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Why Is Cloud DevSecOps Important?

Benefits of shifting cloud security left

By Jason Chavarría | October 13, 2022 | Category: Philosophy

Are you deploying your application in the cloud? Then the more reason to implement DevSecOps! Even though the cloud is indeed the way forward, it poses further security concerns. Misconfiguration of cloud services being among the main causes of disaster. The DevSecOps culture helps organizations by making cloud security a continuous process. In DevSecOps, security is seamlessly integrated into the software development lifecycle (SDLC) from the earliest stages. Since cloud security is shifted to the left, any issues can be spotted earlier and remediated to prevent successful cyberattacks.

Cloud security done right with DevSecOps

Teams choose cloud infrastructure because it allows them to build software solutions on customized modern architectures. And as it is highly scalable, they can increase their application's use of cloud servers to satisfy their customers' need for speed and effectiveness. Besides, cloud services are backed up by giants such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft. Remarkably, software development teams get these benefits for costs that are lower than they otherwise would be.

The cloud is, then, at the center of the digital transformation that is going on everywhere. So it's crucial to have the security of this environment at the top of our minds. The traditional DevOps approach to development is to create an application on a given infrastructure and test the security when the software solution is about to be released. So, the application development and IT operations teams work in isolation from the security team. When the latter is siloed as in DevOps, the verification of security becomes a hindrance, as it forces developers to go back and rework to fix problems that could have been dealt with earlier.

DevSecOps aims to join together from the very start the efforts of the development, operations and security teams, making security an integral part of the entire SDLC. In regard to the cloud, this culture proposes to shift left the detection of vulnerabilities in proprietary code, infrastructure as code (IaC) files and container images, as well as of misconfiguration of assets, both proprietary and of a cloud provider, and problems with third-party dependencies, such as outdated or noncompliant software. In DevSecOps, security assessments are continuous and, although there could be a great deal of automation applied to them, they are also performed manually. As we will elaborate further below, the benefits of bringing cloud security to the early SDLC stages involve, in few words, launching more secure, innovative and competitive software faster.

Key issues cloud DevSecOps helps tackle

Though the threats are many, just to illustrate the use of cloud DevSecOps, we could mention a few common issues that could be detected and addressed earlier than in the traditional development and operations testing phase. Two such cases are errors in coding and service configuration, which pose a serious risk to information security. Our pen testers repeatedly find credentials for cloud services in the source codes of clients. (This was evidenced clearly in our 2022 State of Attacks.) And to make things worse, these credentials are often for roles with excessive permissions. Attackers who get their hands on them can extract some more secrets, modify web pages and files, shut down servers, and more.

Another issue is the security of infrastructure as code files. The cloud brings teams the benefit of being able to write infrastructure (e.g., databases, networks, virtual machines) definitions, which guarantees reliably creating the same environments over and over. Such definitions can be stored in a repository and deployed using continuous integration. Now, when teams create new environments (even if only for experimentation), they need them to be secure. For example, problems arise when these definitions fail to apply the principle of least privilege, thus granting certain accounts privileges that are higher than necessary. Or when encryption algorithms don't properly protect files, thus potentially compromising sensitive data. The security of information is compromised in a similar way to the one we mentioned above. Fortunately, static application security testing (SAST) can identify these flaws pretty early; no need to wait until the software testing phase or being hit by a cyberattack.

Along with securing infrastructure before deployment into the cloud, there's the need to assess containers, whose popularity is rising due to the adoption of the cloud. These are "packages of application code and dependencies that, by virtualizing operating systems, allow applications to run quickly and reliably in any environment." Early and constant SAST and software composition analysis (SCA) help find vulnerable code and dependencies in such packages that can open the door to exploitation. Further, continuous manual dynamic application security testing (DAST) is advised to find network and storage misconfigurations that could allow unauthorized access and sensitive data disclosure, respectively.

Benefits of DevSecOps in the cloud

These are the main benefits of implementing cloud DevSecOps:

  • Closer collaboration: Development, security and operations teams unite for the shared cause that is delivering secure software fast in the cloud. Some individuals, like DevSecOps engineers, can lead the way to secure the infrastructure while training fellow developers on the basics.

  • Faster deployment: DevOps had already boosted speed for putting changes into production. Since DevSecOps minimizes the problems with security that are encountered just before software release in the cloud, it's considered the natural evolution of DevOps that augments deployment frequency.

  • Faster response to change: As teams release more frequently in the cloud, they can respond to innovation and improvement needs faster. This is true especially for taking full advantage of cloud-native infrastructure to keep pace with the competition.

  • Faster vulnerability remediation: As our 2022 State of Attacks shows, the mean time to remediate security issues is reduced by 30% if organizations break the build (i.e., prevent software with open vulnerabilities from being released) and are thus urged to address them.

  • Lower remediation costs: Since vulnerabilities are remediated early, costs (e.g., time-related, monetary) are lower than when this is done in the production stage.

DevSecOps cloud security with Fluid Attacks

At Fluid Attacks, we assess cloud security with comprehensive security testing throughout the entire SDLC. (Check out our DevSecOps tools.) We look at your source code combining the advantages of automated and manual methods to find exposed secrets and credentials for cloud services. Further, we assess IaC files for misconfigurations so that you can enhance the security of your cloud resources. We also look for outdated or vulnerable software dependencies or those whose licenses are not compatible with your organization's policies. You can track all the findings, manage remediation and get guidance from hackers on our Attack Resistance Management platform (ARM). All this and more, using our Continuous Hacking solution.

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