The DevOps Security Checklist Redux

Security is increasingly becoming the responsibility of DevOps teams. Movements like DevSecOps are contributing to this change. This security checklist aims to give DevOps professionals a list of security best practices they can follow according to their company stage. Doing the basics goes a long way in keeping your company and product secure. This third1 edition of the DevOps Security Checklist provides actionable security best practices devops teams can use to harden their security. This list is far from exhaustive, incomplete by nature since the security you need depends on your company, product, and assets.

🚀 Your Culture

Have an incident response plan and mechanism to communicate post-mortems

It is not a question of “if” but “when”. Evaluate your risks, prepare a proper action plan in case of a breach and communicate properly after the fact.

Stay on top of best practices

DevOps is an ever-changing landscape. Ensure that you stay up to date in terms of new technologies, vulnerabilities or best practices.

Understand the risk

The cost of breaches is drastically increasing and security should be taken seriously inside an organization. DevOps engineers should play an important role in advocating for better security practices

Gamify security and train employees on a regular basis

Humans are the weakest links in the security chain. DevOps contribute to the security awareness of all the employees in a company. By explaining how an attacker could infiltrate your company, you will increase the awareness and thus minimize the chance of a hack. Don’t forget fishing and spear-fishing attacks.

Follow an onboarding / offboarding checklist

This checklist should contain a list of all the steps you need to enforce when an employee, contractor, intern, etc… joins your company. A similar list can also be used when the someone is leaving your team.

💻 Your Code

Don't implement your own crypto

The problem with cryptography is, that you don’t know you are wrong until you are hacked. So don’t do your own crypto. Use standards instead.

Protect your CI/CD tools like your product

Your continuous deployment pipeline is the backbone of your IT. Security should be checked at each step. Your CI builds should fail if you detect a security vulnerability. Store your CI configuration for traceability and audit.

Ensure you are using security headers

Modern browsers support a set of headers dedicated to block certain types of attacks. Make sure you properly implemented all security headers. Don’t forget about the CSP.

Keep your dependencies up to date

Third-party libraries can put your application at risk. Make sure you track your vulnerable packages and update them regularly.

Run Security tests on your code

Static Application Security Testing (SAST) is an easy and fast way to find security vulnerabilities in your code. You can enforce SAST security checks in your CI, but be aware of the high number of false positives that can frustrate developers.

Integrate security scanners in your CI pipeline

Integrate a Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) tool in your CI, but just like SAST be aware of the high number of false positives.

Go hack yourself

If your company doesn’t have yet a structured security team, help create a multidisciplinary Red Team to stress your application and infrastructure. Providing an easy environment for the Red Team to attack the application should be part of the scope of DevOps.

🏗 Your Infrastructure

Backup, test your backups, then backup again

Backup all your critical assets. Ensure that you attempt to restore your backups frequently so you can guarantee that they’re working as intended. S3 is a very cheap and effective way to backup your assets. Instrument monitoring to ensure backups and restoration verification are working as intended. Research whether offsite and encrypted backups make sense for your product, infrastructure, and regulatory concerns (PII and user data retention).

MongoDB Backup:



Check your SSL / TLS configurations

Use free tools to scan your infrastructure regularly and make sure the SSL configurations are correct.

Control access on your cloud providers

The best way to protect your services (database, file storage) is to not use passwords at all. Use the built-in Identity and Access Management (IAM) functions to securely control access to your ressources.

Log all the things

Infrastructure logs and application logs are your most precious allies for investigating a data breach. Make sure your logs are stored somewhere safe and central. Also make sure you whitelist- or blacklist-specific incoming data to avoid storing personally identifiable information (PII) data.

Upgrade your servers regularly

Server packages and libraries are often updated when security vulnerabilities are found. You should update them as soon as a security vulnerability is found.

Automatically configure & update your servers

An automated configuration management tool helps you ensure that your servers are updated and secured.





