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GitHub Actions + DevSecOps: Strengthening Security Through Automation

September 6, 2023
Written by
Vishnu Prasad K

DevSecOps, the fusion of Development, Security, and Operations, represents a paradigm shift in software development. Gone are the days of treating security as an afterthought. With DevSecOps, security is elevated to a core principle throughout the entire software development lifecycle (SDLC). 

But how do GitHub Actions fit into the DevSecOps puzzle? Well, it's the missing piece that seamlessly integrates security into your development pipeline. With GitHub Actions, you can effortlessly incorporate security-focused actions and checks into your workflows to ensure that security is no longer an afterthought but an integral part of your entire software development lifecycle.

Introduction to GitHub Actions to Implement DevSecOps

Think about it, no more last-minute panic about security vulnerabilities. GitHub Actions empowers you to automate security scanning, vulnerability assessments, and compliance checks as part of your continuous integration and deployment processes. That means potential security issues are identified early on, giving you the chance to address them before they turn into real headaches.

And here's the icing on the cake—GitHub Actions comes with a delightful assortment of pre-built actions and integrations with popular security tools and frameworks. Whether it's static code analysis, dependency vulnerability scanning, or container security, you have a vast array of security practices at your fingertips. Simply plug them into your workflows, and voila! Your code changes go through a series of rigorous security checks, ensuring a robust and secure application.

But wait, there's more! GitHub Actions also allows you to customize your workflows to meet your organization's unique security requirements. You can enforce code review policies, manage secrets and access controls, and perform additional security testing—all with the flexibility and ease that GitHub Actions provides.

How GitHub Actions can address security concerns in the CI/CD process

GitHub Actions offers a variety of key features that are incredibly beneficial for implementing DevSecOps and addressing security concerns in the CI/CD process. Let's check out some of these features:

Automated Security Scanning

GitHub Actions brings automation to the forefront by allowing you to automate security scanning within your CI/CD pipelines. You can effortlessly integrate various security tools and frameworks to perform static code analysis, vulnerability scanning, and compliance checks.

Say goodbye to manual security checks and hello to early detection of potential security issues!

Continuous Integration and Deployment

With GitHub Actions, you can seamlessly incorporate security checks into your continuous integration and deployment processes. By integrating security actions into your workflows, you ensure that every code change undergoes rigorous security validations.

Rest easy knowing that vulnerabilities are caught early in the game to reduce the risk of security breaches.

Pre-built Actions and Integrations

GitHub Actions spoils you with a rich ecosystem of pre-built actions and integrations with popular security tools and frameworks. Tap into this treasure trove to effortlessly incorporate security practices such as dependency vulnerability scanning, container security, secrets scanning, and more.

Save time and effort by taking advantage of the community's expertise!

Customizable Workflows

GitHub Actions understands that one size doesn't fit all. Whether it's enforcing code review policies, managing secrets, or conducting additional security testing, you have the flexibility to design workflows that match your unique needs.

You have the power to create custom workflows tailored to your organization's specific security needs.

Collaboration and Notifications

GitHub Actions fosters collaboration among developers, security teams, and operations. Set up notifications and alerts to keep all stakeholders in the loop about security checks and their outcomes. 

Collaboration becomes a breeze as everyone stays informed, ensuring that security concerns are addressed collectively.

Version-controlled Workflows

GitHub Actions seamlessly integrates with your version control system, ensuring that your workflows, including security-related actions, are version-controlled and auditable. Keep track of changes, review and roll back if needed, and maintain a historical record of your security processes. 

Rest assured that you're in control!

Community and Marketplace

GitHub Actions boasts a vibrant community and marketplace where developers and organizations share their workflows, actions, and best practices. Tap into this wellspring of knowledge to learn from others and discover valuable resources to enhance your DevSecOps implementation. 

The community has your back!

Anatomy of GitHub Actions Workflow 

At its core, a GitHub Actions workflow is a powerful sequence of steps that automate your software development processes. It guides your code from development to deployment with efficiency. Let's take a closer look at the key components that make up the anatomy of a GitHub Actions workflow:


A GitHub Actions workflow starts with a trigger, which defines the event that initiates the workflow. It could be a push to a specific branch, a pull request, or even a scheduled time. Triggers set the foundation for your automated process to ensure that actions are performed when specific events occur.


Within a workflow, you can have one or more jobs. Jobs represent units of work that can run concurrently or sequentially. They allow you to divide your workflow into logical sections, each with its own set of actions to be performed.


Each job consists of multiple steps, which are individual actions that contribute to the overall workflow. Steps can include tasks like checking out code, running tests, building artifacts, deploying applications, and more. You can have as many steps as needed to accomplish your desired tasks.


