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Jan Schulte for Outshift By Cisco

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Getting Started with DevSecOps: A Guide for Software Developers

DevSecOps, sometimes referred to as shift left security, is the
integration of security into DevOps practices. And it’s more than just a
buzzword. Whether you're a developer at a large enterprise or in a new
startup, the adoption of DevSecOps practices has become essential. If
you’re familiar with DevOps, but security is new terrain for you, then
we’re here to help.

In this post, we’ll guide you through the fundamental challenges—and
solutions—for starting your DevSecOps journey.

Why DevSecOps is challenging

Yes, adopting DevSecOps has its fair share of challenges, especially if
you’re not a DevSecOps engineer with formal training in security. How
confident are you in identifying vulnerabilities—in your code and in
your infrastructure setup? Adding on another layer of complexity, you
need to understand how attackers exploit vulnerabilities.

On top of this, you’ve got a whole array of security tools, and each one
does something different. What should your security stack look like, and
how do you know if you’re leaving gaps?

Software development moves fast, so your security measures need to be
agile. To get you started, we recommend the following foundational tips.

Tip #1: Build a security mindset

Before we even talk about fancy tools or techniques, let’s start with…
you. How’s your security mindset? Your security mindset is the
foundation upon which all your DevSecOps methodology will be built.
You must be proactive about your security. Waiting for a security
incident to occur is not an option. Reactive measures are often too
late. Most of the significant damage is already done.

Start by educating yourself. There are tons of online courses,
webinars, and tutorials that can help you understand the basics of
cybersecurity. You could even take it further to pursue cybersecurity
certifications. This knowledge will serve you well as you navigate
through the complexities of DevSecOps.

Peer code reviews are another crucial aspect. Going beyond just
functionality, these reviews should include a focus on potential
security issues. This is a chance for team members to learn from each
other and improve the overall security of your project.

Create secure software by writing secure code. In addition, adopt the
use of security as code (SaC). Security policies should be managed
and versioned through control systems like Git. For example, you can use
Terraform to create, apply, and manage IAM policies for AWS resources.
This approach allows for better tracking, auditing, and accountability.
Then, you can automate Terraform and other security checks—such as
compliance scans or audits—as part of your continuous integration and
continuous delivery practices, integrating them with your CI/CD

Tip #2: Think like an attacker

If you understand your enemy, then half of your battle is won. Let's
explore how to think like an attacker to better defend your

Understanding the vulnerabilities that attackers exploit is key to
effective security. Get familiar with common attack vectors like SQL
injection and CSRF. Websites like Hacksplaining offer hands-on exercises to deepen your understanding of these concepts. For instance, you can try out an SQL injection exercise.

Along with this, get to know the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP), which provides a wealth of information on the latest security threats and best practices. OWASP has a top ten list of web application security
and another list specifically related to API security.

Next, engage in practical exercises to level up your security
skills. Capture The Flag (CTF) challenges are an excellent way to
understand how attackers think. These challenges simulate real-world
scenarios where you must exploit vulnerabilities to achieve specific

Similarly, ethical hacking or penetration testing can provide valuable
insights into potential weaknesses in your system. These exercises allow
you to identify and fix vulnerabilities before they can be exploited.

Tip #3: Know cloud security

Cloud computing environments have their security challenges too, so
you’ll need to know a few key points to secure your cloud-based
applications properly.

First, consider the complexities of multi-cloud environments. If you
need to manage security across multiple cloud providers—like Google
Cloud and Microsoft Azure—then you’ve got a complex task. Each provider
has its own terms, tools, and interfaces. If you’re running
microservices and cloud-native applications, then don’t forget to add
Docker containers and Kubernetes into the mix. Building a unified
security strategy in the midst of it all is a challenge.

Next, cloud environments mean needing various security controls—like
firewalls, IAM policies, role-based access control (RBAC), security
groups, and encryption. These controls are all wonderful and necessary,
as they set up your defense against potential attacks and unauthorized

But setting them up correctly is a whole other beast. You’ll need to
get this part right.

Finally, we can’t downplay the importance of continuous monitoring and
. These are vital for figuring out whether your security
measures are effective and how they might be improved. Metrics provide
real-time insight into system behavior and vulnerabilities, making it
possible to intervene quickly when necessary.

AWS-specific challenges

If you’re working with Amazon Web Services (AWS), then you have
additional challenges to be mindful of.

For example, overprovisioning IAM roles can occur when permissions are
granted too liberally. You might grant a role full administrative access
to an AWS service when it only needs read-only access. This could
potentially lead to unauthorized actions, either maliciously or by
mistake. Instead, adopt the principle of least privilege: grant only the
minimum permissions necessary to perform a task.

AWS S3 bucket misconfigurations are another frequent issue. An example
would be setting an S3 bucket to public instead of private, which could
lead to unauthorized data access or even data leaks.

Role overprovisioning and bucket misconfigurations are common pitfalls,
and they can have severe implications—such as data breaches and
unauthorized system changes.

Tip #4: Use the right tools for DevSecOps

When you’re implementing DevSecOps, having the right tools can be a game
changer. So, choose your tools wisely. What should you keep in mind when
you’re thinking about your security toolchain?

  • Time savings: DevSecOps tools can save you time by automating repetitive tasks. With automation taking care of mundane tasks, you can focus on more complex issues that require human judgment.
  • Reduce mental burden: The right tools reduce the mental load by handling specific security concerns. This allows you to focus on developing features and improving your application.
  • Avoid tool sprawl: Yes, choosing the right tools is crucial—but be wary of using too many. A disparate set of tools can get messy and create gaps in your security posture.

Various types of tools can assist you in DevSecOps. These include:

  • Vulnerability scanners
  • Infrastructure monitoring tools
  • Infrastructure as Code (IaC) solutions
  • Cloud workload protection platforms
  • Static application security testing (SAST)
  • Dynamic application security testing (DAST)
  • … and more.

If you have a security issue, there’s most likely a tool out there that
can help you address it.


In summary, DevSecOps is a critical practice that every software
developer should adopt. The challenges are real, but they are not
insurmountable. By building a security mindset, understanding your
vulnerabilities, and leveraging the right tools, you can significantly
improve your security posture.

Panoptica can simplify your DevSecOps journey and make security best
practices a part of your software development lifecycle (SDLC). It
automates security tasks, provides a unified view of risks, and manages
security policies effectively. It’s a comprehensive all-in-one tool that
will get you up and running with DevSecOps quickly. When you’re ready to
give it a try, sign up to use Panoptica for free today!

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