How to Transition from DevOps to DevSecOps

5 min. read

Transitioning from a DevOps to DevSecOps approach to application development is key to securing the CI/CD pipeline. This transition involves an organization-wide change, necessitating the integration of security aspects into every phase of the software development lifecycle.

We’ve outlined several considerations, steps, and guidelines to help your DevOps teams shift-left. Regardless of your timeline, successfully journeying to DevSecOps through enhanced threat awareness, improved risk management, and a proactive approach to security challenges will reduce development pipeline vulnerabilities and protect your organization's most vital assets.

Initiate a Security-First Culture

Cultivating a security-first culture is the cornerstone of a resilient DevSecOps model. It instills an organizational mindset that prioritizes security in every task, from software development to business operations.

Adopt the Security-First Mindset

DevSecOps is a security-first mindset. Create a culture that prioritizes and integrates security into every aspect of the application lifecycle. Encourage collaboration, shared responsibility, and continuous improvement among development, operations, and security teams. Promote open communication, knowledge sharing, and cross-functional training. Emphasize the importance of security from practitioner to C-suite to build a cohesive DevSecOps culture throughout your organization.

DevSecOps Training and Education

Provide ongoing security training and education programs for all individuals involved in the CI/CD pipeline, including developers, operations personnel, and security teams. Training should cover evolving security threats, secure coding practices, secure infrastructure configurations, and the proper use of security tools. Continuous training helps maintain a strong security mindset and ensures that individuals stay updated with the latest security practices and technologies.

Break Down the Silos

Integrate security into continuous delivery pipelines, ensuring it becomes a vital part of the entire application lifecycle, from design to deployment. Consider creating shared goals and aligning team objectives to encourage cross-functional collaboration and communication between development, operations, and security teams. Involve security experts early in the software development process, ensuring they have a voice in design decisions, code reviews, and testing. Make sure all teams understand each other's roles, responsibilities, perspectives — and the value they bring to achieving shared goals.

Support Security Champions

Identify individuals who act as advocates for security by promoting best practices, providing guidance, and assisting with security-related tasks. Empower them to lead by example within their respective teams. Encourage security champions to embed security considerations into workflows and decision-making processes. And reward their efforts. Rewarding security champions will incentivize them and others to take an active role in improving security.

Stay Updated on Emerging Threats and Security Practices

Stay abreast of the evolving threat landscape and emerging practices relevant to CI/CD security. Your approach might include monitoring security forums, attending industry conferences, participating in security communities, and following reputable security blogs and publications. Keeping up to date on the latest trends and innovations will equip your organization to prevent and mitigate emerging threats.

Modernize Application Architecture

DevSecOps teams should prioritize cloud-based and cloud-native microservices architecture to enhance scalability, flexibility, and security, which will enable your organization’s DevSecOps engineers to identify and fix vulnerabilities quickly without disrupting operations.

Leverage Containers for Isolation

Enhance your application security by leveraging containers to separate application components and dependencies, ensuring a streamlined continuous deployment process. By isolating each service, you can quickly identify and address security threats, reducing the risk of widespread system breaches.

Keep Infrastructure Immutable

Practice immutable infrastructure to prevent configuration drift and reduce attack surface. Any changes should occur through the infrastructure as code (IaC) pipeline. DevOps teams should work closely with application security experts to ensure a smooth transition to DevSecOps practices, fostering collaboration between development and operations teams.

Incorporate Secure DevOps Practices

Secure development practices lie at the heart of the DevSecOps framework. These practices transform the creation process — from shifting security considerations to the project's inception and automating testing to maintaining a secure supply chain. Organizations that implement secure development practices not only bolsters your security posture but also streamlines the development pipeline, ultimately enhancing efficiency and product reliability.

Deploy Secure DevOps Toolchains

Evaluate and select secure DevOps tools and technologies that align with your CI/CD security requirements. Choose tools that have built-in security features, integrate well with your existing security infrastructure, and support secure communication protocols. Regularly review and update these tools to ensure they remain secure and up to date.

