The DevOps Security Stack

Even though DevOps offers a more efficient and faster way to develop and deploy applications, security remains an issue. On paper, DevOps and cloud-native applications might be more secure than their traditional counterparts, but the reality is not that simple. With the newer, more complex, highly distributed infrastructures common to DevOps come new challenges that need to be identified and addressed.

This article walks through those challenges to highlight what it takes to secure a DevOps workflow. I won’t focus on specific tools because DevOps is not about specific tools; rather, I’ll focus on the components of DevOps workflows that present special security challenges and explain how to address them.

The Vulnerabilities You Just Can’t Ignore
Careless use of recycled code
One way DevOps improves developer productivity is by letting developers recycle code from previous projects or open source repositories such as GitHub. But without proper screening and sanitization, these pieces of code can pose threats to an application.

Multiple platforms make the attack surface larger
When deploying code in the cloud, you can’t use traditional security services. You need to rethink your security strategy. DevOps teams leverage various platforms, from serverless computing to microservices to multi-cloud in their applications. There’s no single solution to secure cloud-native applications. These applications are highly distributed and have various components, so organizations need a multifaceted approach to better secure these applications.

The dynamic nature of cloud-native applications doesn’t help
Cloud-native applications are continuously integrated and deployed, which makes it difficult for security teams to identify and mitigate risks. Traditional security tools can’t match the sheer velocity, scale and dynamics of cloud-native applications, leaving them useless.

Secrets need to be secured
When following the DevOps approach, security professionals need to create privileged accounts and login details and share them over business networks automatically. With serverless applications and the cloud, security teams don’t have a traditional location such as the operating system to execute security policies. A host of useful data, such as keys, storage account credentials, secrets, database passwords and embedded passwords, are stored in repositories. It’s crucial this data is kept extremely secure, as attackers can use this information to cause some serious damage.

Containers can leave your applications more vulnerable
Since the microservice approach involves a distributed infrastructure, it exposes your system to the network, which makes it easy for attackers to sneak into the system. Containers can be spread across different systems, which makes the threat landscape even larger. Containers are highly replicable, so if there is a vulnerability in one microservice, it can get replicated every time the source code is used.

Using open source software in containers can make way for an increase in vulnerabilities. DevOps teams should make sure unauthorized containers are not used in production. These containers can be used by attackers to launch an attack on the entire application.

Hosts aren’t automatically safe
Even if containers are properly secured, the hosts they run on are vulnerable to new threats and day-zero attacks. Container runtime should be up-to-date to avoid risks that can lead to container escape. This can help attackers to take control not only of a container but also the host operating system. So, it is important that hosts are given appropriate protection.

Kubernetes clusters need additional security
Kubernetes is a widely accepted container orchestration platform. However, it’s difficult for security to be enabled at multiple layers. Kubernetes uses APIs to manage containers, and recently, it was discovered that K8’s API server is quite susceptible to attacks—attackers can make use of the API server to perform malicious activities or install malware in the application.

Running multiple workloads on one cluster is not a good idea. Sensitive workloads should be run on a dedicated set of machines to avoid attacks through less secure neighboring applications. There’s also a need to secure sensitive metadata, which can be stolen and used to change privileges in a cluster, thereby paving the way for unauthorized changes in an application.

DevSecOps: The Future of DevOps Security
In traditional applications, security holds less priority, and security policies are always employed after development is completed. But with DevOps, security can’t be an afterthought. Companies depending on the DevOps approach need to make security their top priority. One of the ways to make sure security is in the foundation of a DevOps implementation is a DevOps security stack. To employ the DevOps security stack, IT teams no longer should be walled off from the DevOps team.

Security experts’ involvement can help them gain insights into what the application is and how it’s supposed to function so they can identify risks and take steps to mitigate them. This DevSecOps approach has become popular. DevSecOps is a collaboration between the development, security and operations teams who work together to ensure security is at the root of an application, not just on the surface.

Symantec Cloud Workload Protection: A Modern Solution for Modern Problems
Most organizations use hybrid cloud storage comprised of workloads distributed among public clouds, private clouds and on-premises, which can lead to an increased attack surface and vulnerabilities.

Symantec Cloud Workload Protection (CWP) helps organizations monitor and protect their workloads, no matter where they reside. With CWP, organizations don’t have to look for multiple products to meet their many security needs. CWP offers a single console to monitor and manage security across various platforms. It offers automatic discovery of workloads across AWS, Azure and Google Cloud, and visibility into security postures and software, which enables automatic workload monitoring and protection. With continuous delivery workflows and malware prevention, CWP is essential for modern software development.

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