19 Sep 2017

OpenAPI and Transparent Process

At LaunchDarkly, we’ve put a bunch of time into making our console fast and usable, and we’re pretty proud of it.

However, we’re aware there are lots of reasons people would want to use an API to create and manage feature flags. Since we are using our API to drive the dashboard, it’s easy for us to keep everything in sync if we make changes to the API. And we wanted to make it easy for our customers to do the same.

We started out with ReadMe, which is an excellent industry standard. That let us get our documents published and dynamic. For further refinements, we went to Swagger/OpenAPI. We liked it because:

  • It’s a well-known and widely-used format
  • It allows us to generate usable code snippets and examples in many languages automatically
  • It’s easy to add context and documentation to as we go.
  • We can host it on readme.io or other places, depending on our traffic needs.

We created our REST specification using OpenAPI, and you can find our documents here: LaunchDarkly OpenAPI.

We’re still working on adding examples, descriptions, and context, but we think that the documentation is stronger and more usable already.

As always, if you have any comments, you can contact us here, or make comments directly in the repository.

21 Aug 2017

How to Comply

Everyone loves a little affirmation (Image credit: twitter)

Things we wish we had known and things we were happy that we implemented early. 

At LaunchDarkly we recently embarked on the journey to SOC Type 2 compliance. While the reasons we chose to pursue this certification were primarily business driven, the tasks and actions incorporated into the process most directly impacted our engineering operations and development teams. And due to the experience and philosophy of the founding engineering team, the actually impact of the process was minimal.

Once deciding to sally forth on SOC certification (or any security and compliance certification for that matter) you will be in a much better position if you view the criteria of the certification as a benefit (or imperative) of good business practices. If you are in search of the certification primarily as a way to sell into certain customers or verticals, you will likely be frustrated with this entire process. Security is like diversity—you need to inherently believe in the value to be successful in implementations and outcome.

“So, what are these criteria you speak of?”

Need vs. want

The principle of least privilege is a well-known concept where you only provide access to the people that actually need it. This also extends to the level of access that is given. Ultimately this distills to: view vs control. I like to start here because this is a forcing function for so many of the other criteria. When you are thinking about who should have access to each system/service, you are inclined to:

  • Define roles
  • Log activity based on user/account
  • Build review process for accounts

On-boarding each new employee gives you an opportunity to review the tools you use to run your business, question who needs access, and to what extent.

This is also a great time to introduce new employees to another key security maxim: Trust, but verify. This concept is relevant in the context of the access that accounts or component services assert are needed, as well as the way that you validate user accounts.

For services—either 3rd party or just components of a larger service—you should know what information is being stored, and where. Ideally, you are being thoughtful of the first principle of least privilege.

This is especially true of customer data. The easiest way to protect data is to limit what you collect. Second is to make sure that you are being intentional and explicit with where you store the data. Finally, you need to look at the access policy that you put around that data.

For user accounts, multi-factor authentication (MFA) or two factor authentication (2FA) significantly increases your ability to validate that accounts are only being accessed by account owners.

Another time to plan for is employee off-boarding—ideally, before you off-board your first employee. This is also a good time to review your tools and access privileges.

Context; not blame

When a single developer is working on building a service, logs are primarily useful for understanding how well things are working (or where they broke). As the number of individuals working on the system becomes larger, the ability to know who changes what becomes increasingly important.

One caveat is that as you incorporate the ability to know who, you leverage this data to build context around why things changed, rather than simply using it as a means to place blame. If one person can bring down your service, then you probably should direct blame at the architect of the system. (Unless that destructive individual and the architect are the same person ¯\_(ツ)_/¯).

“A log without account context is like a novel without characters.”

A log without account context is like a novel without characters. You can build a picture of what happened, but likely will miss why things happened. If you don’t know why, you’re unlikely to prevent it from happening again.

Built for toddlers… or failure

Failure is trivial compared to proactive destruction (image credit: Lego City)

The stability of a service is often a strong indicator of the inherent security. After all, the most common exploitations are based on overloading some resource. Thinking further about the elimination of blame from building a secure and stable service, failures should be viewed as opportunities for increased robustness. This is where building for toddlers comes in.

Toddlers are the ultimate destroyers. It is the developmental stage where everyone starts to experimentally test the laws of physics. Gravity, entropy, projectile motion, harmonic oscillation—they’re all put through a battery of tests.

