Glossary: What is DevSecOps? – Everything You Need To Know

What is DevSecOps? – Everything You Need To Know

DevSecOps has become an accepted best practice for ensuring that security is taken into consideration throughout the development lifecycle. DevOps was born from the need to foster collaboration and automation within development teams. DevSecOps takes that goal a step further to ensure that application code is secure from the start.


To that end, DevSecOps brings together a diverse range of stakeholders to optimize an organization’s ability to create more secure code in the first place, as well as monitor for issues and remediate them quickly. As such, DevSecOps is a critical component of modern application security.

Keep reading for a deep dive into DevSecOps, including how it works, why it’s important, how it relates to DevOps, and more.

Understanding the definition of DevSecOps

Again, DevSecOps is a collaborative approach to software security that brings together three key groups of stakeholders:


  • Developers, who are responsible for writing secure code, as well as for implementing patches to fix security vulnerabilities after they are discovered.
  • Security analysts and engineers, who take the lead in identifying and assessing threats and risks.
  • Operations engineers, meaning IT engineers who are responsible for managing and supporting applications in production – including monitoring for security risks and deploying patches to remediate vulnerabilities.


Those, at least, are the core participants in DevSecOps. But arguably, the definition of DevSecOps is even broader because developers, security teams, and operations teams are not the only stakeholders in security. Other teams have a role to play, too.


For example, test automation engineers, who help to test software as part of the software development lifecycle (SDLC), can help ensure that automatic security tests occur prior to every application release. Likewise, data engineers can assist with software security by helping to ensure that any sensitive data that applications read or write is properly accessible.


The point we’re getting at here is that although basic definitions of DevSecOps typically emphasize collaboration between just developers, security teams, and operations teams, the “spirit” of DevSecOps is really about achieving collaboration between everyone who can help enhance security – including but not limited to the groups referenced in the term DevSecOps.

The importance of DevSecOps

DevSecOps helps ensure that the various stakeholders in software security work together efficiently. In turn, DevSecOps delivers a range of benefits in areas like reduced security risks, increased efficiency, lower costs, and more. 


Let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits:

Better security coverage

Without DevSecOps, the various parts of an organization would struggle to work together effectively on security, leading to a higher risk of oversights that could trigger attacks.


For example, developers might not know about the latest threat intelligence risks because reading threat intelligence reports is not typically a job responsibility for software developers. As a result, developers may fail to anticipate a new type of injection attack when writing the code for an application, leading to a vulnerability.


However, tracking threat intelligence is a key responsibility for security analysts. If security analysts are in constant conversation with developers, and if there are security checks built into the software development lifecycle to ensure that code is scanned to detect the latest vulnerabilities, the chances of deploying vulnerable code are much lower.

Increased efficiency

At the same time, DevSecOps breeds efficiency because it minimizes the amount of redundant work that needs to occur to find and fix security flaws. To go back to the example we just used about a new type of injection attack that developers aren’t initially aware of, imagine that the security team writes tests that can scan for the vulnerability. In an organization that has embraced DevSecOps, those security tests would be integrated directly into the SDLC, and would likely run automatically before code is deployed.


But without DevSecOps, the security team might run its tests in a siloed fashion. As a result, it might not catch the new vulnerability until after developers have already completed other tests and deemed code ready to deploy into production. This means that when the security team does finally run the tests, the application release will have to be delayed and developers will have to go back to square one by rewriting the code that triggered the vulnerability. Then, they’ll need to run all of their tests once again, leading to wasted time and effort.

Proactive security

By helping teams identify security risks as early as possible in the SDLC, DevSecOps enables a more proactive approach to security. Instead of finding security vulnerabilities and other risks after applications are in production – at which point attackers can exploit the risks and potentially take control of an application or its host environment – organizations that embrace DevSecOps are better positioned to detect problems prior to pushing vulnerable code into production.


This approach to security, which is sometimes called shift-left (because it moves security to the “left” of the SDLC, in the sense that the SDLC is a linear process that goes from left to right), can significantly reduce the risk of successful attacks.

Lower costs and less wasted time

The earlier and faster an organization detects security issues, the lower the cost of fixing them typically is.


For example, consider again the scenario from above where a team doesn’t discover a security vulnerability until right before it’s planning to deploy a new application release into production. At that point, the time and effort required to remediate the vulnerability is much higher than it would be if the flaw had been detected right after developers merged the vulnerable code into a codebase.


If they’d caught the issue earlier – which they likely would have done if security tests were integrated into the SDLC as part of a DevSecOps strategy – fixing it would have been as simple as tweaking the vulnerable source code. From a time-efficiency and cost-efficiency standpoint, that beats having to overhaul an application release that has already been compiled and tested, and where updating the vulnerable code may require making changes to many other segments of code that depend on or reference the vulnerable code.

DevSecOps vs. DevOps

The concept of DevSecOps builds on DevOps. DevOps, a portmanteau of development and operations, is a concept that emphasizes collaboration between developers and operations teams when creating software. The goal behind DevOps is to make software development, deployment, and management more efficient and reliable by ensuring that the people who write software (i.e., developers) can collaborate effectively with those who manage software in production (i.e., operations teams).


DevSecOps extends this concept into the realm of security. Whereas DevOps focuses on the efficiency and agility of the software delivery process in general, the main focus of DevSecOps is on optimizing the security of software by ensuring that security insights, tools, and processes are tightly integrated into software development operations.


