5 Essential Skills to Become a DevSecOps Engineer

Barış Ekin Yıldırım22 Jul 2022

Security has become increasingly integrated with software development over the last few years, and the software industry needed a new role to own secure software development processes. As a result, DevSecOps Engineer role has emerged and gained popularity in the last decade.

DevSecOps is the abbreviation of three words; Development, security, and operations, and it aims to develop applications more securely in the software development life cycle (SDLC). Once properly adopted, benefits include helping development teams achieve faster delivery, fostering secure coding practices to avoid vulnerabilities, and providing cost-effective environments.

This blog explains the skills required to become a DevSecOps Engineer in 5 simple(yet advanced in certain areas) steps.

What is a DevSecOps Engineer?

In the simplest terms, a DevSecOps engineer is a person who plays a major role in creating a security culture within organizations. Speaking of culture, this is a role that requires soft skills as well as technical ones which we will touch on in the last part.

The primary goals of a DevSecOps engineer are to ensure that applications under development are developed in the most secure form and to transform the SDLC into a secure one. They work closely with DevOps engineers while performing their responsibilities and managing processes.

A DevSecOps engineer focuses on integrating security with DevOps processes and needs to vet the security posture of applications as well as create and impose security policies based on what the company wants to achieve in shorter and longer terms.

1) Strong understanding of DevOps Processes

Since DevSecOps is placed on top of DevOps, and securing a concept that is not mastered is impossible, DevSecOps engineers must have a broad knowledge of DevOps.

It is also essential for them to work in harmony with DevOps engineer teammates. For those considering it a career path, they may be confused about their job description because of the significant intersections that DevOps and DevSecOps engineers have.

Integrating security tools into existing pipelines, monitoring outputs, and ensuring that the application is free of critical vulnerabilities before it goes to production fall under the responsibilities of a DevSecOps engineer rather than a DevOps engineer.

2) Secure Software Development Life Cycle

The main goal of DevSecOps engineers is to make SDLC processes secure. To achieve this goal, a DevSecOps engineer should work on;

  • Preventing the vulnerable pieces of code from making it to production
  • Testing the artifacts created in the pipelines for known vulnerabilities
  • Attesting the artifacts signed by DevOps engineers

Fixing existing vulnerabilities in an application whose development process has been completed creates an extra workload for the developer teams and causes disruptions in the progress.

That is why DevSecOps engineers are responsible for implementing security tests in the earlier stages of the SDLC where the cost and effort required to fix vulnerabilities is much lower.

A vulnerable application in the market may cause the company to lose reputation and money. By embedding security tests into the entirety of SDLC, DevSecOps engineers place roadblocks to prevent vulnerabilities from advancing in the pipeline.

3) Application Security Knowledge

Application security knowledge is indispensable for DevSecOp engineers. Their security expertise is what sets them apart from other developers and in the constantly evolving landscape of application security, they need to work hard to keep up to date with the latest technologies and trends.

This requires a sense of curiosity and an insatiable hunger for learning. The success of DevSecOps engineers is highly dependent on their efforts to maintain their security knowledge up to date.

In addition, since they may encounter various kinds of applications depending on the industry they are working in, they must have a wide range of knowledge of appsec techniques, attack types, business logic, and programming languages and frameworks (at least they should understand a vulnerable code snippet at first glance).

4) Cloud Infrastructure Knowledge

With digital transformation sweeping the world and the move to cloud-based services accelerating each day, DevSecOps engineers also need to grasp the modern cloud infrastructure.

In addition, the rise in the costs of on-premise servers and the lack of resources to supply secure and high-performance servers without additional help also mandate the transition to cloud-based services.

That’s the part where cloud service providers come in. Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and Microsoft Azure are the most popular providers in the domain. Many companies resort to these service providers to get reliable and secure development environments.

Mastering cloud technologies is crucial for adopting the “Secure by default” approach. If we can configure as many security policies by default, our apps will be closer to the most secure version.

For this reason, DevSecOps engineers need to be experts in cloud infrastructure and its management. This step may seem like a commonality between DevSecOps and DevOps engineers at first, but there are differences in their knowledge of cloud security.

5) Communication Skills

Communication skills are necessary for all employees in every industry to have a healthy work environment. DevSecOps engineers are expected to have above-average skills as they need to liaise with other teams frequently given the interdisciplinary nature of their job.

They should be able to explain the discovered vulnerabilities in the code to the code owners in the development teams.

Sometimes it may get challenging to bridge the gap between AppSec engineers and the development teams. As both sides can have different priorities and agendas, having good communication skills and being a people person may help a lot while trying to play ball with both teams.

In summary, a good DevSecOps engineer is expected to know about DevOps processes, secure SDLC practices, application security, cloud infrastructure, and most importantly, be a good team player and learn to take the lead.

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