Adding SAST to Your CI/CD Pipeline: What You Should Know
In this post, learn how to move closer to a robust DevSecOps process that can identify and remediate software vulnerabilities immediately as they happen.
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As custom applications become a key differentiator for enterprises, speed of code release has become a competitive advantage, and CI/CD pipelines are what make high-velocity development possible.
What Is a CI/CD Pipeline?
A continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline is the process that drives software development through the stages of building, testing, and deploying code. By automating the process, teams can minimize human error and maintain a consistent process for software releases. The pipeline includes tools such as code compilation, unit testing, code analysis, security, and binary generation. For containerized environments, this pipeline also includes ways to package code into container images and deploy them to a cloud environment. Review DZone's guide to container security.
CI/CD tools are the backbone of a DevOps process for deployment that enables developers and IT operations teams to work together.
What Is Static Application Security Testing (SAST)?
SAST is a technology designed to analyze the source code of an application to find security holes and weaknesses that can expose the application to malicious attacks. For more than a decade, software developers have used SAST to find and fix defects in application source code early in the software development lifecycle (SDLC), long before the final release of the application. DZone's previously covered how to secure source code from theft.
SAST is a white box testing method. This means analyzing the application for coding and design flaws from the inside out by examining the source code, bytecode, and binaries when the application is inactive. SAST scans can be performed early in SDLC as there is no need to deploy any working applications or code.
Because SAST can occur early in the SDLC, it can provide real-time feedback to developers, letting them fix code issues before they are passed to the next stage of the SDLC. However, it is important to use SAST on a regular basis, ensuring that every code commit and every software release is checked for vulnerabilities.
SAST and the DevSecOps Pipeline
DevSecOps is a management approach that combines application development, security, operations, and infrastructure as code (IaC) in an automated continuous delivery cycle. DevSecOps requires all employees and teams to be accountable for security from the start and make effective decisions and take action without compromising security.
The primary purpose of DevSecOps is to automate, monitor, and enforce security at all stages of the software lifecycle: planning, development, building, testing, releasing, delivering, deploying, operating, and monitoring. Applying security at every stage of the software development process enables continuous integration, lowers compliance costs, and speeds software delivery.
SAST is not a one-off part of the DevSecOps pipeline. It can be used to detect both unintentional errors and malicious code, at all stages of the software lifecycle:
- Initial build - SAST enables developers to follow best practices when building code, avoiding exploitable vulnerabilities, and preventing code quality issues. Pre-release alerts allow developers to proactively address issues before they become visible to other project stakeholders.
- Staging and acceptance testing - Internal staff and third parties reviewing code often deal with huge repositories of code files. SAST can help identify and fix issues automatically, saving time for manual reviewers. This eliminates potential security issues and provides an extra layer of control.
- Production releases - Even after software releases, developers continue to update code. Because the code is running in production, changes and updates are usually small, but each change carries the risk of introducing unexpected bugs and security issues. Whenever a change occurs, a SAST scan automatically checks it. This can quickly and effectively vet code changes for security issues.
It is best to run a SAST scan whenever code is added, edited, or deleted, to reduce the risk of security vulnerabilities. This minimizes issues throughout the product lifecycle. SAST allows developers to avoid accidental bugs and eliminate risks that can compromise software integrity.
Steps To Implement SAST in the Pipeline
Deploying SAST in organizations with large application portfolios and multiple CI/CD pipelines can be challenging. Here are some steps to help make this happen:
Step 1: Define Security Requirements
Before integrating Static Application Security Testing (SAST) into your CI/CD pipeline, it's crucial to establish clear security requirements for your application. Engage with security architects and application security specialists to identify and document the specific security measures needed. This step lays the foundation for the subsequent implementation and ensures alignment with organizational security goals.
- Tools: Documentation tools (e.g., Confluence)
- Time: 1-2 days
Step 2: Select SAST Tool
Choose a Static Application Security Testing tool that aligns with your programming languages, application stack, and organizational needs. Research popular tools such as Checkmarx, Fortify, or SonarQube. Consider factors like language support, scalability, and ease of integration. This decision typically involves security engineers and DevSecOps engineers who collaborate to evaluate and select the most suitable tool for your development environment.
- Tools: Popular choices include Checkmarx, Fortify, and SonarQube.
- Time: 1 week for research and selection
Step 3: Integration With Version Control System
Integrate the chosen SAST tool with your version control system (e.g., Git). This integration ensures that security scans are seamlessly triggered whenever changes are made to the codebase. DevOps engineers play a key role in setting up these integrations and configuring any necessary hooks within the version control system to facilitate automated SAST scans.
- Tools: SAST tool-specific integrations, Git hooks
- Time: 2-3 days
Step 4: Customize SAST Configuration
Once the SAST tool is integrated, customize its configuration to match the specific characteristics of your application. This step involves adjusting settings, rules, and policies to reduce false positives and enhance the tool's accuracy. Security engineers and application developers collaborate to fine-tune the SAST configuration, ensuring it aligns with the application's unique architecture and coding practices.
