Build Security Early in Development Stage

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Most modern organizations are integrating security across the entire development lifecycle as they are realizing it’s potential. Applications are becoming collections of microservices and functions and everything is getting defined as code. Developers use a vast array of tools to build and deploy cloud native applications and operationalizing security controls that work seamlessly across these tools remains a challenge.

Static code analysis tools have been around for quite some time, but they have a reputation of being difficult to use. A practical way to shift security left across the entire development lifecycle is essential for enabling a culture of DevSecOps,

This article explains the concept of shift-left security, how you can adopt it in your organization, how it will help you in enabling a culture of DevSecOps, and about the shift left in the software development cycle.

What is shift left security?

In simple words, shift security is about moving security to the earliest possible point in the development lifecycle. The main idea is to improve quality by moving tasks to the left as early in the lifecycle as possible.

Modern CI/CD typically involves an eight-step process as shown in the figure below. Many security teams become involved only in the concluding steps of operations and monitoring. 

Embedding security in each of these steps starts with a clearly defined strategy given below..

Practical steps to implement shift left security in your organization.

  • Define your shift-left security strategy. The first step of your journey is to define where you intend to go. The strategy document should include what shift-left means in your organization and also about the vision, ownership, responsibility, milestones and metrics. 

As the strategy document matures over time, you must not spend too much of your time in trying to perfect it. Over time iteration is essential.

  • Understand where and how software is created in your organization. This is one of the most challenging aspects of shifting security left in your organization. In this step the goal is to first look into your organization and document the overall flow of software in your company. Each business unit will usually have its own software development process and tools. Key items to identify in this stage include who is developing code, how it flows from development laptops to production and which systems they are using to enable the process. This may also be referred to as the CI/CD pipeline. 

There has been a rise of new automation tools such as Jenkins to help with the CI/CD pipeline. Jenkins integrates with various developer tools including code repository systems like Github and bug tracking systems like Jira. 

  • Identify and implement security quality guardrails. Software quality has not historically included security in spite of quality being an important part of software development.

Each step of the software development process is an opportunity to give feedback and look for security issues. The most effective security teams start small and they arm the development teams with simple and effective tools that become part of the daily development routine

  • Assess and continuously train development teams in secure coding. It has to be ensured that those who do the majority of your coding should create secure codes in the first place. 

In a recent survey published by DevOps service provider GitLab, it was found that 70% of programmers are expected to write secure code, but only 25% think that their organization’s security practices are “upto the mark”. If just 25% of developers feel this way, security teams have a lot of work to do in this area.

Implementing the practical steps for shift left security will make security synonymous with development for your organization. It’s critical that security controls be API-driven and automated as your organization moves towards shift left as a part of its cloud journey. Palo Alto Networks Prisma empowers security teams to do exactly that by securing DevOps and your CI/CD pipeline.

What shift-left security looks like:

In Scenario No. 1, development starts without security. 

In Scenario No. 2, the security teams have invested the time to understand the development process in their organization. 

Shift left for enabling DevSecOps culture:

A practical way to shift security left across the entire development lifecycle is essential for enabling a culture of DevSecOps.

Build phase: During the build phase, Prisma cloud enables developers to scan for vulnerabilities and unsecure configurations using security plugins that seamlessly integrate into existing tools. It also enables you to find unsecure configurations used and it prevents unsecure software from progressing farther in the pipeline, thus forcing the developer to resolve the issues.

Deployment phase: Prisma Cloud ensures that when it’s time to deploy, even the code that passed the build quality gate is free of security issues. If your defined security requirements are not met, it can again stop the deployment. This way, you can feel confident you’re only deploying secure code.

Run phase: With vulnerable code unable to reach production, your overall attack surface is greatly reduced. Prisma Cloud provides comprehensive runtime security, automatically ranking every issue by risk severity as well as how it impacts your unique usage and environment. The security teams can continuously monitor all their native infrastructure/apps and can quickly prioritize remediation efforts, thanks to Prisma Cloud.

By automatically informing developers when they must fix and redeploy their code, only Prisma Cloud makes DevSecOps a reality. 

Shift left in Software development lifecycle

Implementing software development lifecycle (SDLC) security affects every phase of the software development process. Secure software development life cycle processes incorporate security as a component of every phase of the SDLC.

Different software development life cycles like agile, waterfall, spiral, big bang etc have somewhat similar steps.

Securing software development stage by stage.

  • Requirement stage. The software development process starts with proper planning. Requirements and functional specifications from all stakeholders are gathered in this phase. It’s important to identify the security considerations considering the requirements and functional specifications.
  • Design stage.This stage ascertains the creation of software design of high quality To create an architectural design, factors such as type of technology to be used, project deadline, budget and other constraints are taken into consideration. Here the functional requirements describe what should happen, whereas the  security requirements usually focus on what shouldn’t. 
  • Development stage. In this stage the design is translated into code The software is defended against high-risk vulnerabilities by using best practices of secure development. As a result, there will be no need in fixing such vulnerabilities later in the software life cycle, which decreases overhead costs of the customers.
  • Verification stage. In this stage the applications go through a testing cycle to ensure that they meet the requirements. Unless this test is cleared, the application is not deployed.
  • Maintenance and evolution stage. At this stage, vulnerabilities may appear either due to the code written by the developers or via some external sources. Addressing these types of issues must be planned for and accommodated in future releases. 

Secure software development is an ultimate example of shift left security. You can ensure a high quality code by detecting and reducing the number of bugs early in the software development lifecycle. Also, your development team will save time and money by embracing testing in the early stages of software development

We at technosprout have partnered with the best security solutions for you. Do visit our website to know more about how you can enhance your cloud security.

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