When security is baked into your delivery pipelines, you are able to respond to threats more quickly than other delivery methodologies would allow for. It also centralizes all changes into the same workflows where functionality (Dev) and maintenance (Ops) can live in harmony.

In this article we will discuss the things you should consider and the benefits of integrating security into DevOps in the cloud!

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What is DevOps Security?

DevOps Security, also known as "DevSecOps," is a set of practices and principles that integrate security into the DevOps (Development and Operations) process. It aims to enhance the security posture of software applications and infrastructure by making security an integral part of the software development lifecycle, rather than a separate and isolated phase.

Traditionally, security was often treated as an afterthought and applied at the end of the development process. This approach resulted in vulnerabilities and potential security breaches being discovered late in the development cycle, leading to costly and time-consuming fixes. DevOps Security seeks to address these issues by promoting a proactive and collaborative approach to security throughout the entire software development process.

Key principles and practices of DevOps Security include:

  • Automation: Automating security checks and processes helps ensure consistency and efficiency. It allows security measures to be implemented at each stage of the development process without slowing down development cycles.

  • Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment (CI/CD): Integrating security into the CI/CD pipeline ensures that security testing is conducted regularly and consistently. Security checks are performed as part of the automated build and deployment process, allowing teams to catch vulnerabilities early on.

  • Shift-Left Security: DevSecOps encourages "shifting left," which means bringing security practices as early in the development process as possible. This ensures that security considerations are addressed from the project's inception and throughout its development.

  • Collaboration: DevOps Security fosters collaboration between development, operations, and security teams. This collaboration allows for the sharing of knowledge, identification of potential security risks, and timely remediation.

  • Security as Code: Treating security as code means that security policies, configurations, and checks are managed and versioned just like any other code. This approach allows security to be applied consistently and enables version-controlled security updates.

  • Continuous Monitoring: Implementing continuous monitoring helps detect security incidents and anomalies in real-time. Monitoring applications and infrastructure in production allows for quick responses to security threats.

  • Penetration Testing and Vulnerability Assessment: Regular penetration testing and vulnerability assessments help identify weaknesses and potential vulnerabilities in the system. This proactive approach allows teams to address security gaps before they become exploitable.

  • Compliance and Auditing: Integrating compliance checks and auditing processes into the CI/CD pipeline ensures that the software meets security and regulatory requirements.

By adopting DevOps Security practices, organizations can build more secure and resilient applications while still delivering them at a rapid pace. It aligns security with development and operations, leading to a culture of shared responsibility and increased focus on safeguarding data, systems, and user information.

Why do organizations benefit from employing security first principles through DevOps?

Organizations benefit significantly from employing security-first principles through DevOps for several reasons:

  • Early Detection of Vulnerabilities: By integrating security into the development process from the start, organizations can detect vulnerabilities and security issues early on. This enables timely remediation, reducing the risk of potential security breaches and minimizing the cost and effort required to fix vulnerabilities later in the development cycle.

  • Reduced Time to Market: DevOps Security practices emphasize automation and continuous integration, which streamline development and deployment processes. As a result, teams can deliver software updates and features faster without compromising security.

  • Improved Collaboration and Communication: DevOps Security encourages collaboration between development, operations, and security teams. This collaboration fosters a culture of shared responsibility and knowledge sharing, leading to better understanding and management of security risks.

  • Proactive Risk Management: Security-first principles ensure that security concerns are addressed early in the development process, allowing teams to proactively manage security risks. This approach helps prevent security incidents rather than merely reacting to them after they occur.

  • Continuous Compliance and Auditing: By incorporating security measures into the CI/CD pipeline, organizations can continuously monitor compliance with security standards and regulatory requirements. This proactive approach ensures that the software remains compliant throughout its lifecycle.

  • Enhanced Customer Trust: Security-first practices demonstrate a commitment to safeguarding customer data and protecting against potential cyber threats. This fosters trust among customers, partners, and stakeholders, leading to increased user satisfaction and loyalty.

