So you live in a continuous deployment shop and you have been told to inject security into the process. Are you afraid? Don’t be. When the world moved from waterfall to agile, did everything go smoothly? Of course not – you experienced setbacks and hiccups, just like everyone else. But, eventually you worked through the setbacks and lived to tell the tale. As with any new initiative, it will take time to mature. Take baby steps.
Baseline the security of your application by using multiple testing methods. Static, dynamic and manual analysis will let you know exactly where you stand today. Understand that you may be overwhelmed with your results. You can’t fix it all at once, so don’t panic. At least you know what you have to work with. Integration with your SDLC tools is going to be your best friend. It will allow you to measure your progress over time and spot problematic trends early.
Come up with a plan based on your baseline. What has to be fixed now? What won’t we fix? You didn’t get here in a day and you won’t be able to fix it in a day. Work with your security team to build your backlog. Prioritize, deprioritize, decompose, repeat. Now would be a great time to introduce a little education into the organization. Take a look at your flaw prevalence and priorities and train your developers. If you teach them secure coding practices they will write more secure code the first time.
Stop digging and put the shovels down. We know that we have problems to fix from the old code (security debt). Let’s make sure we don’t add to the pile. Now is the time to institute a security gate. No new code can be merged until it passes your security policy. We’re not talking about the entire application, just the new stuff. Don’t let insecure code come into the system. By finding and addressing the problems before check-ins, you won’t slow your downstream process. This is a good time to make sure your security auditing systems integrate with your software development lifecycle systems (JIRA, Jenkins, etc.). Integrating with these systems will make the processes more seamless.
Now you have a backlog of prioritized work for your team to fix and you’re not allowing the problem to get worse. You’re constantly measuring your security posture and showing continuous improvement. As you pay down your security debt you will have more time for feature development and a team with great secure coding habits.
Integrating a new standard into a system that is already working can be intimidating. But following these four steps will make the task more manageable. Also, once security is integrated, it will become a normal part of the continuous development lifecycle and your software will be better for it.