Security and the Twelve-Factor App - Step 5
A blog series by WhiteHat Security
October 29, 2018

Eric Sheridan
WhiteHat Security

The previous chapter in this WhiteHat Security series examined the security component of step four of the Twelve-Factor methodology - backing services. Twelve-Factor suggests treating these as attached resources, but from a security standpoint it's important to understand the security posture of the backing service, as well as proactively securing communications and encapsulating security checks within the Resource abstraction.

Start with Security and the Twelve-Factor App - Step 1

Start with Security and the Twelve-Factor App - Step 2

Start with Security and the Twelve-Factor App - Step 3

Start with Security and the Twelve-Factor App - Step 4

This next chapter highlights the build, release and run stages within the app-building process, which step 5 recommends separating.

Defining Build, Release, Run in the Twelve-Factor App

Factor 5 of the Twelve-Factor App relates more to processes and advises strictly separating the build and run stages. The emphasis is on identifying and separating each stage of app development, and encouraging automation between each so as to accelerate the process.

To explain in more detail, a codebase is transformed into a (non-development) deploy through three stages:

■ The build stage is a transform which converts a code repository into an executable bundle known as a build. Using a version of the code at a commit specified by the deployment process, the build stage fetches vendors dependencies and compiles binaries and assets.

■ The release stage takes the build produced by the build stage and combines it with the deploy's current configuration. The resulting release contains both the build and the configuration and is ready for immediate execution in the execution environment.

■ The run stage (also known as “runtime”) runs the app in the execution environment, by launching some set of the app's processes against a selected release.

The twelve-factor app uses strict separation between the build, release, and run stages.

Applying Security to the Build, Release, Run Stages

From a security point of view, keep in mind these key activities during the build, release and run stages:

Build - enforce security policy. The Build Stage is responsible for automating enforce of the security policy, and breaking builds that fail the said policy.

Release - security go/no-go. The Release Stage should provide a consolidated view of the application's risk, thereby allowing for a "go/no-go" decision with respect to Release.

Run - production protection. The Run Stage should provide capabilities to reduce business impact of exploited vulnerability (whether known or unknown).

In the next blog we will talk about Step 6 - Processes, which encourages executing the app as one or more stateless processes by using small programs that communicate over the network, and the security implications of this step.

Eric Sheridan is Chief Scientist at WhiteHat Security

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