The  concept of shifting left is powerful: by integrating security practices earlier in the development process, organizations can reduce both vulnerabilities and re-work, enabling teams to deliver more software faster. 

However, while the premise of shifting left is sound, execution of this ideology is often complicated. Below, we explore the six most common challenges that plague organizations adopting a shift left approach – and actionable solutions for overcoming these hurdles.

The reality of shifting left

Adopting a shift left model is imperative in today’s threat landscape. But achieving this requires more than just technical prowess — it demands an organizational culture shift.  Despite the increasing emphasis on security, many developers still fail to recognize it as a critical aspect of their role.

Common challenges in shifting left

Several factors hinder organizations from realizing the full potential of shifting left:

1. Pressure to prioritize speed over security 

Balancing the need for rapid development cycles with robust security measures can be challenging. The pressure to deliver quickly often leads to security being sidelined, resulting in vulnerabilities being introduced into the codebase.

2. Accumulated backlog of unresolved vulnerabilities

Over time, organizations accumulate a backlog of unresolved vulnerabilities in their codebase. This backlog can become overwhelming, making it difficult to prioritize and address security issues effectively, thus hindering the shift-left approach.

3. Discrepancies between managerial expectations and developer realities

Misalignment between managerial expectations for fast delivery and developers’ need for time to implement secure coding practices can create tension and hinder the successful implementation of a shift-left strategy.

4. Communication gaps between development and security teams

Ineffective communication channels between development and security teams can result in misunderstandings, delays in addressing security concerns, and ultimately, hinder the shift-left approach by impeding collaboration and timely resolution of vulnerabilities.

5. Inadequate and sporadic training

Without regular and comprehensive training initiatives, developers may lack the necessary skills and knowledge to implement secure coding practices effectively. This gap in training can undermine the shift-left approach by leaving developers ill-equipped to identify and mitigate security risks early in the development process.

Navigating beyond shifting left

To overcome these obstacles and truly empower developers, organizations must embrace a holistic approach to cybersecurity and should:

1. Assess the current state

Conducting a comprehensive assessment of the organization’s current application security posture and development practices.

2. Establish clear objectives

Defining clear and measurable objectives for enhancing cybersecurity beyond shifting left.

3. Drive cultural transformation

Initiating a cultural transformation within the organization by emphasizing the importance of security at all levels.

4. Implement continuous learning

Investing in continuous learning initiatives to equip developers with practical security skills.

5. Measure progress

Implementing metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the effectiveness of efforts in navigating beyond shifting left.

6. Iterate and adapt

Continuously iterating and adapting the approach based on feedback, insights, and emerging cybersecurity threats.

By taking these steps, organizations can effectively enhance their cybersecurity posture, empower developers, and safeguard against evolving threats. While shifting left represents a crucial step towards bolstering cybersecurity, organizations must recognize its limitations and strive for a more comprehensive approach.

To learn more about how Immersive Labs helps organizations go beyond shifting left, click here.

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June 4, 2024


Immersive Labs