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What Is DevSecOps?

Definition of DevSecOps

DevSecOps is a software development strategy based on the integration of security throughout the application development lifecycle. An operational approach as much as a cultural philosophy, DevSecOps ensures everyone in the delivery pipeline shares accountability for security. When executed effectively with a tool such as a cloud native application protection platform (CNAPP), DevSecOps can help accelerate innovation by identifying and resolving security issues as early as possible instead of forcing the security “step” to become a bottleneck in development.

Short for development, security, and operations, DevSecOps helps enterprises integrate security principles and standards across the software development life cycle (SDLC) by implementing security controls at each stage—in development, integration, deployment, and production.

Identifying and remediating security issues as early as possible in development helps save costs, avoid rework, and reduce risk by ensuring cloud workloads are secure before they’re deployed.

DevOps vs. DevSecOps

DevOps and DevSecOps both use automation and continuous processes to establish collaborative cycles of development. DevSecOps emerged following criticism of DevOps for failing to appropriately emphasize cybersecurity.

In the DevOps methodology, devs and operations teams work together to create an agile, streamlined deployment framework. DevSecOps aims to automate key security tasks by embedding security controls and processes into the DevOps workflow. DevSecOps practices extend the DevOps culture of shared responsibility to include security practices.

What is the purpose of DevSecOps?

Meet the needs of modern application development

To keep release cycles fast and stay competitive, today’s enterprises have adopted a broad range of cloud native services along with corresponding changes to their development processes and collaboration via DevOps methodologies. Modern apps are complex, with devs often relying on reusable code and open source components. On top of that, there are many regulations today that govern treatment of sensitive data (e.g., GDPR, CCPA). This increased complexity, alongside the evolving threat landscape as well as the high rates of innovation and automation associated with cloud applications, makes security more difficult.

Overall, this puts huge pressure on security teams to find and manage vulnerabilities in complex environments, keep pace with compressed release cycles, and secure infrastructure and confidential data while adhering to regulations—all with finite expertise, resources, and tools.

Since slowing down isn't an option, you need a security model that’s development and DevOps-friendly. DevSecOps drives better security practices, offering you deep visibility enriched with full context and integration into devs’ tools and processes, paired with unified security across cloud infrastructure, confidential data, and applications.

Overcome challenges that hinder secure software

DevSecOps is designed to stop security issues before they start in the software delivery pipeline, taking aim at these areas:

  1. Breaches, vulnerabilities, and compliance violations are growing. Enterprises undergoing digital transformation or building new cloud apps need streamlined processes to find and remediate security vulnerabilities early in development, rather than incur the expense of fixing issues in production—or worse, after a breach.

  2. Most products that address multicloud security lack an integrated approach to life cycle security and compliance for workloads and applications. The result is many isolated alerts that lack risk context and report findings late, creating friction among cross-functional teams and forcing expensive, time-consuming rework.

  3. DevOps often fails to integrate security into continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) practices. Instead, security reviews are treated as an afterthought and performed late in the process, if at all. When substantial last-minute changes are needed to address vulnerabilities, releases can get delayed.

  4. Devs and DevOps often don’t know how their releases and changes affect security, or they’re under pressure to rush releases, deprioritizing security needs. Security-enforced changes and gates impact release speed, introducing unnecessary risk as well as friction among cross-functional teams.

As part of addressing these challenges, DevSecOps delivers an array of benefits. Let’s look at those next.

By integrating vulnerabilities, context and relationships across the development life cycle, excessive risk can be surfaced, enabling development teams and product owners to focus on remediating the areas of the application that represent the most risk.


What are the benefits of DevSecOps?

Complete coverage and control

To secure cloud native apps and resources in the public cloud, you need complete visibility and granular controls. DevSecOps provides full visibility, coverage, and granular controls to secure native applications, cloud infrastructure, and confidential data.

Effective DevSecOps tools help your teams identify and correlate minor issues, individual events, and hidden attack vectors into unified visual attack flows, complete with quick alerts, recommendations, and remediation guidance, to help security and non-security personnel make informed decisions.

Lower costs and complexity 

An effective DevSecOps strategy consolidates your security stack by unifying multiple functions—such as cloud security posture management (CSPM), cloud infrastructure entitlement management (CIEM), infrastructure as code (IaC) and vulnerability scanning, and cloud workload protection platforms (CWPPs)—in a single platform, reducing costs and complexity compared to maintaining point solutions for each.

DevSecOps also helps your teams identify and remediate issues earlier in the software development process, which prevents vulnerabilities from slipping into production, reduces rework and patching, saves time and money, and reduces your risk of a breach.

By integrating the right application security testing and IT service management tools, you can send near-real-time alerts to key stakeholders, owners, and devs, enabling your teams to take immediate action with guided remediation techniques.


Figure 1: Bidirectional feedback

Source: Gartner, Innovation Insight for Cloud-Native Application Protect Platforms
Neil MacDonald, Charlie Winckless, 25 August 2021


Accelerated innovation

With automated security controls embedded in popular integrated development environments (IDEs) like Visual Studio Code and DevOps tools such as GitHub and Jenkins, developers can easily and conveniently meet the requirements of DevSecOps environments. 

These controls help developers identify, investigate, and remediate code vulnerabilities early in development using recommended best security practices and guided remediation. It ensures fast delivery of applications without sacrificing security.

