Adding SAST to Your CI/CD Pipeline: What You Need to Know

What is CI/CD Pipeline?

As custom applications become a key differentiator for enterprises, code release speed has become a competitive advantage, and CI/CD pipelines make high-velocity development possible.

A Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) pipeline is the process that drives software development through the phases of building, testing, and deploying code. By automating the process, teams can reduce human error and maintain a consistent process for software releases. The pipeline includes tools such as code compilation, unit testing, code analysis, security, and binary generation. For containerized environments, this pipeline also includes ways to package code into container images and deploy them to cloud environments.

CI/CD tools are the backbone of a DevOps approach that enables developers and IT operations teams to work together to deploy software.

What is Static Application Security Testing (SAST)?

SAST is a technology designed to analyze the source code of an application to find security holes and vulnerabilities that could expose the application to malicious attacks. For more than a decade, software developers have used SAST to find and fix defects in application source code throughout the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC), long before the final release of the application.

SAST is a white box testing method. This means analyzing the application from the inside out for coding and design flaws by examining the source code, bytecode and binaries while the application is idle. SAST scans can be done quickly in SDLC as there is no need to deploy any working applications or code.

Since SAST can happen quickly in SDLC, it can provide developers with real-time feedback, allowing them to fix code issues before moving on to the next stage of SDLC. However, it is important to use SAST on a regular basis, ensuring that each code commit and each software release is checked for vulnerabilities.

SAST and DevSecOps Pipeline

DevSecOps is a management approach that combines application development, security, operations, and infrastructure as code (IaC) in an automated continuous delivery cycle. DevSecOps requires all employees and teams to be accountable for security from the start and make effective decisions and take action without compromising security.

The primary purpose of DevSecOps is to automate, monitor, and implement security at all stages of the software lifecycle: planning, developing, building, testing, releasing, delivering, deploying, operating, and monitoring. Implementing security at every stage of the software development process enables continuous integration, reduces compliance costs, and speeds up software delivery.

SAST is not a one-off part of the DevSecOps pipeline. It can be used to detect both unintentional errors and malicious code at all stages of the software lifecycle:

  • Early Builds—SAST enables developers to follow best practices when building code, to avoid exploitable vulnerabilities and prevent code quality issues. Pre-release alerts allow developers to proactively address issues before they become visible to other project stakeholders.
  • Staging and Acceptance Testing – Internal staff and third parties reviewing code often deal with huge repositories of code files. SAST can help identify and fix problems automatically, saving time for manual reviewers. This eliminates potential security issues and provides an additional layer of control.
  • Production Release – Even after the software is released, developers continue to update the code. As the code is running in production, changes and updates are usually minor, but each change carries the risk of introducing unexpected bugs and security issues. Whenever there is a change, a SAST scan checks it automatically. It can quickly and effectively check code changes for security issues.

It is best to run a SAST scan whenever code is added, edited or removed to reduce the risk of security vulnerabilities. This minimizes problems throughout the product lifecycle. SAST allows developers to avoid accidental bugs and eliminate risks that compromise software integrity.

Steps to Implement SAST in Pipeline

Deploying SAST to organizations with large application portfolios and multiple CI/CD pipelines can be challenging. Here are some steps to help do this:

  1. Make sure SAST tools support all relevant programming languages ​​and frameworks.
  2. Purchase the necessary licenses, deploy SAST software in the development environment, set up access control and authorization, and ensure the necessary infrastructure is available.
  3. Customize the SAST tool to your specific needs. For example, you can create new rules or update existing rules to reduce false positives, or check for other vulnerabilities.
  4. Integrate SAST tools into your build environment using their API.
  5. Create dashboards to track scan results, custom reports and compliance reports to share with management.
  6. Add SAST to your pipelines gradually. Start with high risk applications and scale up to all other applications once SAST proves its worth. At a minimum, all applications should be scanned regularly as part of the initial creation process.
  7. Create governance policies for the use of scanning tools by development teams. Ensure that development, operations and security teams understand how to use SAST tools and have a clear and effective operating process.

By implementing these steps, you can move one step closer to a robust DevSecOps process that can quickly identify and remedy software vulnerabilities.

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