A Practitioner’s Perspective of DevOps: Continuous Security

By Sachin Agarwal, Senior DevOps Engineer, Securonix

As a DevOps engineer, I get questions from new graduates about DevOps: What is it?, Why is it useful?, and What skills are needed?. I’m fortunate to work in this discipline everyday and wanted to share what I’ve learned and hope others will find this useful, especially those new to working at the intersection of security and software development. To that end, I’ve written a book called Mastering DevOps with Continuous Security: Advanced Strategies and Best Practices. I’ll be introducing three pillars of DevOps (as covered in my book) across this series of blog posts – continuous security, keeping systems updated, and regular compliance audits – all within the context of the enterprise and TDIR, the bread and butter of what I do here at Securonix.

To start, DevOps is a culture, not a product or even a class one can take. It’s something that is practiced and improves as you work with it. It is especially good for teams that have engineers and product managers who are managing a large, continuous project. If that sounds familiar, you may likely know what the building blocks of DevOps are.

Briefly, the three pillars of DevOps are:

  1. Continuous security during the software development life cycle
  2. Regular compliance and audits 
  3. Keeping systems updated as every update has a security update

Continuous security as a team

What DevOps effectively brings to teams is a framework that highlights the many stages of a product lifecycle and when certain development checkpoints like security should be implemented. My work at Securonix focuses on security and in a DevOps approach, implementing security early on is important for keeping data from being leaked (oftentimes, you’ll see the term DevSecOps). Beyond just credentials (user, customer, partners), securing the environment, firewalls, domains, IPs, and other endpoints will keep sensitive data safe. As you start your journey around security and DevOps, we can look a little more closely at how this works through the analogy of a team sport.

DevOps emphasizes the importance of collective effort and coordination to secure a winning cybersecurity posture. Like a well-coached team, continuous security in DevOps encourages earlier identification of vulnerabilities, often referred to as ‘shift left security.’ This proactive approach is like defensive planning in sports, where anticipating the opponent’s moves leads to stronger defense strategies.

Collaboration and communication are the backbones of both team sports and DevOps. By breaking down silos, each member, whether on the field or in the development pipeline, contributes to the overarching goal of secure and efficient delivery.

Real-time threat detection in DevOps mirrors the responsiveness of athletes on the field, where immediate action can mean the difference between victory and defeat. Being able to detect and immediately respond to threats is important to keeping data secure.

Automated security testing, like practice sessions for a sports team, ensures weaknesses are found as quickly as possible so they can be addressed.

Finally, continuous feedback loops for improving security in DevOps mirror the post-game analysis in sports. Each play (or code commit) is reviewed, lessons are learned, and strategies are adjusted to enhance performance for the next encounter. This iterative process is crucial for constant improvement and resilience in cybersecurity practices.

Cultural shift for team

A fundamental basis of DevOps is that it promotes the idea that security is everyone’s responsibility, and not just the responsibility of a dedicated security team. This important cultural shift ensures that security considerations are integrated into the mindset of developers and operations professionals. This is possible because DevOps breaks down silos, fosters collaboration, and encourages a mindset of practicing continuous improvement.

Cybersecurity skills shortage

The cybersecurity skills shortage is driving high demand for engineers and tech professionals. Whether you’re an entry-level individual with interest in DevOps or someone making a lateral move, make sure to think about the above concepts and frameworks, even as you improve your technical side. DevOps is a combination of skills, culture, and tools and can provide the rigor for aspiring engineers to gain necessary skills. 

In conclusion, from my experience, tools used in Securonix help with implementing continuous security in DevOps by unifying security operations, but it’s up to the team members and culture to drive an effective security program at any organization.

I hope you found this post useful. I’ll be covering two important areas in DevOps, keeping systems updated, and regular compliance audits, in future posts here in the Securonix blog.

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