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"Alarming" lack of privileged account security awareness in DevOps

09 Nov 2017

DevOps environments are facing an ‘alarming’ lack of security planning and potentially serious gaps around privileged accounts and secret awareness, a new report from CyberArk warns.

DevOps and security professionals around the world, including Australia, have major knowledge gaps about where privileged accounts and secrets exist across their own IT infrastructure, according to CyberArk’s Advanced Global Threat Landscape survey.

The survey offered a range of options in which secrets and privileged accounts exist (PCs/laptops, microservices, cloud environments and containers), however 99% of respondents were unable to identify all places.

84% were unaware that privileged accounts are found on source code repositories such as GitHub. 80% were unaware privileges also exist in microservices; 78% were unaware about privileges in cloud environments and 76% were unaware of privileged accounts in CI/CD tools used by DevOps teams.

DevOps remains a priority for enterprises according to Gartner, however 75% of survey respondents admitted they have no privileged account strategy (PAS). In Australia, the percentage is even higher (82%). This creates significant weak points that attackers can target, CyberArk says.

37% of DevOps professionals also believe that compromised DevOps environments are but one of their organisation’s biggest security vulnerabilities.

CyberArk’s VP of DevOps Security Elizabeth Lawler says that as DevOps uptake increases, the amount of privileged account credentials are being created and shared in interconnected business ecosystems.

 “Even though dedicated technology exists, with few organisations managing and securing secrets, they become prime targets for attacks. In the hands of an external attacker or malicious insider, compromised credentials and secrets can allow attackers to take full control of an organisation’s entire IT infrastructure.”

78% of Australian security teams say there is a problem for security and DevOps teams, compared to 65% worldwide.

“So it’s worrying that the rush to achieve IT and business advantages through DevOps is outpacing awareness of an expanded – and unmanaged – privileged attack surface.”

The report suggests that 23% of Australian DevOps teams are now taking things into their own hands by building their own security solutions.

Lawler says that building custom security solutions works to a point, but it is not scalable.

“Jenkins to Puppet to Chef, there are no common standards between different tools, which means you must figure out every single tool to know how to secure it. DevOps really needs its own security stack, and security teams must bring something to the table here. They can provide a systemised approach that helps the DevOps teams maintain security while accelerating application delivery and boosting productivity,” Lawler says.

74% of respondents said they use cloud vendor’s built-in security, which means privileged account security isn’t fully integrated into DevOps processes in new environments.

Lawler says the survey findings demonstrate the lack of understanding around security

“DevOps and security tools and practices must fuse in order to effectively protect privileged information. Building awareness and enabling collaboration between DevOps and security teams is the first step to help businesses build a scalable security platform that is constantly improved as new iterations of tools are developed, tested and released,” Lawler concludes.

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