  • Cost-Effectiveness: Addressing security concerns early in the development process helps avoid costly security breaches and data breaches. Investing in security upfront can save organizations significant expenses related to incident response, damage control, and potential legal liabilities.

  • Improved Resilience: Security-first principles encourage the development of more resilient software applications and infrastructure. By anticipating and addressing security risks, organizations can build systems that can better withstand attacks and recover quickly in the event of a security incident.

  • Scalability and Flexibility: Automated security checks and practices integrated into the CI/CD pipeline allow organizations to scale their development and deployment processes efficiently. It also makes it easier to adapt to changing security requirements and emerging threats.

  • Regulatory Compliance and Risk Mitigation: Many industries are subject to strict regulatory requirements concerning data protection and security. DevOps Security helps organizations meet these compliance obligations, reducing the risk of penalties and legal consequences.

In summary, employing security-first principles through DevOps is a proactive and strategic approach to software development that aligns security with speed and agility. It empowers organizations to build more secure, resilient, and compliant software, fostering a culture of security awareness and responsibility across the entire development lifecycle.

Security Best Practices

1. Resource Hardening and Operations

Resource hardening is a great place to start off your DevOps based cloud deployments. Organizationally, companies can have a high degree of impact on their security posture by publishing readily available and ready to deploy standards and templates for major cloud systems by simply providing automation which gets foundational systems aligned with best practices. There are also industry available solutions to pull into environments where hardening standards are provided by industry experts as a sane baseline to start from.

Servers / Operating Systems

Server/OS hardening in DevOps refers to the process of securing and fortifying servers and operating systems to reduce their vulnerability to cyber threats and attacks. It is a crucial aspect of DevOps Security, aimed at minimizing the attack surface and enhancing the overall security posture of the systems.

The hardening process typically involves implementing security best practices, configuring the server and operating system settings, and removing unnecessary services and functionalities that could be potential entry points for attackers. Here are some common steps and practices involved in server/OS hardening:

  • Patch Management: Ensuring that the server's operating system and all installed software are regularly updated with the latest security patches and updates to address known vulnerabilities.

  • Minimal Installation: Installing only the necessary components and services required for the server's intended purpose. Unnecessary services or applications should be removed to minimize potential attack vectors.

  • Default Configuration Changes: Changing default configurations, usernames, and passwords to prevent attackers from exploiting well-known defaults.

  • Strong Authentication: Implementing strong authentication mechanisms, such as two-factor authentication (2FA), to enhance user and system security.

  • Firewall Configuration: Configuring firewalls to allow only essential network traffic and block unnecessary ports and protocols.

  • Encryption: Enabling encryption for data in transit (e.g., using TLS/SSL) and at rest (e.g., full disk encryption) to protect sensitive information from unauthorized access.

  • Access Control: Implementing strict access control policies and assigning permissions based on the principle of least privilege, ensuring users and processes have only the necessary access rights.

  • Audit Logging: Enabling and configuring detailed audit logging to monitor and track activities on the server. This helps in identifying potential security incidents and investigating security breaches.

  • Intrusion Detection/Prevention Systems (IDS/IPS): Deploying IDS/IPS solutions to detect and prevent suspicious or malicious activities on the server.

  • Vulnerability Scanning: Regularly performing vulnerability scans to identify and address potential weaknesses in the server's configuration.

  • Disable Unused Services: Disabling or removing any services or features that are not required for the server's functionality to reduce the attack surface.

  • Secure Communication Protocols: Configuring the server to use secure communication protocols and disabling outdated or insecure protocols (e.g., SSLv3).

  • Security Audits: Conducting periodic security audits to assess the server's security posture and identify areas for improvement.

  • Automated Configuration Management: Using tools like Ansible, Puppet, or Chef to automate the application of security configurations, ensuring consistency and efficiency.

By following these server/OS hardening practices, organizations can significantly improve their server's security, mitigate potential security risks, and enhance their overall resilience against cyber threats. Hardening is an ongoing process, and regular reviews and updates are essential to adapt to evolving security threats and maintain a robust security posture.