Steps are powered by actions, which are reusable units of code. Actions can be either pre-built actions from the GitHub Marketplace or custom actions that you create. They encapsulate specific operations or tasks that allow users to easily incorporate functionality into your workflow without reinventing the wheel.


GitHub Actions allows you to define the environment in which your workflow runs. You can specify the operating system, virtual machine image, or container environment required for your actions. This flexibility ensures consistency and compatibility across different stages of your development process.


Workflows can generate artifacts, which are files produced during the workflow execution. Artifacts can include compiled code, test reports, documentation, or any other relevant files. These artifacts can be stored and used in subsequent stages or made available for download that delivers valuable insights and outputs from your workflow.

Events and Workflow Triggers

GitHub Actions workflows can be triggered by various events, such as code changes, pull requests, or issue updates. You can set up specific triggers to ensure that your actions are executed at the right time. This enables you to align your workflow with your development process and automate tasks based on specific events.

Setting Up GitHub Actions for SAST with NodeJsScan

Automating SAST with NodeJsScan not only enhances your DevSecOps practices but also gives you peace of mind knowing that your code is being thoroughly examined for security risks. 

GitHub Actions provides seamless integration with various security tools, and NodeJsScan is no exception. By incorporating NodeJsScan into your GitHub Actions workflow, you can automate the scanning of your Node.js applications for potential security vulnerabilities. Here's how you can set it up:

  1. Workflow Configuration. Start by creating a new workflow file in your GitHub repository. You can name it something like sast.yml. This file will define the steps and actions required for your SAST workflow.
  2. Trigger the Workflow. Define the trigger for your workflow. It could be a push to a specific branch, a pull request, or any other event that suits your development process. Specify this trigger in the on section of your workflow configuration using YAML syntax.
  3. Jobs and Steps. Define the job and steps within your workflow. You can create a single job or multiple jobs depending on your requirements. Each job represents a unit of work within your workflow
  4. Setting up NodeJsScan Action. Incorporate the NodeJsScan action into your workflow. You can use a pre-built action from the GitHub Marketplace or create a custom action using the NodeJsScan tool. If you choose a pre-built action, specify its name and any required inputs in the uses section of the action step.
  5. Configuring NodeJsScan. Configure NodeJsScan to scan your Node.js application. You can define the entry point of your application, specify any additional options, and provide the necessary input files or directories. These configurations can be specified in the with section of the NodeJsScan action step.
  6. Environment and Dependencies. Ensure that your workflow has the appropriate Node.js environment and any necessary dependencies installed. You can specify the Node.js version and any required packages in the runs-on and steps sections of your workflow.
  7. Workflow Artifacts and Notifications: Consider capturing and storing the scan results as artifacts, allowing you to access and review them later. You can define the artifacts in the upload-artifact step, specifying the files or directories to be preserved. Additionally, you can set up notifications or alerts to keep relevant team members informed about the scan results.

GitHub Actions and AppSecEngineer for Secure DevOps

Numerous companies across different industries have leveraged the power of GitHub Actions to bolster their DevSecOps practices. It provides a flexible and customizable framework for automating software development workflows.

On the other hand, appropriate security training plays a critical role in maximizing the benefits of DevSecOps. It equips developers and teams with the knowledge and skills necessary to implement secure coding practices, effectively use security tools, and understand potential risks. 

AppSecEngineer delivers a comprehensive repository of security learning resources in an all-in-one platform. From DevSecOps and Offensive Security to Container Security and Threat Modeling, your team members can access training materials, courses, and practical exercises to enhance their application security expertise.

It doesn't end there! AppSecEngineer integrated over 1000 hands-on labs and Challenges to our courses to put your skill to the test. 

Don't wait any longer to embark on your application security journey, showcase your dedication to secure development practices and stand out in the industry with the help of AppSecEngineer.

Check out our plans here.

Source for article
Vishnu Prasad K

Vishnu Prasad K

Vishnu Prasad is a DevSecOps Lead at we45. A DevSecOps and Security Automation wizard, he has implemented security in DevOps for numerous Fortune 500 companies. Vishnu has experience in Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery across various verticals, using tools like Jenkins, Selenium, Docker, and other DevOps tools. His role sees him automating SAST, DAST, and SCA security tools at every phase of the build pipeline. He commands knowledge of every major security tool out there, including ZAP, Burp, Findsecbugs, and npm audit, among many others. He's a tireless innovator, having Dockerized his entire security automation process for cross-platform support to build pipelines seamlessly. When AFK, he is either pouring over Investment journals or in the swimming pool.

Vishnu Prasad K


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