- Tools: SAST tool interface or configuration files
- Time: 1 week for fine-tuning
Step 5: Automate SAST Scans in CI/CD Pipeline
Integrate SAST scans into the CI/CD pipeline, ensuring that security checks are an integral part of the automated deployment process. DevOps engineers and CI/CD specialists work together to implement this automation, embedding security into the continuous integration and deployment workflows. Automated scans help identify vulnerabilities early in the development lifecycle.
- Tools: CI/CD platforms (e.g., Jenkins, GitLab CI)
- Time: 1 week for integration and testing
Step 6: Establish Baseline Scan
Conduct an initial baseline SAST scan to identify existing vulnerabilities in the codebase. This baseline provides a starting point for assessing the security posture of the application. DevOps engineers and security experts collaborate to execute the initial scan, allowing the team to understand the current security landscape and prioritize remediation efforts.
- Tools: SAST tool integrated into CI/CD
- Time: 1 day for the initial scan
Step 7: Integrate Findings Into Issue Tracking
Automatically create issues or tickets for identified vulnerabilities in the issue tracking system (e.g., Jira). This integration ensures that development teams are promptly informed about security issues, facilitating a streamlined remediation process. DevOps engineers and security experts collaborate to establish this integration, connecting the SAST tool with the organization's chosen issue tracking system.
- Tools: Issue tracking systems (e.g., Jira)
- Time: 1-2 days
Step 8: Implement Automated Remediation (Optional)
Consider implementing automated fixes within your pipeline for common vulnerabilities identified by the SAST tool. While not always possible for every type of vulnerability, automated remediation can significantly accelerate the resolution of certain issues. DevOps engineers and security experts collaborate to script automated fixes and integrate them into the CI/CD pipeline.
- Tools: Scripting, automation frameworks
- Time: Variable, depending on the complexity of automated fixes
Step 9: Configure Notifications and Reporting
Set up notifications to alert relevant stakeholders about SAST findings and generate regular reports on the security status of the application. DevOps engineers and security experts configure the SAST tool to send notifications through email or other communication channels. Regular reporting helps keep both development and security teams informed, fostering collaboration and continuous improvement.
- Tools: SAST tool features, email notifications
- Time: 2-3 days
Step 10: Continuous Improvement
Periodically review and update the SAST configuration to address false positives, improve scanning accuracy, and adapt to evolving security requirements. This ongoing process involves collaboration between DevOps engineers and security experts, ensuring that the SAST implementation remains effective and aligns with the changing dynamics of the application and security landscape. Regular maintenance and continuous improvement are essential for a robust SAST strategy.
- Tools: SAST tool interface, version control for configuration files
- Time: Ongoing process, scheduled periodically
Integrating Static Application Security Testing (SAST) into a CI/CD pipeline comes with its set of challenges that organizations need to address effectively. Recognizing and understanding these challenges is crucial for a smooth integration process. Here are key aspects to consider:
- Tool selection and compatibility: Choosing a SAST tool that aligns with your tech stack and integrates seamlessly with CI/CD and version control systems is critical. Collaboration between DevOps and security teams is key to selecting and configuring the right tool.
- Development team learning curve: Introducing SAST may require development teams to adapt to new processes. Providing comprehensive training resources is crucial to help teams overcome the initial learning curve without compromising productivity.
- False positives and tuning: Minimizing false positives while maintaining accuracy is an ongoing effort. Security engineers and developers must collaborate to fine-tune SAST configurations and ensure actionable results without overwhelming teams with false alarms.
- Pipeline performance impact: Integrating SAST scans may impact pipeline performance. DevOps engineers need to optimize integration, exploring strategies like parallel testing to maintain an efficient and fast CI/CD pipeline.
- Organizational resistance to change: Resistance to change can arise due to established processes. Effective communication, stakeholder engagement, and emphasizing long-term security benefits are crucial to overcoming resistance and fostering acceptance.
- Lack of security culture: Introducing SAST requires a strong security culture. Collaborative efforts between security teams and leadership can communicate the importance of SAST in mitigating risks and building resilient applications.
- Scalability and enterprise-wide adoption: Scaling SAST across diverse projects and teams in large enterprises requires strategic planning. DevOps leaders should implement scalable solutions that cater to various development groups.
- Integration with existing security processes: SAST integration should align with existing security processes without disrupting established measures. Collaboration between security, development, and operations teams is vital for maintaining a holistic security approach.
By implementing these steps, you can move one step closer to a robust DevSecOps process that can identify and remediate software vulnerabilities immediately as they happen. This proactive approach not only identifies vulnerabilities early in the development lifecycle but also streamlines the remediation process, saving valuable time and resources. Read DZone's related tutorial on how to build a CI/CD pipeline from scratch.
The collaboration between security experts, DevOps engineers, and application developers is key to the successful implementation of SAST, fostering a culture of security that aligns with the dynamic nature of today's threat landscape. As technology evolves, incorporating SAST into your CI/CD pipeline is not just a best practice; it's a strategic investment in the resilience and integrity of your software applications. By staying vigilant and continuously optimizing your security measures, you empower your development teams to deliver robust, secure, and high-quality software in an ever-changing digital landscape.
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