Keep your containers protected

Use Docker (or Kubernetes), and ensure that they are patched and secure. Use tools to automatically update and scan your containers for security vulnerabilities.

Store encrypted passwords in your configuration management

Storing passwords (like databases ones) can be done on a dedicated database with restricted access. An other solution is to store them encrypted in your Source Code Management (SCM) system. That way, you just need the master key to decrypt them.





Encrypt all the things

SSL performance problems are a myth and you don’t have any good reasons not to use SSL on all your public services.

Harden SSH configurations

SSH is the defacto remote login mechanism on Linux environments. It’s also the de facto penetration vector for hackers. Make sure you have proper SSH configurations.–2

Manage secrets with dedicated tools and vaults

When you need to store cryptographic secrets (other than database password, TLS certificate, …) and perform encryption with them, you should use dedicated tools. This way the cryptographic secret never leaves the tool and you get auditing features.

Use an immutable infrastructure

Use immutable infrastructures to avoid having to manage and update your servers.

🛡️ Protection

Enforce Two-factor authentication (2FA)

Enforce 2FA on all the services used (whenever possible).

Don’t store credit card information (if you don’t need to)

Use third-party services to store credit card information to avoid having to manage and protect them.

Have a public security policy

This is a page on your corporate website describing how you plan to respond to external security reports. You should advise you support responsible disclosure. Keep in mind that most of the reports that you receive probably won’t be relevant.

Protect your applications against breaches

Detect and block attacks in real-time using a protection solution. All the OWASP top-10 vulnerabilities (SQL injections, NoSQL injections, cross-site scripting attacks, code/command injections, etc.) are covered.

Protect your servers and infrastructure

Your servers will be scanned in order to fingerprint your application and locate open services, misconfiguration, etc. You can setup tools to keep these scanners away from your servers.

Protect your users against account takeovers

Account takeovers or brute force attacks are easy to setup. You should make sure your users are protected against account takeovers.

Have a public bug bounty program

A bug bounty program will allow external hackers to report vulnerabilities. Most of the bug bounties program set rewards in place. You need security aware people inside your development teams to evaluate any reports you receive.

Protect against Denial Of Service (DoS)

DoS attacks are meant to break your application and make it unavailable to your customers. Use a specific service to protect your app against Distributed Denial Of Service attacks.

Ensure Compliance with Relevant Industry Standards

Comply to standards to ensure you follow industry best practices and answer your customer needs. But simple compliance will never protect your apps.

🩺 Monitoring

Audit your infrastructure on a regular basis

With cloud providers, it’s easy to start instances and forget about them. You will need to create and maintain a list of your assets (servers, network devices, services exposed etc…), and review it regularly to determine if you still need them, keep them up to date, and ensure that they benefit from your latest deployments.

Renew your certificates on time

You should be using TLS certificates. It can be a hassle to configure and monitor but don’t forget to renew them!

Detect insider threats

The most important attacks will come from insider threats. Those can be users or attackers gaining access to privileged user accounts. Make sure you monitor your users to detect attackers before an attack happens.

Monitor third party vendors

You’re likely to use third party products to manage your servers / payrolls / logs or even just social media. Just like you’re likely to be hacked, they can be too. Make sure you follow the news and react immediately after a breach.

Monitor your domain expiration date

Just like TLS certificates, domains can expire. Make sure you monitor your domain expiration automatically.

Get notified when your app is under attack

You will be attacked. Make sure you have a monitoring system in place that will detect security events targeting your application before it’s too late. Knowing when your application is starting to get massively scanned is key to stop more advanced attacks.

Monitor your authorizations

Be proactive and be alerted when authorizations or keys binary are changed in your production.

👉 Others in the checklist series

Further Reading

1 CCA ShareAlike 4.0 International. This guide is based on, adapts, and picks up the baton where the excellent Sqreen checklist left off (which is no longer available since it redirects to their acquisition announcement).

Subscribe to our infosec for startups newsletter