Ideally, you are thinking about your service from the perspective of a parent (or guardian) that is toddler-proofing their home. Bolt things down, put breakable things out of reach, lock up the flamethrower, and embrace the fact that you will miss things. For the items you miss, have an emergency procedure in place and appropriate medical supplies on hand.

Back in the context of your service…

Write it down… or it never happened

Your code/feature is not ‘done’ until the docs are written or updated. Services require constant supervision and are never ‘done’. But if a developer builds or changes something and doesn’t write it down, then they effectively become the only individual that is able to monitor or operate the entire service (at least with all the context).

So, what should you write down? “Everything,” is the easy answer, but often not the complete one. You want to write down enough to provide context if any component starts doing something unexpected.

If you don’t know where to start, a good approach is to write down what would need to happen if your service was deleted. How would you rebuild and restart your service? How would you restore your data?

Next you can look at the impact/process of the loss of each individual component service. The important part of this is to incorporate the documentation into the development process to ensure that as your service evolves your documentation is always up to date—otherwise, the change doesn’t exist after a failure.

Great, now you know what to do next time AWS S3 needs to reboot. But, what about your customers? The next step is to write down an action plan for service interruption. Make sure you have a process and plan in place for keeping folks in the loop.

Security is not the french fries

If you are in a situation where you are looking to “add” security, you are likely going to be in good company with Sisyphus. Security needs to be a part of your foundation—it is not an “add-on”. But if you are realizing this is now—that security is a requirement for your business— you can do more than wish you had considered it sooner. It is not too late, but it is not a quick fix that you can solve with a certification.

First you need to implement the security in your foundation and process. Make sure that it is part of your culture. Once you have a culture of security and process, compliance is just providing proof of your culture.

Now… about that certificate

You don’t show up to your official Genius Book of World Records judging day having never practiced juggling 9 clubs. Same goes for when you decide to get your certification for SOC.

However, when you build a strong foundation and culture for security and compliance, then the steps to get certification are rather straightforward. You call up your friendly neighborhood SOC auditor and get a copy of their check list.

In the case of LaunchDarkly we worked with the fine folks at A-lign. After an initial conversation we retained their services to conduct an independent audit of our systems and practices.

A few months prior to the audit, A-Lign provided our team with a checklist of all the documentation and proof they would need to see when they came onsite for our assessment. This afforded us the opportunity to ensure that all of our practices were organized and in a state that could be easily evaluated.

When the time came for the audit the auditor spent three days* on-site interviewing members of the team and reviewing our practices. After the on-site visit, we were informed that we had passed the initial competence certification.

Of course, now that we have gone through the validation process for one certification, it seems like a good time to keep going for a few more. Many of the certifications have a significant overlap in requirements. They are all looking to establish trust and ensure the service provider is operating in the best interest of the customer. And it turns out, most customers define trust in a very similar way.

16 Aug 2017

Week 1: How to Put Your SOC On

Enter Your Password

What does a new engineer do during their first week at a SOC 2 Compliant startup? Write code? Maybe. Deploy code? Hopefully. Create accounts? Certainly.  Generate passwords? Ad nauseam.

After creating my task tracking and document sharing accounts, half the items I saw on my TODO lists were about creating accounts on more services. Also on my calendar was to attend training for one of LaunchDarkly’s newest initiatives: SOC 2 Compliance.

At LaunchDarkly, we maintain mission critical services for our customers (feature flags!). And for those who opt for premium services, we also store sensitive data about their clients as part of our analytics features. It is essential to our business that we protect not only access to control over customer application behavior, but to all client data we store on behalf of our customers.

After our security training, each member of my incoming class made a commitment to:

  • Create a unique password for every service. Use a password generator and a password manager!
  • Enable 2-factor authentication for every service that offers it.
  • Avoid sharing passwords and accounts with team members to keep a precise audit trail.
  • Restrict browser plugins to the minimum necessary to do your job. Those plugins can read your data.
  • Secure your laptop with FileVault and lock screens.
  • Limit connected applications with access to Gmail, GitHub and other accounts.
  • Secure customer data. (Obfuscated links don’t cut it!)

These are all great practices even if your business doesn’t need SOC 2 certification. Now to deploy some code (if I can just remember where I’ve written down my SSH key…).

25 Jul 2017

Launched: LaunchDarkly SOC 2 Certification

Providing an always-on, highly secure feature management service is core to the LaunchDarkly platform. From the beginning we have designed and built our infrastructure and practices with security and availability as a priority.

