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How GitOps can secure your software pipeline

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Johnathan Hunt VP of Security, GitLab
 

As more companies move operations to the cloud and look to streamline infrastructure management, adoption of GitOps is on the rise. GitOps is an effective way to streamline infrastructure management and directly impact business value.

At the moment, most companies adopt GitOps to increase release speed. However, GitOps can also significantly improve developer pipeline security. Here's what GitOps is and how it boosts pipeline security.

GitOps 101

GitOps is an operational framework that takes best practices used for DevOps application development, such as version control, collaboration, compliance, and CI/CD, and applies them to infrastructure automation. This distinction between DevOps and infrastructure automation is an important one, because while much of the software development lifecycle has been automated, infrastructure work has remained a largely manual process that requires specialized teams. With the ever-increasing demands made on today’s infrastructure, it has become more crucial to implement infrastructure automation.

GitOps, whose workflows help teams manage IT infrastructure through processes they already use in application development, is not a single product, plugin, or platform. It comprises three key components:

  • IaC: GitOps leverages the Git repository to create a single source of truth for infrastructure definitions. Infrastructure as code (IaC) is the practice of keeping all infrastructure configurations stored as code in Git.
  • MRs: GitOps leverages merge requests (MRs) as a change mechanism for any and all infrastructure updates. MRs allow teams to collaborate through reviews and comments. They are also where formal approvals take place.
  • CI/CD: GitOps automates infrastructure updates with continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD). This way, when new code is merged, CI/CD pipelines carry out the change through the environment. Any configuration drift, such as manual changes or errors, is overwritten by GitOps automation so the environment converges on the desired state defined in Git.

While many tools and methodologies promise faster deployment and seamless management between code and infrastructure, GitOps differs by focusing on a developer-centric experience. This way developer-driven businesses can mine greater value from their infrastructure.

How GitOps affects security

GitOps tools’ unique ability to treat everything as code creates a direct impact on security. For example, if all configuration and security policy is treated as code, everything can be held in version control. Any and all changes can be made, reviewed, and input into an automated pipeline. The pipeline then verifies, deploys, and monitors changes.

In this way, GitOps effectively provides a single source of truth for development teams. Any divergence to the set state of the system (small or large), such as the emergence of a bug, will be caught much earlier in the development process. So, if implemented correctly, GitOps becomes an effective strategy to shift security further left and catch vulnerabilities, bugs, and other general code quality issues of all kinds earlier in the process. This makes GitOps not only a tool for infrastructure management, but also another opportunity to shift security left.

Lastly, GitOps also increases speed in which changes can be made to the pipeline. So, if the worst should happen and the developer pipeline is breached, GitOps provides a rapid response to address security issues. For example, the pipeline vulnerability exploited in the breach could be swiftly corrected once recognized and addressed in GitOp’s IaC repository.

Also, storing infrastructure as code enables companies to recognize the affected lines of code quickly within their repositories. This means companies can swiftly assess the size and scale of attack in order to recover faster. It also reduces the risk of breaches and your threat landscape as well as minimizes risk.

Improving security posture this way has a direct impact on business value, whether it’s improving customer confidence or enabling security teams to meet audit requirements. The ripple effect of adopting GitOps is good for business.

GitOps for security of the future

GitOps streamlines infrastructure management and helps to strengthen pipeline security. As more businesses move to the cloud and their attack surfaces widen, they should consider the benefits of adopting new tools to keep up with security’s ever-increasing demands.

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