Unveiling the Top 5 Risks of Cloud-Native Environments

Shweta Khare
Wednesday, Jun 21st, 2023

As cloud-native applications become the fuel powering business success, protecting the underlying application environment is vital. But that’s a complex and multi-faceted endeavor: Applications need to be protected throughout their lifecycle (from development to building and testing), as do the workloads and infrastructure that run them in the cloud production environment. 

The decentralized and distributed nature of modern cloud environments only intensifies the challenge: DevOps teams typically use multiple cloud service providers, architectures, tools, and applications, often spanning multiple geographies.  

Siloed security and legacy application testing tool sets can only do so much; too often, they result in gaps and blind spots, increasing the risk of data being exposed. 

Top Five Risks of Cloud-Native Environments

First, let’s dig a little deeper into some of the most common risks in cloud-native environments: 

  1. Lack of unified visibility and collaboration

In the ever-evolving world of IT, managing a multitude of security tools across different cloud services, workloads, applications, networks, and data has become a daunting task for IT teams. However, the challenge lies in the fact that these tools often operate independently, lacking the ability to work together seamlessly. Development teams using multiple tools without a 360-degree, always-on visibility and observability from code to production can quickly result in tensions between other operational areas such as security, cloud infrastructure, site reliability engineering, and compliance teams. As each function has adopted its own tools or solutions to fulfill its mandate, collaboration can be stymied or constrained, lines of responsibility become blurred, reporting is inconsistent, and decision-making ultimately stalls. As a result, they fail to provide a unified view and consistent insights across the entire cloud workload.

This fragmented approach adds complexity to the already demanding job of IT teams, draining their time and resources. They find themselves struggling to navigate through multiple interfaces, configure separate policies, and make sense of data coming from various sources. This disjointed way of working impairs incident response and makes it difficult to detect potential threats, ultimately leaving organizations vulnerable to security breaches and attacks.

In fact, a 2021 study by Enterprise Strategy Group finds 79% of organizations report a widening visibility gap over the previous year. Vulnerabilities and other issues can then fall through the cracks, resulting in limited risk visibility and porous enterprise security protections.  

  1. Poor risk quantification and prioritization

Different security tools are programmed to run checks on specific applications at different stages in their life cycles—from development and deployment to runtime. Each one has its own portal and event and reporting system. Thus, security teams find themselves overloaded with vulnerability alerts and misconfiguration findings from various sources. This makes it hard for development teams to contextualize and quantify risks and prioritize mitigation efforts. 

In addition to the siloed tools and the number of processes, when it comes to vulnerabilities, it's not just about identifying them but also figuring out which ones to tackle first. This can be quite a complex task because not all vulnerabilities carry the same level of risk for an organization. To prioritize effectively, factors like the potential impact of an exploit, the likelihood of an attack, and the value of the assets being targeted must be taken into account. Without a systematic approach to prioritize vulnerabilities, organizations run the risk of misallocating their resources. They might end up focusing on less critical issues, leaving the more severe vulnerabilities unattended. It's crucial to have a well-thought-out strategy to ensure that the most significant risks are addressed promptly and efficiently. 

  1. Inadequate resources and alert fatigue

In many cloud-native environments, we see something of a tug-of-war between security and development teams That’s because many traditional controls favored by security pros weren’t designed with the needs of developers’ top-of-mind and cannot accommodate the speed and scale of cloud-native applications. Often, the result is slow development cycles, poorly integrated testing, excessive numbers of false positives and inevitable friction between the two camps.  

Alert fatigue and dealing with noisy data are major hurdles in the realm of cybersecurity. Security professionals frequently find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer number of security alerts they receive, resulting in alert fatigue. Additionally, organizations grapple with noisy data, which includes false positives and irrelevant alerts that can be a distraction. These issues have a direct impact on response time and the overall effectiveness of security teams. Fortunately, the industry is actively working on solutions to combat these challenges by leveraging advanced analytics and automated response systems. Managing alert fatigue and noisy data remains an ongoing concern that demands careful attention.

  1. Misconfigured Security Settings

In cloud-native environments, misconfigured security settings pose a significant risk. These environments are complex, with multiple cloud services, containers, microservices, and APIs. Properly configuring security settings is crucial to ensure a secure infrastructure.

Misconfigurations can occur at various levels, including cloud provider settings, network configurations, access controls, identity management, and security group configurations. These misconfigurations can unintentionally expose sensitive data, create vulnerabilities, or grant unauthorized access.

For instance, improper access controls can allow unauthorized users or applications to access sensitive data or manipulate critical resources. Insecure network settings may enable unauthorized access or insecure communication. Misconfigurations in container orchestration can result in excessive privileges or unnecessary access to resources.

Attackers actively target misconfigurations in cloud-native environments as they provide an easy entry point for unauthorized access and data breaches. They exploit misconfigurations to gain elevated privileges, move laterally, or steal sensitive information.

  1. Compliance Conundrums

According to a survey by Tigera, 84% of the study participants said they found it challenging to meet compliance regulations for cloud native applications. Siloed data security tools not only increase the risk of vulnerabilities and cyberattacks, but they can also put organizations at risk of non-compliance with industry regulations. When operating in a multi-cloud environment, there are compliance risks that stem from different factors like data privacy, data sovereignty, vendor management, auditability, interoperability, regulatory compliance, and security controls. These risks bring about challenges such as meeting diverse data protection standards, ensuring compliance with data residency requirements, effectively managing multiple vendors and their agreements, conducting audits across various cloud environments, achieving smooth application and data migration, adhering to industry-specific regulations, and maintaining consistent security measures.  

Cloud-native environments must comply with various regulatory standards such as GDPR, HIPAA, or PCI DSS. Achieving compliance in these areas, especially with respect to data privacy, access controls, and encryption, requires careful configuration and ongoing monitoring. Compliance-related breaches can lead to unauthorized access, data breaches, huge fines, reputational damage, and legal consequences for organizations.

Cloud-Native Environments

So, what is the answer to protecting cloud-native environments and applications from such risks?

The good news is that cloud technology trailblazers have risen to these challenges, and developed an integrated platform-based solution that allows organizations to deftly sidestep these issues: cloud-native application protection platforms—also known as cloud-native application security platforms. A consolidated or a closely stacked solution offered by a single trusted vendor can help in ensuring broader visibility and effective monitoring, can help improve integration, reduce complexity, standardize security practices, and improve your risk management posture.

A cloud-native application security solution is essential for addressing compliance risks and maintaining regulatory adherence. It offers a comprehensive set of features to bolster security measures and ensure compliance. Through regular vulnerability assessments and scanning, it identifies and resolves potential weaknesses and vulnerabilities. The solution enforces secure configurations, manages access controls, and implements strong user authentication to restrict data access to authorized individuals. It also provides encryption mechanisms to safeguard sensitive data at rest and in transit. With its robust logging and monitoring capabilities, the solution can promptly detect security incidents, enabling quick response and resolution. Additionally, it simplifies the auditing process by generating compliance reports and audit trails, serving as evidence of regulatory compliance.

Ultimately, leveraging a cloud-native security solution empowers organizations to stay compliant, mitigate the risk of security breaches, and effectively tackle compliance-related challenges. 


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