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DevSecOps maturity model: A beginner's guide

January 26, 2024 By Aaron Linskens

6 minute read time

In recent years, DevSecOps swiftly emerged as a crucial new paradigm in software development, prioritizing the integration of security into DevOps practices.

Rooted in core principles and best practices, the DevSecOps approach goes beyond treating security as an afterthought, making it an integral part of the entire software development life cycle (SDLC).

Recognizing the need for mature DevSecOps practices to meet the demands of rapidly delivering high-quality, secure, and reliable software, technology teams find themselves facing a challenge – assessing their progress and charting the course toward the next level of maturity.

Agile frameworks and DevOps strategies dominate the field of software development. Application security often takes a back seat, especially during implementation.

To address this, consider the concept of a DevSecOps maturity model, which offers organizations a structured framework to navigate their journey. As with software supply chains, you can measure maturity and identify where to start improving your processes.

In this blog post, we dive into the concept of a maturity model within the context of DevSecOps, shedding light on its nuances and underscoring the myriad benefits it offers to organizations.

DevSecOps maturity model explained

Navigating DevSecOps demands a structured approach. That's precisely where a DevSecOps maturity model becomes indispensable.

A maturity model serves as a compass, guiding organizations to assess their current standing in the journey toward DevSecOps, evaluate the proximity to their ultimate objectives, and strategically chart the course for the next steps in their evolution.

To be effective, a comprehensive DevSecOps maturity model must address pivotal questions that form the bedrock of an organization’s security strategy:

  • What is our current DevSecOps maturity level? An honest appraisal of the existing state sets the foundation. Understanding the present maturity level is crucial for organizations to initiate targeted improvements.
  • What level of DevSecOps maturity does our organization need? Aligning DevSecOps goals with organizational objectives is paramount. Defining the desired maturity level ensures that the security strategy is in sync with broader business goals.
  • What do we need to do to get from where we are to where the organization needs us to be? Bridging the gap between the current state and the envisioned maturity level requires a strategic plan. The maturity model provides the roadmap, outlining actionable steps to traverse this journey effectively.

A multistage approach to DevSecOps transformation

While there is no required industry standard for DevSecOps maturity, most frameworks enlist a multistage approach that provides a pathway to success.

Implementing DevSecOps can be challenging, necessitating a proper transition through a maturity model. 

The following transformation stages enable organizations to evaluate their progress and maturity during DevSecOps implementation, allowing them to continually refine their approaches:

Beginner

  • Manual processes dominate this stage.
  • Everything, including application creation, development, and maintenance, is done manually.
  • The challenge lies in perfect execution, as applications are not easily patched.

Intermediate

  • Transition involves creating an application assembly line.
  • Code aids in securing products, fostering collaboration among development, security, and operation teams.
  • Automation is the key goal, covering compliance, infrastructure, and security as code.
  • Standardizing tools like Tekton and Jenkins simplifies collaboration and builds applications from code.

Advanced

  • Implementation of DevSecOps at scale characterizes this stage.
  • Improvement in processes, such as patch management and configuration, is crucial.
  • Scaling existing automation and leveraging cloud services enhance efficiency and speed in the DevSecOps application assembly line.
  • Deployment at scale becomes feasible through cloud technologies.

Expert

  • Automation is pervasive, with an API-first approach in the cloud-native world.
  • Leveraging technologies like serverless and microservices becomes integral.
  • Decision-making is enhanced through machine learning and artificial intelligence for application and security development.

Navigating these stages empowers organizations to ascend the DevSecOps maturity ladder, adapting their practices to align with the evolving landscape of secure and efficient software development.

DSOMM: An example of DevSecOps strategy

In consideration of these stages of transformation, the Open Worldwide Application Security Project (OWASP) provides a comprehensive DevSecOps maturity model, offering organizations a clear roadmap to fortify their security posture.

