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5 Pillars of Cloud Native Security

5 Pillars of Cloud Native Security

What Is Cloud Native Security? 

Cloud Native Security refers to the practice of safeguarding cloud native  applications. These applications are designed to take advantage of cloud computing’s full potential, leveraging the benefits of scalability, flexibility, and speed. Cloud native applications are typically composed of microservices, packaged in containers, and orchestrated through automated systems. These components introduce new layers of complexity to security, making traditional security measures insufficient.

The importance of cloud native security lies in its ability to protect and secure the entire lifecycle of these applications, from the coding and building stages to the deployment and runtime stages. It goes beyond protecting the application itself, ensuring the infrastructure it runs on is secure.

This is part of a series of articles about DevSecOps.

In this article:

Cloud Native Security Challenges 

Microservices Complexity

Microservices have revolutionized the way we develop applications. However, this architectural style introduces a new set of security challenges. With microservices, applications are broken down into smaller, independently deployable services. These services communicate with each other over the network, which significantly increases the attack surface.

Each microservice has its own set of dependencies, configurations, and data storage, making it difficult to manage and secure them at scale. Additionally, the dynamic nature of microservices, where services are continuously added, removed, or updated, further complicates the security landscape.

Container Security

Containers are the backbone of cloud native  applications. They encapsulate microservices and their dependencies into a standalone unit, providing a consistent and reproducible environment. However, container security is a significant challenge in cloud native security.

The ephemeral nature of containers, where they can be created and destroyed in seconds, makes it difficult to perform traditional security measures like patching and vulnerability scanning. Additionally, containers share the host operating system’s kernel, making them vulnerable to kernel-level attacks. Misconfigurations, such as running containers with root privileges or using insecure container images, can also lead to security breaches.

Learn more in our detailed guide to devsecops tools.

API Security

APIs are the glue that holds microservices together. They provide a means for services to communicate with each other and external systems. However, APIs are also a prime target for attackers. Insecure APIs can lead to data breaches, unauthorized access, and denial of service attacks.

Securing APIs in a cloud native  environment is challenging due to their dynamic and distributed nature. Traditional security measures like firewalls and intrusion detection systems are not sufficient. Instead, security needs to be built into the APIs themselves, using techniques like authentication, authorization, encryption, and rate limiting.

Managing Secrets and Configuration Data

Secrets such as API keys, passwords, and certificates are essential for securing communication between services. Similarly, configuration data, which includes information like database connections and environment variables, is crucial for the proper functioning of applications.

Managing secrets and configuration data in a cloud native  environment is a complex task. Secrets need to be securely stored, distributed, and rotated, while configuration data needs to be managed across multiple services and environments. Mismanagement of secrets and configuration data can lead to security breaches and operational failures.

Related content: Read our guide to devops testing.

Compliance and Regulatory Requirements

Compliance and regulatory requirements add another layer of complexity to cloud native security. Organizations need to ensure their cloud native  applications comply with regulations like GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI DSS.

Compliance involves aspects like data protection, access control, and audit logging. However, the dynamic and distributed nature of cloud native  applications makes compliance a challenging task. Organizations need to implement automated compliance checks and continuous monitoring to ensure their applications remain compliant.

5 Pillars of Cloud Native Application Security 

1. Defense in Depth

Defense in depth involves implementing multiple layers of security controls to protect against threats. If one layer is compromised, the attacker still has to bypass additional layers to achieve their goal.

In a cloud native  environment, defense in depth can be achieved through a combination of network security, application security, and data security measures. This includes techniques like micro-segmentation, container hardening, API security, encryption, and access control.

2. Least Privilege

The principle of least privilege states that a user or process must have only the minimum privileges necessary to perform its function. In a cloud native  environment, least privilege can be applied at multiple levels. 

For example, containers should be run with the least privileges necessary, and access to APIs and data should be limited based on the principle of least privilege. Applying this principle reduces the potential impact of a security breach, as an attacker can only access limited resources.