Server Hardening Standards


Cloud hardening standards for networking in DevOps refer to a set of best practices and security measures aimed at securing the network infrastructure in cloud environments. These standards help organizations protect their cloud-based applications, data, and resources from potential cyber threats and attacks. The specific cloud hardening standards may vary depending on the cloud service provider and the type of cloud deployment (e.g., public, private, hybrid). Below are some common cloud networking hardening practices in DevOps:

  • Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) Configuration: Utilize VPCs or equivalent constructs provided by the cloud service provider to isolate different environments and components logically. Implement private subnets for sensitive resources and public subnets for external-facing components.

  • Network Access Control Lists (ACLs): Configure network ACLs to control inbound and outbound traffic at the subnet level. Limit access to only necessary ports and protocols.

  • Security Groups: Use security groups or firewall rules to restrict access to individual instances or resources based on the principle of least privilege. Ensure that only required ports are open and accessible.

  • Encryption in Transit: Use secure communication protocols (e.g., TLS/SSL) to encrypt data transmitted over the network, especially for communication between different components and services.

  • Public-Facing Services Protection: For services exposed to the internet, consider using Web Application Firewalls (WAFs) or API Gateways with security features to protect against common web application attacks.

  • VPN and Direct Connect: Use Virtual Private Network (VPN) connections or Direct Connect services to establish secure and private network connections between on-premises infrastructure and cloud resources.

  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Enforce MFA for accessing cloud management consoles and APIs to add an extra layer of security to user accounts.

  • Network Monitoring and Logging: Implement comprehensive logging and monitoring of network activities to detect and respond to suspicious or malicious behavior promptly.

  • Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Protection: Leverage DDoS protection services provided by the cloud service provider or use third-party DDoS protection solutions to mitigate DDoS attacks.

  • Network Segmentation: Segment network resources and components based on their functional roles and sensitivity to minimize the impact of potential security breaches.

  • Regular Security Assessments: Perform regular network security assessments and penetration tests to identify and address potential vulnerabilities proactively.

  • Automated Network Configuration Management: Utilize infrastructure-as-code tools to automate the deployment and configuration of networking resources, ensuring consistency and reducing human errors.

  • Identity and Access Management (IAM): Implement robust IAM policies to manage access to network resources and prevent unauthorized access.

It's essential to understand that cloud hardening is an ongoing process, and security measures should be continuously reviewed and updated to address emerging threats and comply with changing security standards and regulations. Additionally, organizations should consider following cloud service provider-specific security recommendations and guidelines for networking, as each provider may have unique features and services relevant to their specific environment.


Cloud hardening standards for containers in DevOps focus on securing containerized applications and their underlying infrastructure within cloud environments. Containers provide a lightweight and scalable way to package and deploy applications, but they also introduce specific security challenges. Implementing container-specific hardening practices is crucial to minimize the risk of container-related vulnerabilities and attacks. Here are some essential cloud hardening standards for containers in DevOps:

  • Use Official Images: Use only trusted and official container images from reputable sources. Official images typically receive regular security updates and are more likely to be free from vulnerabilities.

  • Update Regularly: Keep container images up to date by regularly pulling the latest versions with security patches and updates.

  • Minimize Attack Surface: Ensure that containers include only the necessary components and libraries, minimizing the attack surface and potential vulnerabilities.

  • Image Vulnerability Scanning: Integrate vulnerability scanning tools into the CI/CD pipeline to identify and address vulnerabilities in container images before deployment.

  • Image Signing and Verification: Implement container image signing to verify the authenticity and integrity of images before deployment.

  • Container Runtime Security: Choose a secure container runtime (e.g., Docker, containerd, or others) and configure it with appropriate security features.

  • Resource Constraints: Set resource constraints (CPU, memory, etc.) for containers to prevent resource exhaustion attacks and ensure fair resource allocation.

  • Network Segmentation: Segment container networks to limit communication between containers and restrict access to sensitive services.

  • Least Privilege: Apply the principle of least privilege when defining container permissions and capabilities, limiting access to host resources.

  • User Privileges: Run containers with non-root users whenever possible to reduce the impact of potential container breakout exploits.

  • Content Trust: Enable Docker Content Trust or similar features to ensure that only signed and trusted images can be deployed.