As just one example of a structured approach to DevSecOps, the OWASP DevSecOps Maturity Model (DSOMM) serves as a crucial guide to rectify this oversight, offering organizations a roadmap to bolster their DevOps strategies with a focus on security.

DSOMM addresses the tendency to neglect security in continuous integration environments, particularly within containerization frameworks like Docker.

DSOMM ensures that security becomes an inherent part of the development process by emphasizing the integration of security measures throughout the SDLC, similar to the functions served by DevSecOps tools and security testing methodologies.

Within a DevOps strategy, DSOMM encourages meticulous testing of components, such as application libraries and operating system libraries within Docker images, to identify and address known vulnerabilities.

In the face of intelligent and creative attackers, DSOMM provides forward-looking principles and measures, empowering organizations to proactively counteract potential threats. Aligning DevOps practices with DSOMM guidelines enables organizations to build resilient defenses against evolving security challenges.

This model defines four maturity levels, each representing a stage of evolution in integrating security practices into an SDLC.

Level 1: Basic understanding of security practices

At this initial stage, organizations gain a fundamental awareness of security practices. This involves recognizing the importance of security but may lack a systematic approach to implementing security measures.

Level 2: Adoption of basic security practices

As organizations progress to Level 2, they begin to actively adopt basic security practices. This includes integrating security into the development process, conducting regular security assessments, and implementing basic security controls.

Level 3: High adoption of security practices

Level 3 signifies a high level of maturity, with organizations extensively adopting security practices throughout the software development lifecycle. This involves automated security testing, continuous monitoring, and proactive threat intelligence integration.

Level 4: Advanced deployment of security practices at scale

The pinnacle of maturity is reached at Level 4, where organizations achieve advanced deployment of security practices at scale. This involves automation at every phase, real-time threat detection, and a proactive approach to addressing emerging security challenges.

This maturity model overall provides a structured path for organizations to advance through these maturity levels, ensuring a holistic and continuous improvement in their DevSecOps capabilities.

Benefits of a DevSecOps maturity model

Implementation of a DevSecOps maturity model yields a plethora of benefits, such as the following, that contribute to the overall success of an organization’s software development endeavors:

  • Better customer experience: Security concerns can erode customer trust. By embedding security into the development process, organizations enhance the overall customer experience, providing reliable and secure software.
  • Reduced costs: Early identification and mitigation of security issues reduce the costs associated with fixing vulnerabilities later in the development lifecycle. This proactive approach saves both time and resources.
  • Increased delivery speed: DevSecOps enables faster and more efficient software delivery by automating security checks. This results in quicker release cycles without compromising on security.
  • Improved security: The obvious benefit is enhanced security. By integrating security into every stage of development, organizations can identify and remediate vulnerabilities in real-time, minimizing the risk of security breaches.
  • Faster innovation: A mature DevSecOps approach fosters a culture of innovation by providing a secure foundation for experimentation. Teams can confidently explore new ideas without compromising security.
  • Improved resource management: Efficient use of resources is crucial for any organization. DevSecOps ensures that resources, particularly regarding open source software (OSS) component management, are allocated judiciously, focusing on areas that need immediate attention based on security priorities.

Elevating security with DevSecOps maturity

A DevSecOps maturity model serves as a valuable guide for organizations striving to fortify their security practices within software development.

By understanding DevSecOps maturity model concepts, such as those contained in OWASP’s DSOMM, organizations can not only enhance security but also potentially reap numerous benefits from cost reduction to improved customer experience.

DevSecOps is not just a methodology — it's a mindset that ensures security remains a core component of software development. Explore DevSecOps maturity models to build more reliable and secure software ecosystems.

Tags: devsecops, DevOps transformation, DevSecOps journey, Post security/devsecops, devops frameworks

Written by Aaron Linskens

Aaron is a technical writer on Sonatype's Marketing team. He works at a crossroads of technical writing, developer advocacy, software development, and open source. He aims to get developers and non-technical collaborators to work well together via experimentation, feedback, and iteration so they can build the right software.