Enhanced collaboration and communication

Security, development, and operations teams tend to work in silos, and bringing them together can be challenging, but worthwhile. DevSecOps brings your teams together on one platform so that every component and configuration in the stack is compliant, patched, and configured securely with better communication and understanding.

With better collaboration, your security team can implement much-needed guardrails for devs to incorporate into their daily work, reducing friction between teams and team members.

What are the challenges of implementing DevSecOps?

Managing environmental complexities

Many enterprises rely on multiple public cloud providers as well as a broad range of services and workloads. Using only individual providers’ native security controls leads to limited visibility, security silos, inconsistent security policies, and fragmented reporting. Meanwhile, DevOps environments combine various platforms, coding languages, and open source components. Within these environments, credentials, tokens, and SSH keys are openly shared among apps, containers, and microservices.

Security teams need granular controls to address complex environments without impacting performance.

Moving beyond point solutions

DevOps teams need a comprehensive view of their environment and risks to resolve issues and deliver secure code. Many security teams use multiple single-purpose tools to provide that coverage at the cost of more complexity. Unfortunately, this means that instead of focusing on delivering great software, your teams face the tedium of correlating results from these disparate tools, determining remediation priorities, and suffering alert fatigue.

Retiring point solutions in favor of a holistic approach means getting buy-in from your teams on taking the leap.

Navigating cross-team operational challenges 

Rapid release cycles can lead to mistakes like configuration errors, which can turn into major security risks if they go undetected. In traditional waterfall development, the security team performs security testing after the development stage, before sending the application into a production environment. This can be time-consuming, and security teams often can’t keep up with the pace of deployments and environment changes with limited expertise, budget and resources.

You’ll need to focus on training and filling knowledge gaps among your teams as you move to DevSecOps.

Fostering collaboration and communication

The biggest hurdle to implementing DevSecOps is your teams’ security culture. DevOps teams are under pressure to keep up speed, and they’re used to security slowing them down. They often have limited knowledge of security and risk mitigation best practices, compliance requirements, and the consequences of violations. Security teams, on the other hand, are mostly concerned with securing apps, code, infrastructure, and data.

In other words, diverging goals can make it difficult for your teams to work together. You need to unify their goals and show them the long-term, cross-team benefits of DevSecOps.

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What are the steps to implementing DevSecOps?

So, in practical terms, how do you make DevSecOps happen? Start with these five steps:

1. Outline a unified approach
To keep commits and releases on track without sidelining security, you need to make your security, operations, and development teams aware of each other’s processes, and you need clearly defined security and compliance requirements. Keeping your devs informed about security best practices, violations, incidents, and guidance helps with timely remediation.

2.  Adopt a “shift left” strategy
Security has to start early in development, not get tacked on at the end. Implementing security policies for code analysis helps devs deliver secure code. Integrate a security solution in your developers’ existing workflows that supports different languages and IDEs. This will help the team find and fix issues before they reach production.

3. Assess vulnerabilities
Developers regularly install and build upon third-party code dependencies, which can come from unknown or untrusted sources. Security must be plugged into an existing CI/CD pipeline to perform critical review as well as scan early and often for security vulnerabilities.

4. Manage threats
Exploits and attackers are constantly evolving, and continuous monitoring can save you from a breach. Your security team should use automated security checks to scan and monitor your cloud environments and apps for attacks or leaks as well as identify, investigate, prioritize, and remediate threats or vulnerabilities.

5. Continuous compliance assurance
DevOps environments constantly shift as new code is created or existing source code is changed. Integrated automated compliance validation and reporting throughout DevOps processes will help your teams move faster, and reliable controls will ensure compliance and simplify regulatory audits.

Zscaler DevSecOps

To effectively secure your apps and data in the cloud, you need continuous automated risk assessment and security tightly integrated into your apps and infrastructure. A traditional security approach, with static and siloed security tools, can’t keep today’s mission-critical applications, sensitive data, and infrastructure safe.

Zscaler helps implement DevSecOps in the enterprise, delivering a centralized approach to securing cloud infrastructure, sensitive data, and native applications deployed across multicloud environments while reducing complexity, cross-team friction, and overhead.

Core capabilities

  • Comprehensive coverage in one platform: Reduce complexity and overhead by replacing multiple point products with a unified platform that helps your team identify critical issues to focus on first.
  • Advanced threat and risk correlation: Improve SecOps efficiency with smart policies and controls that detect risky misconfigurations or activities that can become dangerous attack vectors.
  • Cloud estate, risk, and compliance discovery: Identify risks and noncompliance earlier across your multicloud footprint and IDEs. Maintain workflows via native integration with popular IDEs and DevOps tools
  • Deployable in minutes, no agents required: Take an API-based approach to protect all workloads and data across multicloud environments without forcing your devs to install agents.
  • Full life cycle cloud security: Find and fix security issues early in dev, before they hit production. Monitor, alert, and block deployment processes when critical issues are found.
  • Data protection for public clouds: Identify and protect sensitive data at rest or in motion with DLP and threat scanning engines alongside advanced data recognition and classification.
  • Continuous compliance assurance: Automatically map cloud security posture to major industry and regulatory frameworks to provide automated, continuous compliance reporting.


Visit our Posture Control™ page to find out more about how Zscaler can help support your DevSecOps initiatives.