How To Shift Left In Security Without Adding Work for Developers

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The term “shift left” refers to software development and the concept of taking a task that’s typically done at a later stage of the process and performing it at earlier stages. This is increasingly done when it comes to testing software code.

Shift left can also apply to security, and baking security into the software development lifecycle (SDLC). By implementing and testing security controls early in the process of development, teams can increase the security of products and avoid the addition of extra work for developers at later phases of the process.

But because security is sometimes viewed as a nuisance or a burden on the developer side at any stage, the relationship between development and software teams has the potential to be contentious—even downright hostile. Shift left, if done correctly, can provide a solution that makes everyone happy because it does not increase work for developers and leads to more secure software products.

Developers might not be thrilled with the concept of shift left for security because they are going to assume that means more—not less—work for them. If security flags a bug that needs patching in a product, that means more work for dev, right? No, that doesn’t have to be the case.

How to Shift Left Without Burdening Your Dev Team

Security teams can deliver on the shift left approach and not add work for developers by filtering out the noise, or, more specifically, removing all the vulnerabilities that do not load to memory and therefore pose no risk. In fact, of the possible security risks that might exist within a piece of code, the vast majority are likely not exploitable and therefore not a concern.

By deploying technology that automatically filters out the non-threatening vulnerabilities, teams can focus their efforts on addressing exploitable vulnerabilities only – and avoid patching false-positives that are not loaded into memory and therefore pose no risk.

They can also receive automated recommendations for the most efficient ways to remediate the high-priority vulnerabilities based on aggregated and validated data. This enables security and development teams to make more informed decisions and take action more quickly.

Shift left for security is at the heart of the DevSecOps model, which stems from the DevOps methodology.

“Similar to how DevOps enabled developers to continuously integrate the operations team’s feedback into their code, DevSecOps empowers engineers to continuously implement security as they build the product,” according to Harrison Clarke, a firm that helps organizations find DevOps talent.

“In essence, DevSecOps incorporates security practices at every phase of the application development lifecycle, further supporting the delivery of higher quality and secure software faster,” the firm says. “Additionally, it is a mindset change that holds accountable development, security, and operations teams for security issues. By continuously providing developers with security feedback, they can fix vulnerabilities as they code, ensuring fewer errors in the deployment phase.”

DevSecOps automatically implements application and infrastructure security throughout the key phases in the DevOps lifecycle, Harrison Clarke says, from planning to deployment and operations. “Addressing security problems as engineers build applications is less complicated and improves the agility of a DevOps approach,” it says.

DevSecOps “emphasizes the necessity to include security as a foundation within an organization’s DevOps practice,” the firm notes. “At its core, the movement brings security teams and all stakeholders involved in the software development lifecycle together to bake security into the SDLC from end to end.”

Most DevSecOps teams are currently not equipped with critically-needed automation tools to detect, prioritize, and address security risks. So developers and security teams spend most of their time patching vulnerabilities that don’t pose an actual risk. This leaves organizations vulnerable and causes friction with DevOps’ aggressive release cycles and product security teams.

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