DevOps Cybersecurity: Managing DevOps Security

By Paladion

May 6, 2020

DevOps has transformed software development. However, the methodologies and technologies of DevOps have introduced new security vulnerabilities. In addition to basic security lapses in the rapid-cycling DevOps process, new, highly advanced attacks are infecting the code before it even gets into development. As a result, malware can potentially penetrate millions of devices before being detected – if it is ever detected. Preventing and mitigating these attacks in DevOps requires sophisticated, continuous threat monitoring across the DevOps process and beyond.

Without the right DevOps cybersecurity measures in place, millions of devices could be penetrated with just a single attack.

Find out how to improve DevOps cybersecurity within your organization.

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Threats to DevOps Security

Without the right DevOps security measures in place, organizations could be exposed to serious threats. This is due to the nature of DevOps environments that are typically fast-moving and in the cloud. This leaves DevOps at risk for all the same threats that plague cloud environments and supply chains.

  • Cloud environments and DevOps cybersecurity: Working in the cloud inevitably invokes Gartner’s cloud shared responsibility model. Using this approach, cloud providers are responsible for securing the underlying cloud and physical infrastructures while the customer must ensure the security of development and operating environments. This opens a potential entrance for malicious actors. Couple that with the multi-team nature of DevOps and you have the potential for serious DevOps security issues. An attacker could easily gain access with stolen credentials and run any number of exploits in the environment, access cloud buckets, etc.
  • CI/CD process components and DevOps security: The fast-paced nature of DevOps presents additional risks. It is common for organizations to rely on external sources of pre-written code. Malicious actors have been known to place malware into open-source libraries published on GitHub to gain access to thousands of applications. The code may look completely normal to the developer who then accidentally embeds malware into their applications, causing a supply chain attack within the enterprise. Besides the code itself, CI/CD processes rely on a variety of tools, each with their own credentials and potential risks. Linked code repositories use security tokens for automated builds, meaning a single set of stolen credentials could also provide complete access to your organization.
DevOps environments are at risk for all the same threats that plague the cloud and supply chains.

Mitigating DevOps Cybersecurity Risks

DevOps security requires a deeper and proactive defensive posture compared with standard cybersecurity practices. With so much potential exposure, organizations must take additional precautions to ensure DevOps security.

  • Implement standard IT cybersecurity measures: At a bare minimum, organizations should have all the same cybersecurity protocols in place for DevOps applications, products, and environments as they do for all other parts of IT. This includes two-factor authentication, firewalls, anti-malware, etc.
  • Monitor code and production container environments: To stay ahead of threats introduced into community code bases, all code must be scanned before being integrated into product software. Using threat intelligence resources is a great way to prevent the use of malicious code. Organizations must also monitor production containers for malware. The best way to accomplish this is to track communications between containers and use a solution that automatically flags any unusual behavior to be investigated.
  • Monitor enterprise infrastructures: Implementing continuous monitoring allows organizations to segregate different activities into different categories. By understanding standard behaviors, DevOps cybersecurity solutions can notify SecOps of any anomalous activity. This continuous monitoring should be implemented across DevOps processes as well as within the DevOps environment itself.
  • Implement cloud security posture management (CSPM): CSPM is a method and solution to support the continuous monitoring of configuration changes. This helps organizations understand if any underlying configuration changes like modifications to storage groups, VMs, cloud console settings, etc., are risky. This helps to detect DevOps security problems early enough that they can be remediated to prevent serious breaches.
  • Mitigate threats: Monitoring is just one part of the puzzle when it comes to DevOps cybersecurity. When potential threats are discovered, there must be solutions in place to investigate and remediate. Many solutions use a “playbook,” which is a sequence of steps that analysts will complete when a threat is detected. Some steps will be manual, but others will utilize automated operations to contain and terminate threats.
Organizations must have detection and mitigation plans in place to ensure robust DevOps cybersecurity.

Ensuring DevOps Security with Continuous Monitoring and Mitigation

Organizations utilizing CI/CD and DevOps processes must implement strong security practices. All cybersecurity measures that have been implemented by IT should also be used for DevOps security – and then some. Without appropriate measures in place, the open nature of DevOps exposes the organizations to serious risks. The best way to handle DevOps cybersecurity is to engage in continuous monitoring of all aspects of the DevOps environment and life cycle.

Ultimately, ensuring DevOps cybersecurity is an ongoing challenge. Organizations need to be ready to pivot quickly to mitigate the latest threats.

Understand the importance of robust DevOps security

Free eBook: Securing DevOps: Monitoring & Responding to Threats in a DevOps Environment

Download Now