DevOps vs DevSecOps: 6 ways that integrating security boosts DevOps

In an age when people freely share even their most sensitive personal data on many online apps and services, we have grown to expect businesses will protect this information during any engagement or transaction. Yet as software environments become more complex, there are more ways than ever for malicious actors to exploit vulnerabilities, even in the application development and delivery pipeline.

If security concerns are driving you to review your approach to development, you’re likely weighing DevOps vs DevSecOps, and considering how to incorporate security practices into your software delivery workflows, to protect your users and your business.

Why application security measures are failing

Traditional application security measures are not living up to the challenges presented by dynamic and complex cloud-native architectures and rapid software release cycles. Security Boulevard reports that 95% of organizations say they’ve experienced at least one successful application exploit in the past year. One reason for this failure is traditional application security tools slow developers down. Sixty-six percent of companies say they “sometimes or occasionally” skip security scans to meet release deadlines, putting already vulnerable apps at greater risk.

Many organizations already employ DevOps, an approach to developing software that combines development and operations in a continuous cycle to build, test, release, and refine software in an efficient feedback loop.

Most often, security practices, like testing for and managing vulnerabilities, happen in a separate step, by a separate team, using separate tools–often at odds with the release schedule.

DevSecOps is the practice of integrating security into the DevOps workflow. Just as DevOps requires a lifestyle shift to integrate two teams at opposite ends of the delivery lifecycle, DevSecOps requires a similar mindset shift as teams integrate security tools and practices into this cadence.

How DevSecOps up-levels DevOps

As you think about how to evolve your processes to include security as an equal, third party in your development-operations partnership, it will be helpful to understand these six key ways that adopting DevSecOps can boost your entire software delivery life cycle.

1. Security happens during, not after development

Traditionally, application security testing sits as a discrete stage between development and operations. While DevOps practices have sped up this approach — develop, test and secure, operate — DevSecOps unites the three stages into one effort coordinated by a single team with access to the same data.

Rather than relying on post-development scans and assessments to find potential application security issues, DevSecOps integrates application security testing earlier in the development and operations workflow. This “shift left” approach to security enables developers to address issues before they reach production, which speeds up delivery and reduces risk.

2. Security can “shift left”—and “shift right”

While the ability to “shift left”, to address security in pre-production, helps improve efficiency during development, it is also vital that security practices “shift right”, by maintaining visibility into applications running in a production environment. Here’s why:

  1. Production is where most exploits take place. Applications are open to the internet and accessed by unknown entities, some of which may have malicious intent.
  1. Production is where off-the-shelf and home-grown applications run. These applications may not be subject to your usual pre-production testing regimen and may fall through the cracks.

Because application vulnerabilities can be addressed during development and evaluated in the run-time context of the production environment, the time and effort required to remediate those vulnerabilities is much less.

3. Security is by design, not tacked on

The most hardened applications are those for which security was a key consideration all along. DevSecOps practices ensure that applications do not rely on tacked-on protections by giving security staff a seat at the table and incorporating their input from the very beginning of app development and operations.

The result is security by design. Instead of discovering application vulnerabilities with post-release security solutions that slow software rollouts at best — and require recalls at worst — the DevSecOps approach makes security a native component of key application frameworks and functions.

4. Security is a shared responsibility

When considering DevOps vs DevSecOps, it becomes obvious that both look to integrate disparate processes using a combination of agility and automation. One contribution security can make to DevOps is to place emphasis on the idea that everyone is responsible for security.

DevOps teams’ relationships with security staff can range from apathetic to downright hostile if DevOps staff does not understand the importance of the security practices suggested or if they feel these practices obstruct their work. In a recent study by ESG, 27% of respondents admitted their application development and DevOps teams do not even work with their cybersecurity teams due to fear this will slow them down.

Truly implementing DevSecOps requires a cultural shift. Rather than simply joining three disparate disciplines under common management, DevSecOps expects every individual to exercise security best practices relevant to their role and to remain in a security-focused mindset. The result is a shared responsibility model that helps ensure a secure product.

5. Shared security intelligence breaks down silos

While DevOps looks to integrate once-disparate processes, DevSecOps looks to break down more of the long-established walls between organizational departments. These security “silos” — the data and applications that each department handles in its own specific way — create immediate inconveniences and signal deeper problems with observability and sharing of critical information.

DevSecOps efforts level the playing field by creating a framework of shared solutions, data, and security protocols that all teams leverage throughout the software delivery lifecycle. While use cases and customizations may vary for different processes, shared resources that integrate into a common workflow help to solve for silos at scale.

6. Integrated security enables automation

Both DevOps and DevSecOps prioritize simplifying processes through automation. For DevOps, automation streamlines design, testing, and deployment processes and increases the speed of application development.

Similarly, integrating application security earlier in the software development process enables teams to identify, resolve, and prevent application vulnerabilities early in pre-production, but also in production. This integrated approach makes it possible for teams to reliably automate vulnerability detection and security practices into a continuous delivery workflow.

A single solution to facilitate the transition to DevSecOps

While the progression from DevOps to DevSecOps is usually more about adapting processes than implementing infrastructure, the benefits of integrating security into the software delivery process are clear. No longer an afterthought, application security becomes a shared responsibility that’s driven by design, helping to break down silos and enabling developers to address security issues throughout the software development life cycle.

To make this integration possible, organizations need a single source of automatic software intelligence that can enable DevSecOps to deliver and run digital services securely with speed and confidence. The Dynatrace Software Intelligence Platform’s Application Security module, powered by the AI engine, Davis®, continuously watches entire production and pre-production environments to identify any changes and provide precise answers about the source, nature, and severity of any vulnerabilities as they arise in real-time.

Dynatrace automatically analyzes and prioritizes alerts and eliminates false positives, helping teams speed up their CI/CD pipelines, identify quality issues earlier in the software lifecycle, automate manual quality validation processes, and automatically detect, assess, and remediate open-source and third-party vulnerabilities. With this automatic, real-time software intelligence, teams can understand risks in context and focus on what matters.

Learn more about securing modern applications and infrastructure, and how to integrate security into your DevSecOps initiative by reading the ESG report The Maturation of Cloud-native Security: Securing Modern Applications and Infrastructure, or sign up for your free trial today.

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