What is a digital immune system?

A digital immune system (DIS) is a software development practice for safeguarding applications and services from software bugs and security flaws. The DIS approach combines software engineering strategies, design, development, automation, operations, technologies, and analytics—all to cut down on operational failures, mitigate business risks, and enhance user experience (UX).

DIS works by constantly monitoring and scanning computer systems and networks to detect potential threats and vulnerabilities and take necessary precautions to avoid them. It detects malicious communications, identifies compromised devices, and applies security patches.

Why DIS is essential to software development

Slow or poorly performing systems compromise the UX, resulting in customer dissatisfaction and, in many cases, leading customers to abandon transactions or products. A DIS will try to eliminate or at least minimize the frequency of system failures and slowness, which contributes to better overall UX and customer satisfaction, the cornerstones of superior business performance. We’ll explore the numerous ways a DIS can help achieve these objectives.

Reducing business risks

DIS is implemented to minimize the threats to business continuity posed when software applications and services are severely compromised to the point of being unable to operate. When applications are more resilient, the risk of failure is lower, making it less likely that a business will suffer financial or customer loss.

Improving software quality

DIS improves the quality of a software by making it more secure, resilient, and reliable, so that it can rapidly recover from failures. It addresses threats and vulnerabilities across the entire software development life cycle.

As discussed above, DIS helps services and applications to be more resilient. This results in less downtime and paves the way to a superior UX, which DIS achieves by blending technologies and best practices to increase the overall resiliency of services and systems. According to a 2022 Gartner report, by 2025 companies investing in DIS are expected to increase their customer satisfaction through decreasing downtime by 80%.

Threat detection

DIS provides engineering teams with the necessary insight for addressing threats and vulnerabilities in the form of functional bugs, ransomware attacks, security vulnerabilities, and data inconsistencies. It is done to minimize the likelihood of system failure and reduce any negative impact on business operations.

Enabling real-time monitoring and response

DIS allows for real-time monitoring and response capabilities so that threats and vulnerabilities can be immediately detected and remediated. Real-time response helps lower the risks of downtime and data breaches.

Integrating security and compliance requirements

DIS integrates the software development life cycle with security and compliance requirements to ensure that software systems and applications meet industry standards and regulations.

Using AI and machine learning

DIS brings artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies into the software development life cycle to automate the process of detecting and monitoring security threats. It leverages various technologies and practices, like DevOps, agile methodologies, continuous integration, and delivery.

Continuous improvement

DIS promotes continuous improvement by detecting, remediating, and monitoring issues that can impact the security, performance, and reliability of software applications.

Prerequisites to building a strong DIS

When building digital immunity from scratch, begin by developing a strong vision statement that aligns the organization and will ensure smooth implementation. Next, consider the following six critical practices and technologies that are prerequisites to building a strong and efficient digital immune system.

  • Observability

    Observability refers to the ability to measure the current state of the system based on the data it generates. It allows software and systems to be tracked, monitored, and assessed to resolve issues with reliability and resilience. To improve overall customer satisfaction, it helps analyze how users interact with applications.

    Observability improves transparency by allowing systems and software to be “observed.” By building this practice into applications, engineering teams can easily detect crucial abnormalities in the application infrastructure and pinpoint the root cause of issues, which can directly increase the uptime of the application.

  • Autonomous testing

    AI-based testing and automation allow organizations to conduct software testing independent of human intervention. It comprises fully automated test planning, creation, maintenance, analysis, and execution of test cases.

    Integrating AI technologies into testing and automation complements traditional automated testing processes and extends conventional test automation. It remediates issues as they’re detected and returns to a stable working state without involving operations staff.

  • Chaos engineering

    Chaos engineering is a practice that uses experimental testing to expose potential vulnerabilities and weaknesses in a system. Various failure tests and chaos experiments are performed on a system to disrupt it and find faults and points of failure.

    Development teams can safely master this process in a nonintrusive, pre-production environment that is risk-free and non disruptive and then apply the knowledge in the real production environment. Chaos engineering helps businesses grow by pre-equipping them for production hardening based on test results that show what works and what doesn’t.

  • Auto-remediation

    Auto-remediation is a discipline that enables software applications to self-monitor and self-heal. It involves automatically detecting and remediating issues, then returning to the normal state without any human assistance.

    Auto-remediation aims to provide uninterrupted service by preventing issues from arising in the first place, and by ensuring that no operations staff will be needed to resolve future unwanted situations. Its primary focus is on incorporating context-sensitive monitoring features and automated remediation functions into the software application. Auto-remediation can also repair a failing UX by combining observability with chaos engineering.

  • Application security

    When operating in a distributed architecture, there’s a high probability of exposing vulnerabilities and threats in the software supply chain. These risks can be mitigated by applying security measures over the software supply chain.

    By using the software bill of materials, the software supply chain benefits from improved visibility, transparency, integrity, and security of both open-source and proprietary code. To protect codebase integrity and mitigate vendor risk across the entire software delivery lifecycle, organizations must adopt strong version control policies, continuous runtime application protection, runtime vulnerability analysis, AI-based risk assessment, and the use of artifact repositories for trusted content.

  • Site reliability engineering

    Site reliability engineering (SRE) is a discipline of engineering practices and principles that leverages service-level objectives as a guide to improve service management. It focuses on creating an engaging UX and retention. This guiding principle helps businesses achieve stability, optimal balance of speed, and a reduced technical debt to allow developers to focus more on building a compelling UX.


Building digital immunity requires an innovative approach, where the goal is creating a superior UX by being more resilient to failures. DIS minimizes the potential for failures in systems, services, and products to keep a complex system running even when compromised.

DIS combines various practices and technologies used for software design, development, testing, automation, operations, and analytics, all to increase the resilience of a system and speed up recovery from failures. Organizations should consider the aforementioned prerequisites and benefits of DIS while implementing it. But most importantly, as the number of cyberattacks leading to data leakage is on the rise, organizations should focus on the security of their applications.

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