SEC540: Cloud Security and DevSecOps Automation

GIAC Cloud Security Automation (GCSA)
GIAC Cloud Security Automation (GCSA)
  • In Person (5 days)
  • Online
38 CPEs

Organizations are moving to the cloud to enable digital transformation and reap the benefits of cloud computing. However, security teams struggle to understand the DevOps toolchain and how to introduce security controls in their automated pipelines responsible for delivering changes to cloud-based systems. Without effective pipeline security controls, security teams lose visibility into the changes released into production environments. SEC540 provides security professionals with a methodology to secure modern Cloud and DevOps environments. By embracing the DevOps culture, students will walk away from SEC540 battle-tested and ready to build to their organization's Cloud & DevSecOps Security Program. 35 Unique, Immersive, Hands-On Labs 3 CI/CD security labs 16 AWS focused labs 16 Azure focused labs CloudWars Bonus Challenges

What You Will Learn

The Cloud Moves Fast. Automate to Keep Up.

Common security challenges for organizations struggling with the DevOps culture include issues such as:

  • Upfront peer code reviews and security approvals may not occur for change approval and audit requirements
  • Missing infrastructure and application scanning can allow attackers to find an entry point and compromise the system
  • Cloud security misconfigurations may publicly expose sensitive data or introduce new data exfiltration paths

Security teams can help organizations prevent these issues such as using DevOps tooling and cloud-first best practices. This course provides development, operations, and security professionals with a deep understanding of and hands-on experience with the DevOps methodology used to build and deliver cloud infrastructure and software. Students learn how to attack and then harden the entire DevOps workflow, from version control to continuous integration and running cloud workloads. Each step of the way, students explore the security controls, configuration, and tools required to improve the reliability, integrity, and security of on-premise and cloud-hosted systems. Students learn how to implement more than 20 DevSecOps security controls to build, test, deploy, and monitor cloud infrastructure and services.

"BEST class I have ever taken at SANS. This is one of those courses where I can log into work after class ends and immediately start applying into my daily tasks and responsibilities. I already went on my team's Slack channel and told them this needs to be the next class they take." - Brian Esperanza, Teradata

"Every single person I've sent to class has loved it. It's been transformational for them because it goes beyond security concepts and teaches how modern operations and DevOps works. It's also impactful sending developers (who are not working in cloud yet) because they want to develop in cloud and get into concepts like Infrastructure as Code." - Brett Cumming


  • Build a security team that understands modern cloud security and DevSecOps practices
  • Partner with DevOps and engineering teams to inject security into automated pipelines
  • Leverage cloud services and automation to improve security capabilities
  • Ensure your organization is ready for cloud migration and digital transformation initiatives


  • Understand how DevOps works and identify keys to success
  • Wire security scanning into automated CI/CD pipelines and workflows
  • Build continuous monitoring feedback loops from production to engineering
  • Automate configuration management using Infrastructure as Code (IaC)
  • Secure container technologies (such as Docker and Kubernetes)
  • Use native cloud security services and third-party tools to secure systems and applications
  • Securely manage secrets for Continuous Integration servers and applications
  • Integrate cloud logging and metrics
  • Perform continuous compliance and security policy scanning


SEC540 goes well beyond traditional lectures and immerses students in hands-on application of techniques during each section of the course. Each lab includes a step-by-step guide to learning and applying hands-on techniques, as well as a "no hints" approach for students who want to stretch their skills and see how far they can get without following the guide. This allows students, regardless of background, to choose the level of difficulty they feel is best suited for them -always with a frustration-free fallback path. Immersive hand-on labs ensure that students not only understand theory, but how to configure and implement each security control.

The SEC540 lab environment simulates a real-world DevOps environment, with more than 10 automated pipelines responsible for building DevOps container images, cloud infrastructure, automating gold image creation, orchestrating containerized workloads, executing security scanning, and enforcing compliance standards. Students are challenged to sharpen their technical skills and automate more than 20 security-focused challenges using a variety of command line tools, programming languages, and markup templates.

The SEC540 course labs come in both AWS and Azure versions. Students will choose one cloud provider at the beginning of class to use for the duration of the course. Students are welcome to do labs for both cloud providers on their own time once they finish the first set of labs.

