GitOps is a set of practices for managing infrastructure and application deployment using Git version control systems. GitOps uses a Git repository as a single source of truth for declarative configuration of both infrastructure and applications. In other words, automated tools look to a central Git repository to see what needs to be deployed and whether any changes are needed to the current application state.
In a GitOps development process, Git repositories contain the entire system state, so teams can easily view and audit changes to system state. Built on the developer experience, GitOps empowers teams to manage their infrastructure using the same tools and processes they use when coding. It supports a wide variety of tools, allowing teams to leverage their existing CI/CD toolchain.
How GitOps Affects Enterprise DevOps Security
GitOps enables organizations to improve their overall cloud security posture. It helps DevOps teams to meet audit requirements, shift security left, achieve faster response times and improve customer confidence.
Shifting Security Left
GitOps enables you to treat everything as code, including security. By treating all configuration and security policies as code, you can keep everything in a version control system. It allows you to input all changes into an automated pipeline that verifies, deploys, and monitors these changes.
GitOps is not only an effective method for infrastructure management. It also offers a strategy to shift security left so you can catch changes to the required state, including security issues, bugs and vulnerabilities earlier in the development cycle. In a GitOps setup, it is easy to remediate bugs and instantly redeploy the affected environment or applications.
Faster Incident Response
GitOps facilitates faster pipeline changes. If the pipeline is breached, GitOps offers a rapid response to help address security issues. Once an exploitable vulnerability is discovered, you can quickly respond by rolling back to a previous safe configuration or add a patch or fix and instantly deploy a new version.
Storing your infrastructure as code helps you quickly identify the affected lines of code within a certain repository. It helps you rapidly assess the size and scale of an attack to recover faster and reduces the damage caused by cyberattacks.
GitOps and Container Security
Cloud-native applications rely on automation for most aspects of the software development process. Typically, you implement a CI/CD system to run multiple builds and deployments daily. This automation allows you to innovate quickly and scale more easily; however, it also introduces security risks.
Security Challenges in Containerized Applications
Conventional security strategies are inadequate to secure your cloud-native infrastructure and applications. With cloud-native, infrastructure is part of the application, defining services and containers. This makes container security a major challenge for today’s DevOps teams.
Kubernetes and container engines like Docker create a new attack surface. Attackers can exploit vulnerabilities to access containers, steal data and use them as a platform to access additional containers or the orchestrator. Attackers can also package malicious code into the images you download and use to create your containers.
In Kubernetes, you can prevent misconfiguration exploits by implementing a policy that prevents pods from communicating with each other. However, Kubernetes does not have these policies enabled by default, and it is impractical to detect misconfigurations manually. Instead, you should build security into your DevOps pipeline by creating automated configuration management policies as code.
You must treat infrastructure security as part of application security. This requires using specialized security tools throughout the SDLC, including mechanisms like container image scanning and IaC template scanning into the process.
The GitOps model promotes secure environments because you don’t have to access your Kubernetes clusters or infrastructure directly. GitOps uses a CI/CD system to apply changes in the cloud. A developer might propose a change, and the supervising DevOps engineer or security team can review it. Once the code passes the checks, the developer can push the changes to production.
The GitOps model allows you to implement policy as code, automating security processes. Policies help DevOps teams secure the infrastructure using access controls and limits to manage its operations. Developers can leverage a fast feedback loop to determine the security level of their code before they deploy it to the cloud.
When correctly implemented, GitOps allows you to shift security left for containerized environments. It can help identify code quality and misconfiguration issues earlier in the development pipeline, reducing the technical debt and increasing your overall security.
In this article, I explained the basics of GitOps and showed how it can improve security for enterprise DevOps teams in general and, more specifically, create a secure SDLC for containerized workloads. As Kubernetes becomes a ubiquitous platform for DevOps and teams better understand the challenges of Kubernetes security, they are discovering GitOps as a simple, practical mechanism that can promote security hygiene.
With GitOps, it is instantly clear who modified a cluster and why and what security concerns exist in the current deployment. GitOps can prevent breaches through a separation of concerns between CI and CD processes. If and when breaches do happen, it enables rapid rollback to a previous secure state, or roll forward to a new, patched version of your Kubernetes applications.
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