Introducing Salus: How Coinbase scales security automation

DevSecCon London 2018 speaker
19 Oct 2018
15:20 - 16:00

Introducing Salus: How Coinbase scales security automation

Coinbase is a company that empowers its developers to deploy fresh code to production just minutes after writing it yet there are has massive security requirements. Cryptocurrency companies are constantly being attacked, and Coinbase, which stores billions of dollars of irreversible cryptocurrency, is one of the biggest bounties on the internet. One of the pillars that allows us to maintain security in a CICD engineering organization is automated security scanning. Such scanners are often configured on a per-repository bases and may look for CVEs in dependencies or common anti-patterns that lead to vulnerabilities. In order for the Coinbase security team keep up with our ever growing product space, we built a tool that helps us centrally orchestrate our scanning pipeline on every project simultaneously. This tool is called Salus and is now being released free and open source.

It is not necessarily easy to integrate security scanners en masse. A security team will start by finding relevant scanners and then inserting them into a project’s test suite. At first, when Coinbase had just a few projects, custom configuration for each repository worked fine. Each time the security team wanted to use a new scanner, update scanner configuration or roll out new policies, we updated each repository. As Coinbase scaled and became more polyglot, the time it took to maintain our security scanners rose dramatically until it was untenable to maintain strong scanning on every repository. As David Wheeler said, “All problems in computer science can be solved by another level of indirection.” Salus is our level of indirection to solve this problem. It is a docker container equipped with security scanners for many commonly used languages and frameworks as well a small ruby application used to coordinate the scanners. A developer can now add the Salus scanner to their test suite and on each build, it will pull down the latest Salus container, volume in their source code and execute the relevant scanners. We ensure that Salus results are immediately communicated to the developer and metrics about each project are communicated to the logging pipeline. Salus became a single place for the security team to make changes to the scanning pipeline that would be instantly applied org wide. Metrics aggregation also allowed for immediate insight into possible dangers as new vulnerabilities are discovered or to keep a pulse on the aggregate security posture of the company. Today, Ruby, Node, Python, Go, Shell and arbitrary pattern searches are represented in Salus and this will expand in the future as the project evolves. This talk aims to explain how an engineering team can start using Salus to enable them to stay safe with as little friction and effort as possible.

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