Jun 26, 2024
4 min read

5 Secrets Management Best Practices for New Developers

5 Secrets Management Best Practices for New Developers
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Secrets management platforms are among the primary tools developers use to maintain secure development environments and prevent a wide array of damages, such as exposure to proprietary information, damage to trust and reputation, fines, lawsuits, or certification loss. Secrets management platforms protect company ‘secrets’—things like credentials, API keys, tokens, passwords, and digital certificates.

As platforms and their development teams expand and continue to increase their third-party application integrations, gaps in existing platform infrastructure and security practices emerge. These gaps allow malicious agents to exploit unprepared platforms and cause costly data breaches.

In this article, we’ll cover five secrets management best practices to help you build more secure software.

5 Secrets Management Best Practices to Get Started

Centralized Secrets Storage

As development environments grow, so too do their associated secrets sprawl. The disorganization of scattered secrets exposes platforms to vulnerabilities and can lead to platform outages when teams are unaware secrets are being used in multiple places. These outages waste time and resources and frustrate developers.

There are also security risks associated with secrets sprawl centering around mitigating damage in the event of an outage or a data breach. Response time, including identifying, tracking down, and eliminating compromised credentials, is further impaired by sprawl, increasing the cost to recover platforms.

Secrets Managers allow teams to customize and secure their access to secrets in a centralized location. This ensures access is monitored and secure and allows for rapid response during an outage or data breach.

Least Privilege Access Control

Role-based access control (RBAC) is the practice of restricting access to secrets based on developer roles and needs, which acts as a preventative security measure in two primary ways.

First, intentional access to appropriate secrets prevents developers from reusing secrets from other projects, further mitigating the spread of secrets sprawl and its associated vulnerabilities.

Next, RBAC restricts the possible damages in the event of a breach. Suppose a malicious agent gains access to part of the platform through compromised secrets. In that case, RBAC limits the damage they can inflict elsewhere since access to other sections of the platform is restricted.

The increased secrets organization granted by RBAC also decreases breach or outage response time, as developers and security teams can quickly identify and rectify the compromised role.

Automated Secrets Rotation

Static secrets increase the attack surface for hackers and other malicious agents. The longer a secret remains in use in a platform, the longer it may be exposed to a malicious agent and the longer it may remain compromised before detection and elimination.

Automated Secrets Rotation mitigates these risks by rotating credentials seamlessly and without development downtime. By automatically rotating secrets, compromised credentials are eliminated from the system regardless of whether they are detected or used by malicious agents, minimizing your platform’s attack surface.

Secure Development Workflows

Practices like storing credentials or other secrets on text files or emails or embedding secrets directly into a platform’s source code might make access convenient. Still, they significantly increase the platform's attack surface. Hard-coded secrets cannot be easily rotated or managed.

If a malicious agent gains access to your code, they have access to any section of the platform that the hard-coded secrets grant. The increased challenge of altering hard-coded secrets further increases data breach response time.

Continuous Monitoring and Auditing

Beyond preventative security measures like RBAC, automatic secret rotation, and avoiding hard-coded secrets, monitoring and auditing tools allow for retroactive inspection of secret use and access. This window allows a security management team to identify unauthorized access to secret storage and rotation and track damages incurred by compromised credentials.

Why You Need a Secrets Manager

Secrets management solutions are essential to platform security in the development lifecycle and its published stage. As platforms grow more complex, utilize more third-party integrations, and expand their development teams or break into new markets, the risk of detrimental data breaches only increases. Adopting best practices for secrets management helps prevent breaches.

Book a demo and see for yourself how Doppler can help you build more secure software.

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