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Atlassian CISO Adrian Ludwig shares DevOps security outlook

Atlassian's CISO believes that eventually, application security mechanisms will be absorbed completely into Agile and DevOps tools -- including his own company's products.

BOSTON -- Atlassian chief information security officer and IT industry veteran Adrian Ludwig is well aware of a heightened emphasis on DevOps security among enterprises heading into 2020 and beyond, and he believes that massive consolidation between DevOps and cybersecurity toolsets is nigh.

Ludwig, who joined Atlassian in May 2018, previously worked at Nest, Macromedia, Adobe and Google's Android, as well as the U.S. Department of Defense. Now, he supervises Atlassian's corporate security, including its cloud platforms, and works with the company's product development teams on security feature improvements.

Atlassian has also begun to build DevOps security features into its Agile collaboration and DevOps tools for customers who want to build their own apps with security in mind. Integrations between Jira Service Desk and Jira issue tracking tools, for example, automatically notify development teams when security issues are detected, and the roadmap for Jira Align (formerly AgileCraft) includes the ability to track code quality, privacy and security on a story and feature level.

However, according to Ludwig, the melding of DevOps and IT security tooling, along with their disciplines, must be much broader and deeper in the long run. SearchSoftwareQuality caught up with him at the Atlassian Open event here to talk about his vision for the future of DevOps security, how it will affect Atlassian, and the IT software market at large.

SearchSoftwareQuality: We're hearing more about security by design and applications security built into the DevOps process. What might we expect to see from Atlassian along those lines?

Ludwig: As a security practitioner, probably the most alarming factoid about security -- and it gets more alarming every year -- is the number of open roles for security professionals. I remember hearing at one point it was a million, and somebody else was telling me that they had found 3 million. So there's this myth that people are going to be able to solve security problems by having more people in that space.

And an area that has sort of played into that myth is around tooling for the creation of secure applications. And a huge percentage of the current security skills gap is because we're expecting security practitioners to find those tools, integrate those tools and monitor those tools when they weren't designed to work well together.

Adrian LudwigAdrian Ludwig

It's currently ridiculously difficult to build software securely. Just to think about what it means in the context of Atlassian, we have to license tools from half a dozen different vendors and integrate them into our environment. We have to think about how results from those tools flow into the [issue] resolution process. How do you bind it into Jira, so you can see the tickets, so you can get it into the hands of the developer? How do you make sure that test cases associated with fixing those issues are incorporated into your development pipeline? It's a mess.

My expectation is that the only way we'll ever get to a point where software can be built securely is if those capabilities are incorporated directly into the tools that are used to deliver it, as opposed to being add-ons that come from third parties.

SSQ: So does that include Atlassian?

Ludwig: I think it has to.

SSQ: What would that look like?

Ludwig: One of the areas that my team has been building something like that is around the way that we monitor our security investigations. We've actually released some open source projects in this area, where the way that we create alerts for Splunk, which we use as our SIEM, is tied into Jira tickets and Confluence pages. When we create alerts, a Confluence page is automatically generated, and it generates Jira tickets that then flow to our analysts to follow up on them. And that's actually tied in more broadly to our overall risk management system.

We are also working on some internal tools to make it easier for us to connect the third-party products that look for security vulnerabilities directly into Bitbucket. Every single time we do a pull request, source code analysis runs. And it's not just a single piece of source code analysis; it's a wide range of them. Is that particular pull request referencing any out-of-date libraries? And dependencies that need to be updated? And then those become comments that get added into the peer review process.

My job is to make sure that we ship the most secure software that we possibly can, and if there are commercial opportunities, which I think there are, then it seems natural that we might do those as well.
Adrian LudwigCISO, Atlassian

It's not something that we're currently making commercially available, nor do we have specific plans at this point to do that, so I'm not announcing anything. But that's the kind of thing that we are doing. My job is to make sure that we ship the most secure software that we possibly can, and if there are commercial opportunities, which I think there are, then it seems natural that we might do those as well.

SSQ: What does that mean for the wider market as DevOps and security tools converge?

Ludwig: Over the next 10 years, there's going to be massive consolidation in that space. That trend is one that we've seen other places in the security stack. For example, I came from Android. Android now has primary responsibility, as a core platform capability, for all of the security of that device. Your historical desktop operating systems? Encryption was an add-on. Sandboxing was an add-on. Monitoring for viruses was an add-on. Those are all now part of the mobile OS platform.

If you look at the antivirus vendors, you've seen them stagnate, and they didn't have an off-road onto mobile. I think it's going to be super interesting to watch a lot of the security investments made over the last 10 years, especially in developer space, and think through how that's going to play out. I think there's going to be consolidation there. It's all converging, and as it converges, a lot of stuff's going to die.

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