For advanced students, 2 hours of CloudWars Bonus Challenges are available during extended hours each day. These CloudWars challenges provide additional opportunities for hands-on experience with the cloud and DevOps toolchain.

Section 1: Attacking the DevOps Toolchain, Version Control Security, Automating Static Analysis, Protecting Secrets with Vault, CloudWars (Section 1): Cloud & DevOps Security Bonus Challenges

Section 2: Infrastructure as Code Network Hardening, Gold Image Creation, Container Security Hardening, Automating Dynamic Analysis, CloudWars (Section 2): Cloud & DevOps Security Bonus Challenges

Section 3: Cloud Workload Security Review, Cloud-Hosted CI/CD Guardrails, Continuous Security Monitoring, Data Protection Services, CloudWars (Section 3): Cloud & DevOps Bonus Challenges

Section 4: Deploying Security Patches Using Blue/Green Environments, Securing Content Delivery Networks with Signed URLs, Protecting REST Web Services with API Gateway, Protecting APIs with Serverless and JSON Web Tokens, CloudWars (Section 4): Cloud & DevOps Security Bonus Challenges

Section 5: Cloud Security Posture Management, Blocking Attacks with WAF, Automated Remediation with Cloud Custodian, CloudWars (Section 5): Cloud & DevOps Security Bonus Challenges

"Labs were really impressive. You can tell there are hours of work in there. It was organized really well and was great practice." - David Heaton, Grange Insurance

"Labs were the best bit of the whole thing - well maintained, keep it up." - Richard Ackroyd, PwC

"Great wealth of scripts to use and leverage." - Ravi Balla, GE

"Fun and straightforward. Everything worked like a charm." - Kenneth Jordan, Openaltar


Section 1: Attacking and Hardening the DevOps Toolchain

Section 2 :Securing Cloud Infrastructure, Containers, and Applications

Section 3 :Securing Cloud Workloads, Monitoring, and Data Protection

Section 4: Securing Content, APIs, and Serverless

Section 5: Automating Compliance, Attack Defense, and Remediation


Cloud Ace Podcast

Posters, Cheat Sheets, and Lists



See a complete list of Cloud Security tools here, all of which are applicable to SEC540.


  • Printed and electronic courseware
  • ISO containing the course Virtual Machine (VM)
  • Course VM containing a pre-built DevOps CI/CD toolchain, Cloud Security, and DevSecOps lab exercises
  • CloudFormation and Terraform code to deploy AWS and Azure infrastructure
  • A VM-hosted wiki and an electronic lab workbook for completing the lab exercises
  • Ability to use the Infrastructure as Code (IaC) and course VM indefinitely to continue your learning after the course ends


Depending on your current role or future plans, one of these courses is a great next step in your cloud security journey:

DevSecOps Professionals:

Cloud Security Engineer:

Cloud Security Architect:

Cloud Security Manager:


  1. Please plan to arrive 30 minutes early before your first session for lab preparation and set-up (though obtaining your cloud account(s) should happen PRIOR TO this.) During this time, students can confirm that their cloud accounts are properly set up, ensure laptops have virtualization enabled, copy the lab files, and start the Linux virtual machine. For live classes (online or in-person), the instructor will be available to assist students with laptop prep and set-up 30 minutes prior to the course start time. The lecture will begin at the scheduled course start time.
  2. Similar to providing hardware and software, students are required to provide their own AWS and Azure cloud accounts. Your ability to execute the hands-on exercises will be delayed if you wait to set up the AWS or Azure accounts during a live class. Review the Laptop Requirements below for details.

Syllabus (38 CPEs)

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  • Overview

    SEC540 starts by introducing DevOps practices, principles, and tools by attacking a vulnerable Version Control and Continuous Integration System configuration. Students gain an in-depth understanding of how the toolchain works, the risks these systems pose, and identify key weaknesses that could compromise the workflow. Next, we'll examine the security features available in various Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD) systems, such as Jenkins, GitHub, GitLab, Azure DevOps, and AWS CodePipeline, and then start hardening the environment. After automating various code analysis tools and discovering insecurely stored secrets, students will focus on storing sensitive data in secrets management solutions such as HashiCorp Vault, AWS Secrets Manager, and Azure Key Vault.

