In 2021, more organizations are using the public cloud than ever. Most enterprises are using more than one public cloud service provider, and they still have workloads on-premises that need protection. At the same time, they’re building nearly all new applications in the cloud. This shift to cloud and cloud-native means that handling cloud security effectively is not just important—it’s essential.
For many enterprises with a mix of applications on-prem and in multiple clouds, this new focus on cloud security introduces a new set of acronyms and a different set of considerations than on-prem apps and services. Cloud Workload Protection Platform (CWPP) is a Gartner term to describe a technology solution “primarily used to secure server workloads in public cloud infrastructure as a service environments.”
CWPPs unify management across multiple cloud providers and help protect workload consistency. Cloud Security Posture Management, or CSPM, is another term coined by Gartner and it applies to IT security tools that identify cloud misconfiguration issues and compliance risks. CSPMs help you monitor cloud infrastructure continuously to identify gaps in enforcement of security policies.
These two categories of tools are converging, resulting in Cloud Native Application Protection Platforms, or CNAPPs. CNAPPs pull the controls available in CWPPs and CSPMs together, making cloud security easier for your team to manage.
1) For cloud-native applications, it’s best practice to implement workload security
CWPPs are workload-centric security protection solutions for all types of application workloads, including physical servers, virtual machines (VMs), containers, and serverless workloads.
CWPP solutions arose because server workload protection requires different types of capabilities than the traditional Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) solutions that are used to protect laptops and workstations.
2) CWPP delivers a single pane of glass for visibility and protection across on-premises, hybrid, and cloud environments
CWPP solutions are built with different requirements than EDR solutions, such as more stringent performance and stability technical requirements. This is very important, because container-based workloads are more granular, with shorter life spans at run time.
Processes and threads come and go so rapidly, there’s no time to load signature files for antivirus or run anti-malware scans. CWPPs are built to handle ephemeral workloads and increase visibility across all the different types of environments in your organization.
3) CWPP handles the data plane, giving you insight into the workload
CWPPs help you make sure that privilege management is under control, typically using a data plane agent to analyze the workload. This agent provides you with visibility into what’s happening on the data plane:
- Discover which users are running what — and at what permission level.
- Ensure that no arbitrary code, email, or web clients are running on your data plane.
- Scan for vulnerabilities.
Checking for misconfigurations and vulnerabilities on the data plane helps you identify security risks earlier in the development process, before apps and services are released to production. This enables your organization to shift security left in the software development lifecycle.
Shifting left and discovering issues early reduces costs in terms of disrupting delivery processes and the time required to resolve problems. It’s considerably easier to address vulnerabilities and misconfiguration issues earlier in the development process.
4) It’s not enough to just look at the data plane, you also need to look at the control plane
Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) solutions protect workloads from the outside by assessing the cloud platform’s control plane to determine whether configurations are secure and compliant. These solutions examine and compare cloud environments against a defined set of best practices and known security risks, and are used by organizations that are embracing a cloud-first strategy and seeking to extend these security best practices to hybrid and multi-cloud environments.
As security scanning for CWPP shifts left into the development stage (including scanning for open-source vulnerabilities, library and executable vulnerabilities, dependencies, hard-coded secrets, and malware), it’s also important to scan cloud configurations for excessive risk.
5) Kubernetes is also a control plane
Cloud native technologies, such as microservices, containers, and Kubernetes, help organizations build and run scalable applications on cloud native architecture. Since Kubernetes is the de facto standard for container orchestration, CSPM must also include a new acronym: KSPM, or Kubernetes Security Posture Management.
KSPM helps organizations secure Kubernetes cluster configuration, apply least-privilege access, find vulnerabilities and remediate them, and increase compliance with K8s policies. Kubernetes includes native security controls, but is not secure by default. Organizations that overlook the importance of managing Kubernetes configurations and best practices will have trouble achieving effective cloud security.
6) CWPP + CSPM (including KSPM) = CNAPP
Cloud-Native Application Protection Platform (CNAPP), you guessed it, is yet another term coined by Gartner. Gartner defines CNAPPs as solutions that scans workloads and configurations in development and protects them at runtime. The capabilities of CWPP and CSPM are coming together, and CNAPP solutions are emerging as a blend of the two solutions.
Cloud security and Kubernetes itself are still relatively young technologies and are maturing very rapidly. The most important thing is to ensure that your organization is taking cloud security seriously and looking for solutions that help you manage security effectively across environments.
Cloud security is evolving … and essential
This space is evolving incredibly quickly, and many organizations are shifting to the cloud more quickly than expected due to the impacts of the coronavirus. During these disruptive times, organizations are looking for the best ways to secure their changing cloud workloads. This article gives you the lay of the land (and a whole lot of acronyms) in cloud security to help you to figure out which solutions are best for your organization. Best of luck!
About the Author
Ganesh Pai is CEO of Uptycs