Shift Left Security

Embed security practices and testing earlier in the software development lifecycle. By identifying and addressing security issues early on, organizations can minimize the impact and cost of remediating vulnerabilities discovered at later stages. The shift-left approach includes incorporating security requirements into user stories, conducting threat modeling, and performing secure coding practices from the outset.

Execute Secure Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC)

Integrate security checkpoints and activities into the software development lifecycle. Begin with defining security requirements and include conducting threat modeling, performing security testing at various stages, and ensuring secure code deployment and configuration management. By incorporating security into the SDLC, you’ll proactively identify and address security issues throughout the software development process.

Enforce Secure Code Reviews

Incorporate secure code reviews as an integral part of the development process within the CI/CD pipeline. Peer code reviews with a focus on security help identify vulnerabilities, coding errors, and potential weaknesses in the codebase. Provide developers with security guidelines and training to ensure they have the knowledge and skills to write secure code.

Incorporate Security as Code

Apply the concept of "security as code" by treating security controls and policies as code artifacts. You can use infrastructure-as-code tools to define and manage security configurations, making them version-controlled, auditable, and repeatable. The security-as-code approach ensures consistent and automated application of security controls across environments.

Automate Security Testing

Incorporating automated security testing tools, such as static analysis security testing (SAST), dynamic analysis security testing (DAST), interactive application security testing (IAST), and software composition analysis (SCA). These tools can be integrated into the CI/CD pipeline to identify vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and security weaknesses throughout the development and deployment process.

Erect Security Gates

Introduce security gates at different stages of the CI/CD pipeline to ensure that security checks are performed before progressing to the next stage. Incorporate static code analysis, vulnerability scanning, and compliance checks, for example, as automated steps before promoting code to the next environment.

Establish Change Management Processes

All changes to the pipeline, including infrastructure, configurations, and code deployments, should go through a formal change management process that includes thorough testing, peer reviews, and approval procedures. Setting up reliable change management processes within the CI/CD pipeline will help to maintain control and accountability while reducing the risk of introducing security vulnerabilities.

Operationalize Secure Configuration Management

Apply secure configuration management practices to all components of the CI/CD pipeline, including servers, containers, and infrastructure. Secure configuration involves hardening the configurations, disabling unnecessary services, applying appropriate security patches, and utilizing secure communication protocols. Automated configuration management tools can consistently enforce and maintain secure configurations.

Maintain a Secure Software Supply Chain

Ensure the security of the software supply chain by validating the integrity and authenticity of software components and dependencies used within the CI/CD pipeline. Implement controls to verify the origin and integrity of open-source libraries, containers, and other software artifacts. Regularly monitor for security advisories and updates related to the software components used in the pipeline.

Automate and Monitor Security

Automating and monitoring security injects a potent dose of efficiency and vigilance into a DevSecOps model. Automation tools swiftly identify vulnerabilities, enabling faster remediation, while continuous monitoring provides real-time visibility into your security landscape. Using both in tandem eliminates manual errors, frees up resources, and uncovers potential threats before they cause harm. The result is a formidable and dynamic defense.

Leverage Security Orchestration and Automation

Use security orchestration and automation tools to streamline and standardize security processes within the CI/CD pipeline. Automation can help with vulnerability scanning, security policy enforcement, incident response, and security incident management. Properly allocating security orchestration and automation tools will reduce manual effort, improve consistency, and enable rapid response to security incidents.

Define and Monitor Secure DevOps Metrics

Define and track security-focused metrics that provide insights into the effectiveness of security controls and the overall security posture of the CI/CD pipeline. Monitor these metrics continuously and use them to identify trends, measure improvement, and prioritize security initiatives. Metrics such as time to remediate vulnerabilities, number of successful security tests, and incident response metrics can provide valuable insights.