Today, we are announcing the next level of this commitment to Enterprise readiness and stability and are pleased to have achieved SOC 2 Type 1 certification.

Here are a few examples of what you can read about in the report:

  • LaunchDarkly security policies
  • LaunchDarkly logical and physical access controls
  • LaunchDarkly change management process
  • LaunchDarkly data backup and disaster recovery strategies
  • LaunchDarkly system monitoring, alerts and alarms

Protecting the data and privacy of our customers is a non negotiable aspect of what we do. Our SOC 2 certification provides you with an additional assurance that we have all the right controls in place to protect your data and ensure the availability of our service and your features.

To request a copy of LaunchDarkly SOC 2 report, please email trust@launchdarkly.com.

 

 

 

 

 

25 May 2017

Launched: Single sign-on

Spend some time at a software shop, and you’ll inevitably collect a pile of accounts for services, internal and external. Since you value security, each of your passwords are long and unique and safeguarded in a password manager. You imagine a world where you don’t need to manage passwords for each and every service you use.

That’s why we are excited to announce support for single sign-on via the industry-standard Security Assertion Markup Language 2.0 (SAML 2.0). Knowing that SAML integrations can be cumbersome and complicated, we refined the administrator experience to be simple and clear. We built a test-drive mode so administrators can verify their SAML configuration end-to-end before enabling single sign-on in LaunchDarkly for the entire team.

Our single sign-on implementation is accompanied by a couple other benefits. With LaunchDarkly’s just-in-time user provisioning, administrators can onboard new employees from their identity provider without having to also create accounts for them in LaunchDarkly. Simply grant the new employee access to LaunchDarkly via your identity provider. Then LaunchDarkly will automatically create a new account when the member visits LaunchDarkly for the first time. Additionally, any changes to the member’s profile or assigned roles will be propagated from your identity provider as soon as the member signs into LaunchDarkly.

We currently support Okta and OneLogin, with support for additional identity providers on the way.

Single sign-on is available to customers on our enterprise plans. If you’re interested in learning more about our enterprise plans, contact sales@launchdarkly.com.

Behind the curtain

Alexis and I collaborated on the single sign-on feature. The very first step we took was creating a feature flag for SSO in LaunchDarkly. With our feature flag seatbelt on, we didn’t need to maintain a long-running branch for the feature, which meant we thankfully didn’t have to suffer from massive merge conflicts. Every optional change that could be hidden behind that feature flag could be released incrementally and without extensive manual QA review.

When we demonstrated the feature in progress to a customer, we didn’t need to use a staging system; we could demo on production because the feature was hidden behind a feature flag. When we were ready for the feature to be beta-tested, it was very easy to enable it for one customer and then another. The SSO feature flag remains today, and now our sales team uses the flag to enable the feature for their customers.

03 Mar 2017

Launched: Feature Flag Variation Editing

LaunchDarkly Feature Flag Variation Editor

Feature flags are powerful when serving variations like true and false. However, they are even more powerful when you can serve variations that are strings, numbers, JSON objects, and JSON arrays — which we call multivariate feature flags.

Previously, we allowed you to create multivariate feature flags with defined variations, but we did not let you add, edit, or delete variations once they were created. Now, you can!

With support for edit variations, you can now edit feature flags after they are created.

You can now:

  • Manage pricing in an e-commerce app by serving number variations
  • Dynamically control configuration values
  • Serve hex values to control CSS styles
  • Sunset variations that are no longer necessary

Editing Variations

When you navigate to any feature flag, you will notice a new Variations tab. This is where you will be able to edit your flag’s variations.

For boolean flags, you can edit a variation’s name and description, but not the value. This is because boolean flags can only serve true and false values.

LaunchDarkly Feature Flag Variation Editor

For multivariate flags, you can now add, edit, and delete variations even after the flag is created. Moreover, you can edit any variation’s value, name, and description. Keep in mind that you cannot change the “type” of variation being served after the flag is created.

LaunchDarkly feature flag variation editor

When you add, edit, or delete a variation for a multivariate flag, the change will apply to all environments within that project. For example, if you have a feature flag called “Checkout Flow” with 4 variations: A, B, C, D and you deleted variation D, then every environment will only have 3 variations (A, B, C) for the “Checkout Flow” feature flag.

We’re excited to deliver this new feature to you and would love to hear your feedback at support@launchdarkly.com.  You can reference our docs for more info.