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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What Is a CI/CD Pipeline?
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.
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.
CI/CD tools are the backbone of a DevOps approach that enables developers and IT operations teams to work together to deploy software.
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.
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:
- Ensure SAST tools support all relevant programming languages and frameworks.
- Purchase the necessary licenses, deploy SAST software in the development environment, set up access control and authorization, and ensure that the necessary infrastructure is available.
- Customize SAST tools to your specific needs. For example, you can create new rules or update existing rules to reduce false positives, or check for other vulnerabilities.
- Integrate the SAST tool into your build environment using its API.
- Create dashboards to track scan results, custom reports to share with management, and compliance reports.
- Add SAST to your pipelines gradually. Start with high-risk applications and scale to all other applications after SAST proves its worth. At a minimum, all applications should be scanned regularly as part of the initial build process.
- Create governance policies for the use of scanning tools by development teams. Ensure that development, operations, and security teams understand how SAST tools are used and have a clear and effective operational process.
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.
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