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October 02, 2023

Integrating Cybersecurity into Agile Development and DevOps

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Written by

Cam Hopkin

Lead Cybersecurity & DevOps Engineer

The software development landscape is constantly evolving, driven by the need for efficient, secure, and adaptive processes. By integrating cybersecurity with an Agile framework and DevOps, organizations can establish a more secure development environment.  

More specifically, by incorporating cybersecurity measures throughout the entire software development lifecycle (SDLC), organizations can protect sensitive data, ensure compliance with privacy regulations, and maintain trust with customers. Let’s take a closer look at these concepts and their relationship to cybersecurity. 

Taking a secure, Agile approach 

Agile software development, in a nutshell, emphasizes flexibility, collaboration, and customer satisfaction. By implementing short development cycles called “sprints,” agile teams can quickly adjust to changing requirements and deliver value incrementally. This iterative approach promotes transparency and collaboration, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and adaptability.  

When taking an Agile approach, teams typically use a scrum board or kanban board to visualize their workflows. Workflows are broken down into stories (broad work items, represented by a single Post-It note, that express the end goal and are usually worked on by multiple people) and tasks (more tangible or discrete responsibilities typically assigned to a single person). 

To integrate security into an Agile framework, it’s crucial to have sufficient stories for security-related items built into the backlog. By having stories related to security built into sprints, cybersecurity is thus integrated into design and implementation as opposed to solely being handled retroactively, through remediation.  

Critical security items should also be weighted more heavily than other items. If there’s an open Common Vulnerability & Exposure (CVE) with a high severity ranking, it needs to be taken care of immediately—even if that means handling it falls outside of normal sprint work.  

DevOps and cybersecurity 

Next, DevOps represents the collaboration and integration of development and operations teams to enhance software delivery from ideation to deployment. This approach promotes communication and streamlines processes, accelerating the SDLC and improving software quality. DevOps encourages a shared responsibility culture, enhancing accountability and problem-solving capabilities. 

The integration of cybersecurity into DevOps is sometimes referred to as rugged DevOps or DevSecOps. Regardless of what you call it, everyone needs to be thinking about how their product could break, while building tests to ensure that doesn’t happen.  

If you’re building a website that uses an authentication microservice, what happens if that service goes down? Or, how can you prevent a SQL injection attack—when an adversary attempts to put a string of SQL into the login page that crashes the database? By making security a part of the conversation early on, the DevOps team can build a more resilient product. 

One hurdle to integrating cybersecurity into DevOps is getting buy-in from key stakeholders and organization leaders. When major security issues happen outside of production, they are costly and undermine customer trust. By considering security upfront, your organization will realize cost savings in addition to reinforcing a culture of shared responsibility. 

The bottom line 

Agile development, cybersecurity, and DevOps are related concepts that, when combined, create a robust and streamlined software development framework. Agile provides the flexibility and responsiveness needed for rapid development, while DevOps bridges the gap between development and operations, streamlining the process. Cybersecurity is the glue that binds them together, ensuring data protection and compliance throughout the entire lifecycle as well. 

Finally, the collaboration and communication fostered by Agile values and principles and DevOps create a more cohesive team better equipped to address and respond to cybersecurity concerns. This unified approach ensures that organizations are well-positioned to protect their data from an ever-growing number of cybersecurity threats, in turn protecting the company’s reputation. 

Learn more about how an Agile approach to software development works to bring security concerns to the forefront in Blog 2 of our series, 3 Tips to Prioritize Security in Your Agile Software Development.

Cam Hopkin

Lead Cybersecurity & DevOps Engineer

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