From Development

What is SecOps? A must-read introduction

There is a new threat every day in the digital realm, and organizations must establish a safe ground for their operations and products. This is especially true in the case of IT companies pushing innovation forward under fast development cycles.

Trust is one of the most crucial aspects of the IT industry when establishing relationships with users, partners, and clients. And a solid SecOps strategy is of utmost importance to ensure that trust.

Let’s find out what SecOps is all about and why it should be at the core of every business’s operations.

Table of Contents

What does SecOps mean?
The SecOps team
The SOC: the home of the SecOps team
SecOps tools
    ➤  Monitoring tools
    ➤  Management tools
    ➤  Automation tools
Benefits and goals of SecOps
    ➤  Goals
    ➤  Benefits
How to implement SecOps
    ➤  “Why?” is not the question

What does SecOps mean?

SecOps stands for “Security Operations” (Security + Operations = SecOps). Its purpose is to minimize security risks both in the daily operations as in the development process. It is a cooperative effort to create a secure working environment and develop safer software and applications.

It can be defined as the proactive integration between security and operation teams that share the responsibility of predicting, monitoring, and addressing possible risks and vulnerabilities by automating important security tasks without hindering the development cycle.

But SecOps goes deeper than the organizational aspect, permeating all aspects of the organization’s life. It is a way of doing, a methodology based on collaboration and automation of processes throughout the development stages to improve security. It shares the holistic view of DevOps but places security on par with quality and speed.

The demand for constant innovation can collide with security, often an afterthought under the grind of fast-paced development processes. Embedding security practices in all operational stages is the way to go, and SecOps provides an integrated approach to minimize risks.

Under a joint strategy, security and operations teams become responsible for maintaining a safe environment by evaluating and signaling vulnerabilities, sharing information, and resolving any security issues. Communication is key in SecOps. From the tools used to the definition of the roles in the prevention, detection, and resolution stages, all rules and procedures must be clear from the get-go, so no vulnerabilities go unnoticed.

The SecOps team

Although a collective effort, Security Operations teams have different specialist roles that cover all the stages of threat prevention and attack mitigation:

  • Incident responder - first on the scene, the Incident Responder’s role is to monitor and identify threats and respond to alerts. The Incident Responder’s responsibility is to organize the incident information and hand it off to the Security Investigator.

  • Security investigator - is in charge of discovering what’s going on and acting immediately and accordingly. The Security Investigator is in charge of signaling the affected areas, running analysis to evaluate damages, identifying the causes and origins of the incident, and defining which methods were used. Security Investigators are the first line of action in the deployment of countermeasures and mitigation strategies.

  • Advanced security analyst - this role is responsible for testing and analyzing systems to look for undetected vulnerabilities and recommend fixes or new strategies altogether to prevent incidents.

  • SOC manager - chief of operations, with an overarching perspective of the whole process. They are the connection between the team members, management, business leaders, and partners, which means strong soft skills are necessary. They’re on the frontline during a crisis.

  • Security engineer/architect - the responsible party for the organization’s security architecture. This role is in charge of security compliance within the development process and for evaluating security analysis tools.

The SOC: the home of the SecOps team

The Security Operations Center (SOC) is the headquarters of the SecOps team. Although integration is of the essence, the SOC provides a self-contained area from which the team can safely operate.

Most SOCs work 24/7, meaning the SecOps team is divided into shifts. The specs and activity of the SOC are shaped by the model deployed by organizations. SOCs can be:

  • Virtual - online team managed remotely, using in-house staff or outsourced SecOps professionals.

  • Multifunction - the SOC has a physical space within the organization facilities, but the team is not solely dedicated to SecOps activities, also working on other IT tasks.

  • Hybrid - the SOC has a virtual and a physical space, used by in-house staff and/or third-party hired professionals that may dedicate themselves to SecOps full-time or combine it with other functions.

  • Dedicated - homegrown SecOps team working from a physical location within the organization, fully dedicated to SecOps in a 24/7 cycle.

The closer they are to home, the faster the response. However, outsourcing SecOps via a virtual SOC can be the financially smart choice for companies lacking in resources and skills to implement their own SecOps strategy.

