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Security is taken extremely seriously by this project and we are compliant with the Data Security and Protection Toolkit (DSPT) which is part of latest NHS Digital Data Security Standards (see DSPT section for evidence).

Deployment Security 'Code Chain'

To maintain security and safety, while still enabling 'agile' software development practices, we have carefully built a DevOps (Developer Operations) strategy which is consistent with industry best practice, yet is low-friction in practice, therefore easy to comply with.

These practices ensure tight security of the code, restricting deployment to the live environment. These security practices are in operation in every part of the 'code chain' from writing the code on individual development machines, through to deployment on the live server, and each of the many steps in between.

Within these practices are also measures which ensure the deployed code is tested, safe, and does not contain regressions (changes which break a feature or introduce risk).

Development machines

  • Development machines are password-protected and have full-disk encryption requiring strong passwords to decrypt the disk and access the contents.

  • Development machines are maintained with latest operating system patches and security updates.

  • All SSH Keys are protected by a passphrase.

GitHub Repository

  • Login to the GitHub organisation is restricted to specific authorised users, who are in the RCPCH Developer Team, who are all required to use two-factor authentication (username + password + another factor such as Google Authenticator).

  • 'Pushes' of new code to the GitHub repositories are authenticated using SSH Keys which are secure, long, cryptographic tokens held on the computers used to develop the growth charts. Use of the token requires a further password, so possession of the computer alone is not enough to use the computer's SSH key to make a push of unauthorised code to GitHub.

  • Commits of code are 'signed' using GPG (Gnu Privacy Guard - an open source implementation of the PGP protocol). This is a further attestation to the correct identity of the committer of the code.

Deployments of the server

  • Deployment is completely automated, meaning no code can be manually added to our Azure WebApps, before or after deployment. All code comes directly from the trusted GitHub servers.

  • Security is handled via long cryptographic keys from Microsoft Azure which are known to GitHub but never made public.

  • GitHub's 'Action' workflow can use this key to authenticate itself to the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, and can push new code from the GitHub repository to the Azure WebApp where it runs as an application and is available as an API.

Code 'Promotion' Safety Strategy

  • New code is never deployed to the live branch. Safety mechanisms on the relevant branches of our GitHub repositories prevent direct 'pushes' of code. Instead, new features must be developed on the development branch or in a branch created specially for that feature.

  • From development or feature branches, code is 'promoted', following successful passing of tests for correct operation, to a staging branch, which allows for further testing, and where necessary review and confirmation of interoperation with other components of the dGC products.

  • Once further user acceptance testing and stability tests are satisfactorily passed, this code can be merged into the live branch.

  • We believe that this strategy reduces the risk of errors being introduced into the API code to a very low level.

Cyber Essentials

The RCPCH has been certified as compliant with the requirements of the Cyber Essentials scheme

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