So, rather than thinking of DevSecOps as the opposite of DevOps, think of them as complementary concepts. For organizations that adopt DevOps principles as the basis for guiding software delivery, it’s a natural next step to take advantage of DevSecOps to help add efficiency and reliability to security processes, too.

DevSecOps processes: What are the components of DevSecOps?

DevSecOps is a high-level concept, not a concrete set of processes. All organizations that use DevSecOps embrace the principle that collaboration around security is a top priority, but different organizations may approach the implementation of DevSecOps in different ways.


That said, the core processes that drive DevSecOps success typically include:


  • Plan: Anticipate the main types of risks and threats that your applications are likely to face based on factors like the vertical you operate in and the application architectures you use.
  • Code: Implement your applications, being sure to follow best practices during the development phase for mitigating risks.
  • Test: Before and after compiling code, run tests to check for security risks.
  • Release: Provided your application has passed all of your tests, deploy it into production.
  • Monitor: Ensure that you have continuous monitoring processes in place so that you can analyze application behavior and events to identify anomalies that may stem from security risks.


Essentially, these are the same processes at the core of DevOps, but with DevSecOps, you build in security as a key focus.


To deliver the greatest value, DevSecOps processes like these should be automated and integrated into the SDLC to the extent possible. In other words, rather than treating processes like security tests and security monitoring as tasks that fall to the security team alone and that security analysts should perform using their own environments and schedules, DevSecOps encourages security tests to run alongside the other tests (like performance testing) that occurs in the SDLC. Likewise, security monitoring should occur in tandem with monitoring for software performance or availability issues.

DevSecOps implementation challenges

It’s not challenging to recognize the value of DevSecOps. However, actually implementing DevSecOps can be tough for several reasons.


One is that, again, there is no universal script to follow for implementing DevSecOps. Every organization needs to decide which specific DevSecOps tools and processes best meet its needs.


Another challenge is that DevSecOps often takes time to yield significant results. Don’t expect that announcing a DevSecOps initiative and updating processes accordingly will cut your vulnerability rate in half, for instance. Instead, approach DevSecOps as something that delivers small benefits at first, but that can have a major impact over time.


There is also a risk that, when implemented poorly, DevSecOps can slow down development operations. This happens when security processes are inefficient or are not effectively integrated into DevOps workflows, causing delays that hamper teams’ ability to release code early and often. But when implemented well, DevSecOps does the opposite: It helps teams create more secure code without slowing down development.

Finally, choosing the right tools for DevSecOps can prove challenging. Many vendors today label their solutions as being DevSecOps-friendly. But until you look closely at how the tools really work, you won’t know to what extent they enable security collaboration between diverse groups. 

DevSecOps tools

As with DevSecOps processes, there is no specific set of tools that every organization needs to practice DevSecOps. However, a standard DevSecOps toolbox should ensure that teams can perform the following:


  • Automated security testing across all relevant stages of the SDLC. This means the ability to test applications both statically and dynamically because (as we mentioned above) different types of tests can reveal different vulnerabilities.
  • Security monitoring tools, which can collect data like authentication events and network requests.
  • Security analytics software, which assesses monitoring data to detect anomalies (such as a string of failed login attempts, which often result from attempts to brute-force access credentials) that could signal an attack or attempted attack.
  • Security orchestration tools, to help manage security incident response and delegate tasks to different stakeholders.


When integrated with standard DevOps tools – such as source code management software and Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) platforms – the DevSecOps tools described above help teams find and fix security problems as efficiently as possible at every stage of the SDLC.

Best practices for effective DevSecOps

No matter which DevSecOps processes you implement or which tools you choose, consider adopting the following DevSecOps best practices to optimize the impact of a collaborative security strategy:


  • Embrace automation – within limits: The more effectively you automate DevSecOps processes, the more efficiency you’re likely to gain through DevSecOps. That said, don’t expect to automate every aspect of DevSecOps. Complex operations, such as reverse-engineering malware in response to a newly discovered threat, typically require manual effort.
  • Integrate tools: Having to move data manually between different DevOps and DevSecOps tools slows down security operations. It also forces engineers to switch context between tools, leading to lower efficiency. For both reasons, the more tool integrations you implement, the better. 
  • Extend DevSecOps beyond dev, sec and ops: As we noted, stakeholders in software security are not strictly limited to developers, security teams, and operations teams. Make sure, too, that other groups that have important roles to play in preventing and remediating security issues, such as automation engineers and data engineers, are also looped into your DevSecOps strategy.
  • Quantify DevSecOps impact: To measure the value of DevSecOps and track the impact of changes to your DevSecOps strategy, collect DevSecOps metrics like the average number of security vulnerabilities that make it into each application release and the median time required to remediate a vulnerability.

How Checkmarx can support your DevSecOps implementation

By delivering a suite of security solutions that cover application security needs at all stages of the SDLC, Checkmarx provides the core functionality that organizations need to make DevSecOps work in practice. Checkmarx SAST, DAST, SCA, and other testing capabilities maximize your ability to detect risks of all types as early as possible.


Plus, Checkmarx integrates seamlessly with a range of CI/CD platforms, making it easy to share security insights with developers, operations teams, and other stakeholders.


To learn more about how a comprehensive AppSec platform can enable you to achieve DevSecOps, read our “A Platform Approach to “Shift Everywhere” in DevOps” whitepaper. 

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