to-end security visibility to all stakeholders across development and production. 

When implementing a platform, you’ll want to find a solution that incorporates multiple value streams across the entire development and production spectrum. This platform should show you the big picture of your security landscape and enable you to drill down into different components as you need to.

How Plutora VSM Enables Continuous Security Monitoring

Plutora’s value stream management (VSM) platform enables teams to see and optimize workflows across all stages—from initial planning to production. 

With the help of our purpose-built platform designed with security top of mind, you can view a variety of metrics from a central, user-friendly dashboard. This dashboard can help provide clarity, enable automation, and enhance collaboration during continuous security planning.

Plutora ultimately provides the information that you need to make impactful security decisions. Companies can use our VSM platform to expedite continuous security monitoring and build trust between managers and engineers. At the same time, we enable DevOps and SRE teams to collaborate more effectively and operate as a single, cohesive unit. To see how Plutora’s VSM platform makes continuous security a breeze, try a demo today.

Justin Reynolds

This post was written by Justin Reynolds. Justin is a freelance writer who enjoys telling stories about how technology, science, and creativity can help workers be more productive. In his spare time, he likes seeing or playing live music, hiking, and traveling.