Shift Left Security: Types, Tools, and Advantages

As companies advance digital transformation and move more assets to the cloud, app security and workload protection concerns rise. Hackers and malicious parties always look for vulnerabilities, and companies need the right technology practices. Traditionally, code is evaluated for security loopholes before it is released, but this is not always the best approach. Delaying security assessments and creating security measures until late in the development phase can raise costs, increase risks, and undermine the overall effectiveness of security. For the most effective results, application security must be prioritized early on and throughout the development lifecycle, and shift left security helps companies do just that. 

This guide defines shift left security, describes shift left security tools, and lists the benefits of shift left security 

What is shift left security?

Shift left security is an approach DevOps teams take to embed security at the earliest stages of the application development lifecycle. It is part of a system of collaboration between development, security, and operations called DevSecOps. Shift left security ensures that vulnerable code is identified as it is developed rather than delaying the search for vulnerabilities until the testing phase. It is a beneficial approach because it lowers costs and improves app security. 

Types of Shift Left Security and Shift Left Security Tools

There are two main types of shift left security and a number of tools that fall under each category. 

1. Security Scanning Tools - Streamline the integration of security scanning with DevOps.

  • Static Application Security Testing (SAST) is a "white box" testing method that assesses the inner workings of an app, not its functionality. SAST focuses on the developers' perspective so that vulnerabilities can be found as early as possible. SAST runs static code only, and is not designed to discover runtime and environment-related issues. 
  • Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) is a "black box" testing method that assesses a running app's functionality from a hacker's perspective because the tester cannot see into the app's back end. DAST discovers issues arising at the end of the development process, and it only applies to web apps and services. 
  • Software Composition Analysis (SCA) identifies open-source code and automates the process of inspecting package managers, source code, manifests, binary code, and more. SCA creates a "bill of materials" compared to databases to reveal issues and vulnerabilities. SCA helps security teams quickly identify mission-critical and legal issues and address them immediately. 

2. Runtime Protection Tools - Cyber security tools that protect an app during the execution stage.

  • Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP) offers real-time attack detection by analyzing an app's contextual behavior. RASP uses the app to monitor itself by intercepting all calls from the app to a system and validating data requests from inside the app. RASP can be used on web and non-web apps because features operate on the app's server and launch in tandem with the app. 
  • Web Application Firewalls (WAF) filter, monitor, and block malicious traffic that tries to enter the app and blocks unauthorized data from leaving the app. WAF is determined by the company's security policies distinguishing between malicious and safe traffic. Automation helps WAFs stay current because companies commonly have thousands of WAFs and millions of policies. 
  • Bot Management detects and prevents malicious bots without blocking legitimate web traffic or bots built for testing and automation. Bot Management tools use solutions like block/allow lists, bot traps, and rate limiting. 
  • Container Image and Serverless Function Scanning analyze a container, which is a file of an app's source code and dependencies, along with the build process of the container image, which holds the app's code, runtime, system tools, system libraries, and settings. This analysis highlights security issues and ineffective practices. 
  • Workload Protection is a set of security controls for individual application workloads. It helps companies locate and fix vulnerabilities throughout the application lifecycle, adhere to compliance standards, mitigate attack risks, and implement best practices.  

Advantages of Shift Left Security

Shift left security allows businesses to leverage many benefits such as,

  • Automation - Reduces human errors and production issues. Allows multiple tests to run simultaneously, so there is more time to focus on other high-value business tasks. 
  • Increase Delivery Speed - DevOps and security work in parallel, which saves time. There is no need to pause coding while security reviews are conducted, and security flaws are identified sooner, so fixes are smaller and take less time to resolve. 
  • Improve Software Quality - Teams can identify and resolve issues early on in the development process, which is the best time to take corrective action and leads to an improvement in the overall quality of the app. 

Shift Left Security with Encora

Companies ready to implement shift left security protocols can contact Encora for support. Encora is a digital engineering services company specializing in next-generation software, digital product development, advanced digital strategy, market activation solutions, and cutting-edge technology practices. Encora's software engineers are well-versed and highly skilled in shift left security across a wide range of industries. Furthermore, Encora is deeply expert in the various disciplines, tools, and technologies that power the emerging economy, and this is one of the primary reasons that clients choose Encora over the many strategic alternatives available. Please reach out to Encora with questions or to get started.

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