  • Runtime Security Monitoring: Implement container runtime security monitoring to detect and respond to suspicious container activities.

  • Container Image Registry Security: Secure the container image registry with access controls, encryption, and continuous monitoring.

  • Kubernetes Security Best Practices: If using Kubernetes or other container orchestration platforms, follow Kubernetes security best practices to secure the containerized environment.

  • Secret Management: Securely manage secrets (e.g., API keys, passwords) used by containers, leveraging Kubernetes Secrets or equivalent solutions.

  • Network Policies: Define network policies to control communication between containers and limit exposure to potential network-based attacks.

  • Regular Auditing and Logging: Enable logging and auditing of container activities to monitor for security incidents and maintain visibility into container behavior.

  • Container Runtime Isolation: Use container runtime features like namespaces and cgroups to isolate containers from the host and each other.

By adhering to these container-specific hardening standards, organizations can bolster the security of their containerized applications and infrastructure in cloud environments. It's essential to keep abreast of the latest security developments and updates, as the container security landscape continues to evolve. Regular security assessments and continuous improvement of container security practices are crucial for maintaining a robust and resilient container environment.

Operations and Updates

DevOps plays a vital role in helping teams keep systems continuously updated while adhering to hardening standards in the cloud. DevOps practices enable automation, collaboration, and continuous improvement, which are essential for maintaining secure and up-to-date systems. Here's how DevOps achieves this:

  • Automated Configuration Management: DevOps teams use Infrastructure as Code (IaC) tools to automate the provisioning and configuration of cloud resources. IaC ensures that systems are deployed with standardized configurations that adhere to hardening standards.

  • Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment (CI/CD): CI/CD pipelines automate the process of testing and deploying changes. By integrating security checks and hardening measures into CI/CD workflows, teams can continuously update systems with the latest security patches and configurations.

  • Version Control and Code Reviews: Version control systems and code reviews ensure that all changes to the infrastructure are tracked, reviewed, and approved, providing visibility and accountability for security-related updates.

  • Automated Security Scanning: DevOps teams incorporate automated security scanning tools into the CI/CD pipeline to identify security vulnerabilities and deviations from hardening standards. This allows them to address issues early in the development process.

  • Configuration Auditing: Regular configuration auditing is performed to ensure that systems remain compliant with hardening standards over time. DevOps teams can automate this process to quickly identify and rectify any non-compliant configurations.

  • Immutable Infrastructure: By using immutable infrastructure patterns, DevOps teams deploy updates by creating new instances with updated configurations and then decommissioning the old instances. This approach ensures that updates are applied consistently and avoid configuration drift.

  • Automated Remediation: DevOps teams implement automated remediation workflows to address security issues and configuration deviations automatically. This ensures that systems are brought back into compliance with hardening standards without manual intervention..

  • Blue-Green Deployments and Canary Releases: DevOps teams leverage blue-green deployments and canary releases to test updates in isolated environments, ensuring that hardening standards are maintained before updates are applied to production systems.

  • Cross-Functional Collaboration: DevOps fosters collaboration between development, operations, and security teams. Cross-functional collaboration ensures that security requirements and hardening standards are integrated into the development and deployment processes.

  • Continuous Learning and Improvement: DevOps teams conduct regular retrospectives and post-mortems to learn from security incidents and update processes continually. This promotes a culture of continuous improvement in adhering to hardening standards.

By adopting DevOps practices, teams can maintain up-to-date systems while adhering to hardening standards, resulting in a more secure and resilient cloud infrastructure. Automation, collaboration, and continuous monitoring are critical factors in ensuring that security remains an integral part of the development and operations process.

2. Firewalls and WAFs

The best way to keep your environment fully secure is to ensure that you are running as little electricity through custom developed code as possible. Static resources served by a CDN are a good way to help start this effort. Most major CDN vendors are configurable and deployable through IAC which also make them a great fit for a DevOps delivery methodology. By serving static HTML, CSS, JS, and images (even if initially dynamically rendered), you lower the exposure of your backend IT assets significantly. Even if your assets are served dynamically, WAFs and more traditional network firewalls can help protect those assets as well.

