How well are you protecting your Secrets?

Nurit Bielorai
May 10 · 3 min read
development environment secret detections

So, What exactly are Secrets?

Modern CI/CD software development consists of many building blocks and interconnected tools, apps, cloud-based infrastructure, and SaaS software. Connecting each of these relies on secrets—the most common of which are passwords, but more broadly, any confidential digital authentication credentials. 

 

A few examples of Secrets:

  • User or auto-generated passwords
  • GitHub tokens, API, and other application keys
  • Hard-coded credentials 
  • System-to-system passwords
  • SSH Keys
  • One-time password devices
  • Private encryption keys for systems like PGP

 

The role of Secrets within the CI/CD pipeline

The decentralization of CI/CD pipelines has many advantages, including speed of software delivery and ease of collaboration. The core advantage of CI/CD is automation, which requires secrets to allow the seamless and secure transmission of data from application to application. 

When a pipeline involves hundreds of applications and users, the number of secrets increases exponentially — and if these are not being actively secured, they pose a genuine and very significant threat to your DevOps pipeline. As we’ve seen all too often, secrets are very easily hardcoded into your source code without anyone realizing it. So what are the risks, and how should you protect yourself? 

Because of the nature and volume of secrets used, it is dangerously easy to lose track of them, especially when it comes to a vast CI/CD pipeline with multiple git repositories, thousands of interconnected tools, and numerous employees touching, copying, and replicating your code.

Secrets are the glue that holds the system together. Without them, uncredentialed bad actors could access essential layers of your IT infrastructure, potentially accessing backdoors to your clients and, in the worst case scenario, directly into the palms of end-users. Historically, secrets are a part of each of the pipeline’s building blocks, and are typically managed (and secured) in silos. This approach is too piecemeal for today’s standards, plus involves manual searching and fixes — which is not only unsustainable, but ineffective against the machine-speed of modern attacks.   

 

Why Secrets detection is vital for SDLC?

During the build and testing phases of software development, secrets may be coded into source code with the intent of being removed later. Through source code review and regular practices, usually conducted manually, this code is meant to be taken out. But unfortunately, human error is only natural, and secrets frequently end up in the final code released. 

Once secrets make their way into code, it becomes much more challenging to protect them due to the (usually helpful, but in this case problematic) way in which git records every change to your code. Even when removed, if the attackers were to access the history of the code they would still be able to see the password or secret. Until the secret is revoked, it remains a threat to your CI/CD. If bad actors gain access to it (or any of the building blocks of your pipeline), the implications could be severe and irreversible. 

 

Protect Secrets with software development lifecycle security solution

Secrets detection is challenging due to the volume and variety of connected applications binding them. Without purpose-built solutions, it becomes a daunting task to locate and remediate secrets, and once they’ve been exposed they’re unlikely to be recovered. A broader holistic solution is required to automate the detection and remediation process, one that is chosen deliberately and will protect a wide perimeter. 

 

Protect Secrets with Argon Security Solution

Argon’s mission is to secure the modern software development process from commit to release, enabling DevOps teams to maintain speed and agility without compromising on security. One piece of this puzzle is the topic of automated secrets detection and dealing with secrets sprawl. 

Argon’s CI/CD pipeline security solution incorporates the protection of secrets through auto-detection and auto-remediation of rogue secrets.  Our team of security experts can help your organization define and apply secrets security policies, deepening the safety of your whole pipeline attack surface. 

 

Nurit Bielorai
May 10 · 3 min read

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