Chief Technology Officer/CISO
The concept of “shift left” has DevOps origins, and it’s about fostering a culture of responsibility. The aim is to detect issues earlier in a process or cycle, with an awareness that development choices impact the security of an application, its users, and the organization. From a security standpoint, this means integrating security measures at the beginning of the development cycle, rather than as an add-on after completion.
Shifting Security to the Start
Too often, security checks and protocols are implemented in the later stages of development or deployment. However, in the “shift left” approach, security is top of mind from the start, not an afterthought. This early integration of security controls helps ensure that applications and systems are secure from the start, reducing business risk.
With this approach, developers become more aware of security best practices and are trained to code with security in mind. Every time a new component is built – be it a bucket or a directory – these questions must become a habit, a part of the development DNA:
- Who has access?
- What controls are in place?
- Is it publicly available?
Implementing “Shift Left” Strategies
Shifting left fosters a culture where security is a shared responsibility among all team members, not just a concern for security specialists. This includes:
- Continuous Monitoring for Anomalous Behavior: Vulnerabilities can come from anywhere at anytime. To effectively manage these vulnerabilities, 24/7 expert human eyes on glass continuously monitoring of IT systems for unusual activities is essential. This approach helps in identifying and mitigating risks promptly.
- Enhanced Security Controls: Moving to a Zero Trust cybersecurity strategy is essential to minimize the risk of unauthorized access and data breaches. There are two components to the strategy: 1) No person or device is trusted by default—every access request is verified, regardless of the user’s location or the network used, and 2) you narrow an adversary’s attack surface via network micro-segmentation.
- Change Control for Cloud Configurations: There must be a heightened awareness about what’s interacting with your network, what kind of access does it have, and continuous penetration testing. Annual pen testing isn’t enough. This ensures that vulnerabilities are identified and addressed before they become a threat.
- Involving Security in Development: Security teams should be involved in the development process from the beginning. This involvement ensures that security considerations are integrated into every aspect of the system, from initial design, integration, and final deployment.
The Open Door Problem
In cybersecurity, an “open door” isn’t always technically a vulnerability; it’s often a human oversight. For example, consider developers working on a new website, such as a tax portal, where users can upload and view files. If the developers encounter issues in the development phase, like an inability to display files, they might hastily expose the application to the internet to resolve the issue. This quick fix can inadvertently open a door for adversaries, and IT and security teams may be unaware.
This scenario isn’t uncommon; it’s a symptom of a larger issue where security is an afterthought, not a priority. IT teams might build the infrastructure, but developers often make critical decisions that can lead to security lapses.
And it happens in IT, too. When facing user access issues, a common reaction is to “open everything up” to make it work, with the intention to tighten security later; however, this “later” often doesn’t come. This leads to what’s known as “technical debt” or “configuration debt,” where temporary solutions become permanent vulnerabilities.
Traditional vulnerability scans can’t always detect these lapses. This is where a manual, human-based penetration test becomes essential. A skilled red team can identify these open doors by scanning all your assets, looking at all your IP addresses, and checking, “Is there anything I can get into?”
Fostering a “Shift Left” Culture
“Shift left” is more than a security strategy; it’s a mindset. It requires businesses to prioritize security from the very start of any project. It’s not just the responsibility of the IT team but of every individual involved in the development and deployment process to understand the downstream security implications of every action they take.
By adopting this approach, you can significantly reduce vulnerabilities and safeguard your business against the ever-evolving landscape of cyber threats. Remember, in cybersecurity, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Shift Left with DataEndure
You didn’t get into business to be a security expert, but we did! DataEndure helps businesses become digitally resilient and stay that way in the face of rapid change and evolving threats. We have no hidden agenda, just a single goal—your business’ success.
We’ve been around for four decades, and security has been foundational to who we are since our inception. This experience informs how we build, manage, and evolve our security services.
If you need help implementing a shift left approach, DataEndure can accelerate your journey. Our complimentary Security Health Check will proactively seek out potential weaknesses in your network, giving you the insight and opportunity to strengthen your defenses before an attack occurs.
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