In today’s software-driven world, the demand for quick time-to-market, enhanced productivity, and reduced costs is at an all-time high. To meet these demands, DevOps have emerged as the gold standard for enabling quick and sustainable transformation. By creating a culture of DevOps and establishing a robust CI/CD pipeline, organizations can absorb new priorities and align themselves to address rapidly changing business requirements.
The CI/CD paradigm brings in the ability of continuous development and deployment to the Agile Manifesto, enabling teams to quickly deliver new releases, feature changes, and bug fixes. However, such rapid release cycles often tend to compromise the security of the product as well as its supporting infrastructure. Delivering high-quality products and customer experiences requires a deep focus on securing the CI/CD pipeline; which is why fortifying everything that flows through the software delivery pipeline is critical to delivering quality applications securely.
Top tips from experts
To minimize the likelihood of vulnerabilities going undetected during the software development lifecycle, organizations must ensure continuous security validation throughout the CI/CD pipeline. Security built throughout the CI/CD pipeline maintains the security of code while also delivering early warnings of vulnerable or flawed code –making the end product more secure and customers more trusting.
We talked to a few industry experts and asked them for their recommendations on securing the CI/CD pipeline. This is what they had to say:
Carry out threat modeling: The first step you need to take to secure your CI/CD pipeline is to understand what potential security threats exist within your build and deployment process and which ones need additional protection. Since every point in the CI/CD pipeline can be a potential point of compromise, conducting a threat modeling exercise can help you map imminent threats to the pipeline and plan for their prevention (or remediation).
Tighten access control: A great way to keep the CI/CD pipeline secure is to enable access only to those who have a role to play. Establishing strict access control mechanisms can clearly state who has access to what, when, how, and for how long. Such control ensures only sanctioned people can view, edit, or share data, thus restricting unauthorized access or use. At the same time, it is advisable to continuously log, monitor, and manage access to every component and resource of the pipeline as well as review control measures to remove users or revoke permissions.
Automate with IaC: Using Infrastructure as Code or IaC presents a big security advantage for those looking to secure their CI/CD pipeline. Since IaC allows for automatic provisioning of secure infrastructure – repeatedly and at scale – it restricts manual changes or direct access to underlying code. As code deployment to production happens only after the acceptance, IaC can help in strengthening the security of code while detecting errors and configuration issues post deployment.
Protect your code repository: How you protect your code repository also plays a critical role in the general security of your CI/CD pipeline. Any compromise of access credentials or breach of service can allow attackers to modify your codebase without your knowledge or permission. It is important to choose a robust repository you trust. At the same time, it is also critical to be aware of the exposure of your repository, protect access credentials, and constantly review code changes to prevent malicious code from being introduced.
Sign up for alerts: Given that any misconfiguration could create a vulnerability and expose the pipeline to attack, securing access to the CI/CD pipeline, implementing multi-factor authentication, and embracing signed commits, it pays to sign up for alerts and notifications. The code repositories contain proprietary source code and other intellectual property and are of high value to hackers. Alerts can deliver timely notifications, allowing you to take prompt action to thwart attacks and protect your CI/CD pipeline from being wiped out.
Constantly monitor your pipeline: If you want to have a continuous and secure software delivery pipeline, you need to have a constant flow of secure code for builds and deployments. To ensure your pipeline is safe from attacks, breaches, and misconfiguration, always monitor the CI/CD environment as it runs. Such monitoring can help you in being proactive to security issues while allowing you to terminate any temporary resources such as containers and VMs after you complete the tasks.
Conduct regular training: Integrating security throughout the CI/CD pipeline requires continuous collaboration across development, security, and operations teams. To ensure everyone is aware of the importance of security and is well-versed with their individual roles and responsibilities, it is also advisable to conduct regular security awareness training to keep everyone abreast of the latest threats. Such training also helps team members in learning from mistakes and successes while strengthening the security foundation of the CI/CD pipeline.
Despite the growing focus on security, many organizations still struggle to get security right. Instead of opting for reactive measures to fix issues after they’ve occurred, establishing a culture and foundation of security from the very beginning can make a world of difference. Since the CI/CD pipeline is the lifeblood of any software development project, securing it with these tips from experts can help you deliver new fixes and releases quickly, securely, and confidently.
The author is Anurag Sinha, Co-Founder & Managing Director, Wissen Technology (Wissen.com)