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Application Security

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Robert Hawk
Robert Hawk
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From DevOps to DevSecOps: Structuring Communication for Better Security

A solid approach to change management can help prevent problems downstream.

Security has long been considered an afterthought in the software development process, with ad hoc measures typically tacked on just before release. This approach is no longer adequate in sustaining today's expectations for rapid and reliable service.

DevSecOps is emerging as a superior way to integrate security throughout the DevOps cycles, using better intelligence, situational awareness, and enhanced collaboration. It entails a solid approach to change management, or standardizing specific processes that can help prevent problems downstream. Poor (or no) change management is the biggest culprit in preventing organizations from pinpointing the root cause of critical issues, thereby slowing down the entire business.

Security Incident and Event Management (SIEM)
The key to optimizing your business for DevSecOps is to build the necessary infrastructure to interact with your SIEM system, and enable rapid data collection, data analysis, and incident response. Your SIEM platform should act as the hub, around which you can customize the full workflow for managing incidents.

Having one absolute source of data is crucial; when you rely on spreadsheets that sit on people's local computers or manual communication mechanisms such as email, information quickly gets old and out of sync. Plus, it's too difficult to draw meaningful correlations across data sitting in silos. The best incident management solutions can automate moving data between tools, from incident ticketing systems to collaboration tools, system updates, chatbots, and more. Not only do these automation measures save time, they preserve the accuracy of information for all parties involved.

Through descriptive and predictive data mining, machine learning, and simulation, the advanced analytics of SIEM make it easy to visualize and correlate data by mapping previous or pre-categorized events against a cyber kill chain framework or past events to better support incident investigations.

Of course, not all incidents are equal; you'll want an analytics-driven platform that gives you the flexibility to categorize the severity of potential threats, as well as provide your entire organization with a "single source of truth" and contextual insight to determine the appropriate response to any event. This includes integrating threat intelligence data, watch lists, correlation rules and queries, and the like.

Let's take a look at three use cases that highlight the importance of DevSecOps.

1. Internal Communications
The security team for a multinational financial corporation takes down the company's firewall as part of routine maintenance. In the middle of the night, the application team can see that changes have been made, but because there is no documented, standardized procedure for changing the firewall, they flag it as an anomaly and a possible threat. As they follow protocol to investigate the change, they're unable to figure out the root cause of the issue, and end up gathering other groups and scrambling to diagnose and fix. By the time they figure out that it's just a firewall change, the service has been down for more than 12 hours. The teams agree to create a new rule: no firewall changes should be made after hours.

2. Alert Fatigue
The service desk for a large retailer receives alerts of a data breach. Without filters or rules in place, these alerts get lost among the many thousands of notifications the group receives every hour. The major incident alerts go unnoticed, buried under false alarms, automated alerts, and other notifications, preventing teams from acting proactively. Instead, the unsuspecting teams discover the problem days later, and only through the reports of confused customers and partners — not to mention angry executives. The company then has to notify its customers that their personal information may have been compromised, and a protracted public scandal causes its teams to change its major incident processes.

3. Poor Fundamentals
A global credit monitoring agency suffers a data breach but does not realize it for months, and must awkwardly alert its customers long after the fact that their personal information may have been compromised. In the aftermath, the company promotes websites intended to allow users to see whether they are affected by the breach. The agency's lack of preparation becomes obvious when the websites prove totally ineffective and affected by viruses, making matters worse and causing further embarrassment. The company resolves to completely revamp its approach to security and incident management.

What Should You Do?
The key to achieving a successful DevSecOps implementation is to tackle communication as a core tenet of operations and bring structure to collaboration so that your organization can remain proactive and keep the right people informed of truly relevant information. IT teams tend to be paralyzed with too many alerts and notifications that prevent them from identifying and quickly fixing the important issues. Artificial intelligence-driven event analytics can help turn this data into immediate action and help your business to prioritize the restoration of business-critical services based on real data and not a wild guess. This is the structure and standardization necessary to prevent outages, manage major incidents, and rapidly engage resolution when necessary.


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Robert Hawk is Privacy & Security Lead at xMatters. He has extensive experience in information systems security, computer security, cybersecurity, information assurance, as well as governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) management. He specializes in frameworks and standards ... View Full Bio

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User Rank: Author
2/21/2018 | 5:45:09 PM
Is DevSecOps the right answer?
No doubt it makes sense to build apps in a way that a single SEIM can provide a holistic view.  But that's not the entire security story - that's really just consolidatiing the forensics.  As we move into a world with cloud native applications, it is risky to rely on developers to also think about operations AND security.  Is it possible that one person can optimize all three?  Organizations have utilized the seperation of duties model for years for the simple reason that focus and accountability brings results.  Increasing developer awareness of security is of course a good thing and likely to yield some results. But maintaining a strong, independant security team just seems to make sense.  Beyond the org structure, the security tools need to evolve to bring the seperation of duties model to the self service cloud.  Amazon took a big step forward with recent enhancements to their IAM capabilites, segmenting some security functions from day to day dev and ops functions.  But there's still a long way to go for the tools to enforce true seperation of duties.  DevOps yes.  DevSecOps and security is all taken care of?  Doubtful.
User Rank: Author
2/19/2018 | 6:46:34 PM
Re: SIEM as Hub
In regard to "If change management is central, why are you focusing on the SIEM as central?".  Though the SEIM traditionally has been used as a 'security' device or system, it is evolving into the organizations information systems nerve processing center.  Shipping logs to the SIEM from internal and external systems can be used to detect issues within the network.  The same is true for change management logs.  In effect connecting change management to the SEIM is useful in regard to detecting possible outages that may result due to bad or incorrect changes implemented.  in regard to "DevSecOps should bring together all IT operational teams, not merely orchestrate silo'd security tools."  It is easy to dictate to people the necessity to collaborate and they may try to.  Creating technology bridges across silos may be a great way to start tearing down the silo walls.
User Rank: Apprentice
2/15/2018 | 11:02:01 AM
SIEM as Hub
If change management is central, why are you focusing on the SIEM as central? The SIEM focuses on threats, not context. Your CMDB provides risk context including for change management. If you don't know clearly what you are protecting you will focus on threats for which you have no underlying exposure. DevSecOps should bring together all IT operational teams, not merely orchestrate silo'd security tools.
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