Feb 13 2024

What Is Security as Code?

In an evolving threat landscape, integrating Security as Code into the software development process empowers organizations with proactive cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity remains a top priority for enterprises worldwide. Organizations are increasing their cyber budgets in 2024 at a higher rate than they did last year, according to PwC. And for good reason: Businesses face an expanded attack surface from the proliferation of Internet of Things devices, an ever-growing global ransomware threat and challenges with identity management, among other risks that CISOs are anticipating this year.

But there are also cybersecurity measures that businesses can take to keep their data more secure. Security as Code is one example, as it empowers companies to proactively monitor their security.

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What Is Security as Code?

Security as Code is the practice of integrating security measures and policies directly into the software development process. SaC involves automating security controls and configurations using code-based techniques such as scripts, templates and Infrastructure as Code tools. This approach ensures that security is built into the DevOps pipeline. Once compliance policies and threat detection are treated as code, businesses can benefit from early detection and remediation of security vulnerabilities.

When it comes to the cloud, McKinsey reports, this programmatic approach “can be referenced automatically in the configuration scripts used to provision cloud systems.” That’s part of why SaC “has been the most effective approach to securing cloud workloads with speed and agility.”

What Does Security as Code Do?

Security as Code is an efficient and affordable way for businesses to promote greater security. “The promise of the cloud and the promise of Security as Code is you can go beyond random sampling,” notes Rich Isenberg, a partner at Cloud by McKinsey, in a recent webinar. “You can go beyond inspections at certain times and actually enforce automated compliance with snippets of code.”

Enforced compliance is a critical attribute of SaC’s automated monitoring. Integrating security policies, checks and measures into the software enables greater environmental monitoring, as scans and assessments become more continuous and extensive than they would be otherwise. This constant real-time monitoring can dramatically reduce cyberthreats.

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“Most security breaches out there are not a result of some really new, innovative attack that a company has not actually thought of,” adds Phil Venables, CISO of Google Cloud, in the webinar. “Most of the time, a security breach is taking advantage of a control that companies thought was there but turned out not to be there because of some other issue. … So, this kind of continuous assurance that your environment corresponds to what you’ve specified turns out to be great not just for agility, reliability, performance management and cost-effectiveness of managing the environment, it turns out to be really crucial from a security perspective.”

Altogether, SaC enables enterprises to be more proactive with their security, as long as they maintain proper practices.

Rich Isenberg
The promise of Security as Code is you can go beyond random sampling. You can go beyond inspections at certain times and actually enforce automated compliance with snippets of code.”

Rich Isenberg Partner, Cloud by McKinsey

What Are the Key Principles and Practices of SaC?

The way SaC is leveraged may vary from business to business. However, following some key principles, as outlined by CrowdStrike, provides a solid foundation for implementing this security approach:

  • Build security into the software development lifecycle. Security considerations should be a part of every phase of software development, from planning to deployment. It is essential to integrate automated security measures directly into the process.
  • Integrate policies into the DevOps pipeline. Automate compliance with security best practices throughout the software development lifecycle.
  • Continuously monitor security policies. Environmental monitoring should be constant, furthering the real-time assessment and adjustment of security measures.
  • Enable visibility into cybersecurity alert mechanisms. It’s important to have a comprehensive view of your organization’s overall security posture, including dashboards and log management tools, to more easily identify and act on vulnerabilities.
  • Keep a record of your security configurations. Establish a reliable way to see and manage your security settings so you can audit them more easily.

Following these principles will help businesses effectively implement SaC into their DevOps processes.

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How Does SaC Fit into DevOps and Platform Engineering?

Software as Code fits in rather seamlessly with DevOps, primarily because both offer cost-effective, automated, scalable solutions that improve security and agility throughout the development lifecycle. With its automated security checks, SaC also fits into platform engineering, a core component of DevOps that “seeks to improve each development team’s security, compliance, costs, and time to-business value through improved developer experiences,” according to Microsoft.

Put these two together, and SaC can support Infrastructure as Code and continuous integration/continuous deployment to form a more holistic DevSecOps strategy. So, when it comes to the essential and beneficial collaboration among development, operations and security teams, Software as Code can be a helpful unifier.

Dragon Claws / getty images

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