What is CI/CD Security?

The continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline is responsible for taking an application from a source code commit to deployment on production systems. CI/CD security attempts to detect and remediate potential risks to application security throughout all phases of the CI/CD pipeline. By shifting security left, CI/CD security reduces the cost and impact of software flaws and vulnerabilities.

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What is CI/CD Security?

Why CI/CD Security is Critical

The CI/CD pipeline is central to the success of DevOps design methodologies. Once the code has been developed and committed to the repository, the pipeline automatically builds the code, tests it, and prepares it for deployment to production.

The security of the code deployed to production depends on the security of the CI/CD pipeline. If test cases are incorrect, incomplete, or modified, then vulnerabilities could slip by undetected. Malicious or vulnerable code could also be injected into an application during the CI/CD process via third-party dependencies. CI/CD security helps to mitigate these and other security risks throughout the CI/CD pipeline.

CI/CD Security Risks

Corporate CI/CD pipelines, applications, and DevOps processes face numerous security risks, including the following:

  • Insecure Coding: One of the main functions of the CI/CD pipeline is to test code before deployment to production. This includes security testing, designed to identify vulnerabilities in the code before they are exposed to potential exploitation.
  • Insufficient Access Controls: Code within a CI/CD pipeline must have access to certain data and resources to build a functioning image for testing. Pipeline access controls limit pipelines’ access to only what is needed for their roles, minimizing the potential impacts if malicious code is executed within the pipeline.
  • Security Misconfigurations: The CI/CD pipeline is a complex environment composed of various systems. If these systems are improperly configured, the security of the pipeline may be undermined.
  • Exposure of Secrets: Applications may require access to various types of confidential information, such as passwords and API keys. As a result, these secrets must be accessible within CI/CD pipelines for testing. If these secrets are exposed in the CI/CD pipeline or DevOps environments, then they may allow an attacker to steal data, access corporate systems, or add malicious functionality to applications.
  • Vulnerable Third-Party Libraries: Nearly all applications rely upon third-party code to implement various functions. If these third-party libraries contain vulnerabilities or backdoors, this could open applications using the libraries up to exploitation by an attacker.
  • Supply Chain Attacks: In a supply chain attack, an attacker targets the open-source and third-party dependencies that an application relies upon. This could include adding vulnerabilities, backdoors, or other malicious functionality to an application.

Securing the CI/CD Pipeline

CI/CD pipelines and the applications that they work with face a variety of potential security risks. Some solutions that can be integrated into CI/CD pipelines to improve application security (AppSec) include the following:

  • Source Composition Analysis (SCA): SCA solutions identify the third-party dependencies that an application uses and the potential vulnerabilities that they contain. This can protect against vulnerable third-party code and supply chain attacks.
  • Source Code Scanning: Static application security testing (SAST) examines the source code of an application for potential vulnerabilities. Code scanning solutions enable DevOps teams to identify and correct vulnerabilities early in the software development lifecycle (SDLC) when they are less expensive to remediate.
  • Security Testing: During the testing phase of the SDLC, dynamic application security testing (DAST) solutions can identify vulnerabilities in functional applications. These tests occur later in the SDLC but can identify issues that are undetectable by SAST solutions.
  • Runtime Security: Vulnerabilities may be overlooked during testing or discovered after an application is in production. Runtime security solutions such as runtime application self-protection (RASP) can provide ongoing monitoring and protection for an application after it has been deployed to production.

CI/CD Security with CloudGuard Spectral

CI/CD security is essential to corporate AppSec. If an attacker can gain illegitimate access to CI/CD processes, they can potentially inject vulnerabilities, malicious functionality, or configuration errors into applications. Once these vulnerable applications are deployed to production, they can place the company and its customers at risk.

Alternatively, an attacker with access to development environments can use that access to steal the secrets and other sensitive data used by the application throughout the CI/CD process. Credentials, API tokens, and similar secrets could undermine the security of an organization’s entire IT infrastructure and application suite if exposed to an attacker due to vulnerabilities in the software development process.

Check Point CloudGuard Spectral provides developer-focused, end-to-end security for CI/CD pipelines.

Learn more about CloudGuard’s developer security features. Then, see the capabilities of Spectral for yourself by signing up for a free demo today.

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