In the rapidly evolving world of cybersecurity, the importance of DevSecOps (Development, Security, and Operations) cannot be overstated. With the increasing number of threats and vulnerabilities, runtime protection, or Runtime Application Security Protection (RASP), has emerged as a vital component of a comprehensive security strategy. While some argue that runtime protection is often overlooked in favor of more visible prioritization and scanning solutions, this article aims to shed light on the immense value it brings to the table and how to seamlessly integrate RASP into a DevSecOps agile model.
The Value of Runtime Protection in DevSecOps
The debate over the preference for runtime protection versus visibility, prioritization, and scanning solutions is not uncommon among founders and security professionals. Some may wonder why runtime protection isn’t the go-to choice, given its potential to provide 1000 times more value. To truly appreciate the significance of runtime protection, we must first understand what it entails.
Observing Software Behavior from the Inside Out
One of the key misconceptions surrounding runtime protection is a lack of clarity regarding its definition. According to one runtime security founder, runtime security is fundamentally about directly observing the behavior of running software, as opposed to relying solely on static examination, external scanning, or external protection mechanisms. In essence, it works from the inside out, providing a deeper and more dynamic insight into the application’s security posture.
Dimensions of Runtime Security
Runtime security isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution; it encompasses various dimensions that cater to different aspects of application security. These dimensions include app/API security, container security, and the distinction between pre-production and production environments. Furthermore, runtime security is not solely about detecting vulnerabilities; it also involves actively preventing and mitigating attacks.
The Shift Towards a New AppSec Operating Model
Many experts agree that a new operating model for application security (AppSec) is emerging, one that relies heavily on runtime security. This shift offers both cost-efficiency and enhanced security. However, transitioning to a new security model requires courage and leadership within organizations.
The Importance of Context
The core of application security lies in context, and the most effective way to obtain this context is through direct observation of running code. While identifying vulnerabilities is relatively straightforward, detecting and remediating true positive attack patterns is a significantly more challenging endeavor. This complexity often leads security teams to focus on the easier task of surfacing vulnerabilities and misconfigurations.
Regulatory Requirements and the Future of Runtime Protection
With the introduction of new regulations like NIS2 and SEC, companies are increasingly obligated to detect and address security threats. As a result, there is a growing prediction that runtime protection will experience a significant surge in adoption over the next 12-18 months.
The Struggles and Solutions
Implementing runtime protection comes with its own set of challenges and opportunities. Former RASP vendors offer valuable insights into some of the key issues:
1. Protection Against Rare Events
Runtime protection vendors primarily safeguard against rare, sophisticated attacks. While these solutions provide undeniable value, organizations may only experience the full benefits infrequently. However, it is crucial to recognize that the rarity of these attacks doesn’t diminish their potential impact.
2. Testing and Differentiation
Evaluating the effectiveness of runtime protection solutions can be challenging due to marketing messages and misunderstandings surrounding their capabilities. In the past, some solutions were confused with Web Application Firewall (WAF) rules, leading to confusion among users. To address this, organizations need to develop a clear understanding of the differences and establish effective testing methodologies.
3. Crossing Organizational Boundaries
Runtime protection often falls into a grey area that spans multiple teams within larger organizations. Application security teams, security operations teams, and Site Reliability Engineers (SREs) may have varying degrees of responsibility over production environments. As a result, the ownership of runtime protection may not always be clearly defined, even though it could benefit the organization as a whole.
Integrating RASP into DevSecOps Agile Model
Now that we have explored the value and challenges of implementing RASP in DevSecOps, let’s delve into how to effectively integrate RASP into an agile model:
1. Collaboration and Cross-Training
To bridge the gap between security teams, operations teams, and developers, it is crucial to foster collaboration and cross-training. Establishing a shared understanding of runtime protection’s role and benefits can help break down organizational silos.
2. Automation and Continuous Monitoring
Automation is at the heart of DevSecOps, and runtime protection is no exception. Implement automated tools and processes for continuous monitoring of running applications. This includes real-time analysis of application behavior, anomaly detection, and automatic response to threats.
3. Testing and Validation
Develop clear testing methodologies to evaluate the effectiveness of runtime protection solutions. Conduct regular tests to differentiate between harmless attacks and those that trigger vulnerabilities. Encourage vendors to provide proof of their solutions’ capabilities.
4. Ownership and Responsibility
Clearly define the ownership and responsibility for runtime protection within your organization. Ensure that all relevant teams understand their roles in maintaining and improving the security posture of running applications.
5. Compliance and Reporting
Leverage runtime protection solutions to meet regulatory requirements. Generate comprehensive reports and audit trails to demonstrate compliance with applicable regulations such as NIS2 and SEC.
6. Education and Awareness
Educate your teams and stakeholders about the significance of runtime protection. Create awareness of the evolving threat landscape and the critical role that runtime security plays in safeguarding applications.
7. Scalability and Adaptability
Choose runtime protection solutions that can scale seamlessly with your infrastructure and adapt to changing application environments. Ensure that they integrate well with your existing DevSecOps tools and processes.
Runtime protection, or RASP, is an essential component of DevSecOps, offering a unique perspective on application security by directly observing running code. While there are challenges in its adoption, the value it brings in terms of real-time threat detection and protection cannot be underestimated. By fostering collaboration, automation, and clear ownership, organizations can effectively integrate runtime protection into their DevSecOps agile model, ensuring the security and resilience of their applications in an ever-evolving threat landscape. Embrace the shift towards runtime security and give it the time it deserves; the results will be well worth the effort.