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Cloud modernization: How to secure cloud-native applications

  • Arshad Rizvi

    Cloud Security Leader

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Published

03/31/2022

Modern life moves quickly, and businesses must move quickly too.

Businesses need to innovate to stay competitive, yet many still rely on legacy infrastructure and applications. As a result, business leaders struggle with spiraling costs, a limited ability to deliver new solutions and services, and difficulty attracting and retaining talent.

It's why forward-thinking business leaders look to modernize with cloud. More specifically, with cloud-native architecture – and cloud-native applications – that delight employees and customers.

In a previous blog, I spoke about the importance of cloud security. But with cloud-native applications, it's important to take additional considerations into account.

The cloud-native security challenge

Of course, everyone knows the benefits of moving to cloud. But the ongoing changes, complexity, and diversity of cloud architecture make securing cloud-native applications challenging.

Cloud-native applications incorporate design principles, cloud-native architecture, software, and services with the cloud as the hosting platform. This means you have many more components to secure. And if you're working across many different cloud providers, you must deploy the right controls across multiple environments to keep applications secure.

So, what can you do about it?

5 ways to secure cloud-native applications

Unfortunately, it's impossible to make cloud-native applications entirely risk-free. But there are ways to mitigate risk:

  1. Deliver security by design: Bring security considerations into your design, build, and deploy process as early on as possible. Why? Well, if you find a security problem while you're already running cloud-native applications, that problem becomes much harder to solve. And wherever possible, automate your security implementation.
  2. Limit access: Alternatively, consider the 'principle of least privilege'. This means only giving application users granular access to each application. With this approach, security teams gain more control and find it easier to manage risk. By limiting access, they limit the likelihood of security being compromised.
  3. Consider zero trust: Organizations are moving away from a traditional perimeter-based security model – wherein trust is implicit – to a zero-trust model. A zero-trust model relies on security policies and an attribute-based approach. This means you'll need to evaluate why, when, and how each user needs access to cloud-native applications, rather than a broad access approach.
  4. Be proactive: As part of your software development pipeline, you must identify security vulnerabilities and threats prior to deployment. You should verify security controls for each application and check for issues within the application components – including those from third-party open-source software libraries. Better still, consider ongoing threat modeling with continuous scanning and remediation.
  5. Educate and enforce: As you build cloud-native applications, you must also build security confidence with employees to make sure they are compliant. You may also want to establish standards and security libraries of reusable code for developers, so they don't have to create their own each time.

Don't forget your software supply chain

You'll likely be familiar with the term 'supply chain' as it refers to the production and distribution of a product. In this scenario, a company and supplier will work in-house and also rely on a variety of third parties to bring a product to market.

A software supply chain follows a similar pattern. It's all the software components and vendors businesses use to compose cloud-native applications. This includes third-party agencies, open-source software, in-house source code developers, application security providers, deployment environments, and more.

But this isn't without risk. Think of it this way – the more third parties get involved in developing your cloud-native applications, the more potential there is for security vulnerabilities. It's why you must consider an end-to-end approach for managing software supply chain security as part of the recommendations above.

Making the most of cloud

Ultimately, the cloud is a great foundation for innovation. Businesses that focus on modernization now – and take proactive steps to build new and enhance existing cloud-native applications – will be the businesses that thrive.

But these businesses can only thrive if security isn't compromised, which is why there's no time like the present to put security first.

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