Shielding the Software Supply Chain Through CI/CD Pipeline Protection
Protecting the software supply chain through CI/CD pipeline security safeguards against vulnerabilities and ensures reliable software delivery.
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The continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline encompasses the internal processes and tools that accelerate software development and allow developers to release new features. However, many parts of the CI/CD pipeline are automated. That’s a good thing because it accelerates workflows and reduces development or testing time. However, it also exposes the pipeline to cyberattacks because the automation does not require continuous monitoring.
Here are some things to do to keep the software supply chain secure by protecting the CI/CD pipeline.
Require Verification of Code Modifications
Many companies use a system where at least two people oversee all code modifications. Then, no single developer can check in their code without a colleague reviewing it. This is a best practice from a quality perspective because it significantly reduces the chances of errors slipping through the cracks.
However, it’s also a practical way to maintain security. Consider an instance where software contains malicious code due to infiltration from a hacker. Thanks to the oversight of at least one other person, it becomes much more likely that the dangerous code will get recognized and stopped rather than proceeding down the pipeline.
Create Pipeline Maps
You can only protect the CI/CD pipeline by knowing where vulnerabilities exist. A great way to do that is to make pipeline maps showing all the respective environments and tools. Include details about information processing and storage within each part of the pipeline.
This approach helps you become more aware of the parts of the CI/CD pipeline that need the most protection. Relatedly, the maps you make can inform your pipeline-auditing practices, showing what to monitor and which logs to keep. It’s a best practice to perform penetration tests and find weaknesses hackers may exploit. Pipeline maps work on some of the same principles because they alert you to possible issues.
Use Appropriate Access Control
Individuals should only have access to a CI/CD pipeline if their jobs require it. Protecting the pipeline means establishing strong access controls, such as the principle of least privilege. Additionally, consider using multifactor authentication or biometrics for protection beyond what passwords alone provide.
Limiting access reduces the potential impact of a development team member falling for a phishing attack. One study found errors caused more than 80% of data breaches. Cybercriminals are increasingly believable as they use various tactics to convince victims to provide credentials. Restricting access so each developer only has the permissions they need can greatly reduce the ramifications of compromised credentials and facilitate finding a breach’s origin.
Keep Tools Updated
In June 2023, the National Security Agency and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency published actionable advice about protecting CI/CD environments. Many of the tips apply to this subject, but also more broadly across IT security.
For example, in a section about the importance of keeping operating systems, software and tools up to date, one suggestion was to rely on a centralized patch management system with a software integrity and validation process. The information clarified that doing this ensures no one tampered with software in transit. Outdated tools can make it easier for cybercriminals to find entry points. However, many updates contain security patches to fix known vulnerabilities.
Rely on Data Masking
Many cybercriminals know there’s a strong chance of obtaining sensitive information by targeting the software supply chain. That’s why people should proactively protect the CI/CD pipeline with data masking. This option obscures sensitive information within development and testing environments. Then, if hackers exploit it, they won’t have the expected valuable details.
People should first familiarize themselves with applicable data regulations and the most sensitive information related to each one. Then, they can develop data-masking policies that specify the protective measures used and the people responsible for applying them.
Prioritize Developer Education
Developers don’t always think of cybersecurity within their skills and duties. However, they should start thinking of CI/CD pipeline protection as a shared responsibility. Security issues within the software supply chain can have far-reaching consequences, including increased development costs, the loss of customer trust, reduced profits and worsened productivity.
However, when IT professionals take the time to explain how and why developers are critical for protecting the CI/CD pipeline, such issues become much less prominent. It’s also important that the learning content gets frequently updated to reflect the latest threats and attack methods. Cybercriminals update their strategies frequently, so anyone with an interest in security must keep their knowledge similarly current.
Treat CI/CD Pipeline Protection as an Ongoing Process
People should strongly consider applying all the measures recommended here. The suggestions align with best practices frequently provided by development and cybersecurity professionals, making them trustworthy and worth pursuing.
However, anyone working to safeguard the pipeline must view the goal as a journey rather than the destination. Even doing everything mentioned above is not enough to guarantee security. People must continually monitor the current situation and examine the best ways to reduce weaknesses. Such close attention will make it much harder for cybercriminals to pull off successful attacks.
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