DevSecOps and Application Security Best Practices

DevSecOps - IRM Consulting & Advisory

DevSecOps & Application Security Best Practices

Application security must be baked into your SaaS Products and Services. Using DevSecOps methodologies ensures that security issues are addressed early during product design, during coding, testing and thoroughly during your CI/CD Pipelines. Most organizations today rely

heavily on software to run their business operations, which is why application security has become progressively more important as part of the development process.Developers have drastically changed the way they create and launch applications in the last few years. Their top priority is security, and application security is an important element in the DevSecOps methodology.

Application security highlights the security measures within the Application or Services to protect the confidentiality, integrity and privacy of code and data against unauthorized disclosure or modification. Besides building security safeguards into the codebase itself during the design and creation stages, application security describes approaches and systems to protect the Application or Services after it is launched. Numerous development processes and workflows are available to companies dealing with in-house software development. Some organizations employ DevOps processes, and some like to integrate security into DevOps, which means adopting DevSecOps processes to develop and operate the software.

The Basics of Waterfall, Agile, DevOps, and DevSecOps

Nowadays, most companies have transitioned from the traditional waterfall workflow to the more modern agile development methodologies. A waterfall model is one of the oldest approaches in software development, in which phases cannot overlap one another, and the next phase begins when the previous one completes. Waterfall is a very constraining model.

Agile, on the other hand, provides the flexibility of making changes in any phase of development and integrating security testing simultaneously in the software development.

DevSecOps - IRM Consulting & Advisory

What is DevOps?

The term DevOps refers to a combination of “development” and “operations,” in which both teams work together by using different practices and tools in order to develop software and services faster. It enables companies to deliver better quality and be more competitive in the market.

What is DevSecOps?

DevSecOps is similar to DevOps, with the addition of “security” in the middle of development and operation. It’s all about including security at the outset, which starts with choosing the right tools to incorporate security into the development process.

How DevSecOps Enhances Application Security

Prior to now, security was handled by a single team in the final phase of development. It wasn’t an issue when development cycles used to last a long time, but those days are long gone. Effective DevOps processes have accelerated the development cycle to mere weeks or even days. However, using traditional security protocols can bring all the effort to a screeching halt, even when the software is created by following an efficient DevOps process. Nowadays, security is also an essential responsibility integrated from beginning to end along with the collaborative team of DevOps.

Why Application Security Is Important

Because applications today are mostly connected to the cloud and are available on numerous networks, application security is essential. Therefore, the Application or Services are more vulnerable to possible security breaches and threats.

Security considerations should not only be taken into account at the network and infrastructure level but also at the Application, Kubernetes and Microservices level. Contrary to the past, cybercriminals nowadays are mainly targeting the application level. Interfaces and API’s. The application security testing methodology can point out the vulnerabilities within the Application or Services and help to prevent these attacks.

Application security is important to avoid the following Threats and Vulnerabilities:

  • Data Breaches
  • Mis-configuration and inadequate change control
  • Lack of cloud security architecture and strategy
  • Insufficient identity, credential, access, and key management
  • Account hijacking
  • Insider threat
  • Insecure interfaces and APIs
  • Weak control plane
  • Limited cloud usage visibility
  • Abuse and nefarious use of cloud services

Static versus Dynamic Testing (SAST vs DAST)

Many organizations use dynamic application security testing (DAST) or Penetration Testing during QA or just before production. DAST and Penetration Testing dynamically test an application for security vulnerabilities that can’t be detected using SAST (Static Application Security Testing) or SCA (Software Composition Analysis) Tools. Security teams often perform DAST and Penetration Testing periodically on live released applications for security compliance reasons. But running dynamic testing on live applications exposes them to cyber-attacks and potential data breaches.

In addition, while DAST and Penetration Testing can identify security vulnerabilities, they can’t identify the corresponding lines of code containing the vulnerability—something that SAST tools can do before an application is in production to reduce the attack surface for a potential vulnerability. As a result, critical security issues identified by DAST can be problematic to fix and can take a long time to resolve.

With companies now deploying to production multiple times a day, a live security vulnerability lurking in production code can spell disaster, affecting the bottom line instantly. This potential for far-reaching, immediate impact from a single vulnerability is why SAST sees more widespread adoption than DAST.

