DevOps not a security threat, says AWS panel

During a security round table at the recent Technology in Government event, some delegates emphasised the need for separation of duties between development and operations staff. 

The idea is that once developers have ‘thrown the software over the wall’ to their colleagues in operations, they should not have an opportunity to touch it again in case they are tempted to view or extract real data, or do something else that they should not.

But a very different perspective emerged at last week’s Amazon Web Services (AWS) Melbourne Summit during a DevOps panel session. The first question from the audience concerned the security implications of an end to the traditional segregation of duties between developers and operations staff.

John Sullivan, product delivery manager at MYOB’s business division, said the assumption that developers are ‘less secure’ was false. The DevOps philosophy, he suggested, was at least in part about providing people with the ability to do what needs to be done. He mentioned that one company he knew of provided everyone on the DevOps team with root access to production systems, as the top priority was to quickly fix any problems that occurred.

Simon Stefanoff, technical director at digital agency Reactive, suggested that what really matters is process, and that automation makes it easier to enforce processes and governance measures.

Glenn Gore, senior manager - technical solutions at AWS, agreed. Policies and methodologies do not change, he said. His view is that eliminating organisational silos actually improves security by improving communication between developers and operations staff.

Issues arise when there is a lack of understanding on either side, so “the idea of serialised IT work needs to stop.”

DevOps “works well” with developers and operations staff working side by side even in highly regulated environments such as finance, health and government, Mr Gore said. It can even reduce the level of risk, he suggested, for example by allowing faster recovery in the event something goes wrong.

“Removing silos is good,” he said, but conceded that an organisation’s ability to adopt DevOps could be restricted by standards and regulations.

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