3. Immutable Infrastructure

The concept of an immutable infrastructure refers to an environment where no updates, security patches, or configuration changes happen on live systems. Instead, new versions of infrastructure components are created and deployed to replace old ones. This approach reduces the risk of unauthorized changes and configuration drift, enhancing overall system security.

Immutable infrastructure requires a shift in how we approach system management. By treating infrastructure as disposable, we minimize the chances of vulnerabilities caused by system configuration changes. This concept is integral to cloud native security, and it’s a significant departure from traditional IT practices, which often involve manually updating and maintaining systems.

4. Continuous Monitoring and Automation

Continuous monitoring involves the ongoing observation of cloud-based applications and infrastructure to detect potential security threats. This real-time visibility is crucial for identifying and addressing issues before they become significant problems.

Automation, on the other hand, ensures that routine tasks are performed quickly and accurately, reducing human error. In terms of security, automation can be used to apply patches, enforce policies, and respond to incidents. The combination of continuous monitoring and automation allows for a highly responsive and proactive security stance, essential in today’s fast-paced, constantly evolving digital landscape.

5. Secure Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC)

A secure SDLC incorporates security considerations into every stage of software development, from planning and design to implementation and maintenance. This approach reduces the risk of vulnerabilities being introduced into the software, making it inherently safer.

A secure SDLC encourages developers to think about security from the outset, rather than as an afterthought. It involves practices such as threat modeling, secure coding, and regular security testing. By integrating security into the development process, cloud native applications are better equipped to withstand cyber threats.

Learn more in our detailed guide to SDLC security (coming soon)

Best Practices for Cloud Native Security Platforms 

Secure Configuration and Patch Management

Maintaining a secure configuration for cloud native applications requires proactive patch management. This involves regularly updating and patching software to protect against known vulnerabilities. In a cloud native environment, automation can be leveraged to streamline this process, ensuring that patches are applied promptly and consistently.

Secure configuration also involves limiting access to systems and data. This includes implementing least privilege access controls, ensuring that users and systems have only the permissions they need to carry out their tasks. By taking a proactive approach to configuration and patch management, you can significantly enhance your cloud native security posture.

Network Security and Segmentation

Network security involves protecting the integrity and usability of network and data. It includes practices such as using firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and secure network protocols.

Segmentation, on the other hand, involves dividing a network into smaller parts to limit the potential impact of a breach. If a threat actor gains access to one part of the network, they won’t automatically have access to all areas. This approach, known as micro-segmentation in the cloud native  environment, helps to limit the lateral movement of threats and contain potential breaches.

Data Security and Encryption

Data is the lifeblood of any organization, and securing it is of paramount importance. In the context of cloud native security, this involves using encryption to protect data at rest and in transit. Encryption converts data into a format that can only be read with a valid decryption key, protecting it from unauthorized access.

Data security also involves practices such as data classification, where data is categorized based on its sensitivity, and access controls, which limit who can access certain data. By implementing robust data security measures, you can ensure that your organization’s most valuable assets are well-protected.

Logging and Auditing

Logging involves recording events that happen within your systems, while auditing involves reviewing these logs to identify any unusual or suspicious activity. Logs can provide valuable insights into security incidents, helping you understand what happened and how to prevent similar incidents in the future. 

Auditing, meanwhile, can help you ensure compliance with security policies and regulations. By regularly reviewing logs and conducting audits, you can maintain a strong security posture and respond effectively to any potential threats.

Regular Security Assessments

Regular security assessments involve evaluating your security controls to identify any weaknesses or gaps. They can take the form of vulnerability scans, penetration tests, or security audits.

Regular security assessments are crucial for staying ahead of the ever-evolving threat landscape. They allow you to identify and address vulnerabilities before they can be exploited, ensuring that your cloud native  applications and infrastructure remain secure.

Learn more about Bright Security


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What Is Domain Hijacking?  Domain hijacking refers to the unauthorized acquisition of a domain name by a third party, effectively taking control away from the rightful owner. This form of cyber attack can lead to significant disruptions, including loss of website functionality, email services, and potentially damaging the brand’s reputation.  Domain hijackers often exploit security

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Vulnerability Scanners: 4 Key Features, Types, and How to Choose

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