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Avoiding pitfalls when integrating AppSec for DevOps

Charlotte Freeman

Jul 24, 2023 / 3 min read

IIn today's fast-paced software development landscape, DevOps has become the go-to approach for organizations looking to accelerate their application delivery. However, ensuring the security of applications in a DevOps environment is no small feat. AppSec integration is essential to establish uniform and controlled security standards, enable automation, and ensure support for security teams. In this blog post, we explore some common pitfalls to avoid when integrating AppSec for DevOps and discuss potential solutions to address them effectively.

Diverse, varied DevOps pipelines and workflows

One of the challenges in integrating AppSec for DevOps is the diverse and varied nature of DevOps pipelines and workflows. Different applications have distinct requirements, all of which impact security considerations. For instance, internal applications that operate within a protected internal server may not require the same level of security scrutiny as external-facing applications. You should consider mitigating factors and compensating controls when evaluating vulnerabilities to ensure that efforts are focused where they are most needed and most effective for the conditions.

Similarly, the purpose of the software also influences the prioritization of security measures. While internal applications may not directly generate revenue or interact with customers, they may still handle sensitive internal information. External applications, on the other hand, play a critical role in revenue generation and customer satisfaction, making them high-priority targets for security. Understanding the risk profiles of different types of applications helps allocate resources efficiently and prioritize security measures accordingly.

Lastly, the mechanisms used to develop and ship the software can determine the level of security risk insight a team can gather, how well it can address detected risks rapidly, and the type of risks present. Which development tools are teams using? How are code repositories configured? How do release cycles align to security testing workflows? These questions can prescribe your approach to application security testing and DevSecOps.

Approved pipelines vs. side pipelines

In many DevOps environments, there is an approved pipeline designed with integrated security measures. However, developers often turn to side pipelines or alternative workflows to streamline their processes. This practice introduces security risks since these side pipelines may not have the same level of security scrutiny or integrated security checkpoints as the approved one. There’s also a risk that not everything passes through approved pipelines. The software supply chain includes many third-party assets entering an organization’s pipeline via source code repositories or binary repositories. This can limit an organization’s security risk posture to the security maturity of another provider.

Software supply chain security risk management is an integral part of this challenge. Ensuring that security tools can seamlessly integrate with diverse technologies and pipelines is crucial for providing adequate coverage regardless of an asset’s passage through an approved or third-party supply chain.

Different teams, different tools

Another hurdle in AppSec integration for DevOps is that different teams and business units use distinct tools subject to distinct requirements. Decentralized development and testing, along with varying budgets and priorities across teams, make it challenging to enforce uniform security processes and standards. Centralized security teams tasked with securing and testing the work of distributed teams face organizational challenges in achieving consistent security coverage.

Addressing these challenges can often require a platform-based approach to security, which offers a unified view of risk across projects, teams, and regions, and enables organizations to manage multiple testing methodologies efficiently. This can streamline security processes, enforce consistent standards, and allocate resources effectively.

The solution: Centralized application security platforms

To overcome these pitfalls, implementing a range of testing methodologies—in a way that can scale as the business grows and flex as tech stacks evolve—is crucial. This means leveraging static application security testing, software composition analysis, interactive application security testing, and dynamic application security testing tools with integrated mechanisms for testing and risk reporting to maximize control.

By leveraging a combination of these testing methodologies, organizations can achieve comprehensive security coverage across their DevOps pipelines and supply chains, effectively identifying and addressing vulnerabilities at different stages of the software development life cycle. Using a centralized platform for risk analysis, policy control, and administration then streamlines everything beyond risk detection.

Integration is the next step in AppSec for DevOps. A centralized platform for diverse testing reduces the complexity of AppSec deployment and eliminates potential points of failure in a security testing program. The Polaris Software Integrity Platform® helps organizations overcome these pitfalls by providing deep integration with tools and systems across the software development life cycle and CI/CD pipelines, and enabling appropriate testing for the project or workflow. Ultimately, by embracing robust AppSec integration practices, organizations can achieve a secure and efficient DevOps environment without deviating from established workflows.

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