6 DevSecOps Best Practices that Enable Developers to Deliver Secure Code

DevSecOps is a security-first approach to standard DevOps principles. Here's how to implement it.

Aviram Shmueli writer profile image
By Aviram Shmueli

Updated April 10, 2024.

a practical guide to devseops making it work for developers

In the realm of software development, DevSecOps has emerged as a transformative approach, merging the agility of DevOps with valuable security measures.

However, just tacking a security scanning tool onto the CI/CD pipeline hasn't yielded great results. Just because developers see a long backlog of vulnerabilities, it doesn't mean they are empowered to actually fix them.

To make code security more effective, we'll review DevSecOps best practices that embed security into the culture of the development process. This ensures that every code change will be carefully analyzed for potential vulnerabilities, and resolved before production.



How Does DevSecOps Identify Security Gaps?

In simple terms, DevSecOps has revolutionized the way security is integrated into the software development process, ensuring that security flaws are identified and addressed efficiently. This methodology is crucial for modern development teams to maintain pace with rapid deployment schedules without compromising on security.

Here are a few ways DevSecOps makes a difference:

  • Proactive security integration across the SDLC: DevSecOps is about integrating security controls across the entire SDLC, which means early in the development life cycle, but also when the software is built, packaged, released and when it's in production.
  • Comprehensive security measures: Utilizing static application security testing (SAST) and dynamic application security testing (DAST) alongside infrastructure as code analysis, DevSecOps provides a thorough examination of potential security weaknesses across the application and its environment.
  • Automation and collaboration: Automation tools play a key role in streamlining the identification and fixing of security issues while fostering collaboration between development and security teams. This approach ensures that security considerations are seamlessly integrated into the development workflow.

» Learn more about the DevSecOps Toolchain

Six DevSecOps Best Practices to Help Developers Resolve Vulnerabilities Before Production

To foster a developer-friendly DevSecOps environment, it's essential to focus on these specific principles. 

Choose tools with high efficacy

By integrating high-quality security tools, developers receive valuable alerts about vulnerabilities and misconfiguration in their code. That creates credibility and trust and will make them treat the issues flagged by these tools instead of just ignoring them.

That said, running security scanning is not enough. Security tools are notorious for generating long vulnerability backlogs that are difficult to prioritize. Choose a security tool with a low false positive rate – see the list below. >> Explore our favorite open source code security tools

Integrate security feedback into developers’ native environment

Software security tools typically scan code in the CI/CD pipeline, and then document the results in a separate UI. This takes developers out of their environment and flow, which can slow them down and ultimately cause them to ignore security findings.

By integrating security tools directly within the IDE and Pull Requests, developers receive immediate feedback on potential security issues, without the need to context switch. This integration allows for quick adjustments and fosters a highly proactive security mindset.

» Learn how to integrate code security analysis into developer environment

To learn more about integrating DevSecOps into developer workflows, see the video below:



Focus on the code changes

Most security scanning tools scan the entire repository for every code change. While this makes sense in theory, it distracts developers from the vulnerabilities that they are just about to push into production. Alternatively, tools like Jit focus developers’ attention on results from their newly introduced code, while also scanning the entire code base. This ensures developers can prioritize the most important security issues to them at that moment – the vulnerabilities they’re about to push to production – while ensuring no vulnerabilities slip through the cracks.

Using Gamification in DevSecOps

Additionally, incorporating gamification into the DevSecOps methodology presents an innovative way to enhance engagement and motivation among developers.

By introducing elements like leaderboards, badges, and rewards for identifying and fixing security vulnerabilities, gamification transforms routine security tasks into a more engaging experience.

This approach not only incentivizes developers to prioritize security but also fosters a culture of continuous learning and improvement, making the process of securing applications effective and enjoyable.

» See our top open-source developer-friendly product security tools

Automate remediation research and fixes

After surfacing security issues with security scanning tools, developers need to figure out the right fix to mitigate the vulnerability risk. Ensure your tooling provides thorough remediation guidance and links to relevant sites for continued research. Or, take it a step further with tools like Jit, which automatically provide fix code suggestions that remediate vulnerabilities within the IDE or PR.

See the video below to dive deeper into auto remediation for code vulnerabilities:



Focus alerts on high an critical severity

Developers are often overwhelmed with long backlogs of vulnerabilities, which can make prioritization difficult, while causing developers to throw their hands up altogether. To shorten the backlog, consider focusing exclusively on high and critical vulnerabilities. Ideally, your security tools will automatically determine whether the vulnerability is exposed and exploitable in production, so your developers aren’t sent on ghost chases to fix issues that don’t pose real risk. 

4 Key DevSecOps Metrics to Understand

The DevSecOps best practices described above are great in theory, but if they aren't making a meaningful impact on the metrics below, they need to be refined and improved.

