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Top 5 DevSecOps Trends for Non-Human Identities in 2024

Graphic of secure cloud and human systems

It’s 2024 (have you heard?), which means it’s time for predictions! Except we’re going to discard the speculative crystal ball types and focus on things already rooted in some reality, namely those living at the intersection of DevSecOps and workload-to-workload access. 

Before we get into it, let’s remind you that DevSecOps – a progressive approach that advocates for security as a shared or merged responsibility among an organization’s development, operations, and security teams – is set to mature further in 2024 due to the obvious: escalating cyberthreats, the extensive adoption of modern IT infrastructures, and ongoing regulatory pressures. 

By definition, to be most effective, DevSecOps necessitates that robust security measures are integrated across the CI/CD pipeline at every stage of the software development lifecycle. The methodology also can help bridge gaps between traditionally siloed teams on a more “human” level, through the encouragement of cooperation and cultural buy-in.

How does DevSecOps manifest in practical scenarios? One apt illustration is the need to govern workload access. Both DevOps and security teams have shared stakes here considering the exploding numbers of applications, SaaS services, and third-party APIs populated across enterprise environments, particularly cloud-native settings and microservices architectures.

For DevOps, any factor impeding their rapid response or service restoration is a liability. This includes the challenges posed by inconsistent workload access control methods. Such inconsistency can amplify the manual burden associated with rotating credentials and managing the complexities of secrets sprawl. Additionally, developers are often slowed by the need to write custom authentication code each time they establish a new application-to-service connection. 

Meanwhile, for security teams, the rise of poorly managed workload identities has grown the attack surface they must manage. After all, adversaries don’t care if they are leveraging human or machine identity to compromise a target organization and pivot to sensitive data they can pilfer – they simply want in.

Now that we’ve set the stage, the growth of DevSecOps – and the number of workload identities under your control – are likely to spawn and amplify several key trends in the new year. Here are five big ones we expect to make their presence known in 2024.

2024 Workload Access-Related DevSecOps Trends

1) Immutable Infrastructure Sounds Off

Immutable infrastructure, where changes are made by replacing components rather than modifying them – and aided by popular container orchestration and infrastructure-as-code tools like Kubernetes and Terraform – will grow in prominence. This approach minimizes inconsistencies and addresses vulnerabilities, leading to more predictable, manageable, and secure environments. In an immutable infrastructure, workload access becomes more tightly managed. Since the infrastructure components are fixed and do not change, access controls and permissions can be accurately defined in policies. This allows for precise mapping of the necessary permissions and roles to each component, ensuring that they have only the access they require and nothing more. This granularity in defining roles and permissions, a core principle of the least-privilege principle, is greatly facilitated by the predictability and consistency inherent in immutable infrastructure.

2) Artificial Intelligence Gets Real

Generative AI is disrupting everywhere else, why not DevSecOps too? The technology will increasingly be utilized to analyze complex patterns and predict potential threats, offering more proactive and pre-emptive security solutions. In workload scenarios, AI can help enterprises manage access based on the real-time security posture of their applications and services. For instance, a workload running on outdated software or showing signs of compromise, like unusual outbound traffic, would be identified as having a poor security posture, and this would help to inform and guide access decisions. 

3) Zero Trust Architectures Extend Beyond the Person

As the “never trust, always verify” principle pervades user network access, its relevance starts to extend to workloads as well. Traditional secure access models fall short in tackling the unique complexities associated with the dynamic, distributed, and intricate interactions of workloads. You can anticipate in 2024 a growing organizational shift toward implementing Zero Trust frameworks for non-human identities, emphasizing rigorous identity verification, stringent policy enforcement, secure credential management, and conditional access controls tailored to specific parameters and real-time context.

4) Never Mind Passwordless, How About Secretless?

Technology like biometrics, USB keys and authenticator apps has transformed the user IAM experience – and is rapidly transitioning it away from password reliance – but what about for machines? Within the world of workloads, you can expect to see organizations taking first steps to migrate away from sole reliance on secrets and secrets managers, which contain inherent weaknesses, and toward secretless, which instead depends on dynamic, context-aware authentication methods that don’t require storing and managing static or (often) hard-coded credentials. The shift to secretless will not only enhance security by eliminating a common attack vector but also simplify the administrative burden of managing a plethora of secrets and their associated policies. 

5) The Rise of Workload IAM

As mentioned above, workload access is still an evolving area for DevSecOps professionals and is generally thought of as a fragmented market with no clear consensus on how to approach this emerging need. Additionally, unlike user IAM, which often has dedicated teams and centralized systems like HR databases and Active Directory to assist, workload identity management lacks specialized internal teams or a unified system for oversight. That begins to change dramatically in 2024 with the rapid adoption of Workload IAM, a centralized means for oversight and control. Workload IAM platforms are characterized by their ability to streamline the verification of non-human identities, validate access rights, and secure service accounts, making it easier to implement and enforce specific policies across all workloads, without the need for long-lived secrets and code changes.

Final Thought

As security leaders and financial decision-makers have matured in their understanding and implementation of user IAM – prompting increased investment in this area – the next logical step is to apply similar support for workloads to help further enable and empower DevSecOps teams.

We’re here for it! To learn how Aembit can help, visit aembit.io.

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