5 Latest DevOps Security Threats You Should Know About

DevOps security challenges have been at the forefront of discussions among business IT leaders in recent years. Advancements in the software development process have led to unprecedented innovation, but they have also created new risks that threaten the integrity of software products.

In fact, the average number of security events increased by 15% in 2021 alone, with more than 40% of companies feeling their current security strategies aren’t keeping pace with digital transformation. A new approach to security management is needed. 

In this article, we will outline five of the most commonly experienced DevOps security challenges and discuss how a DevSecOps approach can help mitigate them. So, whether you are a DevOps practitioner or simply interested in the latest IT security threats, read on to learn about the five hurdles of DevOps security and how to conquer them.

What is DevOps Security and Its Goal?

DevOps Security is a set of practices and methodologies focusing on integrating security into the DevOps process. It involves development, operations, and security teams working together to incorporate security across the software development lifecycle, from planning through deployment and maintenance.

DevOps security addresses security issues early in software development to reduce security breaches. This is accomplished by implementing security measures like vulnerability assessments, security testing, and continuous monitoring.

DevOps security also emphasizes the need for automation, continuous integration, and continuous delivery in the software development process. This means security is integrated into every phase, making it easier to discover and resolve security concerns early on.

The 5 DevOps Security Threats You Need To Be Aware Of

DevOps methodology can speed up software delivery, but it also brings new security risks. This article highlights the top five DevOps security threats that businesses should be aware of to protect their applications and data. Here are the five DevOps security threats that every organization should keep in mind:

1. Development Speed

DevOps is about delivering software quicker, but if security is not properly integrated, it can compromise speed. As development teams push out code more quickly, security checks and testing may be skipped, leading to missed vulnerabilities.

DevOps teams can incorporate security techniques like safe coding, automated security testing, and continuous monitoring into their development process to reduce this risk. By doing so, they may detect and fix vulnerabilities early in the development cycle, decreasing security risks.

One example of how development speed can impact security is using third-party libraries and components. To deliver software more quickly, development teams may rely heavily on third-party libraries and components to save time and effort. However, these components may contain vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit. To mitigate this risk, DevOps teams should conduct regular vulnerability assessments and implement patch management processes to ensure that known vulnerabilities are addressed in a timely manner. They should also limit the use of third-party components to those that have been vetted for security.

2. Collaboration 

DevOps encourages collaboration between teams and skill sets to speed up software development and delivery. However, if team members don’t understand security and the risks of their actions, this collaboration can pose security risks. Without security knowledge, software or infrastructure weaknesses might be exploited by attackers.

To address this risk, organizations can take several steps: 

  • First, they can ensure that all team members are trained on security best practices and aware of the potential risks associated with their actions. This can include regular security awareness training, secure coding practices, and incident response planning. 
  • Second, organizations should implement security controls and processes within their collaboration tools, such as access controls, authentication, and encryption. This can help to prevent unauthorized access or data leaks.

Let’s say a development team collaborates with an operations team to deploy a new application to production. If the operations staff doesn’t understand the security risks of deployment, they may expose critical data or infrastructure vulnerabilities. 

For example, they may accidentally leave a port open that should be closed or expose a password in a configuration file. 

To reduce this risk, the company should make sure both teams know security best practices and have access to the right security controls and processes. This can include using secure deployment scripts, implementing secure access controls, and monitoring the deployment process for security issues.

3. Containerization

Containerization is a technique used in DevOps to package software code, libraries, and dependencies into a lightweight, portable container that can be deployed easily across different environments. Containerization provides many benefits, such as improved scalability and faster deployment times. However, it introduces new security risks that must be addressed.

Containerization isolates apps and their dependencies into self-contained modules that operate on a host operating system. This allows for faster deployment times and greater flexibility, but also introduces new security risks. For instance, containers can share the host system’s kernel; therefore, a kernel vulnerability might compromise all containers on that host.

