The typical approach to protecting data centres, which involves building walls around the network perimeter, does not work in the cloud. Misconfigurations like leaving a risky port open or not patching a server are some of the many issues that can go undetected by security teams. In a normal cloud hack, you may compromise your own identity, access to resources, and the encryption methods you use. But hackers are only interested in one thing: information. A policy-as-code strategy is the most efficient method of implementing a cloud security system.

A New Threat Environment

The data centre and the cloud have quite distinct infrastructures. It’s up to developers and engineers to construct and manage their own cloud infrastructure, including security-critical configurations, whenever they need to. This is important since each modification raises the possibility of a configuration error. Moreover, the evil guys will discover it.

What Is a Misconfigured Cloud?

Anything that fails to deter a hacker is a misconfiguration. Misconfigurations like leaving a risky port open or not patching a server are just some of the many issues that can go undetected by security teams because of their complexity. I’m confident that your firm has both types of misconfigurations in your cloud environments.

Application programming interfaces (APIs) are the software “middlemen” that allow different applications to communicate with each other. This reduces the need for a centralised data centre to have a defined IT architecture. By extension, this means that the typical approach to protecting data centres, which involves building walls around the network perimeter to keep out intruders, does not work in the cloud.

It is the API surface that configures and manages the cloud, which is called the control plane. If you want to build a container, adjust a network route, or access data in databases or database snapshots using the control plane, you can (which is more prevalent among hackers than breaking into live production databases). The API control plane consists of all of the APIs that are used to set up and manage the cloud.

In order to gain access to control plane APIs, hackers are looking for and exploiting misconfigurations. As a result, rather than monitoring and intrusion detection, cloud security is a consequence of design and architecture. The damage has already been done by the time you’ve detected it.

Due to a lack of cloud control plane protection, many security firms are lagging hackers in the fight against cyberattacks. A lot of them are just ticking boxes to make senior Executives and security staff feel better until they get hacked. There are too many examples of this in our industry, and it’s not going away any time soon.

Cloud Security Categorizations: An Alphabet Soup

The result is a constant barrage of security solution product categories and acronyms like CWPP, CNAPP, and CSPM being thrown at executives and security professionals alike. But the hackers aren’t concerned with tampering with the naming categories of vendors and analysts. All that matters to them is how they can get into your environment and cause harm.

Understanding where you should focus your attention can be difficult because of all the noise, distraction, and confusion. Individual product categories are irrelevant when it comes to security.

Observations from Actual Cloud Security Failures

The Capital One data breach of 2019, which is still the greatest ever to affect a large financial organization, is an example of this trend. More than 100 million consumer credit applications were stolen by an attacker who accessed the server through a misconfigured firewall (facilitated by Capital One setting permissions that were likely greater in scope than intended).

To the hacker, gaining access to the server meant nothing more than being able to use API keys to search the IAM “network” and steal data. The key to preventing the attack was identifying the attack vector, not whether Capital One had checked off that their vendors’ security systems had been deployed.

It’s impossible for a hacker to operate within the parameters of an organization’s security measures. Because that’s what the hackers are trying to achieve, effective cloud security solutions disregard those product categories and instead focus on avoiding what hackers do by assessing all possible configurations and situations.

In a normal cloud hack, you may compromise your own identity, access to resources, and the encryption methods you use (not just resource configuration, but also policy configuration of identity). Most vendors’ security approaches contain flaws since they believe they’ve checked off all the boxes on a checklist. This leads to mistakes.

When a corporation says, “We have encryption turned on at rest,” it doesn’t care to check if it has an exposed identity, which contains credentials both to the data source and the encryption keys, that is long-lived and resides on a device in their cloud infrastructure.

Aside from classification and a list of things that security professionals do to make themselves feel better, hackers are only interested in one thing: information. Understanding these dangers is the first step in putting together a solid cloud security system. A policy-as-code strategy is the most efficient method of implementation.

Policy as Code

This means that instead of purchasing a large amount of infrastructure and putting programs on top of it, developers construct the infrastructure for their applications in the cloud. Using Infrastructure as Code, developers oversee the coding process. Because of this, the security team’s responsibility shifts from that of a technical expert to that of a mentor to the developers. Your team can describe security and compliance rules in a programming language that an application can utilise to verify the validity of configurations using Policy as Code.

Programs are designed to monitor other code and running environments for undesired circumstances. It enables all cloud stakeholders to operate securely without ambiguity or dispute about the rules and how to apply them at both ends of the software development life cycle (SDLC).

Utilize automation technologies.

Policy as Code also makes it possible to automatically look for and, in some situations, correct configuration errors. This frees up your security and infrastructure staff from having to do these tasks by hand, which takes time and is prone to error. All three phases of the development, runtime, and continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline must be implemented to achieve an integrated response. In the later stages of your development, these items can be institutionalised and built into your procedures so that they are all automated.

Protecting your cloud infrastructure requires a grasp of how hackers think and operate, as well as the crucial difference between on-premises and cloud attacks. In most cases, you’ll find that your security team has installed a slew of point solutions, possibly all purchased from the same vendor with the same product name, that are insufficient in solving the little pieces of what Policy as Code can do, fundamentally and strategically.

Final Words

It is not possible to protect data centres using the traditional method of erecting walls around the network perimeter in the cloud. An open port or an unpatched server are just two of the many security flaws that may go unnoticed by security teams. Your own identity, access to resources, and encryption methods may be compromised in a typical cloud hack. Hackers, on the other hand, are only interested in information. The most efficient way to implement a cloud security system is through a policy-as-code strategy.

Developers oversee the coding process thanks to Infrastructure as Code. Security and compliance rules can be written in a programming language that can be used by an application. As a result, your security and infrastructure teams will have more time to focus on other projects.