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Continuous Compliance in DevOps
10 Apr 2020

Continuous Compliance in DevOps

To make the software development process faster, the world started adopting DevOps, and the DevOps culture revolves around one word - ‘continuous’. Be it development, testing, deployment, integration, or security, DevOps has always been about continuous everything. So, why not apply this to compliances and regulations. Being in the IT industry, I can say that the right compliance framework to meet regulatory demands has always been an important part of any discussion. So, here are some of the most important regulations that you all should focus on:

  • HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act): It relates to administering and protection of PHI (Protected Health Information) data. If the health care data is mismanaged, then the users are heavily penalized. The main motive is to provide privacy standards to protect patients' medical records and other health information provided to health plans, doctors, hospitals and other health care providers.
  • PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard): It is standard compliance associated with the financial services sector. It controls the user’s financial data along with its use. For example, the handling of credit card information and bank account information.
  • GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation Act): It defines policies associated with how organizations should handle the data of their users in the European Union. This compliance provides customers the right to remove their data from an organization. It ensures the user’s confidentiality of private information is maintained.

These are the important regulatory compliances that every organization should follow strictly. Let’s discuss the need for such compliances and how to achieve them in detail.

Why do you need the right compliance framework?

As said earlier, DevOps is all about continuous everything that will lead to a smoothened software delivery. Similarly, extending continuous compliances to every part of the software delivery cycle plays a very vital role in smoothened software delivery. Continuous compliance helps organizations achieve the best compliance and better security. This will not only help in reliable software delivery but also help in a reliable business. Culture and strategy adhering to continuous compliance will help to continually review the organization’s compliance position and to attain the industry & regulatory demands.

Continuous compliance in DevOps

Having a compliance-driven DevOps culture helps in reducing operational costs, improves efficiencies, and reduces risks considerably. Here are some of the standard practices for continuous compliance in DevOps:

  • Early integration: Compliance-related activities should be included early in the software lifecycle by the DevOps teams in the same way as in the testing procedure. The way everyone is talking about shifting left for testing the same applies to compliances. Automation will help in this to some extent. In short, you can’t leave the security and compliance-related concerns for later stages in the release cycle. Following this will not only successfully remove the compliance-related blockages but also will enhance the security, agility, quality, and stability of the software.
  • Maintain audit trails: One of the important requirements of having regulatory compliance is to maintain the audit trails of the software development activities. The auditing will log and track the precise versions of the software contributed by each change to the source code file. This will help in continuous compliance as well as in the case of disaster recovery.
  • Continuous inspection: With continuous deployments, each build gets tagged and you can be confident enough that the deployments are inspected continuously to deny any unauthorized changes going forward.
  • Automation of infrastructure provisioning: With codified infrastructure and configurations, it is easy to monitor at scale. This helps in enforcing compliances dynamically because you can track and reconfigure infrastructure in an automated way. Since there is a code that will automate the compliances, the non-compliant resources are flagged off, and dev teams can easily make the flagged part compliant, increasing the overall speed of development.

Compliance as Code

In Infrastructure as Code, you can spin up infrastructure instances in just a matter of seconds by running a script. In the same fashion, for compliances, you can automate the implementation, verification, remediation, monitoring, and reporting part. This will provide an ability to run scripts for compliances in an automated and timely manner that can be integrated into the code repositories used by developers. This will shorten the feedback loop relating to developers and compliance teams. The easiest way would be by implementing the compliance and regulatory policies in configuration recipes, hardening DevSecOps recipes, and automated tests to maintain the policies. This will help in reviewing, scanning, and testing every piece of code and protecting the code in the repo as it is the single source for all your technical controls.

To achieve compliance for DevOps is challenging. The compliance rules are quite detailed; hence it is advisable to review them cautiously. The infrastructure and processes need to be comprehending enough for DevOps and compliance teams. Making everything compliant may slow down workflow movements in the initial phase. However, automation will make sure the DevOps team doesn't have to pay special attention to make the code and applications compliant. The automated procedures will raise an alarm just in case if they aren’t. This will bring a lot of clarity and transparency to compliance & security implementation and will help in meeting the compliance regulations. Above all, combining compliances and DevOps will ensure safety at speed and scale.

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