Content Delivery Network (CDN)

Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) play a crucial role in enhancing security in conjunction with DevOps. They provide various security features and mechanisms that complement the security practices adopted by DevOps teams. Here's how CDNs help with security in the context of DevOps:

  • DDoS Protection: CDNs often offer DDoS protection services that can detect and mitigate Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. By distributing traffic across multiple edge servers, CDNs can absorb and filter out malicious traffic, protecting the origin infrastructure from overload and downtime.

  • Web Application Firewalls (WAFs): Some CDNs integrate WAF capabilities to inspect and filter incoming web traffic for malicious requests and patterns. WAFs can block known attack vectors, such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), and other web application vulnerabilities.

  • SSL/TLS Termination: CDNs can handle SSL/TLS termination at the edge, allowing secure communication between the CDN edge server and end-users. This offloads the SSL/TLS overhead from the origin server, improving performance and security.

  • Bot Mitigation: CDNs can identify and block malicious bots and automated scripts that attempt to exploit vulnerabilities or scrape content from web applications.

  • Edge Authentication and Access Control: CDNs can enforce access control policies at the edge, limiting access to specific resources or URLs based on client IP addresses or other criteria. This adds an additional layer of security to applications.

  • Content Security Policies (CSP): CDNs can assist in enforcing CSP rules, which define which resources can be loaded on a web page, helping prevent malicious content from being executed on the client-side.

  • Rate Limiting: CDNs can implement rate limiting to restrict the number of requests from individual IP addresses or clients, preventing abuse and brute-force attacks.

  • Security Headers: CDNs can add security headers to responses, such as HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) and X-Content-Type-Options, to enhance overall application security.

  • Origin Cloaking: CDNs can help protect the origin server's IP address by acting as a reverse proxy, effectively cloaking the origin infrastructure from direct exposure to the internet.

  • Security Analytics and Monitoring: CDNs provide real-time analytics and security monitoring, enabling DevOps teams to gain visibility into potential security threats and incidents.

When integrated into the DevOps workflow, CDNs become part of the continuous delivery process. DevOps teams can use automation to provision and configure CDN services, update cache settings, and trigger security features dynamically as part of the application deployment process.

By leveraging the security features of CDNs, DevOps teams can enhance their application's resilience against various cyber threats, reduce the impact of DDoS attacks, protect against web application vulnerabilities, and improve overall security posture without adding complexity to their infrastructure. This collaboration between CDNs and DevOps helps create a more secure and robust application delivery ecosystem.

Cloud Account Wide Firewalls

Cloud-based account-wide firewalls, also known as cloud-native security groups, network security groups, or virtual private cloud (VPC) security groups, are an integral part of cloud security in DevOps environments. These account-wide firewalls provide a central security control that applies to multiple resources within a cloud account. Here's how they can be effectively utilized in DevOps:

  • Centralized Security Policies: Cloud-based account-wide firewalls allow DevOps teams to define and enforce centralized security policies that apply uniformly across multiple cloud resources, such as virtual machines, containers, and serverless functions.

  • Network Segmentation: By configuring security groups, DevOps teams can create network segmentation to isolate different application components and services. This isolation helps limit the impact of potential security breaches and restricts communication between resources as per the defined security rules.

  • Dynamic and Agile Security: In DevOps environments, where resources are frequently provisioned, modified, and decommissioned, cloud-based account-wide firewalls offer agility. Security policies can be updated dynamically as part of the continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) process, adapting to changes in the infrastructure.

  • Automated Security Policy Enforcement: Security groups can be managed programmatically using Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) tools such as AWS CloudFormation, Azure Resource Manager templates, or Google Cloud Deployment Manager. DevOps teams can define security policies in code and apply them consistently across cloud resources.

  • Security Policy Versioning and Auditing: Cloud providers often support versioning and auditing of security group rules. This allows DevOps teams to track changes to security policies and assess the impact of rule modifications over time.

  • Application-Centric Security: Cloud-based account-wide firewalls enable application-centric security models. DevOps teams can define security rules based on application requirements rather than relying solely on network-level controls.

