Firms See DevOps' Security Benefits, yet Face Stark Reality

Although 99 percent of companies believe shifting to Agile development methods could help security, only 20 percent are doing security testing during the app development process, according to an HPE study.

DevOps benefits

Almost all companies see Agile software development practices, such as DevOps, as a critical step toward creating more secure software, but few are integrating security testing into the application development process, according to a recent study by Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

The small-population survey of security teams, industry leaders, enterprises and developers found that 99 percent of companies equated DevOps with more secure software. However, only 20 percent had incorporated security testing into their development process, while 17 percent did no security testing at all. The DevOps process gives developers a framework in which to test and deploy software frequently, and security testing needs to be built in, Maria Bledsoe, director of product strategy for HPE Security, told eWEEK.

"There is a notion in the industry that DevOps produces more secure code, but the problem is that DevOps in and of itself does not produce more secure code," Bledsoe said. "It gives the opportunity to produce more secure code."

DevOps has become a major focus of enterprise software developers. Nearly three-quarters of businesses planned to adopt a DevOps style of software development in 2016, up from two-thirds of companies in 2015, according to RightScale's 2016 State of the Cloud Report.

Yet developers and security professionals are still confused as to how DevOps can help secure the enterprise, HPE found.

The survey, which included interviews lasting an hour, found that business-technology leaders had no single definition of what DevOps entailed. Most defined DevOps as a style of development that includes integrated teams, automated testing, frequent deployment and continuous integration.

About 30 percent of the companies whose workers stated that they were not practicing DevOps actually used some components of it in their development process.

However, most developers who had implemented DevOps found that it had essentially a neutral impact on the security of their software. Companies that already had a focus on security continued that focus, but firms who had not made security a priority saw less benefit, the survey found.

Implementing DevOps or some other Agile development process without integrating security testing into the process results in development that can produce defects faster, a poor outcome, Bledsoe said.

"Without proper planning, DevOps becomes a security person's worst nightmare," she said. "Everything is getting faster-—the development and the creation of vulnerabilities."

About two-thirds of companies tested software infrequently, either before releasing a candidate to production or, after production, as a function of network testing.

Much of the problems in securing DevOps stem from the fact that security professionals and developers tend to communicate poorly with each other, Bledsoe said. Instead, security should be a responsibility that both groups of professionals share, she said.

HPE also recommends that companies incorporate security and security testing throughout the development process and that companies make security a priority, with metrics that can be used to help professionals focus on the most significant risks.

Robert Lemos

Robert Lemos

Robert Lemos is an award-winning freelance journalist who has covered information security, cybercrime and technology's impact on society for almost two decades. A former research engineer, he's...