The Importance of CI/CD Pipeline Security

The continuous software delivery pipeline is a rich target for hackers. It contains code repositories, credentials, secrets, and development environments – all ripe for exploitation.

Implement access privileges granularly. It’s tempting to let all developers and engineers access every tool within the CI/CD pipeline. However, this deviates from the principle of least privilege and increases the chances that a breached account gives attackers complete control over your system.

Threat Modeling

When a developer accidentally introduces a flaw in the CI/CD pipeline, it could have severe consequences for the application. Fortunately, with the proper CI/CD pipeline security testing, many of these risks may be reduced.

Threat modeling is one of the most effective tools for reducing these risks, as it forces developers to look closely at an application from multiple perspectives and evaluate its potential for attack. It can be used to identify and prioritize threats, assess the impact of each one, and create an inventory of vulnerabilities that must be addressed.

In addition, threat modeling helps to ensure that an application is secure at the beginning of development so that preventable errors don’t make their way into production environments. That makes it a valuable tool for organizations that want to turn their CI/CD processes into proactive rather than reactive ones.

A team conducting a threat model session should include developers, architects, security specialists, and other stakeholders. It ensures everyone understands what needs to be done and how the process works. It also allows everyone to collaborate to create a more comprehensive and in-depth understanding of the application. As part of the threat modeling process, the team should review a data flow diagram and consider the attack vectors: STRIDE, tampering, repudiation, informative disclosure, elevation of privilege, denial of service, and discoverability.

Credential Management

CI/CD pipelines are a rich prize for hackers: They contain proprietary code, databases, credentials, and secrets. They also give attackers access to your development and production environments, a combination of factors that makes them a key target for attack.

The best way to safeguard CI/CD pipelines is with credential management solutions that allow you to quickly review and approve access requests rather than allowing the same admin access for every deployment. Such solutions also automatically purge credentials when the user no longer needs them or when they leave the company. They also allow you to set rules-based auto approval for credentials with lower risk levels, reducing the chance that an administrator accidentally releases a credential that could lead to significant damage if compromised by a malicious actor.

Another critical factor in securing CI/CD pipelines is limiting the number of third-party tools and services used to develop applications, which can be vulnerable to supply-chain attacks or other types of compromise. This requires you to implement and administer security on the CI/CD pipeline at all stages, including testing new code additions, using threat modeling, monitoring feeds and notices of third-party breaches, and establishing an incident response plan for handling these events. It is also vital to ensure that any devices that connect to the pipeline are patched, scanned, and configured securely.

Node Cleanup

The fast-paced workflow of CI/CD can lead to security vulnerabilities if companies aren’t careful. Robust access management policies, accurate system configuration, and consistent monitoring can mitigate the risks. Using commercial and open-source tools that scan code as written helps identify potential issues before they become problematic.

Machine identity and authentication are vital for securing nonhuman CI/CD pipeline access. It can be accomplished by using authenticators that verify the attributes of a device or service (requesting access) against predefined lists of permitted attributes. It reduces the possibility of privilege escalation by ensuring that only authorized users have access to sensitive data and infrastructure.

CI/CD pipelines also involve many third-party software components, and it’s crucial to ensure that these tools are secure and have been appropriately configured. Regular audits should be conducted to ensure redundant machine or service accounts are closed and that ex-employee permissions have been revoked.

Finally, cleaning up all nodes before the process terminates is essential. It can be done by setting the cleanup handler to a function that performs cleanup and turns off immediate process termination. This can also be achieved by allowing the function to install additional message assignments, with the most recent ones applying. It prevents the CI/CD process from running on a clean node while cleaning up, potentially interrupting critical functions.

Incident Response

Once the incident response team has contained and eliminated the threat, they should focus on restoring systems to normal operations. It includes removing suspicious presence, rebuilding or restoring affected systems, and verifying the integrity of these systems. It also involves implementing any necessary security patches or changes to prevent similar or identical incidents from occurring in the future.

Lessons learned reports should also be completed, which can provide helpful information for other incident responders in the future. These can be used as recaps for upcoming incident response meetings, as training materials for new incident response team members, and for enhancing security procedures.

As the continuous software delivery pipeline gains traction, protecting these processes from threats that can neutralize business gains is vital. Conducting vulnerability scans, deploying security updates frequently, and using a centralized platform to monitor CI/CD activity can all help safeguard your application development process. Another choice that helps lower the risk of breaches by avoiding unauthorized changes to crucial infrastructure components is using a trustworthy third party for certificate management. Keeping an eye on third-party tools, frameworks, and facilitators will also be crucial to your pipeline’s security. Breaches involving third-party software can happen at any time, and it’s crucial to maintain awareness of these threats and take immediate action when possible

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