DevOps vs. DevSecOps:
Understanding the Difference

Gui Alvarenga - September 15, 2022

Efficient software development is becoming increasingly important to many businesses, especially with the rise of software as a service (SaaS). Regardless of industry, businesses rely on software and applications to achieve business goals and provide products to customers. To create and maintain code efficiently and securely, your business is likely to use one of the two models.

DevOps, a collaborative organizational model, brings together your software development and operations teams. DevOps helps your IT department meet expectations and improve efficiency. This is achieved by hiring or training generalists over specialists; DevOps engineers will often have knowledge and background in both coding and system administration.

DevSecOps is the practice of integrating security throughout the software development life cycle. It grew out of the DevOps movement and builds upon that same framework. This model becomes vital when working in the cloud, which requires following specific security guidelines and practices.

Understanding the differences in the two models is an important step in knowing what your business needs to move forward with software and application development. The two practices share cultural similarities but address different business goals. Knowing when to use each practice, or when to transition from DevOps to DevSecOps, can improve your business.

Similarities Between DevOps and DevSecOps

Both models have a lot in common. The two practices share a similar culture and use both automation and active monitoring. Though they have different goals, the two practices are designed to meet similar needs, and both aim to improve your business by bringing together teams across your business.

Cultural Similarities

The cultural tie between the two models is the focus on community. Multiple departments are brought together to complete tasks or create products. This cooperative culture brings together various teams within your business to break down the barriers in and improve the development process.

In DevOps this culture promotes efficiency and reduces bottlenecks. In DevSecOps this culture aims to incorporate cloud security at every phase and minimize vulnerability while improving compliance. Because the cultures are so alike, the two practices rely on similar tools to function.

The Role of Automation

Automation in the application development context is all about using technology to perform tasks with reduced human assistance. Automation in both models helps with continuous integration, continuous delivery and continuous deployment workflows.

For DevOps, automation facilitates the feedback loops between the development and operations teams so updates can be deployed more quickly. For DevSecOps, automation provides secure processes automatically, reducing overhead and human error. In both cases, automation exists to improve the process and provide efficiency.

The Role of Active Monitoring

Active monitoring is a vital part of the process for both models because code that functions today may need to be altered tomorrow. Software or applications that are already running and code that is actively being developed need active monitoring in both practices.

In DevOps, active monitoring involves focusing on quality very early in the application development life cycle. This means early testing in the production environment is needed to ensure reliable services and quick updates for new features. Monitoring helps DevOps achieve its goal of improving quality and efficiency while reducing cost.

In DevSecOps, active monitoring involves both internal security tools — to ensure safe code doesn’t develop security vulnerability — and tools for use in cloud environments. Monitoring security in the cloud involves keeping watch for malicious logins, application errors and unauthorized access. Patching software before security is compromised is made possible with active monitoring.

In both practices, the key to monitoring is a proactive approach instead of a reactive one. By keeping apprised of changes in the environment, code can be built or changed efficiently and securely. While both models share much in common, there are several important differences in how they function.

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Differences Between the Models

DevSecOps evolved from DevOps, but the two practices have different goals. DevOps has a focus on efficiency while DevSecOps focuses on security and builds upon DevOps to address vulnerability in the cloud.

How DevSecOps Evolved From DevOps

DevOps breaks down the boundaries between software development and operations to be more agile. The entire team works together from start to finish of an application development cycle. This collaboration is taken one step further with DevSecOps.

As businesses begin to use the cloud and cloud-based services, more complex security issues arise. In DevOps, security is an issue addressed after development. DevSecOps builds on the framework of DevOps by adding security integration at every step of the process. Because cloud technologies are agile, it is important to incorporate security functions into each step of the traditional DevOps framework.

Differing Goals

While the two practices function in much the same way, the goals behind each methodology are distinct. DevOps is solely focused on efficiency and understanding. The teams brought together to create DevOps must understand the application for efficient software delivery.

DevOps wants to create an application, fix bugs and deploy updates and optimize infrastructure to create the best product as quickly as possible. The major goals of DevOps are to shorten the software development life cycle and enable continuous development and delivery.

On the other hand, DevSecOps is all about providing security. The goal is to automate, monitor and apply security at every phase of the software development life cycle, and this often includes adding steps to DevOps. By applying security at every phase, this model enables continuous integration. It also provides a shared responsibility for security, as every employee and team are responsible for security at the beginning.

How DevSecOps Addresses Security Vulnerabilities

DevSecOps addresses security vulnerability issues as they happen. It can do this because of the automation and active monitoring involved in the process. By tackling these issues as they arise, they are less expensive and faster to fix. By automating delivery of security software, it provides security without slowing development cycles.

Activities That Distinguish the Two Models

So how can you separate the two models apart when they function along the same structure? The two practices involve entirely different activities and best practices to achieve their differing goals. In addition, there are several operational differences between the two models.

