What is security as code (SaC)?
Security as code (SaC) is the integration of automated security measures directly into the software development process, making it an integral part of the software development life cycle (SDLC). SaC introduces proactive rather than reactive security measures, an essential approach given the increasing sophistication of modern cyber threats.
In this article, we’ll explore how cybersecurity practices have evolved, leading to the adoption of SaC. We’ll look at the essential components of SaC along with some benefits and challenges of this approach. Finally, we’ll introduce some tools and technologies that can facilitate the adoption of SaC in your organization.
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Security as code in the context of cybersecurity practices
Cybersecurity has undergone significant changes in recent decades. Traditional cybersecurity methods were often reactive and siloed. This led to a host of challenges, not least of which were slow threat response and the lack of a unified security strategy.
With DevOps came the concept of shift left — shifting testing and operational concerns earlier in the SDLC to fall within the purview of developers. With time, this same approach applied to security concerns, and we came to embrace Shift Left security and DevSecOps. Organizations began tackling security issues earlier in the SDLC as well.
SaC solidifies this approach by integrating security policies, checks, and measures directly into the development process. With security as automated and integral as any other aspect of software development, teams could ensure a more proactive approach to security.
Naturally, SaC is closely linked with other practices, such as infrastructure as code (IaC) and continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD). Working together, IaC, CI/CD, and SaC form a cohesive DevSecOps strategy. Because of this, collaboration between development, operations, and security teams is not just beneficial but essential for producing secure software efficiently.
Key principles of security as code
Let’s take a look at the key underlying principles of SaC. Your familiarity with these principles will give you a foundation for effectively implementing SaC.
- Building security into the SDLC: Ensures that security considerations are part of every phase of the SDLC, from planning to deployment.
- Integration of policies into the DevOps pipeline: Automates the enforcement of security best practices throughout the SDLC.
- Continuous monitoring of security policies: Enables real-time assessment and adjustment of security measures.
- Visibility, dashboards, log management, and accurate alert mechanisms: This principle provides a comprehensive overview of the security posture at all times, making it easier to identify and act upon vulnerabilities.
- Security configurations stored in version control: This principle establishes a reliable, traceable method for managing security settings, simplifying maintenance and auditing.
Now that we have an understanding of what SaC is, let’s look at the tangible benefits and challenges that come with its implementation.
Benefits and challenges of implementing security as code
Implementing SaC offers substantial benefits to your cybersecurity posture, but it also comes with significant challenges. Organizations must consider both sides of the coin to implement SaC successfully. Here is a breakdown of the benefits and challenges of implementing SaC:
- Addresses security threats prior to production, thereby minimizing vulnerabilities.
- Combines development, security, and operations teams under the unified banner of DevSecOps.
- Ensures consistent and reliable security configurations across deployments and environments.
- Reduces the potential for human error by automating security measures.
- Enhances post-release security, easing the difficulty of maintenance.
- Shortens release cycles by automating security checks.
- Reduces risks of a security incident at runtime.
- Facilitates compliance with industry or regional laws and regulations.
- Tool selection and integration can be complex and time-consuming.
- Added security checks may delay application release/delivery.
- Ambiguity or disagreement among developers and the security team regarding who is responsible for securing code.
- Training required for staff to effectively use new tools and follow new procedures.
- Friction of organizational change regarding the adoption of new workflows and best practices.
With these benefits and challenges in mind, let’s shift our focus to the tools and technologies that can help you implement SaC effectively.
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Tools and technologies for security as code
SaC does not depend on a single tool; rather, it incorporates multiple tools that work together in harmony. Each tool addresses a different aspect of security in the SDLC, such as the following:
- Code scanning and analysis: This security aspect of the SDLC identifies vulnerabilities within your codebase, providing actionable insights to enable quick remediation.
- Security testing: Performs automated tests on your application to check for vulnerabilities or weaknesses, often as a workflow integrated into your CI/CD pipeline.
- Security fixes: Automates the application of security patches and updates to known vulnerabilities, ensuring your code is up-to-date in its security.
Selecting the right tools to use for SaC is critical for its successful implementation. The effectiveness of your SaC strategy largely depends on the capabilities of the tools you choose.
CrowdStrike Falcon® Cloud Security is a comprehensive platform that helps enterprises ensure they have all the pieces in place for effective SaC:
- Unified security and visibility across the entire application life cycle — all within a single platform
- Threat detection and response for rapid investigation and risk minimization.
- Industry-leading registry integration
- IaC to automate and secure your cloud environments
- Software composition analysis (SCA) for identifying risks in third-party and open-source components
- Proactive prevention and remediation of security misconfigurations
- Robust enforcement of security posture and compliance requirements
- Advanced vulnerability scanning to ensure container security
- Comprehensive cloud workload protection against various forms of cyber threats
Armed with the capabilities afforded by Falcon Cloud Security, your enterprise will be well equipped to implement SaC.