The DevSecOps Toolchain: Vulnerability Scanning, Security as Code, DAST & More


What Is DevSecOps? 

DevSecOps is a philosophy that integrates security practices within the DevOps process. DevSecOps involves creating a ‘security as code’ culture with ongoing, flexible collaboration between release engineers and security teams. The main aim of DevSecOps is to make everyone accountable for security in the process of delivering high-quality, secure applications. This culture promotes shorter, more controlled iterations, making it easier to spot code defects and tackle security issues.

The term ‘DevSecOps’ is a combination of three words: development, security, and operations. Each term signifies a critical phase in the application development process. Development is where the application is built, security ensures the application is free from vulnerabilities, and operations ensure the application runs smoothly.

In essence, DevSecOps is about introducing security earlier in the life cycle of application development, hence the mantra “shifting security left”. This means that security checks and measures are no longer afterthoughts at the end of the development cycle. Instead, they are integrated aspects from the get-go. 

Understanding the DevSecOps Toolchain 

In a modern development environment, DevSecOps cannot function without automated tools. The DevSecOps toolchain is a set of tools and technologies designed to support the DevSecOps methodology. This toolchain enables seamless integration and automation of tasks between development, security, and operations teams. The ultimate goal is to improve the speed, quality, and security of software development and delivery.

The DevSecOps toolchain is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, it is a flexible, customizable framework that can be tailored to suit the needs of any organization. By integrating a variety of tools and technologies, the toolchain can automate and streamline processes, reduce manual efforts, and increase team collaboration and efficiency.

The toolchain is an integral part of the DevSecOps approach. It helps break down silos between teams, foster a collaborative culture, and promote continuous learning and improvement. By leveraging the right tools, organizations can significantly improve their security posture and deliver software faster and more reliably.

5 Key Components of the DevSecOps Toolchain 

1. Source Control

Source control is the first component of the DevSecOps toolchain. It is a system that records changes to a file or set of files over time so that specific versions can be recalled later. It allows developers to work simultaneously on code, track modifications, and prevent conflicts. When changes are introduced that can create security vulnerabilities, the organization can identify and trace them back to a specific change to code or configuration. 

Git, Mercurial, and Subversion are common source control tools. They enable team collaboration, code history tracking, and restore points creation. The right source control tool can help teams manage code changes efficiently and maintain a high level of code integrity.

2. Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD)

Continuous integration (CI) is a development practice where developers integrate code into a shared repository several times a day. Each integration is then verified by an automated build and automated tests. Continuous deployment (CD) is a software release process that uses automated testing to validate if changes to a codebase are correct and stable for immediate autonomous deployment to a production environment. CI/CD helps organizations roll out and deploy security patches and fixes faster than ever before, enhancing their security posture.

Alert escalation is a crucial part of a CI/CD pipeline because it helps ensure timely and appropriate handling of issues that may arise during the software development and release process. The process involves notifying and escalating alerts or incidents to the right teams in a systematic manner using automated alerting tools.

CI/CD tools such as Jenkins, Travis CI, and CircleCI play a significant role in the DevSecOps toolchain. They enable teams to automate the software release process and deliver security-related features and updates at a faster rate.

3. Application Security Tools: SAST, DAST, and IAST

Application security tools like Static Application Security Testing (SAST), Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST), and Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST) are essential in the DevSecOps toolchain.

SAST tools like Checkmarx and SonarQube analyze source code to find vulnerabilities during the coding stage, promoting early detection and resolution. DAST tools such as OWASP ZAP and Bright Security test applications in their running state, identifying runtime vulnerabilities like XSS and SQL injection.

IAST combines SAST and DAST approaches. Tools like Contrast Security work inside the application during testing, offering real-time vulnerability analysis. Used together, these tools help detect and fix security vulnerabilities throughout the application development process.

