Break Builds: Getting Devs to take action !

As your organization matures DevSecOps, enabling Developers to release features faster, as a security professional you are trying to assure that the code is free of security defects. As part of you Security team, you incorporated automated security tools in to the build pipeline such as Static Code Analysis Tools, Dynamic Code Analysis, Security Test Cases etc. But, you can only bring the horse to the water, but can you make it drink the water? In other words, how do you get your development teams to consume results reported by the security tools? That is the million dollar question.

There is an aspirational goal that no security defects should ever leak in to production. There is an ask from clients to prevent code with security defects from getting deployed to production. Why don’t you break the build and force the developers to take action and fix the defects reported by the security tools before any code is deployed to production?

The challenge is multi-fold.

  1. The error ratio, ration of false positives to false negatives is significantly high for security tools. This is especially true for Application Security, you have better results with Infrastructure Security. Some of the tools reports results that run in to literally 1000s of pages long that a Developer needs to triage to identify true positives that they can take action and fix. The tools lack the Business Context to alert if an issue is High or Low for a given attack vector. This is especially challenging if you are focused on Application Security. Would lack of Input validation indicate or out out escaping result in an exploitable vulnerability depends up on whether the data can be exploited by the attacker to compromise your system.
  2. The criterion you use to break a build gives you a false sense of security. Given the limitations of tools, there are whole bunch of false negatives that leak in to production giving the organization a false sense of security. The Developers can always point back and say the Build went through, hence there must be no security defects in the code.
  3. Given the negative testing involved with uncovering security defects, the current generation of tools are not capable of identifying all possible attack vectors and assuring defenses against the attacks. I would think AI plays a role in being able to identify security weaknesses in code that are exploitable.

One of the tools that is used to measure code quality, SonarQube has removed the capability that supports breaking builds based on criterion such as severity level of the issues, number of issues, etc. The team recommends that the better approach is for teams to look at the dashboard of issues, triage and identify real issues that are applicable to your code to be fixed. This did not go well with security minded folks, but in reality that is a pragmatic approach until the security tools mature and are able to report security issues that are exploitable as opposed simply identifying security code syntax that may or may not lead to a vulnerability.

Until then, there is no easy button for assuring application security in the DevOps pipeline. Security organizations would have to continuously tune security tools, follow-up with Developers to look at the results, add exploitable defects to the Backlog for the Devs to work on to have success at assuring application security in DevOps Pipeline.

I would like to hear from you. Please share what you have done to assure security in DevOps Build Pipelines. What kind of automated tools do you run? How do you make Developers take action on them? Were you successful in implementing automated enforcement gates that prevents Developers from deploying code with vulnerabilities identified by security tools in the DevOps Pipeline?




Author: appsecfordevs

I am an Application Security professional helping organizations secure their Applications, and Data from internal and external threats. I have expertise in Application Architecture & Development, providing me the insights in to developing controls to defend applications against security vulnerabilities. Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my personal opinions and do not reflect those of my current or former employers and clients!

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