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When it comes to developing cutting-edge software, the concept of DevOps (and CI/CD) is quickly becoming a popular way to meet quality, cost, and time-to-market goals.

DevOps is helping teams improve their productivity while integrating changes and ensuring the end product keeps up with the current demand. But despite how critical CI/CD is to the DevOps lifecycle, its security is often overlooked – especially as the pressure to quickly deliver new releases mounts.

Read on to learn how you can ensure the security of your CI/CD pipeline, as you use it to shorten your release cycles and implement feature changes and bug fixes rapidly.

Ensuring CI/CD pipeline security 

Security issues and bottlenecks are an indispensable part of the software development lifecycle. Although it is impossible to achieve 100% security, you can indeed reduce the likelihood of vulnerabilities going undetected. To achieve this, you need to formulate robust security strategies and implement security processes and frameworks throughout the CI/CD channel to maintain the required security posture of your code.

Here are some tips to ensure CI/CD pipeline security:

  1. Safeguard your code repository: One of the first steps to take to ensure the security of your CI/CD pipeline is to safeguard your code repository. Since your code repository is only as secure as the tools and frameworks you use to protect it, you need to have the necessary controls in place to ensure your access credentials aren’t compromised, your services aren’t breached, and your codebase is not modified – without your knowledge or permission. Start by choosing a repository you trust, then work towards separating credentials from your source code, constantly backing it up, and continuously reviewing code changes to prevent malicious code from being introduced.
  2. Enforce the right permissions: Development environments often offer seamless access to multiple users to quicken the coding and testing process. But such widespread access tends to put the CI/CD pipeline at risk. Establishing the right permissions and having a Least Privilege Policy in place can help control access: by limiting who can commit code changes and who can create and deploy containers, you can ensure the channel is accessed and modified only by authorized personnel. This ensures that no person has more access than needed to establish control over the entire pipeline.
  3. Implement authentication credentials: Having authentication credentials such as passwords, encryption keys, and API tokens is another great way to curb extensive access to the CI/CD pipeline. Since such credentials are keys to your software project’s data and resources, when properly implemented, they can safeguard your pipeline from serious data breaches and intellectual property theft. In addition, it also pays to constantly monitor and audit these credentials and update them as required – as old members leave the team and new ones join in.
  4. Establish an incident response plan: Third-party resources and services can compromise the CI/CD pipeline at any time. To ensure your pipeline is safe from attacks and breaches, you must closely monitor it to proactively discover and act on misuse and breaches. Establishing an incident response plan can allow you to handle unexpected security events and minimize their impact on the pipeline. Once the plan is in place, make sure to update it as new tools and services get added to your pipeline.
  5. Constantly scan the pipeline: Deploying infrastructure and applications through CI/CD means your entire environment can be scanned to address security concerns – without much effort. Implementing security scans across development, testing, and deployment phases can help unearth vulnerabilities in time, so you can take the required action to control their impact. Scanning source code, containers, and the overall infrastructure can help detect threat patterns in your code, analyze dependencies, and lower the chance of deploying known vulnerabilities into your CI/CD pipeline.

The security of the CI/CD pipeline is often at stake, given the number of people and tools that have access to proprietary code, databases, secrets, and development and production environments. If you want to receive early warnings of vulnerable or flawed code, you need to integrate security throughout the CI/CD pipeline. This can not only aid in adding the required layers of security checks; it also makes developers mode productive, maintains agile development, and reduces time to market.

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