Building Cloud Native Applications With A Security First Approach

Published on: January 22, 2024
Last Updated: January 22, 2024

Building Cloud Native Applications With A Security First Approach

Published on: January 22, 2024
Last Updated: January 22, 2024

Security is essential in today’s digital climate. Users can utilize tools and techniques to improve security, but developers must use secure coding techniques to ensure apps are innately secure. The shift left approach keeps data protected. 

What Is The Shift Left Approach?

The shift left approach is a core testing concept integrated into the DevOps process.

It releases small builds as code evolves to ensure the product meets security and quality standards. It helps developers find coding errors and vulnerabilities early on to make software more reliable. 

What Is The Difference Between Shift Left and Shift Right?

Shift left works in tandem with shift right. They are both part of the ongoing software development cycle. 

The left side of the loop involves software planning, development, and testing in the pre-production stages. The main goal is to ensure the product meets design criteria. 

The right side ensures the product will meet the user’s business goals. It focuses on reliability criteria. 

How Does The Shift Left Approach Relate To Security? 

The shift left approach helps developers find security risks and vulnerabilities early in the software development cycle.

How Does The Shift Left Approach Relate To Security

It differs from traditional approaches where security is checked in the later stages. It provides a more efficient development method and ensures security checks are not omitted. 

The method is so called because it checks for issues early in the development process, or to the left of the linear development timeline.

It identifies coding problems before they become unmanageable and extend budgetary requirements. Its efficiency has made it a well-established principle of app development. 

Benefits Of Shift Left Technology In The DevOps Process

  • Boosts Efficiency: Traditional processes meant apps were not tested until the later stages of development. If issues were found, developers would have to reverse processes to identify and fix errors resulting in costly, time-consuming methods. Shift left identifies issues in the early stages so they can be handled immediately.  
  • Information is Fresh in the Developer’s Mind: When developers backtrack to fix errors, the information is not fresh in their minds. They may have to reteach themselves certain processes to address issues. Shift left eliminates backtracking and makes development more efficient. 
  • More Streamlined Process: When developers follow the shift left approach, they integrate an ongoing process of developing and testing. It’s more efficient than interrupting their work and switching tasks when an issue is identified. 
  • Better Products: The shift left approach is more thorough. It identifies issues as they occur and ensures they are addressed. It calls for brainstorming sessions that help create better products. 

Best Shift Left Practices

Assess Current Software Development Processes

Teams should begin by assessing current software development processes to identify vulnerabilities.

They should determine how to improve processes, so they become more agile. They must integrate tools that continuously test for flaws. 

Developers should examine how their code moves from development to production. They should identify flaws that make systems vulnerable to breaches.

They should enforce a system that involves checking code often throughout the development process so they can deal with issues as they occur. 

Teams may want to start by checking existing documentation for gaps and documenting missing components. 

Establish A Shift-Left Strategy

The next step involves creating a document that establishes a new shift left strategy. Identify your objectives and what shifting left will mean in your new development environment.

Determine the tools you will need, how you will measure your success rates and the responsibilities of each team member. 

Secure Coding Practices

Educate Teams On Secure Coding Practices

Shift left is not specific to the development team. It must be enforced throughout the organization to all teams involved in IT processes including product, development, and QA.

Team members must be aware of which tools to use, and security testing strategies. 

Employees should also be educated on secure coding standards which provide rules and guidelines on how to detect, prevent, and eliminate errors and vulnerabilities.

They are usually in line with existing security standards such as CERT, CWE, IEC, DISA, and OWASP. Get teams familiar with these standards so they can keep your systems safe. 

Automate Security Processes

Shift left will be most effective running on an automated system. There are several systems you can use to ensure issues are automatically detected including Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST), Runtime Application Self Protection (RASP), and Static Application System Testing (SAST). SAST is the most effective in identifying vulnerabilities early in the development process. 

What Are Secure Coding Techniques?

The shift left approach can identify issues early in the pipeline, but there are other strategies developers can use to ensure coding is secure.

They include: 

  • Security by Design: Security best practices can reduce development speed. However, the security-by-design model ensures security is integrated into every step of the design process. It maintains an efficient speed and reduces the need to address errors in the review process. 
  • System Configuration: Systems are often breached due to outdated software and development processes in multiple environments. A secure system configuration eliminates unnecessary components and provides a patch management process that fixes vulnerabilities. It makes regular updates to ensure the system is in line with the latest secure coding practices. 
  • Error Handling and Logging: An effective error handling and logging system can identify errors early on and reduce future errors. They should be documented carefully and entered into a trusted system. They will allow developers to diagnose issues and minimize their impact and occurrence frequency. 
  • Threat Modeling: Threat modeling involves four critical steps: document, locate, address, and validate. It must be integrated into the development process from beginning to end. It will reduce risk and threat occurrence. 
  • Input Validation and Output Encoding: Input validation ensures all information is validated to prevent unsuitable data from entering the system. Output encoding transforms data into a safe format without affecting its functionality. Both processes must be integrated to ensure secure coding. 
  • Access Control: Access control must be implemented throughout the development of the program and within the program design. It will deny access to unauthorized users. It will verify access requests to ensure that only authorized users can view sensitive information. 

The rapidly evolving digital landscape presents security issues that must be addressed in the development stages.

The shift left approach ensures threats are identified and mitigated throughout the development process.

It yields a more efficient strategy that saves companies time and money and produces better products that boost customer satisfaction. It sets the tone for a safer digital future. 

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Written by Allison Langstone

Allison produces content for a business SAAS but also contributes to EarthWeb frequently, using her knowledge of both business and technology to bring a unique angle to the site.