The Future of Cloud Native in a Brave New World
Over the past 18 months, the global workforce has experienced a seismic digital shift, forcing many organizations to use the cloud to maintain business continuity. According to a report, the growth of cloud services has accelerated, with predictions that the cloud market could eventually be worth $1 billion.
Part of this change has been the evolution of what is called “cloud native”. A modern approach to building and running applications, cloud native has evolved from a marketing term to a highly desirable and useful architectural choice. Whether it’s driving benefits around design or building and deploying applications, it’s easy to see why it’s become the default approach for many organizations.
While convenient, cloud-native applications are a complex, multi-layered attack surface that is both undersecure and widely misunderstood. As a result, they have introduced a new set of application security challenges, forcing organizations to effectively secure their interconnected cloud-based solutions.
As investments in digital technologies supported by cloud solutions are set to increase, how can organizations and their developers building cloud-native solutions ensure the highest levels of security?
Securing the new hybrid ecosystem
We know that in the age of modern software, with the continued explosion of emerging technologies, digital transformation journeys, and the shift to cloud native, developer teams are increasingly challenged to create secure code.
Here are three best practice steps for developers to follow in order to effectively secure their interconnected cloud solutions:
- First line test code: No part of a codebase is inherently secure, and every line should be inspected early in development to ensure vulnerabilities are found and fixed. It is also important to remember that when new features and functionality are added to the application, the blocks of code introduced should be given the same time and attention as all the other pieces of the larger software puzzle.
- Ensure that each component is secure: It is essential to test everything, including and especially third-party components and APIs, as it is common for vulnerabilities to exist in these environments. A “trust and verify” approach is paramount, which means that organizations trust but make a concentrated effort to verify and validate third-party solutions and components before using them. As we continue to build applications from a diverse set of components, blindly believing that third-party technologies are secure is a recipe for disaster.
- Test infrastructure as code (IaC): With the transition to the cloud came new challenges for software developers, namely the abundance of IaC. This is attested by our survey, which found that one in six developers do not perform any security testing when building cloud-native applications, which has a significant impact on the security of their applications. Therefore, just as you take careful steps to test and secure applications, the same must be done when it comes to IaC.
Common Pitfalls That Hinder Progress
Time and time again we have seen examples of software full of exploitable vulnerabilities being released and subsequently abused by malicious actors. Additionally, new software use cases are released into the market every day, further expanding the attack surface at an unprecedented rate.
Developers face several pitfalls that hinder their progress and allow attackers to easily access their solutions. These include:
- Not integrating AST early enough in the application development process: AST solutions allow security to become an integral part of development. However, developers frequently implement security solutions after development is complete. This perspective needs to change because it is cheaper and easier to patch security vulnerabilities earlier in the lifecycle.
- Not understanding the nuances between traditional application security and cloud-native security: To properly secure cloud-native applications, these nuances must be understood. Typically, the traditional sec app is more contained, whereas with cloud native, many more components and connections interact and “talk” to make everything work. While this makes applications more dynamic, it also creates an exponentially larger attack surface. Security teams and software developers are now tasked with learning how to build applications in a completely new environment while evolving the way they test for security vulnerabilities, which can arise in any integrated cloud component.
- Dispersed security responsibilities: Security ownership also changed hands. With dispersed code and responsibility for digital transformation projects spread across multiple teams, security responsibilities are also dispersed. Now, developers, DevOps, and IT teams must take on this responsibility together. This shared ownership can be complex, but it’s necessary given how easily security can be an afterthought.
Cloud native is the future. Undoubtedly, this is central to software development in the new world we live in. However, with the additional challenges it brings and the pace at which it is being implemented, organizations need to consider the security practices necessary to ensure developers see security. as a vital step in software development rather than an additional layer of complexity.
With a greater awareness of the challenges posed by the new hybrid ecosystem and adopting the aforementioned best practices to overcome these obstacles, organizations can ensure that their teams are utilizing the full benefits of cloud native, while significantly reducing risk.