DevOps Chat: The New Security Breed with Veracode’s Mark Curphey

DevSecOps has changed the way developers approach security in their application development cycle. But it’s also been the source of confusion, as some developers grapple with understanding how DevSecOps is different from application security. Mark Curphey, VP of strategy at CA Veracode, is clued in to the differences, which he discusses in this DevOps Chat.

As usual, the streaming audio is immediately below, followed by the transcript of our conversation.

Alan Shimel:Hey, everyone. It’s Alan Shimel,, Security Boulevard, and you’re here for another DevOps Chat. Today’s DevOps Chat is all about DevSecOps, AppSec, what’s happening on the front lines. I’m joined by an old friend of mine, Mark Curphey. Mark is currently VP of strategy at CA Veracode. Hey, Mark, welcome to DevOps Chat.

Mark Curphey:Thanks, Alan. Great to talk to you again.

Shimel:All right. So Mark, let’s start off with this. I know you’ve fairly recently joined Veracode. Give our audience a little bit of your background and how you came to be where you are.

Curphey:Yeah, sure. So misspent youth, went back to university late, did a master’s degree in information security, and wound up working for a bunch of banks in the city of London. Moved here to the states in 2000, then ran software security for Charles Schwab. So Microsoft were creating the SDLs. You know, sort of Gates had sent out the famous memo and I was doing the same for an online service basically at Charles Schwab. So that’s where I started. Then at OWASP, which some people sort of associate my name with, which is the Open Web Application Security Project.

And since then I’ve worked at Microsoft around the security tools team and then I think with MSDN, the Microsoft Developer Network. I more recently created a startup called SourceClear which was focused on helping developers use open source code safely in the modern DevOps world. We were acquired by Veracode about five months ago. So I’m now the VP of strategy at Veracode helping the Veracode platform and how we really sort of work with DevOps and the new way of doing things.

Shimel:Fair. Okay, so Mark, let’s start off with this though, and I think there’s some confusion out there with both security people as well as non-security people in terms of what’s the difference between AppSec and DevSecOps? Is one really just synonymous with the other? Is DevSecOps another name for AppSec? I don’t think it is. What do you think and how do you define the differences between them?

Curphey:Well, certainly every vendor’s got a DevSecOps product these days, right? So it’s easy why people are getting confused. I mean I think the reality is the way you have to do AppSec in a DevOps world is fundamentally different to the way we’ve done it before. It used to be about educating developers, writing policies that people had to read, human processes to do final check off, things like threat modeling, you know, all of these sort of things. They kind of worked okay in a waterfall world were kind of modified a bit to work in an agile world. But, you know, DevOps is changing the game completely. So we’re in a world of automation, and, you know, the modern ways that we have to secure it are fundamentally different. So for me DevSecOps is about how do you apply security in this modern, you know, DevOps world and that’s predominantly focused around, you know, automation. What can you automate and, you know, how can we put automation in those pipelines that are happening so that security happens inline as code is created and it’s moved through the pipelines?

Shimel:Fair enough. We talked pipelines. We talk left to right, Mark. You know, and Veracode is probably one of the leaders in this space when we talk about DevSecOps and shifting left and working. But I think what people want to know is really how does the security person or the security team work with the development team? It’s easy to say, but what does it really –


Shimel:What does it really mean?

Curphey:Yeah. I mean, look, I think there’s a new breed of security people which is exciting to see. Like the old world that used to be the development team and then there were the security team. There were kind of the two separate teams. The security team needed to sort of bless things before they went into production, but we get appointed a data center and whatever. These days what you see is it’s all about velocity.

So, you know, there are security people that are embedded into the security teams and they’re kind of acting like consultants and helping the dev team do security as and when it’s needed and make the right decisions without slowing things down. So instead of it sort of being this procedural thing where they were required to go through whatever a control grate, they’re just tired of the flow. That’s exciting to see because I think we’re seeing a paradigm shift of how that happens.

Shimel:Yep, I think we are seeing a paradigm shift in this. So here’s going to be a question you’re going to say, “Alan, you’re crazy,” but Mark, does it make a difference? Is it definitively improving our security here?

Curphey:Yeah. First, Alan, I’m never gonna call you crazy, but that’s good to know, I think.

Shimel:I figured you would.

Curphey:No, but look, I mean like, for sure, like think about like we all know what happened with Equifax, right? Like biggest data breach in history, result of open source that was insecure and hadn’t been updated. That problem is solvable and it’s solvable at scale in a pipeline. So what we were doing at SourceClear – I don’t want to turn into a product pitch in any sense, but we were basically trying to close the loop of this library is out of date, issue the pull request, figure out if it’s going to break things, and if so, update it. And the developers loved that, not because they’re fixing security but they’re fixing the dependency hell problem.

So we’ve not been able to do that before because, you know, we hadn’t been injected directly in the pipelines. So these are opportunities that really make a difference and companies that implement these tools like us and there are others around, totally can avoid the whole Equifax thing. It’s not a case of like no one got notified or no one knew. Like it happens automatically in the pipeline. So there are great opportunities to do things like that.

And I think moving forward we can also look at things like are people using dangerous APIs? Are they calling, you know, external services that we don’t want them to call? Like to a large extent the pipeline has become the new firewall and it’s a place where we can put controls, inspect the traffic, and decide what we want to allow and what we don’t want to allow which is a great place to be.

Shimel:I agree. I agree there. So Mark, I guess where I wanted to go next with this is a lot – again, I’m a man who lives with a foot in each world, right? I spend a lot of time with my security friends and colleagues that I’ve known for years and years and years, but as part of I’m out speaking to developers an awful lot, right?


