Fortifying the Cloud-Native Frontier: Strategies for Application Security

Shweta Khare
Thursday, Jun 29th, 2023

The absence of cloud-native application security can have serious consequences for organizations. It exposes applications to higher risks of cyber threats, making them vulnerable to unauthorized access, data breaches, and disruptions. Non-compliance with regulations and industry standards is a significant risk, leading to legal penalties and reputation damage. Operational disruptions, downtime, and financial losses can occur due to security incidents. Data breaches can result in the loss of sensitive information, leading to financial and reputational harm. Brand reputation can suffer, impacting customer trust and future business opportunities.

Implementing robust cloud-native application security measures is essential to mitigate these risks and ensure the safe and reliable operation of applications in the cloud. The imperative of ensuring that the security principles and best practices of visibility and observability for cloud-native applications cannot, and must not, be underestimated.  

But first, let’s consider the following fundamentals:  

  1. Cloud-native applications

A cloud-native application is purpose-built to harness the benefits of cloud computing and enable organizations to leverage the full potential of the cloud in delivering scalable, resilient, and agile software solutions.

Cloud-native applications have gained immense relevance in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the physical world faced shutdowns and restrictions, organizations swiftly shifted their operations to the virtual realm, relying heavily on the cloud for business continuity. Cloud-native applications played a pivotal role in enabling this transition, providing the flexibility, scalability, and accessibility required to keep businesses functioning during challenging times. The ability to operate in the cloud empowered organizations to maintain essential services, support remote workforces, and adapt to changing customer demands. By embracing cloud-native applications, businesses have not only survived but also thrived in the face of unprecedented disruptions, highlighting the importance of these technologies in the modern digital landscape. 

And, while the physical world is once again “open for business,” cloud-based infrastructure and applications continue to play a prominent role in our modern world.  

  1. Cloud-native application security

Organizations are pressured to move their business processes to the cloud as it enables them to find new channels, enter new geographies, and break into new segments. Businesses can also collaborate effectively with their customers, suppliers and partners. It enables them to keep up with the speed of innovation though it incorporates the added challenge of securing applications and data from cyberthreats.  

Cloud-native application security goes beyond just the adoption of cloud-based technologies. It encompasses a comprehensive strategy that integrates cybersecurity measures directly into the organization's cloud-based IT stack. This approach ensures that security considerations are deeply embedded from the ground up, mitigating risks and protecting critical assets in the cloud environment.

Cloud-native application security also entails a paradigm shift in how organizations approach their business processes. It prompts reinvention, innovation, and transformation of traditional practices to align with the cloud-native model. This involves rethinking and redesigning workflows, architectures, and development methodologies to fully leverage the benefits of cloud computing while maintaining robust security measures.

Are Cloud Native Applications Secure?

Even though there are significant benefits to cloud-native applications and infrastructure, there are also inherent challenges with this technology, requiring always-on visibility and observability protocols to mitigate these challenges.  

Before we look at the solution to these challenges, let’s define the problem which is that there are fundamental issues with running applications in the cloud, namely:  

  • Modern cloud-native application architecture is often developed as multiple microservices modules that are loosely coupled and highly cohesive, ensuring a unified whole together with the ability to modify individual modules without affecting the whole application. However, this increased complexity makes it more difficult to secure. 
  • The cloud—both the public, private and hybrid cloud—consists of any number of computer servers situated in data centers across the globe, reducing the need for organizations to procure and manage their own hardware infrastructure. However, the very nature of the cloud—the fact that organizational data is not stored in offsite data centers—translates into the increased risk of attacks by cybercriminals.  

The Solution to Securing Cloud-Native Applications

Now that we understand the problem, let’s dive into what it takes to secure cloud-native applications. In fact, the problem statement has already summarized the key to the solution:  

This technology has inherent challenges, requiring always-on visibility and observability protocols to mitigate these challenges.” 

The answer is to implement a 360-degree, always-on visibility and observability from code to production to ensure that cloud-native applications are always secure by adopting and implementing a cloud-native application security solution, integrating and centralizing all online security functions into a single platform or user interface.  

Let’s dive into a few of the important features a cloud-native application security solution which should include:  

  1. Unified platform for cloud application security

Consolidate multiple security capabilities which includes Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM), Cloud Workload Protection Platform (CWPP) and Attack Path Analysis into a single platform. A cloud-native application security solution helps simplify security operations and eliminates the complexity of managing disparate tools from different vendors. 

  1. End to end protection for cloud-native applications

A cloud-native application security solution provides end to end security coverage from code to production. This is comprehensive protection that ensures that security measures are implemented at every stage. 

  1. Real time visibility and control for effective threat detection

A cloud-native application security solution provides organizations with contextual insights, enabling them to detect and respond to security threats more effectively. 

These leverage advanced analytics, machine learning, and AI-driven technologies to offer real-time visibility and control over cloud environments. 

Take for example, the Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) pipelines which are foundational to all DevOps processes. And, because of their inherent structure, it is easy for cyber criminals (and unauthorized personnel) to gain access to your organization’s data because these pipelines are built using Infrastructure as Code (IaC) principles by changing configuration files and injecting harmful code into run scripts. 

So, to improve CI/CD pipeline security controls, implement protocols that can scan these config files and run scripts for misconfigurations and security vulnerabilities before deploying them to production.  

In conclusion 

In the same way that clear skies improve visibility and observability, allowing the viewer a crystal-clear view of the physical world, using a holistic cloud-native application security solution will improve cloud-native application security, substantially reducing the risk of data breaches by cybercriminals and all their associated problems and consequences. 

Popup Image