Activities Included in DevOps

DevOps engineers, automated systems and active monitoring work together to improve efficiency and reduce development life cycle. The methodology used is often called Scrum. Scrum defines the roles of team members and defines how the team works together. There are other methodologies, but in general they share the following DevOps practices:

  • Continuous testing, where code testing is automated and monitored as code is written and patched
  • Continuous development of the planning and coding phases of the development life cycle
  • Continuous monitoring to maintain the code in action and the underlying infrastructure
  • Performing quality assurance tasks, fixing bugs and managing incident response

Activities Included in DevSecOps

DevSecOps functions along a CI/CD pipeline, as every step of the process needs security measures applied to it. Just like DevOps, it requires security professionals, automation and active monitoring to work. The following types of checks are presented in the same order as the development cycle.

  • Precommit checks. These happen before the developer checks code into a source code repository and include trigger threat modeling and email notifications.
  • Commit-time checks. This activity is automatically triggered by checking in to a source code repository and includes gathering metrics and automatic security testing.
  • Build-time checks. These activities happen automatically when the commit-time checks are successful and involve risk-based security testing.
  • Test-time checks. These activities are triggered by successful build-time checks and include malicious code detection.
  • Deploy-time checks. These activities happen at predeployment and postdeployment and involve security checks to finish off the DevSecOps pipeline.

Other Operational Differences

The largest operational difference between the two models is the timing of security practices. For DevOps, security is handled at the end of the development process. For DevSecOps, security practices are applied throughout the process from start to finish. However, converting from DevOps to DevSecOps is more involved than just adding security to the process.

Transitioning From DevOps to DevSecOps

When transitioning, be prepared to get your teams on board before changing your process. Preparation involves making sure everyone is on the same page about the necessity and benefits. There are myriad tools at your disposal for improving security practices. There are also a few pitfalls to avoid for a successful transition.

What to Expect When Transitioning

A transition generally means making a shift left or moving the process closer to the customer. Preparing teams to understand the need for a transition and how it will affect your application development is a vital first step. Everyone involved should understand the cultural change required, with a renewed and constant focus on security.

To transition successfully, your business will need to train employees on secure coding practices. This requires the collaboration of your security team alongside developers and operations. An education in cybersecurity issues is an important early step for your developers.

Preparing to Transition

When preparing for this transition you will need to decide on the combination of security practices that are best for your business. There are many security testing methods, but a few major ones include the following:

  • Dynamic application security testing (DAST), which puts your team in the perspective of attackers to detect vulnerabilities and security gaps
  • Static application security testing (SAST), which examines code to identify security flaws
  • Interactive application security testing (IAST), which combines DAST and SAST to use software to monitor an application’s performance
  • Runtime application self-protection (RASP), which uses real-time data to detect and resolve attacks on an application as they happen

One concrete example of DAST is penetration testing. Penetration testing, or ethical hacking, simulates a cyberattack to test your business’s cybersecurity capability. It follows tactics from the MITRE ATT&CK® Matrix for Enterprise.
Penetration testing also comes in multiple types. Internal pen testing assesses your business’s internal network. A web application pen test evaluates an application on the web using a three-phase process. Penetration testing, as well as numerous other security practices, should happen before a breach occurs.

What to Avoid When Transitioning

While DevSecOps can be a powerful addition to your process in terms of security, there are several pitfalls to be aware of:

  • Choosing the wrong tools. There are many types of security applications. Choosing the tools that are relevant to your code and satisfy the requirements for your current use case and future use cases can help you avoid a painful transition.
  • Not involving your security team. The DevSecOps process is continuous and happens at all phases of the development cycle. Involving your security team from the start helps the security remain consistent. Security experts can help guide you on which tools are right for your business.
  • Prioritizing speed over quality. The focus of DevOps is speed. When you transition, the end goal is a secure and functional pipeline. There will be additional steps and extra time added for properly integrated security practices.
  • Failing to monitor the code. Because code is constantly changing, monitoring the code should be an ongoing task of the DevSecOps team. Introducing new libraries, patches and configurations can expose new vulnerabilities. Constant monitoring is vital.

By avoiding these common pitfalls, you can make the transition a smooth one for your business.

Learn More

Taking a cloud-native approach brings both speed and scalability — attributes its proponents can all agree on, even if they can’t agree on what the term “cloud-native” actually means. To reach the peak value of DevOps promised by its advocates, organizations need to find a way to embrace cloud-native app development securely.Blog: Modern Infrastructure Requires Modern Cloud Security

Taking Full Advantage of DevSecOps

When considering DevOps versus DevSecOps, the major consideration is the integration of security practices. DevSecOps is built on DevOps and takes the philosophy one step further, like DevOps did for Agile. It is also designed to implement security for applications in the cloud, tackling any security threat before it becomes a security issue. Both practices involve bringing teams across the company together for a communal understanding, which then drives business efficiency and growth.

For more information on both operational models and a variety of security information and products for businesses, contact us.


Guilherme (Gui) Alvarenga, is a Sr. Product Marketing Manager for the Cloud Security portfolio at CrowdStrike. He has over 15 years experience driving Cloud, SaaS, Network and ML solutions for companies such as Check Point, NEC and Cisco Systems. He graduated in Advertising and Marketing at the Universidade Paulista in Brazil, and pursued his MBA at San Jose State University. He studied Applied Computing at Stanford University, and specialized in Cloud Security and Threat Hunting.