    • Attacking the DevOps Toolchain
    • Version Control Security
    • Automating Static Analysis
    • Protecting Secrets with Vault
    • CloudWars (Section 1): Cloud & DevOps Security Bonus Challenges

    DevOps and Security Challenges

    • Understand the Core Principles and Patterns behind DevOps
    • Recognize how DevOps works and identify keys to success

    DevOps Toolchain

    • Build CI/CD pipelines using Jenkins, CodePipeline, and Azure DevOps
    • GitFlow
    • GitHub Actions
    • GitLab CI/CD
    • Jenkins
    • Securing DevOps Workflows
    • Threat model and secure your build and deployment environment

    Secure DevOps tools and workflows

    • Conduct effective risk assessments and threat modeling in a rapidly changing environment
    • Design and write automated security tests and checks in CI/CD
    • Understand the strengths and weaknesses of different automated testing approaches in Continuous Delivery
    • Inventory and patch your software dependencies
    • Wire security scanning into Jenkins, CodePipeline, and Azure DevOps workflows

    Pre-Commit Security Controls

    • Rapid Risk Assessment
    • Git Hook Security
    • Code Editor Extensions
    • Branch Protections
    • CodeOwners
    • Peer Reviews

    Commit Security Controls

    • Static Analysis Security Testing
    • Component Analysis

    Secrets Management

    • Managing secrets in CI / CD
    • Azure Key Vault
    • AWS SSM Parameter Store
    • AWS Secrets Manager
    • HashiCorp Vault
  • Overview

    Section 2 challenges students to use their DevOps skills to deploy a code-driven cloud infrastructure with AWS CloudFormation and Terraform using more than 150 cloud resources. Students perform a cloud network assessment, identify insecure network configurations, and harden the network traffic flow rules. Moving to cloud virtual machines, students learn how to automate configuration management and build gold images using Ansible, Vagrant, and Packer. To finish the day, students focus on scanning and hardening container images before deploying workloads to the cloud.

    • Infrastructure as Code Network Hardening
    • Gold Image Creation
    • Container Security Hardening
    • Automating Dynamic Analysis
    • CloudWars (Section 2): Cloud & DevOps Security Bonus Challenges

    Cloud Infrastructure as Code

    • Introduction to Cloud Infrastructure as Code
    • AWS Cloud Formation
    • Terraform
    • Deploying
    • Cloud Infrastructure as Code security analysis

    Configuration Management as Code

    • Automating Configuration Management in CI / CD
    • Using Ansible to Configure Virtual Machines
    • Building Gold Images with Vagrant and Packer
    • Certifying Gold Images with InSpec

    Container Security

    • Dockerfile and BuildKit Security
    • Base Image Hardening with Hadolint and Conftest
    • Container Image Security
    • Scanning Container Images with Docker Scan and Trivy
    • Container Registry Security
    • Container Scanning with AWS ECR and Azure ACR
    • Container Runtime Security

    Acceptance Stage Security

    • Dynamic Application Security Testing
    • Vulnerability Management in DevSecOps
  • Overview

    Section 3 prepares students to deploy and run containerized workloads in cloud-native orchestration services such as AWS Elastic Container Service (ECS) and Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS). Students analyze the cloud resources, identify common security misconfigurations, and leverage automation to quickly secure the workloads. The focus then shifts to monitoring workloads, analyzing log files, detecting an attack in real time, and sending alerts to the security team. Students finish the section by examining cloud-native data protection capabilities and encrypting sensitive data.

    • Cloud Workload Security Review
    • Cloud-Hosted CI/CD Guardrails
    • Continuous Security Monitoring
    • Data Protection Services
    • CloudWars (Section 3): Cloud & DevOps Bonus Challenges

    Cloud Deployment & Orchestration

    • Azure Pipelines
    • AWS CodePipeline
    • Cloud Container Orchestration
    • Elastic Container Service (ECS)
    • Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS)

    Cloud Workload Security

    • Cloud Storage Access Control
    • Workload Identity & Privilege Escalation
    • TLS Misconfiguration and Hardening

    Security in Cloud CI/CD

    • Software Composition Analysis
    • AWS CodeBuild Security Integrations
    • Azure DevOps Security Extensions

