Best Practices for Adding CI/CD Pipeline Security

January 13, 2022
CI/CD Pipeline Security

CI/CD pipeline security entails securing everything that passes through your software pipeline, but the pipeline itself might become a target. You can put a halt to it with these CI/CD precautions.

Many companies make the transition from DevOps to DevSecOps by including continuous security validation into their CI/CD pipelines. A shift-left approach incorporates security into applications from the start, considerably reducing the odds of exploitable defects and vulnerabilities being introduced into production releases. This compares with security testing that occurs at the completion of the development lifecycle in a process flow.

However, the CI/CD pipeline is vulnerable to hacking and exploitation. Because of its access to proprietary code, secrets, databases, credentials, and development and production settings, it is a valuable target for hackers. This is a growing concern for many DevOps-driven enterprises. This is particularly salient in the wake of the SolarWinds attacks and the Codecov hack, which compromised thousands of firms’ software supply chains.

Take precautions with these guidelines to keep your CI/CD Pipeline Security.

  1. Draw a map of potential threats and secure connections.

    To begin, you must first determine what possible security threats exist and which weak points in the development and deployment process require extra defenses. Perform a threat modeling analysis to determine pipeline threats.

    Every link in the CI/CD pipeline could lead to a security breach. Configure and scan all devices that connect to the pipeline on a regular basis, and block devices that do not match security policy requirements. Transport Layer Security should be used for all connections. Repositories and build servers should have their configurations locked down, and any programmed builds should be inspected for vulnerabilities.

  1. Strictly limit who has access to what information.

    To govern all access to the CI/CD pipeline Security, create access control lists and rules — it should be easy to see who has access to what, when, and how. Whether access is role-based, time-based, or task-based, you should log, monitor, and regulate access to every component and resource of the pipeline. Perform routine audits to ensure that ex-employees and superfluous machine or service accounts are deactivated, or permissions are withdrawn. All users should be required to utilize strong authentication, and passwords should be rotated on a regular basis. To safeguard nonhuman access in containers, machine identification and authentication are critical.

(Also Read: How to Build an Effective CI/CD Pipeline)

  1. Classify responsibilities and impose permissions

    Because permissions might delay or interfere with testing, development environments tend to be lenient when it comes to enforcing least privilege. Nonetheless, it’s critical to set enforceable permissions for all those who have access to the pipeline so that you can manage who may commit code changes to repositories, construct containers, and deploy code to various environments. Least privilege also extends to pipeline applications, systems, and linked devices that need privileges or permissions to do their jobs.

    Separation of tasks should be clearly defined and enforced to guarantee that no single person or account has greater access to the continuous software delivery pipeline than they require. Bad actors or improperly credentialed individuals can’t take control of the entire pipeline and tamper with the code or processes. Furthermore, they will find it difficult to delve deeper into other organizational systems and data.

  1. Keep your secrets hidden.

    Secrets comprise authentication credentials, such as usernames and passwords, SSH keys, API tokens and encryption keys that grant access to services and applications. They are the keys to all of a project’s data and resources. If all these credentials are not properly protected and used, they can lead to a significant data breach or theft of intellectual property.

    With a specialized key management service, you can control where your secrets are kept and who has access to them. This encrypts, archives, and injects secrets only when they are needed during runtime. As a result, they are never visible in the source code and are never exposed during the application’s build or deployment.

    It’s a good practice to track and audit code repositories – even if you utilize a key management system – to identify and remove secrets that have been dedicated to the code base. Use technologies to prevent them from being pushed or allowed to pass on in pull requests. Even while testing, developers should avoid writing code that prints a secret to the console log since certain CI technologies will mask secrets if they are printed or output in any manner, such as to the console or debug logs.

  1. Keep your code repository private.

    Businesses who self-host a Git-based code repository take a chance on a vulnerability being created by a misconfiguration, exposing the pipeline to attack — Nissan’s North America division recently learned this the hard way. Nissan’s North American division discovered this the hard way recently. Even a hosted version control solution, however, must enable secure repository access. To prove the identity of the author, and ideally two persons, implement two-factor authentication and signed commits. Define access roles for particular repositories to ensure that only developers with authorized access credentials can interact with them.

    Teach developers how to use Git and especially how to effectively use.gitignore, so they know which files will and won’t be discarded when they commit code. To avoid continuous revisions to.gitignore when they introduce new files to a project, the ideal technique is to use inclusion rather than exclusion.

    Hackers prize code repositories, such as Git, because they include valuable source code and intellectual property — repositories have been erased as part of ransom attacks. Sign up for notifications and advisories from the repository. Maintain a secure local backup as well, which is usually part of a larger backup policy instead of part of the CI/CD process.

  1. Monitor diligently and clean up

    By definition, a continuous software delivery pipeline is a flow of constantly moving pieces and procedures for builds and deployments, but don’t allow the frequency to distract you from adequate security maintenance. Always keep an eye on the CI/CD environment as it runs and be sure to shut down any temporary resources like containers and VMs once you finish tasks. Remove any extraneous utilities and tools — netcat is an example — and run containers in read-only mode, if possible, to decrease the attack surface of VMs and containers.

  1. Keep yourself informed and create a plan.

    Third-party resources and services in a pipeline can be compromised at any time. To quickly detect and act on any breaking news, IT teams must regularly monitor the security feeds and alerts of vendors whose products and services they employ. Create an incident response strategy to deal with such a situation and assist reduce the pipeline’s impact. In response to the Codecov data breach, for example, Netflix and the Vim text editor both rapidly cycled their credentials as a safety measure, while HashiCorp cycled one of its GNU Privacy Guard keys used in the release signing and authentication. Tweak and add new tools or services in the incidence response plan whenever you add them to the CI/CD pipeline.

Many companies’ goods and services rely on CI/CD pipelines, thus treat them like any other business-critical operation. Secure them appropriately to avoid supply chain breaches or other problems that could disrupt the manufacturing and delivery processes. Separate them from the rest of the company’s network and keep an eye on them for strange or inappropriate behavior. There can be no set-and-forget strategy to pipeline security due to the vast number of interconnected services and components, most of which are provided or managed by third parties.

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