Cloud Native Security - What is it and how does it work?

Understanding Cloud Native Security Systems - What is it?

The best practices and essential strategies to fortify your cloud infrastructure, ensuring a robust security framework for your cloud-based operations.

Olivia Tanner
Olivia Tanner
Senior Marketing Executive
August 08, 2023

What is cloud-native security?

Cloud native security means intertwining security into an organisation's overall cloud-native application strategy. Cloud native is the methodology of building and running applications that fully harnesses the power of cloud computing, providing organisations with the ability to run scalable applications in a modern and dynamic environment like public, private and hybrid clouds. This style of security requires changes to the internal infrastructure, including teams and processes to ensure secure applications.

Cloud adoption is becoming the rule rather than the exception, with Gartner stating the global public cloud market is predicted to hit £277 billion by the end of 2023. Examples of these cloud-native technologies are containers, service meshes, microservices, immutable infrastructure and declarative APIs.

The Cloud Native Computing Foundation says that these technologies have enabled us to produce loosely coupled systems that are resilient, manageable and observable.

Cloud-based security includes the integration of security into organisations' cloud-based application development plans. Using these approaches, secure applications can evolve in a variety of areas, including infrastructure, teams, and processes. However, the development and operations teams must first understand the importance of cloud-native technologies and the strategies behind them.

What do you mean by cloud native?

Cloud native means born in the cloud. It is technology and architecture that is developed exclusively within the cloud, without the need for dedicated hardware or computer infrastructure that is deployed in a public cloud like in AWS, Azure, or GCP using cloud-based technologies.

It is an approach to designing, building and running applications based on infrastructure-as-a-service technology. Cloud-native is a relatively new way of developing effective products, achieved by splitting services into many smaller pieces that can be reused and redeployed in many use-cases.

The overall objective is to improve speed and scalability and enable security teams to actively oversee, monitor and secure applications, infrastructure and platforms on the cloud environments.

What is the different between cloud based cyber security and cloud-native security?

Cloud-native security is incorporated into any cloud environment or application. These cloud security solutions were created specifically for cloud-specific attacks. Cloud-based cybersecurity can help cloud environments, but this solution was designed outside of cloud infrastructure.

What are the 4 C’s of cloud-native security?

The four C's of cloud native security are Cloud, Clusters, Containers, and Code.

These can be thought about in layers that encapsulate the cloud environment. This approach mirrors the defence-in-depth computing strategy for security, recognised as an industry best practice for effectively safeguarding software systems.

The four C's of cloud-native security embody the essential measures adopted by developers to uphold the highest standards of cloud computing. These measures are crucial in attaining the diverse security objectives and successfully clearing all necessary checks before delivering the application to end users.

Simply put, each layer of the cloud native security model builds upon the next outermost layer as a continuous integration, which acts as a defensive mechanism to protect valuable data and information.

See below for a good example of the overall layout of the cloud-native security model.

The Native Cloud Model

Security controls at each layer are very important to ensure cloud-native applications are not vulnerable to attacks. Each layer provides its own attack surface and may not be protected by the other layers, which is why a defence-in-depth approach is recommended.

To understand the cloud-native security model further, let's break down into each component:

Cloud Layer

The cloud layer is made up of infrastructure that actually runs cloud resources. It is commonly known as the base layer. Depending on the cloud providers, security will either be managed or self-managed. But what does that mean?

Managed Infrastructure

Managed infrastructure security will vary based on the provider businesses decided to operate with. This could include a cloud service provider like AWS or Azure. However, businesses must understand the importance of the Shared Responsibility Model that is in place when accessing a cloud service provider's infrastructure, such as AWS.

The shared responsibility model provides us with a security framework that dictates the obligations of the providers and ensures accountability.

You can see in the example below the different types of responsibilities the cloud service providers handle, and which are the responsibility of the end-user.

Responsibilities of cloud service providers

Source: containerjournal

Self-managed Security

Here, the security is going to be based on Infrastructure Security and managed internally with security teams and developers. Key components to consider would include network access to API Server, network access to Nodes, Encryption and other security elements.

Misconfigurations can run riot in the cloud layer if we are not careful. Unfortunately, they are almost commonplace here. Bad actors are continuously running massive amounts of automated scans trying to exploit any vulnerabilities. A common vulnerability could include a poorly configured access management system which could lead to leaked information.

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Moving on to the second component layer in the cloud-native security model.

