The cloud has revolutionized the way businesses operate, offering ultra-efficient and scalable foundations that any organization can take advantage of. Fostering a boom in digital acceleration, critical applications and services are now valued for their flexibility, whether on-premises, or at home. This boom has sparked increasingly powerful endpoint devices, demanding more pervasive cloud environments, leading to a feedback loop demanding faster, richer, and more collaborative user experiences. As almost half of all enterprises now run more than half of their workloads in the cloud, the importance of cloud native security has never been greater.
The Challenges Facing Cloud Security
Freeing organizations from the shackles of on-premises solutions, the physical hardware that forms the foundation of online connectivity can now be outsourced. The cloud not only includes the servers’ hosting websites, but also provides infrastructure as a service for developers. This saves developers and end-user organizations from manually having to manage the necessary space, power and resources. A smaller team can now handle the same operations, which can be scaled up and down to tightly reflect performance demands.
Despite the financial and productivity benefits presented by the cloud, there are severe challenges facing the cloud security landscape. The most fundamental of these is the interconnected nature of cloud technology. The popularity of cloud – and the subsequent rise in granular, agile pieces of software – has led to a fundamental shift towards microservice architecture. This describes applications that are built as a set of services, with each service running its own process. These different services communicate to one another via Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). The increasing focus on microservices have resulted in attack surfaces becoming highly fragmented.
APIs present major authentication issues for applications, as shown by the massive LinkedIn breach in June 2021. A public API lacked sufficient authentication measures, leading to the scraping and reselling of data belonging to 92% of LinkedIn’s entire user base. Once granted access by the authentication-free API, a malicious actor scraped LinkedIn for the personal data of 700 million of its users. This included the email addresses and phone numbers of business executives and employees – data worth its weight in gold for criminals looking to profit off C-suite phishing attacks.
Requiring authentication may be a great first step for cybersecurity, but other APIs have displayed misconfigurations that bypass the auth controls that were implemented. A severe API attack against Noxplayer, an Android emulator, displayed as much: hackers were able to access and change the updater’s API. Instead of a legitimate update being downloaded, NoxPlayer end users received ‘updates’ in the form of malware. Cloud applications, therefore, are prone to weaknesses in the gaps between overlapping pieces of architecture. Endpoint visibility could have prevented this, and allowed the correct server to be verified prior to the installation process.
Another issue that holds particular ramifications for cloud applications is the industry’s severe lack of security professionals. In 2022, 50% of surveyed organizations identified this lack thereof as the main barrier to global cloud adoption. This represented a rise from 34% in 2021, showing that other concerns – such as regulatory compliance and integration strategies – are fading away into the background. Connected to this flaw is the fact that developers are more separated from your organization’s security team than ever before. This is named the ‘DevSec Disconnect’, and is partially a result of high-pressure, time-crunched development cycles. For cloud-based applications to truly fulfill the promise of a digital transformation, cloud native security needs to ease the daunting workload currently facing large swathes of the security industry.
The Benefits of Cloud Native Security
There are four components to cloud-native security. To close the DevSec divide, these components closely follow those implemented by developers: the application’s cloud, cluster, container and code must all be secured.
The cloud element forms the basis of configuring an application’s security. Each cloud provider has their own recommendations for running secure workloads within the given environment. Cloud-native security uses this layer to build and secure all app features that interact with the external world. Third-party plugins and APIs are securable, but they require purpose-built security to guarantee so.
The cluster layer focuses on another aspect of cloud fragmentation. Applications deployed on cloud infrastructure are regularly modularized into containers, and grouped into clusters. The communication within these clusters must be secured. The container layer then provides security between the different clusters: the entire information lifecycle is therefore suitably protected.
After a deep dive into the ultra-tailored architecture of cloud-native security, it’s easy to see why legacy perimeter security falls so short. Perimeter security simply assumes that – if the perimeter, or authentication controls – of an application are suitably protected, then the software is made safe. However, perimeter security was built for an era that has now passed. The time that a company’s network was solid, on-premises mass is now passed. Remote working and cloud applications have broken up the traditional network boundary, demanding a new sec model for a new era.
Unfortunately many organizations currently face the challenge of hybrid, patchwork systems. This makes cloud-based apps a security nightmare, as they directly transgress the on-premises philosophy of perimeter security. This is where a third-party cloud native solution can drastically decrease the DevOps’ workload.
Selecting the Right Cloud Native Security Solution
It goes without saying, but your cloud native security solution needs to be as flexible and scalable as the cloud applications themselves. Depending on your industry, cloud security can guarantee an organization’s compliance with data responsibility regulations. In terms of real-world threat, the spiraling danger of APIs is often in their opacity: the sheer quantity of APIs currently in use make them one of the hardest security components to keep track of. A quality cloud security provider will offer automatic, comprehensive API discovery. By discovering and classifying each of these endpoints, data leakage and API abuse becomes far easier to predict and fix proactively.
Ultimately, the right cloud security solution will prioritize transparency and automation. With ever-shifting cloud applications secured, your tech stack is safe from API blunders and mismanaged authorization controls.