5 Common Mistakes in DevOps Security and How to Avoid Them

In DevOps, the rush to deploy code quickly and efficiently can cause security concerns to be relegated to the bottom of the list of priorities. This oversight can lead to serious vulnerabilities that expose your systems and data to various threats.

To avoid such a scenario playing out in your projects, keep reading to find out about pertinent problems and actionable solutions that apply here.

Improper Container Image Handling


In DevOps, the use of container images is widespread due to their efficiency and portability. However, improper handling of these images can introduce significant security vulnerabilities.

Often, teams rely on unverified sources for container images. This approach can lead to the inclusion of outdated libraries or even malicious code within the containers.

Moreover, neglecting regular updates exacerbates this issue since outdated components might have known exploits, and so is equally crucial to understanding threats to container security in DevOps.


To mitigate risks associated with improper container image handling, always use verified and trusted sources for your base images. In addition:

  • Regularly update your container images to incorporate the latest security patches and improvements.
  • Implement automated tools that scan your containers for vulnerabilities during both build and runtime phases (ShiftLeft security practices are particularly effective here).
  • Enforce stringent access controls to restrict who can push or pull from your image repository.

5 Common Mistakes in DevOps Security and How to Avoid Them

Image Source: Microsoft Copilot

Lack of Runtime Monitoring


Runtime monitoring often gets overlooked in the DevOps pipeline, despite its critical role in security. Many teams concentrate on securing code during development but fail to extend those practices into the operational phase.

Without runtime monitoring, it becomes challenging to detect and respond to anomalies or attacks in real-time. This gap allows attackers more time within your system, potentially leading to greater damage. Since cybercrime already costs $8.4 trillion annually, it’s a given that attacks will be attempted, no matter the scale of your project or operations.


Implement comprehensive runtime monitoring solutions that provide continuous oversight of your systems.

To do this:

  • Utilize tools like Prometheus for metric collection or Falco for real-time threat detection within containers.
  • Ensure these tools integrate seamlessly with your existing CI/CD pipelines so they can alert you instantly when deviations occur (such as unexpected network activity).
  • Establish a clear incident response plan that outlines steps for containment and remediation.

Inadequate Regulatory Compliance Problem

Regulatory compliance is a critical aspect of DevOps, yet many organizations overlook or underestimate its importance.

Failing to adhere to industry regulations such as GDPR, HIPAA, or PCI-DSS can result in hefty fines and legal ramifications – with GDPR fines alone topping $1.2 billion for single cases of non-compliance.

This oversight often stems from a lack of clear understanding of the regulatory landscape or inadequate integration of compliance checks within the DevOps pipeline.


To ensure adherence to regulatory standards, embed compliance requirements directly into your development and deployment processes. Here’s how:

  • Use tools like OpenSCAP for security automation and configuration assessment.
  • Regularly conduct audits using frameworks tailored to your industry’s regulations (NIST for government projects, SOC 2 for SaaS companies).
  • Head up a culture where developers understand and prioritize compliance from the outset.

Insufficient Access Controls


Access control mismanagement is a common yet critical security flaw in DevOps environments. Allowing overly permissive access can expose sensitive data and systems to unauthorized users.

This often happens when teams prioritize convenience over security, using shared credentials or failing to implement least privilege principles. Such practices leave the door wide open for potential internal and external threats.


Adopt robust identity and access management (IAM) solutions that enforce strict access controls across your DevOps pipeline. Here’s how:

  • Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) to add an extra layer of security for accessing critical systems.
  • Utilize role-based access control (RBAC) to ensure that individuals only have the permissions necessary for their specific tasks.
  • Regularly review and audit permissions to remove outdated or unnecessary accesses promptly.
  • Consider using penetration testing to ensure that any protective measures you do take are up to scratch in real-world breach attempt scenarios.

Neglecting Secrets Management


Secrets management involves handling sensitive information such as API keys, passwords, and certificates. In many DevOps environments, secrets are often hard-coded into source code or stored in unsecured locations like plain text files.

This approach leaves critical credentials exposed to unauthorized access and potential misuse. Even worse, secrets scattered across various systems can be difficult to track and rotate efficiently.


There are a number of approaches that will work for fixing the issues you face when it comes to secret management:

  • Utilize dedicated secrets management tools like HashiCorp Vault or AWS Secrets Manager to securely store and manage sensitive information.
  • Integrate these tools within your CI/CD pipeline to automate the injection of secrets at runtime rather than embedding them directly in your codebase.
  • Regularly audit your secret storage practices and implement automatic rotation policies for keys and credentials.

Final Thoughts

There’s no question that the number of security mistakes facing DevOps professionals is substantial, but these five common conundrums are certainly not insurmountable, as we’ve shown. It’s down to you to get out there and use what you’ve learned to your advantage.