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How to ensure your DevOps tools & processes comply with security regulations and standards


The DevOps culture enables the development and operations teams to collaborate closely during the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC). While the operations team provides the necessary infrastructure, resources, and adherence to operations policies, the development team focuses on building and deploying the product. One way to achieve this is by using tools and processes that can be customized to meet the organization’s required needs and policies. 

While DevOps has the benefit of agility in developing a product, there is a rising concern about the security regulations and standards the products must maintain. Here are a few regulations that focus on data security 

  1. HIPAA is a set of national standards protecting the privacy of patient health data
  2. ISO/IEC 27001 is a globally recognized standard for information security management systems
  3. PCI DSS regulations apply to any company that handles credit card payments and processes cardholder data
  4. Developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), SOC 2 is a set of auditing standards to ensure the security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy of customer data

To address this concern, there is a need to adopt a DevOps culture with integrated security practices. Here are some best practices to ensure your DevOps tools comply with security regulations and standards 

1. Hardening cloud deployment 

Cloud services can be a double-edged sword depending on the configuration. If the configuration isn’t done right, it can open significant security holes and increase the overall attack surface; reviewing how cloud services are used is an important consideration. Everything from development environments to production and access controls and permissions must be carefully configured to ensure maximum security.

2. Moving towards a DevSecOps culture

Developing a DevSecOps structure requires collaboration between the Security and the development teams to ensure that security becomes an integral part of the SDLC. Exposure of coding protocols to the security team can help them assess threats, and educating the development team on secure coding protocols, breach prevention steps, and other essential security, best practices can go a long way in building a strong and resilient product.

While shifting to a new culture might be daunting for any organization, starting small with a few dedicated teams before scaling up might be the way forward.

3. Choosing the appropriate tools for the job: 

We can place checkposts along the development pipeline and use the right tools to ensure security. The conventional checkposts are kept at the end of the SDLC, which accommodates unsecure coding practices that become integrated into the build; correcting this can be a time and labor-intensive process that delays deployment. The move to a DevSecOps culture paired with developers trained in secure coding practices can mean that these checkposts can be placed earlier in the pipeline, ensuring a more secure product. 

Static Application Security Testing (SAST), Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST), Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST), and Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tools can be used at these above-mentioned checkposts for monitoring any potential security threats in real-time. The decisions on how many such checkposts and their locations along the pipeline will have to be made after some consideration and crosstalk. The resulting code will be tested and secure. A disclaimer to remember is that too many such checkposts would mean slower deployments, but adequate training can significantly reduce this delay.

4. Training the development team

Development teams will require training on

  • Secure coding practices and ways to build in security while developing. This can go a long way in ensuring the SDLC runs smoothly without setbacks due to the security checkpoints put in place. 
  • Classifying security threats as coding defects can lead to a robust code build. By implementing this mindset while developing, security can be placed into every part of the SDLC.
  • Moving to a DevSecOps culture would also mean adopting a zero trust system with the Principle Of Least Privilege (POLP) and Role Based Access Control (RBAC) which can further strengthen security. It would monitor log activity and establish access control which would be beneficial in complying with the security protocols required. 
  • Using DevSecOps tools and security checkposts will need training, too, as both the development and the security team will have to collaborate to resolve any failures detected in the code.

5. Regular security audits 

It is important to conduct security audits of the DevOps tools to ensure compliance. This means reviewing the tools for vulnerabilities and weaknesses that have the potential to lead to non-compliance with security standards. Irrespective of whether internal or external auditors perform these audits, regular audits can help stay up to date with the latest security threats.

Infrastructure-as-code is a popular way for DevOps to maintain consistent configuration across servers, automate repeated tasks and enable faster deployments. Organizations use scripts and configuration files to build this infrastructure, and regular automated checks against these scripts can validate every change so that new attack surfaces are not formed, either intentionally or due to human error.

6. Penetration testing

Penetrating testing is an authorized attempt to exploit vulnerabilities in the infrastructure; this can determine if malicious activity is possible and allows for precautions to be taken against it. After the change is made, manual penetration testing can slow down deployment, hence is more useful during the early stages of transitioning to a DevSecOps model.

In DevOps culture, Development and Operations take a center seat while security can be ignored; this makes the product vulnerable to attacks that can cause significant loss to organizations. Defying the convention of a post-build security check and adopting a DevSecOps approach is key. Doing so allows security to be integrated into every pipeline step. This is a great way to ensure that the DevOps tools and the products built will comply with security regulations and standards.


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