DevOps is a combination of software development and IT operations. It offers tons of advantages such as
- Increase IT productivity
- Faster software development
- Reduce maintenance and upgrade cost
- Improve customer experience and satisfaction
That is why DevOps is dominating the enterprise software development landscape. But what does DevOps have to do with IT security? Can it teach you some valuable lesson which will help you secure your organization from emerging cybersecurity threats? The short answer is yes.
In this article, you will learn about important lessons DevOps can teach you about IT security.
Treat Cybersecurity Like a Software
Today’s software is composed of many different modules, developed using many different libraries and components. Developers need to ensure that the components are not only reliable, secure, compatible but suitable for performing the task at hand. Thanks to APIs and standard protocols, developers can integrate security into these components.
When you think of security as a software, you can make changes according to the evolving threat landscape as you would do when you change a single component based on client requirement. This allows your cybersecurity infrastructure to evolve fast enough to keep pace with the dynamic cybersecurity industry. What’s more, you don’t even have to reconfigure and restart the entire security stack to achieve this.
Sprint, Sprint, Sprint
Security teams are stressed out, burned out and understaffed. On the other hand, cyber criminals and hackers are relaxed, organized and more advanced. Security professionals are responsible for vetting every change, validate inputs, secure devices, data, network, apps, cheap dedicated servers and much more.
Software developers use sprints, which enable them to make clearly defined, small scope changes quickly. Security team can adopt this concept from the development team. This can not only streamline incident response to common vulnerabilities and exposures but also puts them in a much better position when responding to sophisticated attacks and techniques used by hackers.
Prioritize Users and Interactions
DevOps is based on agile software development methodology. One of the highlights of agile methodology is that it prioritizes people and interactions over processes and tools. Yes, you can not ignore tools altogether because tools play an important role in creation and implementation of people centric discipline in DevOps. The only difference is that these tools should support the discipline instead of the discipline being heavily reliant on a single tool.
By forcing every user interaction and process to fit into that single tool, you are putting all your eggs in one basket, which can be a risky proposition. Just like in software development, a modular approach means that your security will rely on several different tools instead of one, which outlines different parts of the system and processes. This allows you to choose the best tool for each component and process.
Unfortunately, having too many different tools can make your security environment more complex, which can put extra burden on security teams when it comes to management. Thankfully, security incident and event management coupled with a security console can help them resolve this issue. It allows them to manage and orchestrate realms of enterprise security. Another downside of this approach is that security teams will have to familiarize themselves with a number of different tools and interfaces. On the positive note, cybersecurity professionals learn from software developers who manage changes in sprints. This makes it easier for them to manage it without getting burned out.
In a waterfall software development methodology, there is only a single milestone. After the application is deployed and handed off, the development team starts celebrating their success. Same thing happens in cybersecurity. Security solution deployment is treated like an event and there is always a deployment deadline. Even after the deployment, tools are monitored and used extensively. Even if the changes need to be made, it should be made according to a schedule.
Continuous deployment has changed all that. In continuous deployment, each component is treated as a separate security infrastructure and are only allowed to make changes at the end of the sprint. What if a new type of cybersecurity attack targets your business? Security tools are reconfigured and redeployed to respond to the latest threat.
This means that it is a continuous cycle of defense which does not allow security teams to go into a rest state. In continuous deployment, everything is constantly redeveloped and reconfigured. This allows security professionals to change as quickly as hackers, which drastically increase their chances of protecting their business from zero-day vulnerabilities. Since you don’t know much about zero-day vulnerabilities, protecting these types of attacks are usually the hardest to protect.
You might be thinking what telling stories have to do with DevOps or cybersecurity? Telling relevant stories is powerful enough that it can form the basis of improvement and development in DevOps. Stories go well beyond that. It can help you develop new processes, implement new security policies, create training programs around it and even implement new technologies in the enterprise.
More importantly, stories can also help you answer many questions such as:
- Which assets need to be protected and why?
- What will happen if these assets are unprotected or compromised?
- What impact will a cybersecurity attack can have on your business processes and productivity?
When you answer these questions by using user stories, you can better understand the business impact these security incidents could have on your business. Additionally, stories in DevOps go a long way in understanding and removing user constraints. Similarly, you can use these stories to reduce friction for users and increase friction for cyber attackers. In short, you should make it easy for users to login but make it difficult for hackers to break into your systems.
Testing and Improvement is An Ongoing Process
The primary objective of DevOps is to bring continuous improvement in your organization. Similarly, when you implement the continuous improvement concept in cybersecurity, you can align it with the principles of six sigma. To achieve this, you will have to integrate constant improvement in your processes which is verified by continuous testing. Just like in sprints, you can design tests that only focus on a single attack vector but still are important enough for the organization. Rigorous testing should be made an integral part of your deployment process just like software development.
What have you learned from DevOps about IT security? Let us know in the comments section below.