These days, software plays an increasingly important role in our daily lives, whether in the workplace or at home. No longer a remarkable but seemingly preposterous notion conceived by Alan Turing, software is now woven into the fabric of our everyday existence, performing a wide range of functions.
However, with this importance comes a high element of risk, as hackers and other ‘malicious actors’ continually try to use software against us. Many organizations have fallen victim to hacking, suffering data breaches that lead to the personal data of hundreds or thousands of people being leaked onto the Internet. As a result of this ever-present threat, software developers rely on various testing techniques during the creation of their applications.
In the past, this testing process was usually carried out by a separate department or even an external company. Once their software was approved, developers would then work on newer versions which would be released perhaps every few months or after an interval of a year or more. Because this process took so long, there was ample time to conduct rigorous security checks in a bid to make the software as impenetrable to attack as possible.
The Rise Of DevSecOps
Over the course of the last ten years or so, the landscape of software development has become rather different as the industry shifts to accommodate new technologies.
With the help of the latest innovations in the field, software developers were able to take over the handling and scaling of their own infrastructure, using a new arsenal of complex tools and techniques.
While this allowed for a much speedier and more effective production and release cycle, initially, the robustness of the software’s security often failed to meet the required standards. This is why the culture of DevSecOps was developed.
Using this approach, security testing no longer consists of a final check at the end of a development cycle, which could lead to costly fixes or perhaps even potentially missing the detection of existing loopholes and vulnerabilities.
Instead, software developers now weave security testing into the development process at different stages. This is to help effectively detect and repair any issues with the code and with the application itself.
These are the three conditions of a genuine DevSecOps model:
- The security checks are carried out by the software development team.
- Any problems that are found as a result of the testing are patched by the development team.
- Necessary repairs are also carried out by the development team.
In this environment, there is no need for external intervention.
The Tools Involved In Software Security Testing
There are several tools and techniques that are commonly used by developers to test software at different stages of its creation.
Early on in the software development life cycle (SDLC), SAST, which goes by other names including white box testing, is used to review source code and look for common weaknesses in the architecture of an application. Using this method, developers can weed out approximately half of the software’s vulnerabilities.
Later in the development stage, DAST can be used (also known as black box testing). Using various techniques, DAST seeks out weak spots including configuration errors, memory corruption, arbitrary files, and SQL injection, among others. Black box testing emulates the actions of a would-be attacker and does not require the source code to detect security vulnerabilities.
One of the methods used in DAST is called fuzz testing. This involves introducing malformed or invalid inputs into a software system to see if any defects appear as a result. These defects can then be repaired before the application is launched.
Fuzz testing has a range of benefits, such as helping to prevent zero-day attacks. These are a major threat to organizations, including industry giants like Microsoft, and the ability to detect weaknesses that SAST techniques may have missed. Fuzz testing is also cost-effective and requires no additional labor or intervention once it’s up and running.
Does DevSecOps Work?
As with any complex process, DevSecOps does have its issues, mainly focused on the repair of the loopholes and weak spots. This element in the process requires the software development team to acquire an additional skill set to make sure that the fixes are up to scratch; to address this, some companies hire a specialist to oversee the repairs.
However, while there may be some current limitations, DevSecOps does bring a variety of benefits for software developers. These include:
- Improved speed and efficiency when detecting defects and weak spots.
- Reduced costs.
- Transparency is assured from the beginning of the software development life cycle.
- DevSecOps can not only improve the security of an application but can also improve the security of your entire software infrastructure.
As a result of these and other advantages, implementing DevSecOps into your organization’s software development practices can help to ensure higher standards of security and compliance and has the potential to save a great deal of both time and money.
To help them get started and apply the methods with more ease, companies keen to employ DevSecOps can find a variety of tools and techniques at their disposal to help make its adoption more efficient.