Additionally, container breakouts, when an attacker obtains access to the host system from within a container, and container poisoning, where an attacker injects harmful code or configuration into a container, are also vulnerabilities.

An example of a containerization security risk is a container breakout attack. This attack exploits a container runtime or kernel vulnerability to obtain access to the host system from within a container. After gaining access to the host system, the attacker may be able to access additional containers and host data.

To mitigate the risk of containerization security threats, organizations can implement best practices such as using trusted container images, minimizing the attack surface of containers, and regularly patching and updating container runtimes and kernels. Additionally, organizations should implement strong access controls and authentication mechanisms to ensure that only authorized users can access containerized environments.

4. Cloud Security

DevOps relies on cloud services. Cloud infrastructure and services let DevOps teams quickly build, launch, and scale apps. However, using cloud infrastructure also brings new security risks and challenges that organizations must address. Cloud security must be incorporated into DevOps to mitigate these threats and ensure data confidentiality, integrity, and availability.

To ensure cloud security in DevOps, organizations should implement a range of security controls and best practices, such as:

  • Securing access: Ensure that only authorized users and services can access cloud resources by implementing strong authentication and access controls, such as multifactor authentication and role-based access control.
  • Monitoring: Use monitoring and logging tools to detect and respond to security incidents in real time. This can include tools that monitor network traffic, server logs, and user activity.
  • Encryption: Use encryption to protect data both in transit and at rest. This can include encrypting data at the application layer, as well as using encryption for storage and database services.
  • Vulnerability management: Implement vulnerability management processes, such as regular scanning and patching, to ensure that cloud resources are up-to-date and free from vulnerabilities.
  • Compliance: Ensure that cloud resources comply with relevant industry and regulatory standards, such as HIPAA, PCI DSS, and GDPR.

Terraform and CloudFormation are examples of Infrastructure as Code (IaC) solutions that may incorporate cloud security into DevOps. These tools allow organizations to define their cloud infrastructure and configuration as code, which can be versioned, reviewed, and audited like any other code. By implementing security controls, such as encryption and access controls, in the IaC code, organizations can ensure that their cloud resources are secure from the start of the DevOps process. Additionally, organizations can use continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipelines to automatically deploy, test, and validate their cloud infrastructure code changes. This ensures that any security issues are caught and remediated quickly.

5. Process Integration

Integrating security into the DevOps process ensures security is not overlooked in pursuing faster software delivery. However, it requires coordination between different teams, including development, operations, security, and compliance. If teams don’t operate well together, security holes and vulnerabilities can lead to breaches and other security issues.

To integrate security into the DevOps process, organizations must adopt a collaborative approach emphasizing communication, coordination, and shared responsibility. This can be done by implementing processes and tools that enable security to be integrated into the DevOps pipeline, such as automated security testing, vulnerability scanning, and continuous monitoring. It also involves educating and training team members on security best practices and establishing a culture of security awareness.

One example of effective security integration in DevOps is using a DevSecOps pipeline, which incorporates security into the entire software development lifecycle. This pipeline involves integrating security controls and tools into each stage of the DevOps process, from planning and development to testing and deployment. Security testing may be incorporated into the continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) process to scan code for vulnerabilities before deployment. This makes security a vital aspect of development. Security teams collaborate with development and operations teams to discover and fix security concerns across the pipeline, making the application more safe and more robust.

Integrating Security into the DevOps Process

DevOps security is an essential component of any organization’s overall security strategy. It involves integrating security into the DevOps process, collaborating between different teams, automating security controls, and continuously monitoring and improving security. While there are various DevOps security threats that organizations must be aware of, they can be mitigated through effective coordination, communication, and education. 

By adopting a DevSecOps approach, organizations can ensure that security is integrated into the entire software development lifecycle, from planning and development to deployment and maintenance. This enables them to build and deliver more secure and resilient applications while maintaining the agility and speed that DevOps is known for.