Modern organizations are adopting a cloud-native approach to their application development. While this approach provides many benefits, it also makes organizations face several challenges, including the challenge of securing the application with a completely different approach. In this blog, we will discuss how software changes and how organizations should think about securing it.
Gartner estimates 90 percent of global organizations will be running containerized applications in production in the coming five years. This implies a significant shift in how organizations build software, from traditional applications to containerized ones on the cloud.
Applications that used to be one main monolithic application running on physical servers have become, with the rise of the cloud-native approach, a large set of small and independent code logic units called microservices that are assembled into an application and deployed on the cloud via several layers such as containers and clusters. Those services are implemented either in-house or via third parties such as open source projects and external providers.
One of the main driving forces of this transition is the need to ship code faster, which has resulted in the rise of the agile software development process. To accomplish an agile methodology, many DevOps practices, technologies, and tools have been implemented in recent years to support the new way of designing and building cloud-based applications. Moreover, developers are responsible for large parts of the software development life cycle (SDLC), which makes them responsible also to the security aspects within it.
The agile development process has also brought some challenges from the software security perspective. The breaking of software into microservices that are deployed on the cloud infrastructure has made traditional analysis tools, such as application security testing (AST), less hermetic in regard to the multi-layered problem of cloud-based applications. It also created knowledge gaps between the development life-cycle personas, such as Developers, DevOps, and SecOps, in the transition between the development stages, from code to build, to test, to deployment and to run-time.
The transition to cloud-based applications brings several benefits to the way software is built. It allows developers to ship code faster and more efficiently by using third-party and open source software, and manage their code better with the benefits of Git. It allows organizations to benefit business-wise thanks to improved scalability, flexibility, and resiliency; to deliver products faster to market; and to lower operational costs.
Along with those benefits, cloud-based applications also raise some challenges. These applications are built on many layers and their development process is spread over multiple stages, which makes it difficult to manage and govern the development workflow. There are also massive amounts of tools and technologies that function as enablers for cloud-native application development.
The unique value proposition of cloud-native architectures also brings many layers of complexity, such as the source code, third-party code, dependencies, software artifacts from the build process, and Infrastructure as Code, which results in the deployment of live infrastructure, and the cloud resources provisioning with clusters. Therefore, one of the main challenges for cloud-native applications is security.
A security approach should also address the multiple workflows that exist in the SDLC, such as the integrated development environment (IDE), testing flows, deployment flows, configuration management, and cloud resources, by integrating directly with native environments such as IDEs, Git repositories, CI/CD flows and image registries.
In order to overcome the security challenge, an organization should adopt multi-layered tools and security approaches to efficiently manage its security posture.
To assess the risk of cloud-based applications, organizations need to adopt a holistic approach that provides the following:
Furthermore, assessing the risk is just the first step. While efficient assessment helps a lot in reducing the massive load of security threats, it is mandatory to provide a framework, with workflow automation, to help security admins remediate and mitigate security breaches.