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Intro to DevOps Security: Best Practices & Tools

Intro to DevOps Security: Best Practices & Tools

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Written by Brandon
Wednesday, July 20th 2022

Today, we’re talking about security and how it deserves a chance in the spotlight, after many years of getting sidelined. The same principles and culture that work with DevOps can be applied to application security. Security considerations should start from day one, instead of as an afterthought after the application is nearly complete.

As cyber-attacks become more commonplace and impact even the largest organizations, teams everywhere are scrambling to close security vulnerabilities in their applications. You’re morally required to protect and secure any user data you collect. Build your applications with a security-first focus, and your applications will fare far better against malicious attacks. Incorporate secret management with Onboardbase to keep secrets and credentials safely encrypted during the entire development lifecycle. Continue reading to learn about DevOps Security practices and tools to help you deter cybersecurity attacks and protect your user’s data.

What is Cybersecurity? Why is it important?

It seems like every day, another major company gets hacked, and their user’s sensitive personal data is leaked. You don’t want that to be your organization’s name blasted in the headlines. According to the FBI, over 4,000 ransomware attacks occur daily, and DDoS attacks occur every 13 minutes.

Preventing malicious cyberattacks with technology and other security practices is called cybersecurity. A cyberattack is any unauthorized attempt to collect, damage, edit, publicize or disable information. Malicious actors attempting to break into an organization’s private networks and databases are usually looking for a big payday (data is extremely valuable) or for political effect.

Cybersecurity is so critical these days because everyone’s personal data is stored somewhere in an application or online. This includes bank information, credit card information, social security number, business associates, financial transactions, personal accounts, and so much more.

If your software application asks users for credit card numbers or other personal information, it’s your responsibility to be a good minister of your user’s data. Your team should take your application’s security very seriously, which means designing your application to protect information from the beginning of development. And that’s where DevOps Security comes in.

What is DevOps Security (also known as DevSecOps)?

Just how DevOps eliminated barriers between the Dev and Ops teams to improve collaboration and build a great software product. DevOps Security challenges your organization to do the same thing, but with security.

IT operations teams are typically responsible for the following areas:

  • Server management
  • Network infrastructure
  • Managing tickets and help desk
  • Security management
  • Incident management
  • Database maintenance

As you can see, the Ops team is kept very busy managing vital systems. Issues in any of those areas can bring an application to its knees, so to speak. Before DevOps Security practices, security concerns were addressed near the end of development, when the entire application was already built. This doesn’t leave any room for IT Ops to suggest changes to improve security.

But DevSecOps or DevOps Security changes the approach to security. Your team starts asking questions about security from the beginning of development. Security leaves its ‘silo’ in the dust fully integrated with the Dev and Ops teams. DevOps Security advocates for continuous security, meaning your team is looking for ways to improve security features and infrastructure.

DevOps Security Best Practices

Get Team on Board

Security is left as an afterthought because your software development team doesn’t code or work with a security-minded focus. Code is written however the developer needs to make their targeted feature work. Developers may not even realize how many vulnerabilities they can add to the application. So how do you tackle this?

First, get everyone in the software development and the operations teams on the same page concerning security. Developers need to embrace the idea of developing a highly secure application. Besides moral responsibilities, building a secure application is impressive and feels great. IT Ops teams can share their knowledge with developers, teaching basic topics initially but ramping up in difficulty as developers become better versed with security concepts.

With each deployment, your IT Ops team should check for any security vulnerabilities and be willing to push back against deployments that will increase the risk of cybersecurity breaches.

At the end of the day, security first.

Protect Secrets and Environment Configs

When you have developers working across multiple devices, even remotely, there’s a need to share and use secrets and environment configurations. But every time these secrets are shared, they are at risk of being stolen. Incorporate secret management into your security strategy to protect these credentials from being compromised.

Organizations should avoid any sensitive information sharing over communication platforms like Slack, Google Chat, or Microsoft teams. These platforms are designed for quick and easy communication and don’t use the best security practices. For example, Slack does not have end-to-end encryption meaning unintended malicious actors may find valuable information within message contents. Slack promotes itself as a messaging solution for workplaces, meaning businesses want to be able to read employee communications as necessary, so end-to-end encryption isn’t implemented.

Instead, use a security secret tool like Onboardbase to keep your environment configs and secrets safe all the time. Onboardbase will store your secrets safely while continuing to test and update for emerging security threats. Team members can easily update passwords with Onboardbase’s CLI.

If malicious actors access vital environment variables and credentials, they can gain a backdoor into your application. Onboardbase won’t let that happen, instead keeping your secrets locked up tight.

Automate Security Tools

It’s no surprise that automation is just as revolutionary for security as it is for developers and operations. Automation will make all security processes more efficient and easier to carry out. It’s nearly impossible to practice DevSecOps at an operational scale without automation.

Automated security tools help your IT and security engineers test software during the development cycle. By testing at each step of the SDLC, your team catches more security issues earlier and has time to address them. Automated testing saves tons of manpower but, more importantly, will minimize human-induced vulnerabilities and subsequent downtime.