Initiate Continuous Security Monitoring

Establish continuous security monitoring throughout the CI/CD pipeline and continuous deployment environment. Include real-time log analysis, suspicious activities, anomalies, intrusion detection systems and security information and event management (SIEM) tools. Monitoring helps detect and respond to security incidents promptly and provides valuable insights for improving security controls. Stay updated with threat intelligence sources and adjust security controls accordingly.

Continuously Assess and Remediate Vulnerabilities

Integrate vulnerability management practices into the CI/CD pipeline. This activity goes beyond regularly scanning for vulnerabilities in dependencies, libraries, and system components. Establish processes to prioritize and remediate vulnerabilities based on context, particularly as it pertains to severity, impact, and exploitability. Automation can help identify, track, and address attack paths.

Evaluate and Maintain Security Posture

Maintaining a formidable security posture is integral to long-term resilience in an evolving cyberthreat landscape. Regular assessments, audits, and red team exercises uncover weaknesses. Routine updates to security policies and tools ensure you're armed with the latest protection. Prevention efforts, combined with information sharing, enable organizations to adapt to threats and maintain a posture best described as anticipatory.

Conduct Regular Security Risk Assessments

Perform regular risk assessments to surface security gaps in the CI/CD pipeline. The evaluation should include penetration testing and aim to identify potential threats, vulnerabilities, and risks associated with the pipeline's architecture, configurations, access controls, and integrations. Organizations should remediate and resolve all identified risks through appropriate controls and follow up with a reassessment to ensure the efficacy of mitigations.

Engage External Security Expertise

Consider engaging third-party security experts to conduct independent assessments and provide objective insights on the security posture of the CI/CD pipeline. External assessments can help identify blind spots, validate security controls, and provide recommendations for improvement. Findings from these evaluations should prompt immediate action to address identified issues.

Conduct Red Team Exercises

Perform red team exercises to simulate real-world attacks and identify potential security weaknesses in the CI/CD pipeline. Red team exercises involve skilled security professionals attempting to breach the pipeline's security controls and identify vulnerabilities. The insights gained from these exercises can help identify areas for improvement and validate the effectiveness of existing security measures.

Regularly Review and Update Security Policies

Review and update security policies and procedures regularly to align with evolving security requirements, industry standards, and regulatory frameworks. Ensure that policies reflect the organization's CI/CD security objectives and provide clear guidance on security controls, incident response, access management, and other relevant areas.

Update Security Tools and Frameworks

Stay current with the latest versions of security tools, frameworks, and libraries used within the CI/CD pipeline. Keep track of security advisories and patches released by vendors and promptly update tools and frameworks to mitigate known vulnerabilities. Adhering to this practice will ensure your security tools remain capable of identifying and addressing emerging threats.

Conduct Vendor Security Assessments

If third-party services or components are used within the CI/CD pipeline, conduct thorough security assessments of these vendors or providers. Evaluate their security practices, certifications, and compliance with relevant security standards. Ensure they have reliable security controls to mitigate risks associated with third-party dependencies.

Ensure Compliance and Effective Incident Response

Compliance and effective incident response form the bedrock of a trusted, resilient DevSecOps model. Remaining compliant with regulations safeguards your reputation, while an efficient incident response minimizes the potential damage of breaches. With proper preparation, organizations can bounce back from an incident faster and with less impact on operations.

Stay Compliant with Applicable Regulations

Ensure that the CI/CD pipeline aligns with regulatory requirements, industry standards, and data protection laws. Understand the specific security and compliance requirements that apply to your organization and implement the necessary controls and processes to remain compliant. Regularly review and update security policies and procedures to reflect changing regulatory landscapes.

Codify Continuous Compliance Monitoring

Ensure ongoing compliance with relevant security standards, frameworks, and regulatory requirements. Implement continuous compliance monitoring processes and tools to track and report compliance status within the CI/CD pipeline. Regularly assess and validate compliance controls to promptly address gaps or noncompliance issues.

Establish Incident Response and Security Incident Management

Develop and document an incident response plan specific to your CI/CD pipeline. Ensure that your plan outlines the steps to take in the event of a security incident or breach. You also want to define roles and responsibilities, communication protocols, containment measures, and remediation procedures. Regularly test and update the incident response plan to hone its effectiveness in a changing threat landscape.

