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Speed and Security: How to Find a Balance in Development


Time management can help developers realize the necessary combination of security and speed in application development

As software continues to create competitive advantages and market differentiation for organizations focused on successful digital transformation, developers will continue to be measured by how fast they can develop and release code. Business leaders encourage DevOps teams to push the pace of innovation to deliver features quickly while leveraging the newest technologies to gain any available advantage in the market. As a result, development and operations teams work at breakneck speeds to meet the deadlines of short and frequent development life cycles.

Security teams, however, are not measured by speed but rather by certain metrics of success, such as whether they achieve a certain security rating or reduce the number of incidents. Traditionally, security sets corporate standards and best practices centrally and tries to enforce them across the enterprise. With DevOps teams becoming increasingly distributed and decentralized, these conventional security methods no longer work and have actually slowed down security and/or blocked the software development process. Security tries to keep pace, but with numerous disparate reports to review and too many results to manage, they inevitably fall behind. In the rush to catch up, either critical vulnerabilities are overlooked or frustration sets in when releases are delayed.

Developer and security teams both know the importance of delivering secure software but struggle to find the right balance. Let’s take a look at some strategies that can help ease the tension between DevOps and security teams and create a happier work environment, where safer code is delivered to the market.

Incorporating Time Management for Speed and Security

Consider implementing the following time management strategies to make life easier for developers:

Integrate AppSec in the DevOps Pipeline: Application security scanning should be incorporated early and often within the DevOps pipeline. While this statement may sound like a broken record, the days of running scanning tools independent of your pipelines are gone. Studies have shown the earlier you detect an issue, the easier it is for developers to fix—with as much as 50% time reclaimed over late-stage remediation. By including AppSec in the pipeline, you ensure all issues are identified as quickly as possible. This effort will not only improve the quality of your software but also free up more time overall for developers to write code and create cool features. Sounds like a win-win for both teams.

Incorporate automation as much as possible: DevOps teams should look to leverage automation when implementing application security wherever possible. Many of the steps for securing your software development process are repetitive. For AppSec to be successful, the steps must work within the developer’s world and along with the other tools developers love. Developers look for tools that help them move faster.

Here are some areas where application security automation can unburden developers from repetitive tasks:

  • Use AppSec tools that can be easily tied into your DevOps toolchains. As a matter of fact, a developer may not even need to know what security tools are being run, only that they are executed on every run of the pipeline.
  • Automate the ingestion and correlation of the security findings. There will often be a boatload of redundancies between the findings from different security tools (i.e. SAST versus DAST versus SCA) and the potential compression ratios can be in the order of 10-50:1. There are tools to automate this process and dramatically simplify making sense of all the data. The onus shouldn’t be on the developer.
  • Once a security issue has been identified, it should automatically create a ticket in the ticketing system that developers use today. We all know developers don’t like being forced to use a new tool. Give them the findings in the system they are already familiar with.

Tailor security training for your teams: Security training is a great way to reduce the number of security findings within an organization, which in turn frees up developers to work on other pressing issues. However, most security training is ad hoc and not tailored to meet the needs of the development teams. Even the most basic security testing can provide baseline metrics that enable security teams to recommend tailored training for development teams. These sessions can focus on areas that teams struggle with or areas known to be susceptible. Training is also a great way to develop security champions within the development teams, dedicated professionals who have shown to improve the overall security posture and awareness of organizations. Security champions—and the programs they advocate—have the power to improve both AppSec and relationships among people, a sentiment endorsed by 84% of industry professionals.

Summary

Developers know the importance of security and truly want to deliver safe code in the timeframes they are being judged on. By incorporating the strategies outlined above, they will have a fighting chance to reach the lofty goals set by the business, while releasing higher quality and more secure code. Security teams need to meet the developers in their world and help enable application security to be automated and work at the speed of DevOps.

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