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New Research: Security in a DevOps World

by Ben Tomhave  |  April 30, 2014  |  Comments Off on New Research: Security in a DevOps World

Hot off the presses, new research from Sean Kenefick and me titled “Security in a DevOps World,” which is available to Gartner for Tech Professionals subscribers at www.gartner.com/document/2725217.

Some of the key takeaways from this research include:

  • Automation is key! AppSec programs must find ways to integrate testing and feedback capabilities directly into the build and release pipeline in order to remain useful and relevant.
  • Risk triaging is imperative to help differentiate between apps with lower and higher sensitivity. We recommend leveraging a pace-layered approach to assist with building a risk triage capability.
  • Engineer for resilience. It’s impossible to stop all the bad things. Instead, we need to build fault-tolerate environments that can rapidly detect and correct incidents of all variety.

We also have found there continues to be some confusion around DevOps, and much trepediation as to the ever-shifting definition. Within security, this uncertainty translates into negative perception of DevOps and typically assinine resistance to change. To that end, I wish to challenge 5 incorrect impressions.

DevOps doesn’t mean…

  • …no quality. QA doesn’t go away, but shifts to being more automated and incremental. This can be a Good Thing ™ as it can translate to faster identification and resolution of issues.
  • …no testing. Patently untrue. There should be testing, and likely lots of testing at different levels. Static analysis should occur on nightly code repository check-ins, and possibly at code check-in time itself. Dynamic analysis should occur as part of standard automated build testing. For high-risk apps, there should be time built-in for further detailed testing as well (like manual fuzzing and pentesting).
  • …no security. Security should be involved at the outset. Ideally, developers will work from a pre-secured “gold image” environment that already integrates host and network based measures. Further, as noted above, appsec testing should be heavily integrated and automated where possible. This automation should free appsec professionals to evolve into a true security architect role for consulting with developers and the business.
  • …no responsibility. On the contrary, DevOps implies empowerment and LOTS of shared responsibilities.
  • …no accountability. Perhaps one of the more challenging paradigm shifts is the notion that developers now be held directly responsible for the effects of their code. This accountability may not be as dire as termination, but should include paging devs in the middle of the night when their code breaks something in production. The telephone game must end. This doesn’t mean removing ops and security from the loop (quite the opposite), but it changes the role of ops and security (IRM).

I hope you enjoy this new research!

“Security in a DevOps World” (published April 29, 2014

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Ben Tomhave
Research Director
1 years at Gartner
19 years IT Industry

Ben is conducting research within the Security and Risk Management Strategies team under Gartner for Technical Professionals.




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