Product, Security

Giving Security a Seat at the Table with Full-Stack Observability

By | | 7 min read


Summary
Protect your end user with a modern approach to application security. Learn how an observability platform can help unite IT teams.

Digital transformation is happening all around us. Businesses across the globe are implementing cutting edge digital services to attract new customers and maintain their current base. With the rise of ecommerce, remote capabilities, and SaaS, today’s digital landscape makes every business a technology company.

Organizations today house huge volumes of data within an application. As a result, they face increased vulnerability to cyber threats and security incidents. This was made worse during the past year, as businesses shifted to support remote employees using laptops and devices connected to public networks.

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The bottom line: variables that affect an organization’s security have increased, and so has the risk.

These modern challenges are vastly expanding the IT perimeter and testing the limits of app monitoring practices, creating new weaknesses and vulnerabilities in even the most secure IT estates. Failure to safeguard app data with the right security processes and solutions not only risks a business’s brand reputation and the trust of their consumers, but it can also cost organizations millions of dollars in the event of a breach.

This creates a balancing act: do technologists keep their standard practices and maintain the status quo, or do they experiment and take risks with implementing new technology? The challenge is placed squarely on the shoulders of a business’s tech staff. They’re the function of the org that must continue supporting legacy technology, while also seizing new opportunities to integrate nascent cloud-based tech to bolster the user experience. This leads to a continuous sprawl of services, making the ability to troubleshoot exponentially more difficult.

How can a business fulfill the needs of their end users?

End users expect to have a high-performing, always-available application. If an app can’t accommodate these needs, the user simply deletes the app and moves on. They automatically assume that their data will be secure whenever they use an application: there’s a trust factor. If a business fails to secure the end user’s data and an inevitable breach occurs, that business commits the ultimate act of betrayal. App development teams, in partnership with their peers in security, need to create a tight alignment to ensure user experience is top of mind.

The real opportunity lies in leveraging security teams to bring forward new innovations that improve user experience.

But security teams aren’t currently seen as innovators, they’re seen as barriers to speed. In fact, it’s the reason why we’ve seen so much friction between operations, development, and security teams in the past. The belief that proper application security posture inhibits speed is ubiquitous, but the modern security approach is proof that this belief is outdated. Modern approaches that involve security at the beginning of the development cycle reduce friction and speed up delivery.

Technologists realize that each decision they make for running an application can have a positive or negative impact on the business. With the growing complexity of infrastructure and security threats increasing exponentially, IT teams need to have the proper set of tools at their disposal to be effective at delivering the desired business outcome.

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How does observability factor in?

According to Gartner, “Observability is the characteristic of software and systems that allows them to be ‘seen’ and allows questions about their behavior to be answered”.

To dive more into this definition, think about the goal of providing the best user experience, while driving positive customer sentiment and business growth. This is where observability comes in. Consider all the components used to deliver this user experience, from legacy on premise systems to cloud services, all interconnected and working together. Also consider the network and infrastructure, which includes both enterprise networks you own plus public internet connections. To successfully deliver, you need to leverage an observability platform that puts the end user first, enabling visibility across the entire technology stack.

By implementing an observability platform technology, IT teams gain the ability to quickly pinpoint when issues arise so they can resolve them quickly and efficiently (before the user even finds out). Shown in the Agents of Transformation Report, 78% of the respondents are concerned about the rapid adoption of cloud services creating a patchwork tech sprawl of legacy and cloud technologies.

The challenge of implementing an observability platform isn’t just a technology problem, organizations also have deep-rooted silos that prevent the teams from collaborating across domains.

We see these silos happening across all IT teams. The first one to be blamed during any slowdown is commonly the network team, causing them to go out and prove their innocence. From there, blame may shift to the database team, then to the application team— all with the intent to prove their innocence. Ultimately though, it’s the business that pays the price, especially when end users have so many options to choose from. There is no tolerance for poor performance, they’ll simply delete and move on. This can be catastrophic, and completely stalls the business’s growth.

By leveraging a full-stack observability platform, the organization can gain the view of all the application flow dependencies to stay ahead of slow downs, issues, or security threats. This enables all teams, from app development, infrastructure, networking, security, to business leaders, to have the same visibility.

While having the right tools in place for all teams is a great start, it’s not a cure-all. The culture and processes must also change to foster true collaboration, or the finger-pointing will continue. If the old way of doing things is still the preferred practice, the true value of these observability tools will not be realized, and the goal of delivering results to the business will be compromised.

How can businesses address security gaps in observability platforms?

Most observability platforms available don’t offer solutions for identifying, managing, and fixing a security vulnerability. This is why a cultural shift around security is necessary when implementing a web application observability tool.

There are two ways for security to assist during the development cycle:

1. Through the implementation of DevSecOps, a method in which security teams are involved in app development from beginning to end. This ensures that an application is built from the mindset of protecting both the business and the end users.

2. The security team must educate the development teams on security innovations that not only enhance security, but simplify for the end user. This is where new methods of password-less authentication, user data protection, and overall latest on protection should be included in the applications.

These changes create a step in the right direction for businesses that need to amplify security— aligning and unifying app development and security teams. App development teams can also gain observability into the threat with the security context pointing them to the compromised line of code, exposed system, and record of the CVE (Common Vulnerability and Exposure).

Shifting left to combine development, security, and operations teams into one collaborative DevSecOps team solves the age-old issue of siloed organizations. It gives security teams a seat at the table during the production phase of an app. This new method gives due diligence to the most important aspect of any application: user experience.

 

For companies that want to make it in today’s digital landscape, enabling new capabilities and features at lightning speed isn’t optional, it’s required. In order to stay competitive and relevant in their respective industries, modern businesses can’t afford to stagnate while their competitors evolve. Like the shark that’s always swimming, they need to keep moving forward if they want to survive.

The era of heavily siloed teams has to be a way of the past, and collaboration must prevail. Enable IT teams to collaborate, try new things, and win over your customers. Not only will your business see more success, but it will allow your teams to grow.

 

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