How Continuous Integration works

Continuous integration is the process of - as the name suggests - continually merging all parts of code changed by developers. The main purpose of CI is to achieve better productivity and code integrity by using a shared code repository which is automatically built and tested by a CI service after code is pushed or committed to the repository. Better productivity means that nobody has to watch the builds and everyone saves time for more important things. Hence, if you are developing an application with a team, it is recommended to use CI.

When using CI, a build can be triggered on various actions. For example, a git push or git merge command, as well as a git commit of a developer or a team leader, can be configured as a trigger. Regardless of how the trigger for the build on the CI service is defined, the application is built by the service and additional tests can be performed. As a result, an overall build status can be determined that notifies about whether the build was successful or terminated with failures. Further, post-build actions can be configured accordingly. A code analysis tool can be added in order to watch over the source code’s security for each build.

The Benefits of adding Security Checks to CI

Application security is a crucial part of the modern development process in order to protect company assets and customer data. With the help of static application security testing (SAST) software, code can be automatically assessed for security issues without deploying and running the code. Depending on the performance of the SAST tool, this can save valuable time.

As reported by the Systems Sciences Institute, the relative costs of a software’s defects (Fig. 1) become more expensive the later the issues are detected. For example, if an issue generates costs worth of $100 or 1 working hour in the earliest stage of development, the costs of the same issue can rise up to $10,000 or 100 working hours in the latest stage. Ideally, security testing of source code is added as an integral part of the development process from the start in order to minimize these expenses.

Fig. 1: Relative costs to fix software defects in different development stages.
Source: IBM Systems Sciences Institute

Continuous Integration and RIPS

With RIPS’ unique analysis performance that only lasts a few minutes instead of hours or days, it is possible to detect and fix security issues as fast as possible and to spend saved time on valuable development tasks. Furthermore, RIPS is able to provide real-time analysis results such that detected security vulnerabilities can be addressed directly without waiting for the analysis to complete.

But how can the powerful security analysis of RIPS be integrated into your CI process? The answer is simple. With the help of a CI plugin, e.g. for Jenkins, an automated security rescan with RIPS can be set up in your CI tool. The plugin is integrated into the environment and able to analyze the repositories you are already using. As a result, vulnerability statistics and trends are directly displayed in your Jenkins interface without any change in your current work flow. The security state of your code repository is observed and it becomes easier to track and remediate security issues. Our plugin is also able to alarm you via email in case severe issues of a certain threshold are detected.

Fig. 2: Integration of security analysis with RIPS into Jenkins.

Figure 2 shows an example of the project view in Jenkins. In the center, the success or failure state of the latest build is shown. The state bases on your personal configuration. For example, the build status can be set to failure whenever a security issue is detected whose severity is higher than medium. On the right, statistics about the severity of the detected issues in the latest scan are given, as well as an overall vulnerability trend of the development to track your progress. In order to investigate the detected issues, the detailed report button jumps directly into the RIPS analysis interface.

The following video demonstrates how a repository is updated with secure and with vulnerable code via git commits. After each code change, a code analysis with RIPS is triggered by Jenkins that alarms about possible vulnerabilities.

Summary

Software development must be kept efficient, easy, and manageable. However, the challenge of writing secure software is often hardly compatible with these goals. By integrating a powerful code analysis tool into the existing CI process, security issues can be automatically detected in the background and warn about the application’s risk state. The earlier the security issues are detected in the development process, the easier and cost efficient they can be resolved.

In this post, we introduced the integration of RIPS into the popular CI tool Jenkins. We illustrated how an in-depth security analysis with RIPS can be executed automatically for each build and how RIPS can significantly boost and ease your secure development. By using our extensive API, RIPS can be integrated into any other CI tool or analysis environment as well.