When it comes to business success, faster time-to-market is a decisive factor. It is not enough to deliver quality services. They must be delivered as quickly as possible. This inevitable need for speed and agility is compelling organizations to switch from conventional application development processes to DevOps and Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) practices.
According to the 2021 state of DevOps Report (published by Puppet), 83% of IT decision makers report their organization is implementing DevOps practices. As the experts say, “it’s simply how they work.”
However, with the proliferation of DevOps and CI/CD pipelines comes a new wave of security risks. DevOps and CI/CD environments extensively use cloud deployments, containers, microservices, virtual machines, and several other open-source management tools. While these greatly simplify application development, delivery, and deployment, they also present several security challenges.
The modular architecture of microservices serves as an easy target for attackers. Microservices are often developed by independent teams in different environments, which increases the risk of unauthorized access and threat propagation. DevOps teams also incessantly churn containers at a large scale to accelerate release cycles. The sheer sprawl, the shorter lifespans, and the dynamic nature of containers make it extremely difficult to monitor them at any given time for code integrity and misconfigurations.
Even with the heightened security risk, DevOps teams continue to overlook security issues due to the constant pressure of keeping up with delivery timelines. While teams take the opportunity to address code-level vulnerabilities at the right time, they often skimp on other critical security measures, especially digital certificates. The lack of the right security tools is one of the biggest bottlenecks in aligning DevOps with security. It makes DevOps view security as an interference, more than an enabler. Which is why DevOps personnel often find a way to sidestep recommended security practices and take shortcuts to achieve timely delivery.
One of the best ways to secure the DevOps or CI/CD environment without compromising on speed is to use Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), commonly referred to as digital certificates and keys. PKI provides a mechanism that enables machines in the DevOps toolchain to mutually authenticate themselves and encrypt their communication to establish a safe working environment. They help embed security into the DevOps lifecycle without interfering with application delivery—which is one of the key drivers for using digital certificates in DevOps.
Common Challenges DevOps Teams Face with Using Digital Certificates
While the majority of organizations use digital certificates for securing the DevOps environment, very few are able to use them efficiently and safely. This is because of using manual processes for certificate management. Manual processes are primarily people-driven, and hence slow, error-prone, and inefficient.
The usual process of requesting a trusted certificate from a Certificate Authority (CA), receiving it, binding it to an endpoint, and managing it is dreadfully long when done manually. Ticketing systems are scattered across functions, which further sets back the certificate issuance process. This process of passing requests between multiple organizational units increases the probability of orphan certificates and exposes the core network to an expiry-related outage or a breach. DevOps being a fast-moving environment, cannot afford to slow down to keep pace with delayed certificate lifecycles. As thousands of certificates are required to support the changing business demands, DevOps teams often resort to procuring certificates from CAs of their choice or issuing self-signed certificates, which causes inconsistencies in certificate management. These certificates usually go undocumented and unmanaged, in turn becoming vulnerable targets for attackers.
Most of all, the manual process of monitoring certificate provisioning, expiration, renewal, and revocation has become exceedingly complex for DevOps, especially with the number of digital certificates growing at an exponential rate. Containers and virtual machines are spun up and down continuously based on need, and having to procure as many certificates and tracking them manually is too much of a headache for DevOps teams, who are already strapped for resources.
Some of the other major drawbacks of manual certificate management include the lack of top-down visibility into the certificate infrastructure, the inability to manage certificates from a central location, and the lack of consistent communication with the Certificate Authority. All of which cripples certificate management and kills DevOps agility.
Simplifying Certificate Management for DevOps and CI/CD
The best way to mitigate security risks in DevOps or CI/CD processes is to make it easier for teams to manage digital certificates. A fool-proof approach to simplifying and streamlining certificate management is to embrace automation. Scott Hanselman was right when he said, “The most powerful tool we have as developers is automation.”
A CLM automation solution abstracts the complexity of certificate management and provides an easy-to-use framework for teams to perform lifecycle functions. It helps establish well-defined processes and standardize certificate management across the enterprise.
Automation solutions integrate tightly with DevOps tools such as Puppet, Chef, Ansible, and more, which helps secure every application or device with an X.509 certificate. DevOps teams can order certificates from any supported CA, push issued certificates to associated applications, renew and revoke existing certificates, and delete unused certificates—all from their preferred DevOps tool.
Automating certificate lifecycle operations will provide DevOps with a single-pane-of-glass interface that will allow them to request and install certificates right from the CI/CD pipeline instead of raising requests from separate ticketing systems or email. Using simple, pre-defined, visual workflows, DevOps can also automate all certificate lifecycle processes and completely eliminate reliance on manual processes. This drastically reduces the time needed to procure and provision certificates in the DevOps environment.
Another major advantage of using automation is the end-to-end visibility it offers into all the certificates existing in the infrastructure. This gives the ability to identify the entire chain of trust, including the issuing CA and the endpoint where the certificate resides—which helps remediate issues quickly.
Doesn’t that sound simple?
AppViewX is revolutionizing how NetOps and DevSecOps teams deliver machine identity management solutions to enterprise IT. The AppViewX Platform is purpose-built for orchestrating and governing digital identities – digital certificates and keys – of machines – devices, workloads, applications, containers, and the Internet of Things.
How AppViewX Machine Identity Management Platform Revolutionizes DevSecOps Practices
If you want to integrate security into DevOps but do not have a certificate automation tool yet, check out AppViewX CERT+, a market-leading platform for certificate lifecycle automation.
Interested in learning more? Tune in to our webinar on Simplifying Certificate Management for CI/CD & DevOps.