This article was updated in April 2024

With data breaches becoming an ever-increasing threat when it comes to cyber security, the need for a reliable and robust cyber security plan is more pertinent than ever. As a result, more and more companies seek ways to protect their assets and solidify their security levels to safeguard themselves and avoid any future attacks.

This is where ‘shift left’ comes in, but what does shift left mean in security?

What is shift left?

Shift left cybersecurity testing is a relatively modern addition to cyber security but is vital for maximising safety.

In its simplest form, shift left security means to begin testing and to add security elements earlier in the development life cycle to prevent data breaches, and flagging any weak points as early as possible to maximise security and prevent future risks.

In other words, shift left’s meaning is to literally shift testing ‘left’ on a dev plan to come earlier in the software development life cycle.

Traditional testing methods have previously been done once a project is completed, usually through penetration testing. However, if an issue is found late in the process, it can be incredibly time-consuming and expensive to fix a problem once everything is finalised. Implementing adequate security earlier saves a wealth of time and resources.

Shift Left and Cyber Security

The Benefits of Shift Left Testing

Shift left testing has many benefits. It is an excellent system to incorporate into the development process of any new project. The advantages include:

Improved Security Posture

The most obvious benefit of shift left testing for cyber security, is that it strengthens your security posture and minimises your chances of future security risks. By taking the step to solidify good cyber security, your network will be far more secure from the offset.

A 2022 government study found that 46% of large businesses say they have had to take up new measures to save them time and protect their assets. This shows the direct link between effective security and productivity, and proves the significant benefits of implanting the security process as soon as possible.

Reduced Costs

When a security breach occurs, it is rarely a simple task that can be fixed in an instant and usually consists of several measures to tackle the problem. This can be incredibly complicated and costly. When considering cyber security, with shift left testing, it is far less expensive to fix a problem in the earlier stages of development than backtrack to try and resolve the issue once the project is live.

The automation capabilities that shift left initiatives offer also reduce the amount of company time spent on projects by eliminating manually performing complex testing procedures, therefore freeing up company time to focus on the project itself rather than worrying about future security risks.

Better Security Knowledge

By taking the time to maximise your security solutions from an early stage, you are in far better control of your security stance and automatically have a deeper understanding of how your network operates.

Increased Customer Satisfaction

By delivering a higher-quality product with fewer defects, shift left testing enhances the overall user experience and satisfaction. Customers benefit from more reliable software that meets their expectations and delivers better value.

Faster Feedback Loops

Early testing provides quicker feedback to developers, allowing them to identify and rectify issues quickly. This can help speed up the development cycle, shortens time-to-market, and enables teams to respond rapidly to changing requirements or customer feedback.

The Challenges of Shift Left Testing

Whilst left shift testing has numerous advantages, it can also present some challenges:


Implementing a left shift testing system will require additional resources, including testers and tester tools.

Culture Shift

Opting for left shift means that teams within the organisation will have to leave their comfort zone and their usual way of working. This would be especially challenging for a company with long-standing established processes and practices.

Lack of Knowledge

Some developers won’t have the initial testing knowledge needed for left shift testing. This could make their testing less efficient.

False Positives

If a security tool flags a non-existent threat, this can cause disruption to the testing process. By allocating resources to the non-issue, this can detract from actual threats.

How to shift left

If you’re wondering where to get started with shifting left, here’s some rules that your organisation can follow:

  1. Assess Current Practices: Begin by evaluating the current testing processes and practices within the organisation. Identify the bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and areas for improvement in the existing testing lifecycle.
  2. Establish Clear Goals: Define clear objectives and goals for shifting left in testing. Determine the desired outcomes, such as improving software quality, accelerating time-to-market, reducing costs, or enhancing customer satisfaction.
  3. Educate and Train Teams: Provide training and education to teams involved in testing, development, and quality assurance.
  4. Implement Test Automation: Invest in test automation tools and frameworks.
  5. Integrate Testing into Development Workflows: Integrate testing activities into development workflows and encourage developers to write testable code and conduct unit testing as part of their development process.
  6. Prioritise: Focus on critical areas of the application that are prone to defects or have a high impact on user experience.
  7. Monitor and Measure Progress: Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics to monitor the effectiveness of shift left testing. This will help identify areas for further improvement.
  8. Shifting left is more than a slogan. It is a good way to make the most out of skills you already have, to help your teams better organise work.

Things to Consider with Shift Left

Consistent testing throughout the development process

Conducting regular testing throughout the development process of any project will keep consistency within your organisation. Basically, the more testing that can be done earlier on and continued throughout the process, the more benefits will be seen in the long run.

Steps to take when planning shift left testing

  • Define your shift-left security strategy
  • Build through automatically checking security and implementing security measures
  • Perform Threat Model Analysis
  • Implement Vulnerability scans when development is complete.

Visit our Application Security Testing page to learn about our Application Security, or get in touch with us today to talk through how our approach to software development with shift left at its core can help your project.