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Best Practices to Ensure CI/CD Pipeline’s Security

by Mic Johnson

Software development can be a laborious task that necessitates timely delivery when facilitating error-free code. Such activities can be time-consuming to manage manually. Thanks to the continuous integration and continuous development, DevOps can deliver apps to customers by incorporating automation into each stage of app development.

Implementing CI/CD in software development processes is now the norm. According to research, more than 42% of developers now use CI/CD for their workflow. While CI/CD improves productivity in software development, it can be risky. This is because malicious code could be used to target the software pipeline, therefore any software passing through this pipeline can be infected. Supply chain attacks are increasing in size and frequency, as a result, organizations must consider the security of their CI/CD pipelines.

Identify Possible Threats and Protect Connections

The first step in ensuring the security of the CI/CD pipelines is to research potential threats and vulnerabilities. This is known as thread modeling: Threat modeling can be applied at any stage of the software development life cycle. To understand the mechanics at work thoroughly, you’ll need to create an overview of your CI/CD pipeline and then decompose each element within it. You can use diagrams and visualizations to see every step of the pipeline.

To avoid compromise, you should check every connection that leads to and passes through the CI/CD pipeline. Once you’ve identified potential threats, you must maintain security measures. Scan each connected device for security compliance and ensure that all connections are made using TLS (Transport Layer Security) settings. Scan for vulnerabilities and plan for security.

Implement Access Authorization 

You must establish a robust access control mechanism to define who and when to access the pipeline. The goal is to maintain complete control, detect irregularities quickly, and prevent unauthorized access. Organizations must effectively log, monitor, and manage access to every pipeline component and resource.

Use access control methods such as one-time passwords for human agents involved in pipeline processes. To match and accept access requests for non-human access (third-party automation tools), use an evaluation machine and authenticators. All of these precautions are taken to avoid potential risks arising from the CI/CD. Software supply chain risks are increasing daily, and you can learn more about them and how to avoid them with Scribe security’s software supply chain solution.

Secure Your Code Repository

Hackers target code repositories such as Git because they contain valuable source code and proprietary information. Hackers can delete a repository or alter its code to make it useless or destructive. DevOps must therefore integrate two-factor authentication and permit commits to authenticate the author’s identity before a commit. In this instance, the repository should have restricted access to ensure that only authorized developers can modify the code.

In 2019, there was a case of Bitcoin abuse when hackers modified the code and requested a ransom. The git repo hacker sent a message that goes thus:

“To recover your lost code and avoid leaking it: Send us 0.1 Bitcoin (BTC) to our Bitcoin address 1ES14c7qLb5CYhLMUekctxLgc1FV2Ti9DA and contact us by Email at [email protected] with your Git login and a Proof of Payment. If you are unsure if we have your data, contact us and we will send you a proof. Your code is downloaded and backed up on our servers. If we don’t receive your payment in the next 10 Days, we will make your code public or use them otherwise.”

Educate developers on safeguarding code repositories, and don’t forget to use the .gitignore file. Additionally, subscribe to repository alerts and maintain a safe local backup of your code.

Update Your CI/CD tools

Updating all tools, applications, and software is a typical cybersecurity measure. This is because outdated software allows hackers to target and damage a user’s devices. Likewise, you must upgrade your CI/CD to address bugs and vulnerabilities. At the same time, utilizing out-of-date CI/CD tools exposes your tool to attackers who can circumvent the additional authentication methods you’ve implemented.

Maintaining up-to-date patches for everything from word processing software to outbound calling solutions is vital to the security of your CI/CD pipeline.

Automatic updates are an excellent approach to saving time and effort when maintaining software credibility. However, keeping an eye out for significant upgrades that may be delivered outside the usual development roadmap is also essential. Some updates may be irrelevant to your usage, while others may be the source of problems.

Continuously Monitor the CI/CD

Consistently monitoring what enters and exits the CI/CD is one of the most significant ways to preserve its security. Pipeline auditing is not a once-and-done operation, whereas monitoring is vital. It must be occurring virtually constantly. Unfortunately, the more sophisticated the pipeline becomes, the more vulnerabilities it can contain. A complicated pipeline may contain vulnerabilities that are easy to overlook, and attacks against them may go unnoticed.

Additionally, understand that this is not a one-time process. You must do a pipeline audit to identify risks and collect precise information on who deployed what, when, and where.


You cannot afford to ignore or disregard the security of your CI/CD pipeline, despite how much you value software development efficiency and profitability. The answer to securing your pipeline is no longer impossible. Choose any of the highlighted best practices to have a software pipeline free of vulnerability.

However, consider that diverse CI/CD pipelines will necessitate specific security measures. Perform thread modeling to determine the pipeline’s vulnerability and implement security measures to mitigate the issue.

When everyone with access to the pipeline follows the same principles, implementing these practices becomes more manageable. Therefore, ensuring that you have well-defined development processes that all of your developers and testers understand and adhere to is crucial.

Lastly, remember that as your pipeline evolves, so will the dangers it faces. Always be vigilant for your CI/CD protection and respond swiftly.

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