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The Importance of Dev Environment Security

Kenneth Fisher shares an opinion:

I was asked a rather interesting question during an interview recently. It went something like this:

Your resume says you’ve implemented security standards. What do you do if a development team comes to you and says “We have to have a SQL Server Id in production (or other restricted permission) because that’s the way we tested it and we are going into production now.”?

And in general my response is “You give it to them. It’s too late to stop them at that point.”

Kenneth goes on to elaborate.

I prefer a compromise solution, which requires more than 2 environments. Dev is a sandbox. Developers don’t know what they need and generally need more space to work than the final product itself will need. A wide-open dev environment is something I don’t mind. In some organizations, a local dev environment may be sufficient for this task—that is, SQL Server (or whatever) installed on the developer’s personal machine or brought in via Docker container.

However, there must be at least one pre-production environment in which developers have prod-level rights. Ideally, it would not be the last step of integration prior to prod but instead something like a QA environment which is part of a CI/CD process.

I should also point out that module signing helps with this problem: stored procedures may contain rights that devs shouldn’t have but are necessary to the way an application functions. Access to execute those stored procedures is something the DBA team can control and put some limits around, so in Kenneth’s example, truncation could be handled via stored procedure. That procedure handles the truncation operation and opens the door to further checks, such as a list (or table) of tables which the app is allowed to truncate, logging of operations, etc.