DevSecOps - IRM Consulting & Advisory

Open-Source Code Management

According to the Synopsys 2019 OSSRA report, the majority of codebases (96%) contained some open source code. More than 60% of the codebases contained known vulnerabilities, and 68% had license conflicts.

Policy violations can occur with security policies, technical/operational policies, or legal compliance policies that cite restricted legal licenses. With SCA Tools, developers can get information on the risks associated with their use of open-source components—including security vulnerabilities and license policy violations—early in the development process.

Shifting left eliminates unnecessary work later

Instead of sifting through and prioritizing long lists of security issues (including false positives) generated by “noisy” DAST tools post-release, security teams should instead work closely with their development teams to eliminate vulnerabilities earlier in the SDLC by using SAST, SCA, and interactive application security testing (IAST) tools.

IAST tools dynamically test applications during runtime, typically in the test and QA phases, to identify security vulnerabilities that SAST or SCA tools couldn’t find. Unlike DAST tools, which have slower analysis times, IAST tools can integrate seamlessly with build and test automation tools and quickly generate analysis results that identify specific lines of code where security vulnerabilities reside. As a result, developers can fix identified issues quickly and push their commits to run automated CI/CD workflows.

Common Vulnerabilities Plague SaaS Applications

SaaS employs applications that allow the software to be provided over the web as a service. The software can be easily accessed over the internet without going through the hassle of installation and maintenance. Because of this, you don’t have to deal with the complexity of software and hardware management.

But this convenience brings considerable vulnerabilities. Some short-sighted businesses want to take advantage of the latest SaaS applications without consulting or obtaining authorization from their internal IT department or security personnel.

DevSecOps - IRM Consulting & Advisory

The following common vulnerabilities plague SaaS applications:

  •   Access everywhere is convenient but also risky.
  •   Customers tend to believe that their sensitive data isn’t stored in cloud-based or web-based software.
  •   Nevertheless, identity theft is a real threat when you provide your personal details to the SaaS vendors.
  •   The truth is, you don’t know where your data resides when you use SaaS apps.
  •   APIs accessible over the internet aren’t guaranteed to be secure.
  •   For all the hype about Cloud security, Malicious use of Cloud services is still possible.
  •   Because SaaS apps are often pressured to be quick to market, inadequate change control may be a result.
  •   Unanticipated end-user action is always a problem but can be exacerbated because of the common nature of SaaS apps.

Mitigating Actions to Protect SaaS Applications from Hackers

As a SaaS application developer, in order to protect your SaaS Application and Services from security threats, it is essential to follow best-in-class SaaS security practices. By recognizing the vulnerabilities of your software, you have already taken the first step.

The following solutions can help increase the security of your Web-based Application:

Properly Instruct Users

Educating the employees and workers within the organization that uses your SaaS application is the best practice to prevent hackers from accessing your SaaS apps. If the employees are savvy, they can help protect the software from common hacking attacks such as social engineering. This method can also counter phishing and smishing. Requiring distinct accounts for every user would also be the right move. Other preventative measures include enforcing role-based authorization on your software and enabling two-factor authentication for all logins.

Create a Security Branch in Your Organization

Another best practice against hacking attempts in SaaS applications is to introduce a security culture in the office. They will be responsible for monitoring and enforcing security across the entire network.

Incorporating Security in the SDLC Process – DevSecOps

It is best to integrate security reviews during all the phases of the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) process. This method helps create strong applications. You can also use a Static Application Security Testing (SAST) tool to review the source code of your application and locate any security flaws within the application.

Backup Data Regularly

It is vital to backup all data regularly so that you don’t lose access to sensitive and confidential information. Data loss can cause a lot of trouble for both employees and the business itself.

Final Thoughts

SaaS applications must provide not only functionality but security. A breach of a SaaS Application or Services not only harms the client, but it also destroys the reputation of the provider. SaaS app providers must design and build security into their apps. Understand the Best Practices to protect your SaaS Products and Services.

Application Security is not just a layer you place on top of your SaaS application but an integral component of the design, development, deployment, and operation of your app. DevSecOps specialists at IRM Consulting & Advisory who know the best tools and best practices for implementing application security can advise your development team to ensure they build and deploy software that is secure from the inside out. Your business and your reputation are at stake. Don’t depend on “security by obscurity.” Be intentional and thorough about security measures to protect your clients and your business.

Check out our DevSecOps Solutions.

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