DevOps has become a core capability for large organizations to succeed. As a result, security professionals have had to adopt DevOps tools and practices to stay current. However, IT teams working with DevOps tools are often unaware of the threats lurking within the software they are building.

In a DevOps-heavy environment, you must manage a complex IT infrastructure with a security lens. As CIOs, we feel there are common security threats and factors that IT teams should be aware of.

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Legacy Application Security

You'll see more and more enterprise apps being built with Microsoft, Oracle, SQL Server, and PHP as part of an enterprise app stack. No one wants to maintain legacy apps unless you have an app that has no chance of successfully modernizing or you have a huge investment in the old apps.

Staged Application Security

You'll also see more apps built in a staged manner with a Docker container. A Docker container is a microservice, or a software module, with runtime management and security in one bundle. You can often make a container perform similar functionality to an application or handle tasks differently.

Cloud and Serverless Application Security

Enterprises are increasingly moving their systems to the cloud, making security more complex.

You can get the benefits of a microservices-based architecture without having to implement, test, and manage the underlying infrastructure.

Virtual Machines

A virtual machine (VM) has a single virtual processor (vCPU) with a hypervisor, host- and hypervisor-level isolation, and management by a hypervisor. You can find cloud-based versions of VM with vCPUs ranging from 512 to 2,000 and provision of virtual machines in the cloud.

Upcoming innovations like TensorFlow, Neural Networks, and Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) will increase the volume of data involved with mobile applications and the amount of computing that must be done to process it.

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Risk-Based Organizations

Many organizations now focus on their risk profiles and either employ DevOps to manage those risks or develop DevOps strategies to protect their applications. I've heard the term "risk-based organizational structures," and I think this is a better term than risk-based DevOps. However, risk-based organizations go beyond the traditional IT risk management techniques and define their software development risks with DevOps methodologies to further their businesses.

Software Vulnerabilities

The risk of a vulnerability in your software has risen, and the development community is more vocal about these risks and critical flaws. Many of the vulnerabilities are now patched, and you will probably not find a new vulnerability on your own. The expectation is that DevOps will take care of the best security practices that will secure your application.

But we live in a risky world, and your software might be vulnerable. That means you must take steps to protect your applications. For example, you might want to apply a top-down security approach to isolate what is shared within the application or across the application boundaries. Another approach would be to isolate the elements and application components that do not need to be connected and then incorporate them in a secure way.

Cyber Threats

You should build your software with security in mind. Application security usually starts with restricting access to your code and locking out anyone from the development environment. You can do this with a "perimeter," which might include hardware and software devices, security policies, and monitoring. A perimeter is one way to manage access, monitor, and protect your application. But it's important to understand that the bigger the application, the more access you need to protect. You might also need to incorporate practices such as secure coding, standard security auditing, data masking, encryption or encryption keys management, and threat modeling.

DevOps Failures

You cannot mitigate security breaches and security risks by devoting time, effort, and budget to applications security. I say this because many companies and organizations are trying to focus solely on the technology side of their DevOps processes and think that this is all you need to build secure applications. You can't apply DevOps practices only to application security because you still have the requirements of building applications.

Every application has a compliance requirement, which needs to be part of your application security program. You must focus on your processes and controls to ensure that your applications meet all your requirements. That might include implementing application and system testing with security metrics, control, and risk analysis and documenting the requirements for compliance.

Security Monitoring

Application monitoring is one of the most important security monitoring tools you can use to ensure your applications are secure. You should monitor your application and be able to detect security vulnerabilities.

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Security Audits

No matter your software security program, you need to conduct security audits. How do you go about conducting a security audit? In addition to penetration and security testing, you should consider conducting a SOC-type security audit. If your organization already does penetration and security testing, you should consider conducting a security audit that includes SOC-type activities. To qualify for a SOC-type security audit, you must undergo an entire life cycle and risk assessment.

Integrity-Based Systems

You might have heard about encryption. Now is an excellent time to learn about what the term means. It has become a buzzword because companies like Apple have built their products with this feature. But for example, you cannot encrypt your social networking account or email account and expect it to be secure. There is a difference between encrypting the data and securing the data. You need to know and understand what encryption is and how it works. Encryption encrypts data, and it changes the way it looks in an object so that it cannot be deciphered. Once the information is encrypted, it is challenging to read it. If you are going to encrypt your data, it has to be encrypted appropriately, and you have to be sure the encryption keys are secure. You need to encrypt the data with something that has a long lifespan and does not lose its key because a hacker takes over the server.

Think Ahead

As your applications increase in size, complexity, and velocity, it will be impossible to monitor all applications to identify security threats and vulnerabilities. The challenge will be ensuring that you can locate all of your applications and application parts across all areas of your organization. You will also need to be able to communicate with your applications at the right time. One example is your applications will need to be integrated with your devices and platform.

Say your devices and platform use XML-RPC, HTTP, and SSH. Your applications will also need to interface with this messaging infrastructure and expose the appropriate communication types. You must implement a firewalling tool for your systems.

You should also consider introducing hybrid architectures to provide a high level of security while scaling efficiently. For example, you will be able to implement security controls like access control lists (ACLs), authorization lists (ALs), and auditing in your services while also allowing the services to use containers to scale to manage complexity.

Leverage Cloud Architecture

Clouds are becoming a staple in companies' applications. They enable you to implement a modular architecture. You can implement security controls in a granular fashion. You can allow developers to write code, but you can restrict who can access certain functions.

For example, let's say an app developer wrote code to add email functionality to an application. As part of the development process, the developer installed an ACL to limit the ability of users to access their email in the cloud. The application should allow only authorized employees and clients to access certain parts of the application. So, you could have a whole container system where you need only five IP addresses to access the different parts of your application, and only those individuals can access that function.

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Given the diversity of devices and platforms, developers will need to collaborate to create their applications. There will be different code written on different platforms, in different programming languages, and on different devices. In the future, organizations will be able to communicate with their application programs and other applications. You should consider using software-defined networking, a communications platform that allows you to run different applications in different virtual networks in a cloud environment. That will allow you to have a layer of security across your application and a way to communicate with others securely.

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Get Ready for Complexity and Ensure Your Security

In the next decade, security will not be an afterthought for the most part. Organizations will need to start investing more in creating secure applications to protect their data and customer data. The problem is that it is expensive, and the standards are not robust yet.

If you are a software vendor, you need to start creating application security components. The number of different software products in the market is growing at an alarming rate. You need to review and measure the security status of your applications. The most efficient way to do this is by leveraging automation and integrating the various security products in the market.

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About the Author

Matthew DavidMatthew David

Matt is a Digital Leader at Accenture. His passion is a combination of solving today's problems to run more efficiently, adjusting focus to take advantage of digital tools to improve tomorrow and move organizations to new ways of working that impact the future.

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