CI/CD Security Management: Best Practices

CI/CD is the cornerstone of DevOps. Continuous integration/continuous development (or deployment) brings value to software production by introducing automation and monitoring throughout the development lifecycle. The CI/CD pipeline defines a series of steps software engineers take to work on smaller chunks of code, increasing overall productivity and efficiency.

The fast-paced, automated, technology-ridden conditions quickly turn into a security-forsaken environment. Security administrators juggle between shielding the pipeline and allowing agility. The ideal solution is to build security directly into the development lifecycle to avoid potential data breaches.

Below is a list of ten best practices to manage CI/CD security.

1. Map Threats

Connection points between various technologies present security risks. The CI/CD pipeline contains many sensitive connection points due to the sheer number of automation tools.

Research potential threats by identifying these locations and adding additional security layers to ensure the pipeline stays secure at the seams. Regularly update and patch anything that connects to the production line and block any devices that fail to meet security standards.

2. Secure Git

Version control systems are a must-have for CI/CD processes. Misconfiguring Git is a goldmine for attackers because it contains source code and intellectual property. An exposed vulnerability in Git often leads to severe consequences.

Ensure secure access to the version control system with two-factor authentication. Educate developers about company procedures regarding Git and use the .gitignore file properly.

3. Check Before Committing

Create a series of security checks before committing any code to a repository. IDE plugins help detect vulnerabilities in the source code in real-time.

Use peer-reviewing as well, especially with inexperienced developers. Create checklists for developers to use that help detect compliance issues and assure data security. Ensure no passwords, keys, tokens, or other sensitive data is readily available in the code or hardcoded.

4. Review Committed Code

Review the code once again after committing it to a repository. Static code analysis tools help provide insight into commits, generate reports, and provide helpful advice without running the application.

Use bug tracking systems to ensure problem tracking and resolutions. Analyze Git history for any suspicious activities and act accordingly.

5. Monitor After Deployment

Integrate continual monitoring after deploying software. Constant overseeing helps discover unintended activities and provides valuable data-based insights. Create visual dashboards and alert mechanisms for easier discovery.

6. Enforce Permissions

Although permissions slow down the testing process and are often viewed as a nuisance, ensure they exist and are compulsory. Developers must comply and understand task separation as a crucial security aspect.

Define access roles per repository and only provide the minimal data needed to keep the pipeline delivery continual.

7. Secure Credentials

Make sure to protect the credentials used to access various development programs. Certificates come in multiple forms, such as API tokens, SSH keys, passwords, etc. Improperly secured credentials lead to theft and data breaches.

Enforce encryption key security in an automated manner through key management platforms. Use password management software and rotate security tokens regularly.

8. Clean Up

The fast-paced environment often moves on to the next project before thoroughly cleaning up. Shut down any temporary resources, such as VMs, containers, and processes. Remove redundant programs and utilities regularly to avoid having a backdoor and a potential point of unwanted access.

9. Implement IaC Into the Pipeline

Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) helps automatically set up a consistent development and testing environment. IaC integrates seamlessly into the DevOps pipeline and helps create reusable configurations and scalable settings.

10. Scan for Open-Source Vulnerabilities

Open-source software is essential in building applications. However, such software is prone to changes and code updates. When these packages receive updates, security issues arise and impact software that uses them indirectly.

Stay on top of open-source vulnerabilities by tracking components, files, and third-party tools. Use software composition analysis programs and bug trackers to monitor and evaluate all possible shortcomings.


After reading this article, you should have a good idea of how CI/CD security should function. Ultimately, the best path is not to overwhelm developers with security guidelines. Rather, build the security into the pipeline itself as an automated part of the development process.

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