Establish Incident Response Exercises

Conduct regular incident response exercises to test the effectiveness of your CI/CD pipeline's incident response plan. Simulate various security incidents and assess the response capabilities of your team. Identify areas for improvement, update the incident response plan accordingly, and provide necessary training to enhance incident response readiness.

Establish Incident Response Integration

Integrate the CI/CD pipeline with the organization's overall incident response capabilities. Define communication channels, escalation procedures, and incident response playbooks specific to CI/CD-related security incidents. Response integration will ensure coordinated efforts that minimize the impact of breach on both the pipeline and the organization.

Backup and Test Restore Procedures

Perform regular backups of critical components in the CI/CD pipeline, such as source code repositories, build servers, and configuration files. Regularly test the restore procedures to ensure that backups are reliable and restorable in the event of data loss or system compromise. The net result of this routine pays dividends in terms of resilient business operations capable of weathering cyber incidents while maintaining service continuity and stakeholder trust.

Continuous Improvement in Security

Continuous security improvement is a vital strategy to help organizations navigate the dynamic and evolving threat landscape. Taking the iterative approach goes beyond reacting to incidents and seeks to enhance existing security practices and infrastructure. By analyzing feedback and learning from oversights, organizations can optimize their defenses, uncover new opportunities for automation, and stay one step ahead of attackers. The outcome for forward-thinking DevSecOps teams is a resilient, agile security posture primed to confront threats head-on.

Maintain a Feedback Loop

Refine security practices within the DevSecOps environment. Encourage feedback from developers, operations personnel, and security experts to identify areas for improvement and follow up with necessary adjustments.

By investing in the ongoing betterment of security, organizations preserve customer trust and company reputation. Every front sees gains in cost-effectiveness — whether from preempting the escalation of risks by catching vulnerabilities early, accelerating time to market, avoiding compliance fines and legal complications, or holding onto your talent.

Endorsing a culture of continuous improvement to adapt to evolving security challenges is good business.

Engage in Security Information Sharing

Participate in security information sharing initiatives and communities that pertain to CI/CD security. Exchange experiences, lessons learned, and best practices with your peers. Collaboration and information sharing will broaden the collective understanding of CI/CD security challenges and accelerate innovations in supplant emerging threats.

Learn More

By embracing these practices and transitioning from DevOps to DevSecOps, organizations can establish a mature and highly secure CI/CD pipeline. A strong security culture, paired with an integrated CNAPP that brings together the capabilities you need, will enable you to anticipate evolving threats, protect critical assets, and deliver secure software with efficiency and confidence.

Prisma Cloud will help your teams protect your software supply chain with complete visibility and policy enforcement across software components and delivery pipelines. If you’re interested in experiencing end-to-end protection for your CI/CD pipelines, take Prisma Cloud for a test drive with a free 30-day trial.

DevOps to DevSecOps FAQs

Secure by Design is an application development approach that emphasizes the integration of security measures and best practices from the earliest stages of the development lifecycle. The goal of this approach is to minimize vulnerabilities, breaches, and potential risks in applications and systems. By incorporating security elements during the design phase, DevOps engineers proactively address potential issues, ensuring a solid and secure foundation for the app.
Penetration testing, also known as pentesting, is a practice where security experts simulate a cyberattack against a computer system, network, or web application to identify vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers. It's an essential tool for finding real-world security weaknesses before an attacker does.
IAST is a security testing method that combines elements of static (SAST) and dynamic application security testing (DAST) to use while the application is running in its production environment. IAST tools monitor application behavior and data flow to identify security vulnerabilities.
Runtime application self-protection (RASP) is a security technology that embeds into an application or its runtime environment and actively detects and prevents attacks as they occur. RASP solutions can identify malicious behavior or attacks by analyzing both the app's behavior and the context of that behavior. It's designed to halt attacks without human intervention, offering protection from the inside.