Dr. Erik Beulen, Principal, Amsterdam office (firstname.lastname@example.org); Dr. Walter W. Bohmayr, Senior Partner, Vienna office (email@example.com); Dr. Stefan A. Deutscher, Associate Director, Berlin office (firstname.lastname@example.org); and Alex Asen, Senior Knowledge Analyst, Boston office (email@example.com)
DevOps agility requires organizational adjustments and additional tooling to ensure cybersecurity. At the same time, the challenges of the cybersecurity labor market drive the need to increase tooling’s impact and to consider outsourcing. In turn, these require carefully focusing on cybersecurity governance, including the assignment of accountability and responsibility.
In DevOps, the business is in the driver’s seat. DevOps characteristics (such as iterative prioritizing and deployment) plus the combined responsibility for development and operations present cybersecurity risks. They also create opportunities. DevOps tools, infrastructure, processes, and procedures can be used to fully automate patch deployments and continuously monitor, for example, open ports. Best practices are to automate information security platforms using at a minimum programmable APIs, but preferably automated to control access, containers and container orchestration combined with hypervisors or physical separation to avoid the impact of an attack on the OS kernel layer.
Our analysis of global startup activity in cybersecurity products reveals about 1,000 firms that represent more than $20 billion of investments. This explosion of competing cybersecurity products has driven enterprise reliance on best-of-breed solutions, which requires a lot of coordination and increases the risk of gaps in the cybersecurity landscape. Consolidation of cybersecurity product portfolios through mergers and acquisitions will still take some time—about three to five years. In the enterprise segment, we have to accept best-of-breed solutions and the associated increased complexity for the years to come.
Meanwhile, the service market is also evolving but still scattered. Managed security service providers (MSSPs) provide end-to-end protection, stabilize infrastructure, optimize IT operations, and provide rapid responses to security breaches. On one hand, MSSPs can be used to scale up required capabilities, reduce complexity, and innovate to achieve cyberresilience. On the other hand, the service market is not mature yet, so prior to contracting with an MSSP, companies should rigorously assess a solution’s robustness and vision. Companies should also determine the number and seniority level of the cybersecurity experts at an MSSP.
Accountability for cyberresilience can never be outsourced. Organizations need to build a cybersecurity competence center that oversees the design and maintenance of strategy and requirements, assesses cybersecurity compliance, and evangelizes cybersecurity. (See Exhibit 1.) This competence center manages the business demands. It also directs in-house cybersecurity and MSSPs’ strategy and policies, including standards, frameworks, certification, risk tolerance levels, and attack procedures. The number of MSSPs a company should engage depends on the size of the organization, cybersecurity requirements, and the capability to manage suppliers. Rarely do organizations engage with more than three MSSPs to avoid coordination challenges and ensure unambiguous responsibilities.
Exhibit 1: Cybersecurity Competence Center Responsibilities
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Responsibilities for cyberresilience have to be embedded from the board level down to each DevOps team. This is not straightforward and requires a constant and intense dialogue embedded in governance structures and involving all stakeholders. At the application level, product owners and scrum masters have to ensure cybersecurity is respected and embraced by the DevOps teams (“cybersecurity by design”). This doesn’t mean developers must become security experts. Rather, product owners must assign dedicated security experts to each DevOps team. This will not be a full-time role, and security experts can be allocated to multiple DevOps teams. However, cybersecurity remains a team responsibility. Scrum masters have to explicitly address cybersecurity in each step of the DevOps lifecycle. This starts with creating cybersecurity awareness by training developers using gamification (such as Microsoft EOP game). Furthermore, continuously monitoring and measuring cybersecurity performance (service levels) is important. The end goal is to champion cybersecurity by deploying and maintaining software in accordance with the set risk tolerance levels and applicable security standards.
Ensure cybersecurity in DevOps by taking these steps: empowering your product owners and scrum masters, building a competence center, partnering with no more than three MSSPs, using automation, and, of course, making cybersecurity a business agenda item. Also follow the World Economic Forum Working Group, which kicked off cyberresilience through brainstorming!