4. Vulnerability Scanning

Vulnerability scanning is a critical component of the DevSecOps toolchain. It involves automated testing to detect and classify system weaknesses in applications and networks. It can also automatically prioritize vulnerabilities, identifying which ones teams should focus on first, and provide actionable remediation guidance. Additionally, teams can integrate incident alert management tools, like OnPage, so when vulnerabilities are detected, DevSecOps are immediately notified on their smartphones ensuring their immediate response to incidents without having to continuously monitor the system for alerts. 

Tools like Nessus, OpenVAS, and Nexpose are used to scan for vulnerabilities in an application’s code, configuration, and third-party dependencies. Regular scanning helps teams identify and mitigate security risks before they impact the production environment.

5. Security as Code (IaC)

Infrastructure as code (IaC) is the process of managing and provisioning computing infrastructure through machine-readable definition files, rather than physical hardware configuration or interactive configuration tools.

Security as code (SaC) is a subfield within IaC, which involves writing security policies as code and incorporating them into the development and deployment processes. The aim is to automate security checks and enforce security standards across all stages of the software development life cycle.

Tools like InSpec, Gauntlt, and Chef Automate enable teams to implement security as code practices. They help automate security audits, manage compliance, and ensure that security is an integral part of the development process, not an afterthought.

Building a Successful DevSecOps Culture

Building a successful DevSecOps culture is not just about using the right tools or processes; it’s about creating a mindset that values collaboration, shared responsibility, continuous improvement, and learning. This culture shift requires educating and raising awareness, fostering collaboration and communication, establishing shared responsibility, automation and tooling, and promoting continuous improvement and learning.

Educating and Raising Awareness

Educating and raising awareness about the importance of security in the development lifecycle is the first step towards building a successful DevSecOps culture. It involves imparting knowledge about the potential risks and threats that can arise if security is not incorporated at every stage of the development process. This knowledge helps in nurturing a proactive approach towards security, rather than treating it as an afterthought.

Training sessions, workshops, and seminars can be organized to educate the development and operations teams about the significance of security in the DevOps process. These sessions can also be used to introduce the DevSecOps toolchain and how it can be effectively used to incorporate security into the development lifecycle.

Collaboration and Communication

Collaboration and communication form the pillar of a successful DevSecOps culture. It’s about bringing together development, operations, and security teams to work towards a common objective. This collaborative approach not only improves the efficiency of the process but also ensures that security is integrated at every stage of the development lifecycle.

The use of a DevSecOps toolchain promotes collaboration and communication among teams. It provides a common platform where all teams can work together, share their inputs, and resolve any issues that may arise. This collaborative approach ensures that security is not viewed as a hurdle but as an integral part of the development process.

Establishing Shared Responsibility

Shared responsibility is another critical aspect of a successful DevSecOps culture. It means that security is not just the responsibility of the security team; instead, it’s the responsibility of every individual involved in the development process. This shared responsibility ensures that security is an integral part of the development process and not just an add-on.

The DevSecOps toolchain facilitates this shared responsibility by providing tools and processes that enable all teams to incorporate security into their respective stages of the development process. It ensures that security is integrated at every stage, from design to deployment, thus reducing the chances of security vulnerabilities.

Continuous Improvement and Learning

Continuous improvement and learning are vital for building a successful DevSecOps culture. It’s about learning from mistakes, improving processes, and continuously updating skills and knowledge. This continuous improvement and learning not only improve the DevSecOps process but also help in building a culture that values security.

The DevSecOps toolchain supports this culture of continuous improvement and learning by providing tools and processes that allow teams to learn from their mistakes and improve their processes. It also promotes a culture of learning by encouraging teams to update their skills and knowledge regularly.

In conclusion, building a successful DevSecOps culture involves educating and raising awareness, fostering collaboration and communication, establishing shared responsibility, automation and tooling, and promoting continuous improvement and learning. The DevSecOps toolchain plays a critical role in this process by providing the necessary tools and processes. By leveraging the power of the DevSecOps toolchain, organizations can build a culture that values security and ensure that their development process is secure, efficient, and robust.

Author Bio: Gilad David Maayan

Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Imperva, Samsung NEXT, NetApp and Check Point, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership. Today he heads Agile SEO, the leading marketing agency in the technology industry.