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SecDevOps: A Practical Guide to the What and the Why

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Software is becoming increasingly complex with each passing year, which is making it harder to prevent security issues from impacting operations. For this reason, a growing number of engineering departments are addressing the issue by migrating from DevOps and DevSecOps to SecDevOps—a new strategy that involves prioritizing security in the software delivery pipeline. 

Keep reading to learn what SecDevOps entails and why it should be on every team’s radar.  

The Traditional Approach to Security

Up until recently, most teams used the waterfall method when developing software. With this approach, software development is highly process-driven, meaning that one phase can’t start until a previous one ends. In a waterfall model, development entails analysis, design, development, testing, and maintenance. Security doesn’t usually apply until post-deployment. 

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The waterfall method tends to favor developers, as it resembles a factory line. In this way, developers can complete code, pass it along, and move on to the next thing.  The main problem with the waterfall method is that security usually winds up being an afterthought. Developers tend to sweep vulnerabilities and misconfigurations under the rug instead of addressing them outright. This helps keep pipelines flowing, but it creates otherwise avoidable complications.  

While the waterfall method may seem faster, it often ends up slowing down production while driving up costs. After all, security issues will eventually surface. And when they appear late in the development cycle, they can require extra rework. This leads to patching, workflow backlogs, unhappy customers, and increased development costs.  

DevSecOps: A Step in the Right Direction

To improve security, many DevOps teams are now embracing the DevSecOps model.  

With DevSecOps, you “shift left” and integrate security directly into the software development process. In short, this approach forces developers to take responsibility for security.  

In a typical DevSecOps workflow, developers produce code and run security tests. But while it sounds viable, the truth is that most DevOps professionals lack the desire and bandwidth to focus on production and security testing, which can create a massive headache.  

In reality, DevOps teams face enormous pressure to bring software to market. As a result, security still winds up taking a back seat more often than not. As a result, DevOps professionals still tend to push software to market first and worry about security issues later.  

Why SecDevOps Is the Better Approach

Since DevSecOps doesn’t always work, many companies are changing their strategy and shifting further left. A growing number of organizations are turning to SecDevOps—or rugged DevOps—which is a new strategy for enabling secure DevOps.  

SecDevOps is a step change from DevSecOps. With this approach, you bump security to the forefront of the development process, during production. This strategy involves outlining best practices early on and embedding secure code into the development life cycle.  

Simply put, switching to SecDevOps streamlines security and helps DevOps engineers code with greater speed and security. 

SaC and IaC: A Brief Overview

SecDevOps has two main components: security as code (SaC) and infrastructure as code (IaC).  

SaC involves integrating security into DevOps tools and practices and using dynamic application security testing (DAST) and static application security testing (SAST).  

Additionally, DevOps professionals use IaC to quickly establish and maintain infrastructure. Using IaC makes it easier to manage security and make changes over time, which helps teams build stronger software solutions.  

Why Is SecDevOps Important?

Now that you have a better understanding of what SecDevOps is, let’s turn our attention to some of the top advantages of embracing this philosophy.  

1. Tighter Security Integration

In a typical SecDevOps workflow, you usually start by defining security policies at the beginning of a project. At this point, security typically outlines coding standards, DAST and SAST rules, best practices for integrating APIs, and testing guidelines.  

This accomplishes a few important tasks. First, it makes security top of mind for developers and reinforces its importance. What’s more, it allows security to reinforce critical details that DevOps professionals might otherwise not know about or bypass. 

2. Fewer Security Issues 

Without a doubt, building security into a SecDevOps framework leads to fewer vulnerabilities.  

With DevSecOps, teams produce software with errors and fix them before they slip into production. But with SecDevOps, teams take active measures to change their approach and avoid creating potential vulnerabilities in the first place. As such, it’s a much deeper and more holistic approach to security. 

To illustrate, DevSecOps is like eating a lot of junk food and then running to lose weight. SecDevOps, on the other hand, is like eating healthy and exercising to manage weight and prevent health issues in the first place. 

3. Lower Costs

Software development costs are increasing year over year, and security is one of the biggest contributing factors to this growth. 

By focusing on security and following best practices, DevOps teams can avoid creating issues that lead to costly rework. It also reduces post-release patching. 

4. Faster Production

It’s important to realize that you might experience some pushback from DevOps professionals when suggesting a SecDevOps framework. This is because DevOps teams want to work as quickly as possible, and they’re used to doing things the way they’ve done them for quite a while. 

Surprisingly, SecDevOps speeds up production. This is an important message to convey to DevOps teams early on. 

Adding an extra security component might seem counterintuitive for speeding up development. However, it ultimately benefits DevOps teams by eliminating security vulnerabilities.  

By using SecDevOps, teams can focus on moving software forward instead of having to constantly go back and address errors. 

5. Happier Customers 

At the end of the day, customers want high-quality software that is safe and easy to use. Security vulnerabilities cause customers to lose faith in a product and seek out competitors. 

SecDevOps protects the customer experience, reducing churn as well as negative reviews and press coverage. Ultimately, security drives loyalty and repeat sales. 

6. Greater Accountability 

One reason why companies suffer from poor security is because of a lack of accountability. It is easy for developers to pass the buck with security with the traditional waterfall or DevSecOps models.  

SecDevOps gives leaders and admins the power to issue security roles and responsibilities. This makes security a formal process and leads to greater accountability.  

7. Tighter Collaboration

As an extra bonus, SecDevOps helps break down silos between managers, security teams, and DevOps teams. It brings teams closer together and makes it easier to integrate security into operations. 

Tighter collaboration ultimately helps teams become more fluid. Team members can have an easier time understanding what other members do and how various processes and roles ultimately contribute to the overall product.  

How Plutora Enables SecDevOps 

Embracing SecDevOps isn’t quite as simple as changing your strategy and shifting further left. This is a big change—and one that requires a more comprehensive level of oversight and visibility. 

To make SecDevOps work, it helps to have a platform in place providing end-to-end visibility and workflow management. And this is where Plutora can make a big difference.  

Plutora’s Value Stream Management (VSM) platform provides deep visibility into DevOps pipelines. The platform aligns data governance and engineering teams, accelerating production while reducing risk. In sum, if you are considering migrating to SecDevOps, you should take a fresh look at the underlying management system you have in place. Plutora can provide a solid framework for SecDevOps, making it far easier to visualize workflows and make adjustments—building stronger software because of it.  
To experience Plutora in action, request 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.