The Best Approach to Help Developers Build Security into the Pipeline

Speed and agility are at the core of digital transformation and DevOps culture, and have quickly become a business imperative for organizations that want to remain competitive. Speed cannot come at the sacrifice of security, though. The pace of software development requires that security be baked into the code from the start rather than tacked on after the fact. Developing secure code fast requires empowering developers with the skills and tools they need and building security into the DevOps pipeline.

Embracing DevSecOps

DevOps culture and the drive to work faster and more efficiently affects everyone in the organization. When it comes to creating software and applications, though, the responsibility for cranking out code and producing quality code falls on developers.

The pace of DevOps culture doesn’t allow for anything to be an afterthought. It’s important for developers to support security directly as a function of application development in the first place, and to operationalize security within the continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipeline.

Unfortunately, traditional education does little to prepare them. It’s possible to get a PhD in computer science and never learn the things you need to know to develop secure code. As organizations embrace DevSecOps and integrate security in the development pipeline, it’s important to ensure developers have the skills necessary. You also need to focus on both the “why” and the “how” in order to build a successful DevSecOps training program.

Don’t Just Check the Box

Not all training is created equal. Consider why you’re doing the training and the outcome you hope to achieve rather than doing training for the sake of training. Many organizations focus on training developers in secure coding practices from the perspective of compliance. It’s crucial to engage developers in a meaningful way, though, and not just check a box.

Many compliance frameworks, such as PCI-DSS, require ongoing application security training, but compliance training often reinforces the wrong lessons. Developers learn the most expedient way to check the box and achieve compliance rather than learning the most efficient way to develop secure code. This approach also causes developers to feel like the security team looks down on them or doesn’t understand the challenges they face or the expectations they have to meet.

The Carrot and the Stick

How you do security is also important. Training works better when developers feel like they are part of the process and when they have a reason to want to excel.

For nearly everyone, doing something in practice reinforces lessons better than just reading content or listening to a webinar or video. Interactive labs are more engaging and provide feedback as developers go through the training. They can practice writing secure code with guided practice that is self-paced. They can also get hands-on experience exploiting vulnerable applications, then patching them back up.

You should implement developer training that creates incentives for developers by gamifying training. Create custom Capture the Flag events, track individual progress and provide a leaderboard that enables healthy competition among the developers.

You also want to provide developer training that is relevant to your organization’s preferred coding languages and business objectives. The training should teach skills and strategies that are applicable to the code your developers work with and give them tools they can use immediately to improve the security of the applications they’re working on.

Speed is essential for businesses to maintain a competitive edge today, and security is more important than ever. Make sure you have the training in place to help shift application security knowledge left and integrate security to mature DevSecOps practices.

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