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Unidentified Digital Entities: The X-Files of DevSecOps

Secrets management of non-human identities in DevOps 

In the world of DevSecOps, identity management has long been preoccupied with human identities, but there’s a newer and mysterious frontier emerging – non-human identities.

As organisations adopt a more service-oriented approach, embrace cloud-based solutions, and leverage artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, these elusive non human beings, are growing at an ‘extraterrestrial’ pace.

Unidentified Digital Entities: The X-Files of DevSecOps, Avocado Consulting - deliver with certainty

Author – Dennis Baltazar

But, before you start searching for alienesque hackers infiltrating your networks, let’s make one thing clear – we’re talking about non-human identities here, not ET trying to ‘phone home.’ These take the form of service accounts, device, and secrets identities and, include IoT devices, mobile devices, and even social media accounts.

As sightings of mysterious device logins multiply, the need to secure application credentials and secrets has reached critical levels. Organisational intelligence teams are focusing in on ‘Area IoT1’ as the rapid proliferation of non-human identities leave security teams feeling like they’re dealing with UFO’s zipping through cyberspace.

Recent incidents have occurred where secrets in application code were targeted across the software supply chain. The c-suite are now demanding the security of applications to mitigate impact on shareholder value and reputation from breaches. Moreover, applications are playing an increasingly vital role as a business driver to enhance customer experience, making the protection of sensitive information paramount.


balancing vigilance with velocity

The DevSecOps Challenge – balancing vigilance with velocity 

Organisations’ software development ecosystems are susceptible to ‘zero-day vulnerabilities,’ which are often complex attacks and harder to detect – this requires vigilance. Enhancing the protection of credentials utilised by CI/CD pipelines, DevOps, automation tools, applications, and other non-human entities defends against these threats. However, the challenge lies in managing these security measures without impeding the primary purpose of these tools and environments: propelling continual innovation to outpace the market’s velocity. 

Thus, as CyberArk describes, organisations are encountering the following challenges:

1. Development interference: Security audit controls for managing secrets can sometimes cause development rework, leading to slowdowns in the development process and app deployment delays.

2. Exposed secrets: Unprotected secrets in applications, automation scripts, and code repositories are leaving our digital footprints exposed, susceptible to potential breaches.

3. Burden on dev teams: The responsibility of application security and maintaining secrets management platforms can weigh heavily on our dev teams and CTOs, especially if self-hosted.

4. Security scope overwhelm: Dev teams may lack the expertise or focus to fully address security requirements.

5. Vault sprawl: Secrets management sprawl across projects and development teams can make it challenging to hand off responsibilities to security teams.

6. Resource constraints: The tightening economy has left us with limited resources, highlighting inefficiencies in addressing security requirements and the need to do more with less.

While there’s no Reese’s pieces required for this encounter, teams do need developer-friendly secrets management solutions and services to keep their secrets safe and solve the above challenges! Read on to discover how.

Securing non-human identities

Securing non-human identities with secrets management 

To tackle the DevSecOps X-files, a secrets management solution – such as CyberArk’s ‘Secrets as a Service,’ becomes our trusty alien encryption device. It plays a pivotal role in centrally managing secrets for all application types upholding the security and privacy of valuable data, including passwords, API keys, access tokens, and other essential credentials employed in software applications and infrastructure.  

That’s because it prevents unauthorised access and potential security breaches, guaranteeing that solely authorised individuals and services possess the requisite credentials within the DevOps environment. 

Key principles and practices for secrets management in a DevSecOps environment with CyberArk 

So how does secrets management bring into balance the ‘Devs’ with the ‘Secs,’ so they can bring security and innovation harmoniously together?

1. Centralised and secure storage: Keep secrets in a secure location, separate from application code or configuration files. Consider using a secrets management system or a secure key-value store with robust access controls.

2. Encryption: Encrypt secrets both at rest and in transit to prevent unauthorised access.

3. Access controls: Implement strict access controls and permissions to ensure only authorised users, services, or applications can access secrets.

4. Regular rotation: Regularly rotate and expire secrets to reduce the window of opportunity for potential attackers in case of a breach or accidental exposure.

5. Logging and auditing: Maintain detailed logs of all actions related to secrets, enabling proactive monitoring and identification of potential security incidents.

6. Principle of least privilege: Adopt the principle of least privilege to grant access only to the minimum set of secrets required for each service or user.

7. CI/CD integration: Integrate secrets management into CI/CD pipelines to automate secure deployment and rotation of secrets.

The bonus in solving this DevSecOps X-file – automating security and speed: 

Integrating DevSecOps can be complex. However, the X-Files mystery of unidentified digital entities can be solved by adopting secrets management practices. Teams can harness the power of automation to streamline security measures while still maintaining the agility and speed that DevOps is known for.  

The bonus of secrets management is twofold. Developers are involved in robust security practices and security teams are empowered to manage operations and maintenance. This enables developers to focus on coding, speeding up development. Additionally, compliance and audits become streamlined, ensuring a secure and efficient path forward. 

Avocado solves your digital identities against unidentified threats. We are experts in continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) and integrating secrets management into your development pipeline. As a CyberArk implementation partner, we support your Development team with professional services to go boldly forth and secure where no secret has been secured before!

Want to know more?

Go boldly forth and secure where no secret has been secured before!

Explore relevant readings:

The Era Before Secrets Management: Developer’s Struggle to Keep It Secure

Read the full article to discover how developers managed secrets, the dangers it presented and the transition to a new world of secrets management solutions.

Maximising Developer Experience

Maximise productivity through Developer Experience helps businesses to unlock the full potential of your developers, and enhances the overall customer experience and your bottom line.

Reducing Technical Debt in Software Development

For IT teams, understanding the importance of reducing technical debt, is crucial for making strategic decisions that optimise IT operations, improve financial resilience, and position organisations for long-term success. 

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