    Continuous Security Monitoring

    • Monitoring and feedback loops from production to engineering
    • Cloud logging and metrics
    • Azure Monitor & Log Analytics
    • Kusto Query Language (KQL)
    • AWS CloudWatch Log Insights
    • AWS CloudWatch Dashboards
    • OS Query
    • Automated Slack Alerts

    Data Protection Services

    • Azure Key Vault
    • Azure Service Integration
    • AWS KMS
    • AWS Service Integration
  • Overview

    Section 4 starts with students learning to leverage cloud-native services to patch containerized workloads and secure content delivery networks. From there, the discussion shifts to microservice architectures, best practices, and micro-segmentation with API Gateways. Finally, students learn how to build and deploy Functions as a Service (FaaS), such as Lambda and Azure Functions, along with resources to add guardrails to the microservice environment.

    • Deploying Security Patches Using Blue/Green Environments
    • Securing Content with Signed URLs
    • Protecting REST Web Services with API Gateway
    • Protecting APIs with Serverless and JSON Web Tokens
    • CloudWars (Section 4): Cloud & DevOps Security Bonus Challenges

    Blue/Green Deployment Options

    • Cloud Services for Blue/Green Deployments
    • Azure Application Gateway
    • Azure Kubernetes Services
    • AWS EC2 DNS Routing
    • AWS ALB Weighted Target Groups
    • AWS Elastic Container Service Swapping

    Secure Content Delivery

    • Azure Content Delivery Network (CDN)
    • Azure CDN Token Authentication & Policies
    • AWS CloudFront
    • AWS CloudFront Origin Access Identities (OAID)
    • AWS CloudFront Signing
    • CDN Cross-Origin Resource Sharing Policies

    Microservice Security

    • Microservice Architecture Attack Surface
    • Microservice Security Controls
    • Identity Federation & Open ID Connect (OIDC)
    • JSON Web Token (JWT) Security & Best Practices
    • Service Mesh Security Controls
    • Azure API Management
    • Azure API Management Custom Security Policies
    • Azure API Management Request Throttling
    • AWS API Gateway
    • AWS API Gateway Custom Authorizers
    • AWS API Gateway Request Throttling & Data Tracing

    Serverless Security

    • Overview of Serverless Computing
    • Serverless Functions Security Implications
    • Deploying Functions in CI / CD Pipelines
    • Azure Functions
    • AWS Lambda
  • Overview

    Section 5 wraps up the journey with students learning to leverage cloud services to automate security compliance. Starting with Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) solutions students detect security issues in their cloud infrastructure. Next, using cloud-native Web Application Firewall (WAF) services, students enable monitoring, attack detection, and active defense capabilities to catch and block bad actors. The discussion then shifts to working in DevOps and how that affects policy and compliance. Students finish the course learning how to write policy as code for automated remediation using Cloud Custodian, and how to detect and correct cloud configuration drift.

    • Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) with Prowler and Microsoft Defender for Cloud
    • Blocking Attacks with WAF
    • Automated Remediation with Cloud Custodian
    • CloudWars (Section 5): Cloud & DevOps Security Bonus Challenges

    Continuous Compliance

    • Continuous Compilance in DevSecOps
    • DevOps Audit Defense Toolkit
    • DevOps versus ITIL & PCI
    • Automate compliance and security policy scanning
    • Cloud Security Guardrails with InSpec, AWS Service Control Policies (SCP), and Azure Policy
    • Cloud Native Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) Services
    • Microsoft Defender for Cloud Workload Protection
    • AWS Security Hub
    • AWS Prowler

    Runtime Security Protection

    • Cloud Web Application Firewalls
    • AWS and Azure WAF
    • AWS Security Automations Project
    • Writing a WAF as Code Custom Rules

    Automated Remediation

    • Azure Event Grid
    • Amazon EventBridge
    • Automated Blocking of Bad Bots and Scanners
    • Microsoft Defender for Cloud Automation
    • AWS Security Hub Automated Response & Remediation
    • Automated Playbooks
    • Enforce cloud configuration policies with Cloud Custodian

GIAC Cloud Security Automation

The GCSA certification covers cloud services and modern DevSecOps practices that are used to build and deploy systems and applications more securely. 

