For the last few days, I have been participating in a series of internal meetings about how the company is approaching the cloud and DevOps. A good number of the sessions were either about security or contained some reference to security as part of the discussion. With these conversations still fresh in my head, I came across an interesting article at devops.com by Joe Franscella titled The DevOps Force Multiplier: Competitive Advantage + Security.
In the article, Franscella talks with OJ Reeves, a Bugcrowd security researcher, who points out that he has seen that companies who have a DevOps mindset are often more security focused. He cites a number of factors that could explain why, including that they do a better job of checking the security boxes, make fewer mistakes, and that they communicate better. I certainly agree that communication is a key component and one that helps improve security. However, as a change leader helping to implement DevOps, I’m not sure that I would necessarily agree with the first two – at least not as they are described.
DevOps Checks Boxes
Saying that the DevOps does a better job checking the security boxes may seem true on the surface, but it is extremely vague and if you don’t understand why this seems to be the case you are likely to miss the benefits of it. From my standpoint, one of the key reasons that we tend to do a better job checking the boxes than the traditional Ops side is that we have to think about things much more broadly.
When I was a system administrator building production servers, access was restricted to a handful of like minded teammates. I didn’t have to worry about people needing different levels of access and permissions to do different things. On the DevOps side, I do have to think about these things, and more. One of the biggest side benefits of figuring out how to keep the servers safe from developers is that it also protects it from a lot of the external threats as well.
Making Fewer Mistakes
I would never claim that companies that practice DevOps make fewer mistakes, but I could see how it could look that way to an outsider. I think instead the key point is that when mistakes are made, they are much easier to fix than they are in traditional organizations. Why? Automation. When a mistake in configuration is found, or a change or patch needs to be implemented, all that is generally required is a modification to a configuration management tool or script and within a few minutes any mistakes or problems are solved.
Automation is probably one of the biggest factors in Reeves’ findings regarding DevOps organization. With Automation, it is much easier to weave security into the DNA of what a company is doing, not just to have it as an afterthought.