Security Experts:

Testing in an Agile and DevOps World

We live in a software-defined world.  Software touches just about everything we do. Any business trying to maintain their competitive advantages, or gain market momentum, has had to reintegrate their software somehow. This has resulted in fast-paced development methods, like Agile and DevOps, which facilitate continuous product improvements. On the downside, these new methods of development can minimize testing and, in turn, potentially compromise performance and security.

To stay competitive, businesses must deliver high-quality app experiences. It is expected.  In addition, security is a must-have, not a nice-to-have.  As a result, a continuous testing approach has become essential, as dynamic as the new development processes. Fortunately, businesses are becoming increasingly aware of this growing need, and are rethinking their entire testing process.

Forcing a Test Evolution

The new pace of development poses a distinct issue for testers that have to respond as quickly as plans change with no clear road map to plan around. If the product development team is brought together for an updated timeline that is the plan until the release date is changed again. This often results in a blurred line for performance, as solutions are shipped with unknown flaws and vulnerabilities.

But even as consumer expectations have spurred quicker development times, they have also raised the question of quality. End users expect fast; they expect stable; they expect secure.  Testing early and often has slowly begun to take over the developer mindset, as the importance of ease-of-use and functionality continues to grow. There is also the matter of how new applications and devices are being used. Software is everywhere and poor development hygiene can lead to big problems, from automated manufacturing issues to theft of personal information. The complexity the new wave of technology has generated calls for more rigorous assessment cycles.

Fostering a Changing Culture

As development moves faster there needs to be a shift in the mindset across an organization and its customers. The culture that inspires faster development also needs to advocate agile testing methods.

This begins with testing models and training. Developers, testers and release managers need to buy into a continuous testing mindset. More specifically, they need to be trained in the process and tools available to them when testing in a rapid development cycle. Cross-team communication is also crucial, especially between QA engineers and developers. When this is done, code will be more stable and bugs will get resolved faster. The right tools can effectively emulate real-world scenarios, provide shared test data environments, and always be available and capable of integrating with master codebase frameworks.

When done successfully, continuous testing and training prevents bugs and performance issues from going out the door, while enabling developers to better spot problems in the future.  Identifying suspicious activity and what action to take becomes easier with enough exposure. The temptation to leverage limited-scale test environments, like internally developed attacks or crowd-sourced probes, should be avoided. It can create a false sense of security.

Ultimately, the key is to not take shortcuts in testing just to meet aggressive timelines. Iterative development does mean that problems cannot be fixed as they arise. We all have limited time and a desire to get to market faster. We also want to stretch ourselves to include one more feature in the next software release.  There needs to be a balance between adding new features and testing the existing ones. The right approach can help reduce flaws, response times and the negative effect poor performance can have on a brand. Developers, testers, and release managers have the power to increase stability and security if they test early and often throughout the process.

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Marie Hattar is chief marketing officer (CMO) at Keysight Technologies. She has more than 20 years of marketing leadership experience spanning the security, routing, switching, telecom and mobility markets. Before becoming Keysight’s CMO, Marie was CMO at Ixia and at Check Point Software Technologies. Prior to that, she was Vice President at Cisco where she led the company’s enterprise networking and security portfolio and helped drive the company’s leadership in networking. Marie also worked at Nortel Networks, Alteon WebSystems, and Shasta Networks in senior marketing and CTO positions. Marie received a master’s degree in Business Administration in Marketing from York University and a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Toronto.