Key metrics provide insights into how quickly security issues are detected and resolved, highlighting the efficiency of DevSecOps core principles and practices. Use these to determine the effectiveness of your code security initiative:

  1. Mean time to identify (MTTI): MTTI assesses the speed with which teams can detect security vulnerabilities after they have been introduced into the system. A lower MTTI is indicative of a strong detection mechanism, ensuring that potential threats are recognized swiftly and allowing for quicker mitigation actions.
  2. Mean time to repair (MTTR): This metric gauges the efficiency and speed of the team's response in addressing and resolving identified security issues. An optimized MTTR shows a team's agility and effectiveness in managing security breaches, ultimately reducing the window of exposure and potential impact of such vulnerabilities.
  3. Exposure window: As a metric, the exposure window provides insight into the duration that vulnerabilities remain open and unaddressed within the system, serving as a key indicator of the risk exposure period. Shortening the exposure window is vital for minimizing potential damages and reducing the attack surface available to malicious actors.
  4. Cost savings from early detection: By focusing on early detection of vulnerabilities, organizations can significantly reduce the financial impact associated with security breaches. This metric estimates the cost savings achieved by preempting extensive damages.

Below is an overview of some of these common metrics:



Helpful tools to enable DevSecOps best practices

Open source product security tools

There is a robust open source security ecosystem that can help you implement the DevSecOps best practices described above, including:

  • Semgrep: a popular Static Application Security Testing (SAST) tool that scans your code to surface code vulnerabilities like SQL injection, cross-site scripting, or buffer overflows. Its easy to integrate Semgrep into your IDE, SCM, or build system to help your developers catch coding flaw before they reach production.
  • npm-audit: a Software Composition Analysis (SCA) tool that scans your codebase for third party dependencies, and correlates them with the National Vulnerability Database (NVD) to highlight known vulnerabilities in your codebase. When vulnerabilities like Log4j are disclosed, many turn to tools like npm-audit to determine whether they're exposed.
  • Kubescape: scans your Kubernetes configuration files and flags potential misconfigurations that could lead to vulnerabilities with a predefined set of rules using the Kubernetes Hardening Guide.
  • Gitleaks: scans your code for hardcoded secrets, such as passwords and API keys, that could have otherwise been overlooked. This is easy to do in your SCM or IDE to catch hardcoded secrets before production.

While expanding your code-to-cloud security coverage can help catch more vulnerabilities before production, having so many security tools can create a disjointed security UX for developers, while requiring extensive maintenance.

» Looking to consolidate code and cloud security tooling? Learn how security orchestration can help.

Developer ecosystem integrations

Below are technologies you can utilize to seamlessly integrate code security into the software development lifecycle, which is critical to helping developers resolve vulnerabilities without slowing them down.

  • Branch protection with GitHub: consider configuring branch protection in GitHub to prevent code with vulnerabilities from being merged. Of course, this requires a security tool that can integrate with GitHub.
  • Alerts via Slack or Jira: nobody is going to stare at a dashboard to monitor for new vulnerabilities. By integrating your code security tool with Slack or Jira, you can to automatically highlight critical vulnerabilities as they're surfaced in the tools developers already use. To avoid alert fatigue and vulnerability noise, consider a security tool that correlates vulnerabilities with runtime context, so that you can be sure the vulnerability is actually exploitable in production.
  • IDE plugins: to shift security way left in the SDLC, you can integrate your code security tool with your IDE to scan code as its being written.

Easily Implement DevSecOps Tooling and Processes With Jit

Jit offers an all-in-one platform for code-to-cloud security – including SAST, SCA, secrets detection, CI/CD security, SBOM, IaC scanning, CSPM, and DAST. Jit provides immediate security feedback for every pull request, so developers can quickly resolve vulnerabilities before production. All scanning and remediation occurs entirely within the IDE or GitHub, so they never need to leave their environment. By providing a single platform for execution, normalization, and unification of security processes, Jit enables developers to easily incorporate DevSecOps best practices into every phase of the SDLC.

Jit Review homepage screenshot

Jit

The only open DevSecOps orchestration platform

Coverage

Full app and cloud security in minutes


Integrations

Seamless integration with tech stack workflows


Security monitoring

Measure security performance metrics per team


Orchestration framework

Open framework ensures simple migration to any app or cloud security tool

Jit is a continuous security platform that helps you seamlessly embed security tools and control into your workflows. You can manage your entire DevSecOps toolchain across your IDE, code, pipeline, cloud, and runtime.

Easily plug any tool into Jit’s extensible orchestration framework to unify the execution and interface of any security tool.

  • Multiple security plans for customized coverage
  • Unified execution and UX for all security tools
  • Fast and automated scanning within GitHub
  • Jit’s Context Engine determines whether a vulnerability is actually exploitable in production to prevent alert fatigue and long backlogs of irrelevant vulnerabilities
  • Measured security performance of different teams
  • Jit’s open framework ensures a simple migration to any app or cloud security tool

Dev-friendly

Open source

Orchestrates and unifies all tools

Easy to find problematic code

Provides training in the form of documentation and live online

Platforms supported: SaaS, Windows, Mac, and Linux

The number of tool integrations could be overwhelming

Relies on additional open-source tools that must be maintained



Secure Your Code With Efficient DevSecOps Processes

DevSecOps embodies a transformative paradigm shift in software development, where security becomes an integral and non-disruptive part of the entire development lifecycle. With a focus on automation, security integration and delivery (CI/CD), and proactive security practices, DevSecOps ensures that security is not an afterthought but a core component acting continuously from planning to deployment.

Jit’s unified approach not only enhances development efficiency but also fosters a shift-left security-first culture, making DevSecOps a core practice for modern software teams. In an era of evolving cyber threats, embracing DevSecOps methodologies is essential to safeguard applications and data while maintaining the agility and pace of modern software development.