The responsibility for ensuring data security now rests with developers; here’s their strategy for success.

Sun Feb 19, 2023 - 2:59am GMT+0000

Chief Information Officers (CIOs) consistently identify security as the foremost challenge within IT organizations. An astonishing 82% of them acknowledge the vulnerability of their own software supply chains.

In light of the ongoing evolution and heightened sophistication of security threats, developers are now being called upon to collaborate closely with security teams. Their objective is to seamlessly integrate security measures from the very inception of projects, ensuring that safeguards are incorporated throughout the entire development lifecycle.

This confluence of factors has led to a significant rise in the cost of cybersecurity. A recent report from McKinsey predicts that annual damages resulting from cyberattacks will surge to approximately $10.5 trillion by 2025, marking a staggering 300% increase since 2015.

Meanwhile, governments across the globe are increasingly attuned to the risks associated with software supply chains. In the United States, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has issued a set of cyber performance objectives aimed at safeguarding critical national infrastructure. While currently voluntary, these guidelines may lay the groundwork for future federal regulations.

This encouraging development notwithstanding, the primary force fortifying the front lines in the battle for data security remains clear: Developers.

Four pillars for securing the software supply chain

Security teams have the critical responsibility of safeguarding their organization’s data, but the rising occurrences of software supply chain attacks pose significant challenges. Imposing and maintaining security policies across a diverse range of operations is an escalating concern, and security teams are also burdened with the duty of upholding compliance and best practices.

In many organizations, this has led to stretched-thin security teams, triggering a cascading impact on development teams who are often summoned to address and reinforce the numerous, frequently overlooked supply chain vulnerabilities.

The sobering reality is that the majority of organizations lack a dedicated DevSecOps engineer or leader. Consequently, there is a growing trend where security and development teams collaborate closely to integrate security seamlessly into their applications and operational processes right from the outset.

As developers assume a more pivotal role in the quest for data security, there are four fundamental principles they should bear in mind when addressing the security of the software supply chain.

Placing an increased focus on software packages
At its core, software packages consist of interconnected code modules that combine to create an application. A prevalent tactic employed by malicious individuals today involves targeting compromised packages that encompass more than mere source code; they may include valuable assets like sensitive keys, configurations, or other elements capable of exposing an organization to risks.

In order to fortify their defenses, developers must possess both the necessary tools and expertise to uncover vulnerabilities within packages that extend beyond what can be discerned from the source code alone. This comprehensive approach is essential for fully grasping the potential consequences of potential exploits.

Understanding the context within which software operates

In addition to software packages, developers must possess a comprehensive understanding of the operational context in which software functions to ensure its optimal security. Specifically, they should be adept at recognizing instances of misused open-source software (OSS) libraries, insecure utilization of services, exposed secrets, and configuration issues related to infrastructure-as-code (IaC). Subsequently, they must assess the relevance and exploitability of the most critical vulnerabilities within their applications.

The susceptibility of common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs) to exploitation varies based on an application’s configurations, utilization of authentication mechanisms, and the exposure of cryptographic keys. Collaborating closely with security teams, developers must rigorously validate whether the libraries, services, daemons, and IaC components they depend on are susceptible to misuse or misconfiguration across the entire software supply chain, spanning on-premises, cloud-based, and edge environments.

Ensuring every process and tool incorporates security
Ideally, developer teams should centralize the management of all artifacts and repositories in a unified location, establishing a singular point of reference for the entire organization. When development teams maintain full control over their entire portfolio, security seamlessly integrates into the process from its inception—transforming the single source of truth into a single source of trust.

When executed with precision, every aspect of the DevOps process and its associated tools should incorporate security as an inherent component. The overarching objective is to consolidate, expedite, and fortify the delivery of software from the initial development stage to its eventual deployment. Security teams formulate strategies and policies, while development teams take responsibility for addressing and overseeing code bases, packages, infrastructure, integrations, releases, and workflows. This holistic approach ensures a streamlined workflow that caters to the needs of core DevOps teams, transcending beyond just the purview of security and developer groups.

Discovering vulnerabilities before they’re exploited
Many organizations can benefit from collaborating with third-party analysts or engaging with open-source communities that possess extensive research expertise. This collaborative approach aids in the early detection of vulnerabilities before they are exploited. Such partnerships provide businesses with the means to respond swiftly to emerging threats within their industry. Consequently, they can promptly enhance their databases with contextual analyses that closely mirror the efforts of dedicated researchers.

Enabling innovation
Incorporating security throughout the entire development process empowers developers to focus on their core tasks—development. By adopting the strategies mentioned above, they can avoid the time-consuming process of troubleshooting security problems they may not fully grasp. This approach also streamlines the identification and resolution of vulnerabilities, ensuring comprehensive fixes.

There’s no room for debate when it comes to the significance of security, as it is an indispensable concern. Successful organizations prioritize security throughout their software supply chain. This approach, in turn, enables their developers to foster innovation and drive the business forward.