  • Using cloud services with Secure DevOps principles, practices, and tools to build & deliver secure infrastructure and software
  • Automating Configuration Management, Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery, and Continuous Monitoring
  • Use of open-source tools, the Amazon Web Services toolchain, and Azure services
More Certification Details


The following are courses or equivalent experiences that are prerequisites for SEC540:

  • SANS SEC488: Cloud Security Essentials or hands-on experience using the AWS and Azure Cloud
  • Familiarity with Linux command shells and associated commands
  • Basic understanding of common application attacks and vulnerabilities (e.g., OWASP Top 10)
  • Hands-on experience using version control (git) and continuous integration systems (Jenkins) is recommended but not required

Preparing for SEC540

Students taking SEC540 will have the opportunity to learn and use a number of DevOps and cloud tools during the hands-on exercises. Getting a head start on the following tools, technologies, and languages will help students enjoy their lab experience:

Laptop Requirements


CRITICAL NOTE: Apple systems using the M1 processor cannot perform the necessary virtualization and cannot be used with the VM in this course. However, a cloud based VM can be provided if you have a M1 Mac..


Students must bring their own AWS or Azure accounts to complete the course labs.

The SEC540 course labs come in both AWS and Azure versions. Students must choose one cloud provider at the beginning of class to use for the duration of the course. Students are welcome to do labs for both cloud providers on their own time once they finish the first set of labs.

Students selecting the AWS labs require an Amazon Web Services (AWS) account. The estimated AWS cost for running the AWS lab environment during a 5-day live event is approximately $20 per week. Costs are less for free-tier accounts.

Students selecting the Azure labs require a Microsoft Azure account and paid subscription. The estimated cost for running the Azure lab environment is approximately $100 per week. New Azure subscriptions may be eligible for a $200 credit for 30 days to help offset the cost.

OnDemand students:

  • Students must create either an AWS account OR an Azure account prior to starting the course:

Live events (in-person or Live Online)

  • Students are required to use a time-limited (duration of live class) SANS Managed AWS account that will be provided with the course materials.
  • Students selecting the Azure labs or optional Azure bonus challenges must create an Azure account prior to the start of class


Students must bring their own system configured according to these instructions

A properly configured system is required to fully participate in this course. If you do not carefully read and follow these instructions, you will likely leave the class unsatisfied because you will not be able to participate in hands-on exercises that are essential to this course. Therefore, we strongly urge you to arrive with a system meeting all the requirements specified for the course.

Students must be in full control of the network running the VM. The VM communicates with several external services (AWS, Docker Hub, Terraform, Azure, etc.) over HTTPS, SSH, and other non-standard ports. Running the course virtual machine on a host with a VPN, intercepting proxy, or egress firewall filter may cause connection issues communicating with these services. Students must be able to configure or disable these services for the lab environment to function properly.


  • A properly configured system is required for each student participating in this course. Before starting your course, carefully read and follow these instructions exactly:
  • Host Operating System: Latest version of Windows 10, macOS 10.15.x or later, or Linux that also can install and run VMware virtualization products described below.
  • Fully update your host operating system prior to the class to ensure you have the right drivers and patches installed to utilize the latest USB 3.0 devices.
  • Those who use a Linux host must also be able to access exFAT partitions using the appropriate kernel or FUSE modules.
  • Download and install 7-Zip (for Windows Hosts) or Keka (macOS). Without these extraction tools, you'll be unable to extract large archives we'll supply to you in class.
  • Download and install either VMware Workstation Pro 15.5.x, VMware Player 15.5.x, or Fusion 11.5.x or higher versions before class.
  • If you do not own a licensed copy of VMware Workstation or Fusion, you can download a free 30-day trial copy from VMware. VMware will send you a time-limited serial number if you register for the trial at its website.
  • Other virtualization software, such as VirtualBox and Hyper-V, are not appropriate because of compatibility and troubleshooting problems you might encounter during class.
  • VMware Workstation Pro and VMware Player on Windows 10 are not compatible with Windows 10 Credential Guard and Device Guard technologies. Please disable these capabilities for the duration of the class if they're enabled on your system by following instructions in this document.