  • Integration with Identity and Access Management (IAM): Cloud-based account-wide firewalls can work in conjunction with IAM policies to control not only network access but also identity-based access to cloud resources.

  • Layered Defense Strategy: By using account-wide firewalls in combination with other cloud security features (e.g., cloud-based web application firewalls, threat detection services), DevOps teams can implement a layered defense strategy to protect cloud environments from various threats.

  • Integration with CI/CD Pipelines: Security policies can be incorporated into CI/CD pipelines, ensuring that resources are automatically provisioned with the appropriate security group configurations as part of the deployment process.

  • Cloud Provider-Managed Security Updates: Cloud providers regularly update and enhance their security features, including account-wide firewalls, to address emerging threats and vulnerabilities. DevOps teams can benefit from these updates automatically without the need for manual intervention.

  • Third-Party Security Tools Integration: Cloud-based account-wide firewalls can also be integrated with third-party security tools and services to extend the security capabilities of the cloud environment further.

Utilizing cloud-based account-wide firewalls in DevOps enables organizations to maintain consistent and granular security controls, streamline security policy management, and implement security-as-code practices. This approach helps organizations achieve a secure and agile cloud infrastructure while aligning with the principles of DevOps.

Host based Firewalls

Host-based firewalls play a vital role in enhancing security in DevOps environments by providing an additional layer of defense at the individual host level. These firewalls operate on individual servers and endpoints, allowing organizations to implement granular security policies tailored to specific applications and services. Here are some ways host-based firewalls help with security in DevOps:

  • Network Segmentation: Host-based firewalls enable network segmentation at the server level, allowing DevOps teams to isolate different applications and services from each other. This isolation helps contain potential security breaches and limit lateral movement in case of an attack.

  • Zero Trust Architecture: Host-based firewalls adhere to the principle of zero trust by enforcing explicit access controls for each server. They only allow necessary network traffic and deny all other connections by default, reducing the attack surface and preventing unauthorized access.

  • Application-Aware Filtering: Host-based firewalls can inspect network traffic at the application layer, making it possible to filter traffic based on specific applications or protocols. This helps block malicious traffic targeting particular applications or services.

  • Protection Against Internal Threats: Host-based firewalls protect against insider threats by controlling network traffic between servers within the organization. This ensures that servers can only communicate with authorized peers.

  • Dynamic Rule Management: In DevOps environments, where server configurations and applications may change frequently, host-based firewalls allow dynamic rule management. Security policies can be updated and deployed as part of the continuous delivery process, adapting to changes in the application environment.

  • Logging and Auditing: Host-based firewalls provide detailed logs of network activity on individual servers, facilitating security monitoring and incident investigation. DevOps teams can analyze these logs to identify suspicious behavior or potential security incidents.

  • Protection During Vulnerability Patching: Host-based firewalls offer an additional layer of security during the time between the discovery of a vulnerability and the application of the necessary patches. They can be configured to block network traffic to vulnerable services until the patches are applied.

  • Integration with Containerized Environments: Host-based firewalls can be adapted to protect containerized environments as well. They can enforce network policies and segmentation for individual containers running on a host.

  • Compliance and Regulatory Requirements: Host-based firewalls help meet security compliance and regulatory requirements by ensuring that specific security policies are enforced on each server.

  • Protection Against External Threats: Host-based firewalls complement network firewalls and perimeter security measures by providing an additional layer of defense on individual servers. This defense helps prevent attacks that bypass the perimeter security controls.

Implementing host-based firewalls in DevOps requires careful consideration of the specific security requirements of each application and service. Automation and infrastructure-as-code practices can be employed to streamline the configuration and deployment of host-based firewalls, ensuring consistency and reducing the risk of misconfigurations. Overall, host-based firewalls are an essential security component in a layered defense strategy, providing granular control and protection at the server level in DevOps environments.


Stay tuned for Part 2 where we start ot discuss cloud account security, threat detection, encrypting all of the things, backups / disaster recovery, audits and observability, and the software supply chain!