Shimel:And some of the questions that I hear from both sides is, okay, you can’t serve two masters, there can’t be two people in charge. How does the day-to-day of this flow? You know what I’m saying?

Curphey:Yeah, no, for sure. I mean look, the reality is in all organizations the digital transformation and everything else happens that it’s all about value creation and the value is created by developers. So they’ve been empowered to choose their tools. They’ve been empowered to figure out which process allows them to innovate faster and all those things. With that we’ve seen the rise of the cloud and everything else. So it can’t be an us or them scenario. It’s how do you support those developers on their mission to change things and create this digital transformation? So the old ways, you still see it but you still see the old school of security people saying no and stopping people; but those battles are not going to be won. It’s about how do we help people move forward at the right rate.

I mean I kind of equate it like someone was saying the other day, like similar to autonomous cars, like you’re not going to stop them. Like figure out how to make them work properly, safely, and securely. But if you don’t like it, you’re not going to stop that, have that technology happening and being created so you’ve got to embrace it. That I think is the philosophy that is going to win out the day.

Shimel:Fair enough. I don’t disagree with you there, Mark. Let’s talk a little bit about what you see near term and maybe a little bit longer term in developments here that, you know, our listeners, you know, could fundamentally change their day to day. Where do you think we’re heading?

Curphey:Yeah, sure. So, you know, I think machine learning and artificial intelligence and big data were sort of touted and, you know, the hype cycle kick off and, yeah, people didn’t always deliver on that. But there are exciting things happening in that which allow us at scale and at speed to do things that we couldn’t do before. So a good example of that is in the security world most of the vulnerabilities no longer exist in the CV system open source code. They just can’t keep up with the scale. We’re releasing thousands of libraries. In the DevOps world, developers find things, fix them, push them out. They don’t go back to monitor and publish these vulnerabilities, etc.

But the great news is, you know, there are big data systems, machine learning that can process that data and we can identify those things at scale. Those same kind of techniques have been applied by Google and the Android App Stores and things like that. So that application of like that modern tech I think has great opportunities for us to do things which we’ve not been able to do before, and you’ve certainly seen some of the big vulnerabilities that have been released have been a result of that stuff coming out.

Shimel:Got it. Got it. I just had my phone ringing there. I apologize. Mark, let’s, if I can and if you’re not too shy about it, I doubt you will be, let’s talk specifically a little bit about Veracode.


Shimel:You know, you’ve been there five months. What do you see? What gets you excited there in the morning?

Curphey:Yeah. We had loads of places to sort of land. We came to the conclusion that people wanted to have less tools than more. So they wanted to buy a suite. When you look around, what the Veracode guys had done is built sort of best-in-class SAST and it started working on software composition analysis. We had best-in-class software composition analysis. So it made sense from that perspective.

Also as you know, the heritage of the company, you know, it isn’t a fly-by-night company. It’s Chris Wysopal and Christien Rioux, right? These guys were in the loft, right? So that legendary around the place. So the company has this real DNA about it around security. So for me it’s kind of this exciting security DNA in the company embracing the way we build modern software. So that’s what attracted us to join forces. We’ve been extremely excited since. A lot of exciting things happening that for sure will start to come out of it at the other side no doubt.

Shimel:I agree with you. I actually have Chris on a panel we’re doing on DevSecOps next week. I’m really excited to have Chris as well as Dave Duncan from CA, I think is on the panel with us.

Curphey:Right. Right.

Shimel:So Mark, you know, running out of time here, but I wanted to talk a little bit more about, you know, you came into Veracode, as you said, about five months ago via the acquisition. There’s a lot of people out there seeing a lot of buying and selling, M&A kind of stuff going on in especially around DevSecOps and DevOps related companies. I mean obviously a rising tide lifts all boats and there’s consolidation going on, but is there anything else at play that you’re seeing that’s kind of driving this stuff?

Curphey:Well, I mean, you know, in the place that you look on the horizon is actually where the dev tools are going. So you know, if we look at companies like AWS, it’s not really just a hosting platform. It’s a full tool suite, right, of everything from machine learning libraries in the cloud to real-time databases and things. Google and Azure are building the same. As we start to think about like what is a next generation of developer look like, they’re likely to use an IDE and a browser. It’s not going to run on a desktop anymore. And you know, co-changes happen and everything happens up in the cloud. So I think there are a lot of exciting things happening there and how do you integrate security into that world for sure. So that’s a lot of the stuff that I’m focused on. Then you can get scaled I think.

Shimel:Got it. Got it. Mark, you know, I appreciate you talking to us today. I think we’re about out of time. But for people who want to get more information on what’s going on, obviously, correct?

Curphey:Yeah, is an excellent, well-trafficked blog with Wysopal and various other people and myself contributing to it which is great and we’re out speaking at conferences and talking about some of the both current work and sort of some of the futuristic stuff as well. So love to engage with the community and the industry for sure.

Shimel:Perfect. All right. Hey, Mark Curphey, VP of Strategy, CA Veracode. Thanks for being our guest in this episode of DevOps Chat and we look forward to having you on again soon.

Curphey:Yeah, great, Alan, thanks a lot. Great to reconnect and look forward to doing so the next time.


Curphey:Take care.

Shimel:This is Alan Shimel for You’ve just listened to another DevOps Chat.

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DevOps Chat: The New Security Breed with Veracode’s Mark Curphey
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