Digitization of state and local government services has been trending globally over the last decade. Naturally, COVID-19 accelerated demand for digital government services even more, so departments could continue serving citizens remotely while achieving efficiency and cost savings.
Unfortunately, public sector digitization attracts cybercriminals because they can potentially tap into citizens’ personally identifiable information (PII) and financial accounts. As digital SLED services proliferate, the software attack surface expands, and the increased frequency of cyberattacks on the sector is causing costly and disruptive breaches.
Agencies consequently find themselves on the front lines of cybersecurity, fighting to protect data and address increasingly complex software vulnerabilities while also striving to keep pace with demand for new citizen services.
Adopting DevSecOps to Address Software Security Risk
Research by Imperva Labs recently found that 50% of successful attacks happen at the application layer. Agencies need to address this risk with an approach that gives security equal priority to functionality and delivery speed at all stages of the software development life cycle (SDLC). Enter DevSecOps.
DevSecOps is the seamless integration of security into DevOps without reducing developers’ agility or speed, or even requiring them to leave their toolchain environment. It aims to build security iteratively across the entire development process using automated code scans to discover vulnerabilities early in the pipeline—when they are easier to fix—ensuring smooth and timely delivery.
The outcome of DevSecOps is secure, high-quality software delivered on schedule.
However, many agencies find this difficult to achieve. Let’s look at how the absence of a centralized application security strategy contributes.
Prior Investment in Multiple AppSec Point Solutions
Many SLED agencies, particularly larger ones, have deployed various solutions to mitigate software security risk. Lacking a unified strategy, they end up with a hodgepodge of disconnected solutions procured one by one to solve different challenges as they arise. These tools frequently require developers to interrupt their workflows to undertake manual code scans and remediation, which can both discourage developer adoption and slow development. This is contrary to the philosophy and principles of DevSecOps.
Tool Duplication and Inconsistent Use
Application security testing (AST) tools procured on a departmental or team-by-team basis are often overlapping or duplicative. This is not only cost-ineffective; it also raises issues of inconsistency and governance risk if teams look for different vulnerabilities or use the tools differently. Ultimately, an organization cannot ensure all the software it releases meets a consistently high security standard.
New Types of Code Introduce New Risk
Government agencies are turning to the cloud for scalability and efficiency as they digitize. However, cloud native software development introduces new types of code- and software-based infrastructure. These are quickly becoming attack vectors, meaning infrastructure as code (IaC) must also be rigorously analyzed and scanned for vulnerabilities to mitigate a breach.
Here, agencies face a choice: They can procure another standalone tool to mitigate IaC risk, adding another task to their developers’ already heavy workloads. Alternatively, they can centralize and consolidate their AST program while expanding it to cover all conceivable types of code that form modern application development. To achieve the nirvana of streamlined DevSecOps, we advise taking the second approach.
How a Consolidated AppSec Strategy and Tool Set Helps Achieve DevSecOps
Agencies can accelerate their journey to DevSecOps and reduce costs by deploying a single AST solution that can scan all types of code at all points in the SDLC without requiring developers to leave their preferred environment.
Using automated triggers to scan early and throughout the development cycle, and subsequently delivering results, remediation guidance, and best-fix location recommendations back into the developer environment, makes vulnerabilities easier to fix and less likely to push back delivery deadlines.
A unified AST solution from Checkmarx enables DevSecOps by integrating seamlessly into the delivery pipeline and scanning from the IDE, source code repository, and CI/CD environments. Whether the code is custom, third-party, or IaC, Checkmarx offers a best-of-breed scanning solution that makes code security integral to developer workflows.
Deploying a single solution offers consistency for risk management and governance. Once an agency has determined its software risk tolerance and identified material vulnerabilities, it can prompt developers to prioritize fixing the riskiest issues. Checkmarx solutions provide customizable queries and reports to help ensure this is achievable for all teams, streamlining management and remediation of vulnerabilities in line with the DevSecOps ideal.
Finally, a single unified tool that supports all teams removes the need to maintain and update multiple point solutions. In the long term, this will save time and money—both resources in short supply at most public sector organizations.
Centralize to Optimize AppSec
As state and local government organizations face increasing cyber threats, they need to optimize their defense. By centralizing an application security strategy and consolidating developers’ tools, as well as ensuring they can handle all code types, agencies can achieve DevSecOps and strengthen their security posture against breaches.