Cluster Layer

The cluster layer security is made up of two parts, components of the cluster and components in the cluster. There is a clear differentiation between the two:

Components of the cluster

This secures the configurable cluster components which includes a multitude of elements to secure the cluster layer. To ensure components of the cluster are safe from compromise, you should consider:

  • Enabling audit logging
  • Restrict access to alpha or beta features
  • Review third party integrations before enabling them
  • Receive alerts for security updates and reporting vulnerabilities
  • Rotate infrastructure credentials frequently and restrict permissions within the cloud cluster

The components in the cluster secures the applications running within it. Kubernetes is the dominant orchestration tool in this layer.

To ensure cluster security, it is important that packages are verified and containers are kept up to date. Ensure authorisation and authentication are correctly implemented, and all traffic is encrypted to the highest standard. Here, secrets should be implemented to protect sensitive data.

Code Layer

The code layer is where organisations code will have the most effect, and where they have the most control. It is recognised as a primary attack surface that provides organisations with the most significant security controls. It is likely that code here will be exposed to the internet, along with any connected databases.

To achieve a high level of cloud-native application security, developers or security teams must manage complexity and ensure all data is encrypted and monitored, both in transit and at rest. This means all data, including internal services and any exposed applications, ports, and APIs.

Teams should be keeping a tight operating system to maintain high code quality and avoid code vulnerability.

But what does code vulnerability look like?

Code vulnerability refers to a defect or weakness in a code that can pose a security risk, opening opportunities for threat actors to exploit vulnerabilities.

This could result in attaching malicious code to various endpoints, potentially leading to data extraction, tampering with the code, or even data deletion. Additionally, code vulnerabilities expose both users and developers to a wide array of security threats.

Here are a few additional issues in this layer that should be reviewed:

  • Software dependencies

    Code can often depend on another piece of code in order to function correctly. When looking at software dependencies it is important to consider the two main types: hard dependencies, which are non-negotiable and workloads cannot function without them. And, soft dependencies which can go missing unnoticed and tolerated without for some time. All components, activities and practices involved in developing this software should be protected with software supply chain security to prevent any vulnerabilities being exploited.

  • Insecure code

    Secure coding involves designing code that strictly follows code security best practices, ensuring that published code remains safeguarded against malicious actors and vulnerabilities. Insecure coding practices pose a threat to customers and can significantly damage a business's reputation.

    Maintaining secure coding practices is paramount to prevent tampering, data extraction, and destruction, thereby enhancing overall system resilience and trustworthiness.

  • Application scanning

    KnowBe4 states, 80% of breaches are caused by hackers finding and exploiting known vulnerabilities. Application scanning involves automated monitoring and scans to detect and identify security vulnerabilities or breaches.

    Use OnSecurity's threat intelligence tool to scan for vulnerabilities today!

The next layer in the cloud-native security model is the container layer. Let's take a look at what that involves.

Container Layer

In the cloud-native security model, the container layer refers to the level where containerised applications run and are managed. Containers are lightweight, portable, and isolated units that package an application and its dependencies, allowing it to run consistently across various environments.

The container layer is an integral part of cloud-native architectures and is responsible for encapsulating the application and its runtime environment.

By effectively securing the container layer, organisations can strengthen the overall security posture of their cloud-native applications and protect against potential security threats.

What are the benefits of cloud native technologies?

Cloud native technologies are developed and deployed quickly by smaller, dedicated teams to a software platform that offers simple scaling and can remove hardware. This strategy offers organisations advantages over native cloud architecture like greater agility, resilience and portability over cloud. Other benefits include reduced time in delivering the product. Cloud native development involves changing from the emphasis on IT cost savings to accepting digital services as an engine for businesses to grow. Businesses delivering and designing applications quickly to meet customer needs will be successful.

Challenges of cloud-native application development

Cloud innovation is bringing new challenges and opportunities to developers. The key to cloud-native development is using tools such as Kubernetes and Terraform for automated deployment, setup & provisioning infrastructures. Organisations must recognise such unforeseen challenges and develop strategies that will help them address them.

What is cloud-native strategy?

A cloud-native strategy is one that aims to allow us to exploit cloud infrastructure such as containers, to achieve business objectives. By going cloud-native, your organisation will be empowered to rapidly deploy scaling apps, without the risk of system downtime, and have the ability to conduct efficient testing of new features.

The cloud-native approach deliveries big businesses benefits, such as:

  • Competitively launch new products.
  • Increase adaptability to evolving requirements.
  • Provide better services to customers.
  • Reduce operating costs and downtime.
  • Accelerate digital transformation.

Cloud-native security with OnSecurity

OnSecurity is able to provide penetration testing activities to identify weaknesses to your AWS, Azure and GCP cloud environments.

We assess best practices, potential misconfigurations and other security issues which may lead to data exposure or unauthorised access in order to ensure that your environment is configured in the best possible manner.

For further information, or if you have any specific enquiries around this please contact us or request a quote.

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