SecOps tools

As a specialized activity, SecOps need specialized tools. The main breakthrough in recent years has been the development of AI for automation, saving time, reducing repetitive tasks, and providing faster reaction times, a feature that is increasingly present in all of SecOps actions.

Monitoring tools

Monitoring tools are essential and can improve the response time. Alert systems should be well-calibrated to reduce the occasional detection of false positives but sensitive enough to react when something goes awry.

Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tools are widely used and have become more effective in identifying threats with the integration of Security Orchestration and Automation (SOAR) features.

Management tools

Development is an iterative process, and code consistency is key. Management tools like Ansible or Docker are quite useful when configuring systems if vulnerabilities are detected, allowing faster deployment of bug fixes. They also ensure the final product remains cohesive instead of patched.

Automation tools

Automation is a goal and a requirement. There are more threats than available people to deal with them, so SecOps tools should have automation as one of their main features. Automation should be used in monitoring, repetitive tasks, incident alerts, and response to breaches, to keep the security levels high while minimizing the impact on business and production.

Benefits and goals of SecOps

Putting security upfront can be a radical change in the workflow and development processes of some organizations, but a necessary one. Here are some reasons why investing in a Security Operations team is a good idea.

Goals

As an integrated effort, SecOps goals go beyond the mere enforcing of security measures without disrupting the demands of the development cycle. A good SecOps policy should also:

  • Foster collaboration - all teams within the company should be aware of the security risks involving their activities and be a part of the effort to create a secure working environment.

  • Set milestones - change doesn’t happen overnight, so a roadmap towards security best practices within the organization must be created.

  • Ensure security practices are followed and become an integral part of the development process without compromising performance.

Benefits

Security practices should be the norm in organizations, not an emergency resource. Besides creating a security baseline, developing a SecOps strategy will improve:

  • Teamwork - Security threats keep evolving and becoming more creative, and having a multidisciplinary outlook as part of the organization’s culture raises awareness and more imaginative solutions. SecOps is a proactive attitude that feeds upon the range of skills and knowledge of the IT crowd, working as a collaborative monitoring network.

  • Trust - Having a dedicated team with security and product deployment in mind will resonate with the company’s ultimate goal: to deliver a trustworthy product or service as quickly as possible.

  • Quality - In a competitive environment, where production speed has priority, innovation will be affected if security is compromised. SecOps will provide they happen while delivering quality products: code security is validated before going into production, making it less vulnerable to exploits.

  • Reaction speed - Integrated communication, detection, and resolution systems will speed up the decision-making process by identifying the vulnerabilities and implementing the solutions faster. Security becomes one of the priorities and a crucial component of the development process.

  • Consistency - With both Security and Operations teams working in tandem, the pool of resources becomes streamlined. The use of common tools to assess vulnerabilities will ensure consistent practices throughout the different sectors, improving overall efficiency and reducing the possibility of security breaches.

How to implement SecOps

The best way to incorporate SecOps as a workflow feature is through training. A good SecOps course will raise awareness and provide teams with appropriate security tools and procedures. It will also contribute to the development of an in-house SecOps structure, simplifying the validation of assets and code before production, thus eliminating possible friction between the once disjointed teams.

The result will be a safer working environment and trustworthy products.

“Why?” is not the question

When assessing the need for a SecOps culture in an organization, the question is not why or if they should be integrated, but when and how. This integrated philosophy is the best prevention and remedy for cyberattacks, no matter what model is deployed.

In a nutshell, SecOps:

  • Embeds security into development;

  • Works 24/7;

  • Needs specialized roles and tools;

  • Benefits from the contribution of an internal network;

  • Can be bought or built, according to the needs and size of organizations;

  • It is indispensable to face the digital ecosystem and its threats.

Since the purpose of SecOps is to create standard actions and solutions to face cyber threats and avoid potential risks, they should be looked at as a single platform with the ability to identify, track and solve security incidents.

SecOps is also a holistic approach to security in daily operations, affecting every action and decision through the different stages of production. But once it is ingrained in the minds and processes of an organization, the investment pays off because security and trust are two of the most valuable currencies in the technological world.

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