Over time, new developments in technology and the threat landscape have made it so that cybersecurity is a pressing concern for almost everybody. As awareness and understanding of the importance of cybersecurity increases, security measures and practices also evolve to stay current and maximize efficacy. Newer devices, newer software, and newer threats are constantly being developed, and it can be difficult to keep up with the changes enough to protect against potential attacks or breaches. To this end, shift left security has been gaining traction as a way to ensure security is built into an application or other software from the beginning.
Who Handles Security?
While it is important to have security professionals, and even a security team, it is also necessary to recognize that everybody involved in the software development life cycle (SDLC) has a role to play in making the software safe and secure for users, developers, and everyone in between. One survey shows that in 2023, the majority (53%) of respondents believe themselves responsible for application security “as part of a larger team,” while 30% believe themselves “completely responsible” and only 3% believe themselves “not particularly responsible.”
The survey also says that 44% of development professionals consider security teams primarily responsible for application security, whereas 49% of security professionals consider development primarily responsible. The issue of application security is never just about the work of the security team; rather, it involves everyone at every step of the process making an effort to ensure that security measures are baked into the software as opposed to an afterthought or a whole separate process.
How Shift Left Works
In the past, many shift left initiatives have involved inserting security testing and other processes in the midst of existing steps in the SDLC, making the development take longer and even delaying the release of software. More recent attempts to shift security left have involved continuous integration and continuous deployment as well as Infrastructure as Code (IaC) that makes it easier for developers to provision and scale infrastructure, but leaving “little to no room for traditional security intervention.”
Newer and more effective implementations of shift left security choose to shift the responsibility from security teams onto developers, and put security at the forefront of development by doing security testing before even provisioning software. By testing the security of the IaC being deployed, developers can maximize the security of their code before they even begin writing it. This means less time wasted during development on fixing vulnerabilities that could have been detected much earlier.
Benefits of Shift Left Security
Shift left security has many benefits for software developers, security teams, and the people who will eventually use the software. Automating processes that once could have taken weeks means that now developers and testers have more time on their hands to do vital work that cannot be automated. Integrating testing into existing steps in the process rather than clumsily inserting it saves time as well, and goes toward preventing the kind of repeated testing and patching that can delay software releases. Continuous testing, integration, and development enables a smoother process with fewer delays.
Perhaps most importantly, shift left security makes for a more secure software product overall. Vulnerabilities are detected and identified earlier, which makes remediation faster, easier, and less intrusive, and software is more fortified against cyberattacks or accidental breaches that could arise from insecure development processes. Software updates after release can also be deployed more securely and with greater ease.
Tips for Implementation
Shift left security is not a one and done solution, nor is it one size fits all, but there are guidelines to follow to figure out what changes to make. It is recommended that developers keep track of time lost on remediating vulnerabilities, in order to see where improvements are necessary. Development and security teams should work together to identify pain points and areas of risk, and small changes in code are easier to review and secure than large chunks. Allowing developers access to security testing reports, being transparent with security teams about code vulnerabilities, and reducing toolchain clutter will all streamline the process and prevent miscommunications and unnecessary extra work.
Security scans should be automated and integrated in order to save time and prevent gaps. In order to integrate security smoothly and get the most out of it, it is best to use a tool that combines “traditional endpoint data loss prevention with incident response capabilities” so that security teams and developers alike can see where security vulnerabilities originate and remediate them.
Software development is not a separate category from security, set apart with clean lines marking it off. Application security is vital, and it takes more than just a security team or security testing at the end of the SDLC; developers must use secure infrastructure and write secure code in order to produce a secure application. Shift left security places this responsibility more on developers and presents an alternative to traditional security measures that often fall short.
About the Author: PJ Bradley is a writer on a wide variety of topics, passionate about learning and helping people above all else. Holding a bachelor’s degree from Oakland University, PJ enjoys using a lifelong desire to understand how things work to write about subjects that inspire interest. Most of PJ’s free time is spent reading and writing. PJ is also a regular writer at Bora.
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