Security automation is helpful for the following processes:

  • Automatically update and patch software for known security vulnerabilities
  • Automate security regression tests when possible
  • Automate audits, remediation, code analysis, and vulnerability management
  • Automate scanning for security risks within containers

Security and the Cloud

The Cloud is an extremely powerful tool for any organization. Companies can develop applications and deploy them with great reliability on any infrastructure. But protecting Cloud CI/D pipelines and preventing cyberattacks is more challenging for security engineers.

Security teams must navigate the following challenges when using Cloud infrastructure:

  • Add systems for cloud logging and metric reporting
  • Secure applications with native cloud security services
  • Enhance the security of applications with third-party applications
  • Ensure containers are secure (Kubernetes or Docker)
  • Continually scan for security policy compliance
  • Set up automated remediation for the Cloud

DevOps Security Tools

There are a host of DevOps Security tools that’ll help your teams scan, audit, assess, and implement security practices throughout the SDLC and beyond. Let’s take a look at some of the great options:

1. Onboardbase

Onboardbase is a security solution that protects your secrets and environment configs. Instead of sharing credentials and other secrets on insecure applications like Slack, use Onboardbase instead. Onboardbase knows that 37% of engineering teams have experienced a breach and understands that eliminating credential and secret mismanagement is the key to stopping breaches. Check out Onboardbase’s documentation to learn more.

Onboardbase will help your team work faster and safer. Once Onboardbase’s CLI is installed, app secrets are available in real-time through the secure CLI. All secrets and environment configs are stored using Digital Ocean and AWS, encrypted using AES-CBC, and network communication is protected with TLS 1.2 encryption and RSA.

Onboardbase is a great option for smaller to medium-sized teams. This tool offers a freemium model, with 5 users covered for free. Get started with the paid tier of Onboardbase for $250 per month, for up to 20 users. Onboardbase can also offer tailored pricing solutions to suit your organization’s unique needs.

2. HashiCorp Vault

HashiCorp Vault is a secret management tool that protects all secrets and encrypted keys. HashiCorp operates on a zero-trust basis, meaning all users attempting to access secrets must authenticate their identity each and every time.

Your IT team can decide the specifics of who is permitted access to specific keys and secrets. This fine-grained authorization technique protects information by reducing the overall number of identities which limits the chances of hacking.

If you’re looking for a more full-service security solution, then you might be interested in some of HashiCorp’s other tools as well, that can help with the following:

  • Secure network infrastructure automation
  • Total encryption
  • Secure containerization with Kubernetes
  • Cloud security

Hashicorp Vault is not an open-source tool, and its costs may place it at the edge of reach for smaller organizations with smaller budgets.

3. Aqua Security

Aqua Security is an open-source tool that assists with native cloud security. Aqua can protect your application across any cloud, containers, or virtual machines. Aqua’s goal is to prevent cyberattacks with regular scanning and to identify and remove issues early. With Dynamic Thread Analysis for Containers, a secure container sandbox will identify malware and hidden risks before deployment. Aqua Security also protects against DDoS attacks and polymorphic malware.

Check out Aqua Security’s GitHub to take a look at what they have to offer your organization.


OWASP ZAP is another stellar open-source security tool, more specifically, a web app scanner. OWASP ZAP, also known as OWASP Zed Attack Proxy, is developed and improved by a community of volunteers. ZAP provides a simple guide to getting started with their tools. Use their Quick Start command line feature for quick, simple scans, but select API and Daemon mode for complete configuration of ZAP using an API.

5. SolarWinds Security Event Manager

SolarWinds Security Event Manager (SEM) is a top-of-the-line security solution but comes at a hefty price. You’re looking at about $2600 to get started with a SolarWinds Security Event Manager subscription, or $5144 for a perpetual license. SolarWinds monitors your network for any intrusion events and responds to threats in real-time. SolarWinds Security Event Manager can be paired with the Cloud. SolarWinds has a great set of reporting tools and superior log indexing for easy searching.

SolarWinds Security Event Manager is guaranteed to help your security engineers manage, monitor, and safeguard against malicious cybersecurity attacks. SolarWinds offers over 300 different reports for your team to sort through. SolarWinds SEM will handle threats for you, so engineers can work on more important tasks.

Prioritize Your Security

Let DevSecOps shift your entire development culture towards security first. Security has tagged behind other culture shifts, including DevOps and automation. But organizations are beginning to understand the importance of security after so many high-profile cybersecurity breaches. Hundreds of millions of users worldwide have had their personal data leaked through some kind of cybersecurity breach.

Security is not an area your organization can afford to leave as an afterthought. Build security features into each step of the SDLC by getting your team fully on board, automating as much as possible, and securing your cloud environments. Try out some powerful budget-friendly DevOps Security tools like Onboardbase, Aqua Security, and OWASP ZAP or if your organization has the budget for a top-tier security tool, check out HashiCorp Vault or SolarWinds Security Event Manager.

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