Mandatory Host Hardware Requirements

  • CPU: 64-bit 2.5+ GHz multi-core processor or higher
  • BIOS/UEFI: VT-x, AMD-V, or the equivalent must be enabled in the BIOS/UEFI
  • Hard Disk: Solid-State Drive (SSD) is MANDATORY with 50GB of free disk space minimum
  • Memory: 16GB of RAM or higher is mandatory for this class (IMPORTANT! - 16GB of RAM is MANDATORY)
  • Working USB 2.0 or higher port
  • Wireless Ethernet 802.11 B/G/N/AC
  • Local Administrator Access within your host operating system

Mandatory Host Operating System Requirements

You must use a 64-bit laptop with one of the following operating systems that have been verified to be compatible with course VMware image:

  • Latest version of Windows 10, macOS 10.15.x or later, or Linux that also can install and run VMware virtualization products described below.

Mandatory Software Requirements

Prior to class, ensure that the following software is installed on the host operating system:

  • VMware Workstation Pro 15.5.X+, VMware Player 15.5.X+, or Fusion 11.5+
  • Zip File Utility (7Zip or the built-in operating system zip utility)

Cloud Virtual Machine (AWS AMI)

If your workstation or network does not meet the above requirements, please reach out to your instructor, TA, or OnDemand SME for access to the SEC540 Amazon Machine Image (AMI). After sharing the AMI, instructions will be provided for launching and connecting to the virtual machine over Remote Desktop (RDP). This option is required for students that cannot meet the laptop requirements.


Before beginning the course you should:

  • Have a laptop with a solid-state drive (SSD), 16GB of RAM, and a 64-bit operating system.
  • Install VMware (Workstation or Fusion).
  • Windows only: Verify that the BIOS settings have the Intel VT virtualization extensions enabled.
  • Download the SEC540 Lab Setup Instructions and Course Media from your account.
  • Register a NEW AWS account prior to the start of the class at
  • Register a NEW Azure account and paid subscription prior to the start of class at

After you have completed those steps, your course media will be delivered via download. The media files for class can be large, some in the 40 to 50 GB range. You need to allow plenty of time for the download to complete. Internet connections and speed vary greatly and are dependent on many different factors. Therefore, it is not possible to give an estimate of the length of time it will take to download your materials. Please start your course media downloads as you get the link. You will need your course media immediately on the first day of class. Waiting until the night before the class starts to begin your download has a high probability of failure.

SANS has begun providing printed materials in PDF form. Additionally, certain classes are using an electronic workbook in addition to the PDFs. The number of classes using eWorkbooks will increase quickly. In this new environment, we have found that a second monitor and/or a tablet device can be useful for keeping the class materials visible while the instructor is presenting or while you are working on lab exercises.

If you have additional questions about the laptop specifications, please contact

Author Statement

"DevOps and the cloud are radically changing the way that organizations design, build, deploy, and operate online systems. Leaders like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and Netflix are able to deploy hundreds or even thousands of changes every day, continuously learning, improving, and growing - and leaving their competitors far behind. Now DevOps and the cloud are making their way from Internet 'Unicorns' and cloud providers into enterprises.

"Traditional approaches to security can't come close to keeping up with this rate of accelerated change. Engineering and operations teams that have broken down the "walls of confusion" in their organizations are increasingly leveraging new kinds of automation, including Infrastructure as Code, Continuous Delivery and Continuous Deployment, microservices, containers, and cloud service platforms. The question is: Can security take advantage of the tools and automation to better secure its systems?

"Security must be reinvented in a DevOps and cloud world."

- Eric Johnson, Ben Allen, and Frank Kim

"Great instructor, gave real life devops examples from his experience, and was very willing to demo extra concepts and commands on the fly (hashicorp terraform)." - Eden Kang


Great course! Excellent instructor! Lots of hands-on! Met my expectations definitely and I will absolutely recommend it to other people.
Sandro Blatter
SEC540 truly deserves the 5 of 5 excellent rating. I really can't express how impressed I am with my first SANS course.
Dwayne Sander
This course definitely makes security in DevOps more relatable and concrete. Love that we are asked to fix issues.
Stephen Germain

    Register for SEC540