Cloud computing today operates at a pace that is almost hard for the human mind to comprehend. In the time it’s taken you to read these words, multiple potential security gaps may have been detected by your organization’s cybersecurity teams. Of course, potential is the key word here: not all of these potential gaps are going to require the same degree of attention. In fact, figuring out what matters and what doesn’t—separating out the signal from the noise—is one of the key tasks facing cybersecurity professionals today.
Typically, these responsibilities are divided between two separate teams: your security team and your DevOps team. The security team is responsible for identification. To put it in a medical context, they operate on the diagnostic end of things, working vigilantly to detect potential problems with your systems. The DevOps team operates more like the surgeons. It’s their job to take the information given them by the security team and set to work fixing the problem, while minimizing disruption as much as possible.
While these teams might function separately, they are deeply interconnected—meaning that if one is struggling, the smooth functioning of the other will inevitably be impacted. Inevitably, this creates problems for your organization as a whole, from a short period of downtime to a worst-case-scenario security breach. Truly robust cybersecurity needs to be holistic—security and DevOps functioning as a single organism.
In the world of cybersecurity, chaos breeds chaos
In theory, the security team would simply flag any and all potential problems and have the DevOps team deal with it. Unfortunately, for that to be feasible, even the smallest company would need to drastically expand its IT staff. The fact is, dynamic cybersecurity is all about in-the-moment triage—and right now, too many organizations are struggling with it.
One part of the problem is the sheer profusion of cybersecurity tools used by most organizations. It makes sense organizations would deploy a wide range of cybersecurity solutions—the threat environment has never been worse, and the cost of a breach has never been higher—but in practice this patchwork of platforms can, at times, overwhelm security teams. The notifications never seem to stop, popping up continually from morning to night. The work of actually prioritizing them—figuring out which ones to shoot over to DevOps, and with what level of urgency—can feel impossible.
Inevitably, this then leads to significant problems for DevOps—chaos leading to still more chaos. Investigating the origin of a security gap is no simple task, nor is assessing the potential impact of remediating it. This would be a problem even if DevOps had all day to handle flagged gaps from the security team—but in fact remediating these gaps represents just one aspect of their workload.
What you end up with, ultimately, is a fragmented system which satisfies nobody and leaves your organization much more vulnerable to attack.
How context can keep things running smoothly
Then what’s the solution? How can your security team and DevOps team be brought into alignment?
Let’s go back to this medical analogy for a moment. If a surgeon is given inadequate information by the diagnosing doctor—if key details are left out of their reports—it is going to cause problems down the line. Which is to say, the key to unlocking holistic cybersecurity is context.
Context here doesn’t simply mean “more” information—that would just compound the problem. Context means simplifying the information: conveying key details with each remediation, ones that pinpoint the changes which led to the vulnerability and assess its potential impact on production.
In this model, the reports sent to DevOps would be broken down into simple, easily scannable sections: Issue (i.e., something like “exposure of a an RDS instance on port 22 to the internet”), Root cause (“The exposure emerged post-deployment of a new version…”), Remediation Impact, Action, and so on. Where a flagged security gap devoid of relevant context can actually impede the progress of a DevOps team, a flagged security gap with this information attached—root-cause analysis, impact assessment, etc.—keeps things operating smoothly.
In the dynamic landscape of the cloud, security and operational continuity are indivisible concerns—you cannot have one without the other. Only a holistic approach to cybersecurity—one which brings security and DevOps into dynamic, productive alignment—can prevent downtime and keep data safe.