All organizations go through digital transformation (opens in a new tab) in one way or another. Whether they have embraced hybrid working since the start of the pandemic or are introducing artificial intelligence and machine learning into their workloads, integrating technology into a business is fundamental to surviving in the global of today. Cloud-native development – a way to build and run responsive and scalable applications anywhere, whether in public, private or hybrid clouds (opens in a new tab) – is forging a place as a huge disruptive wave that many organizations are embracing as part of their digital transformation efforts.
When looking at the state of cloud native development, there are approximately 6.5 million cloud native developers worldwide; that’s 1.8 million more than in mid-2019, representing 44% of backend developers according to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. Additionally, 46% of developers use open source Kubernetes (opens in a new tab) in development, which has become the go-to choice for container orchestration.
Despite all the benefits that cloud-native architectures can bring, enterprises recognize the changes they need to make to their security posture to ensure that applications (opens in a new tab) are secure. Nearly 60% of organizations have increased security concerns since adopting cloud native. As a result, developers are four times more likely to take ownership of security protocols when developing these apps. Kubernetes committers also improve the security of their containers to help reduce the surface of intrusions such as sandbox evasion attacks. The consequence is that malicious code can be executed from a sandbox outside the container environment.
While the cybersecurity of cloud-native development (opens in a new tab) is a complex subject, understanding its qualities is essential to help strengthen a company’s services and improve its security posture. Professionals should consider these five crucial aspects when it comes to securing cloud-native development:
1. Think carefully about resources
While there are several resources available for cloud-native developers to build their apps, knowing the right approach is essential to maintaining security. It is essential that developers think about what content they can count on, its quality and how long it will be useful to them. Above all, they should know whether it contains any security risks or malicious code and whether it is actively maintained and patched in time.
Now more than ever, developers need to exercise extreme caution and choose resources wisely. Companies can help their developers by providing “healthy defaults” for choosing software (opens in a new tab) to underpin and support their applications. Sane defaults mean providing a selected default setting to ensure an optimal experience that can be replicated across multiple machines. This is important because developers are fully supported in their role and resources are provided that the business knows they can rely on.
2. Use secure and stable base images
The software bundled in a container image largely depends on the chosen base image. Base images provide the foundation needed to run applications, including shared libraries such as SSL and libc, and allow developers to focus on their applications rather than the entire container. Often, base images also tend to contain more software than the applications added to them, and more software comes with more security liability.
Companies should approach the task of choosing a secure and stable base image with great care and consider aspects such as update frequency whether the software ecosystem is large enough to build on top of it and whether the base image is developer-friendly. These aspects are crucial because security becomes an afterthought if the base image is not created properly with security in mind.
3. Examine cloud-native buildpacks
Borrowing from the best previous-generation Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) offerings, cloud-native buildpacks allow developers to effortlessly build hardened, optimized, and secure code containers.
Kubernetes is the standard cloud-native container orchestration. Nevertheless, it leaves many essential aspects of running complex applications, such as managing certificates or selecting and configuring inputs, to its users. What end users want is a complete, easy-to-use and reliable PaaS (opens in a new tab) with good support for components of different sizes, and that’s what buildpacks provide.
4. The importance of patching early and often
Often, if software goes into production with no known vulnerabilities, it is likely that some will be discovered later. Software must be kept up-to-date to avoid breaches, which includes deploying updates in a timely, but simple and non-intrusive manner. This is well understood regarding operating systems and is also true for containers.
With this in mind, organizations should ensure that containers are updated with the latest security patches. The same rules should apply to runtime environments and the infrastructure behind containers. For example, the kernel should be updated using technologies such as live patches that reduce unplanned downtime to be deployed seamlessly in production.
5. Don’t Forget Automation
When a vulnerability is identified, the patch must be deployed quickly and reliably, requiring automation throughout the deployment process. Over the past decade, the industry has made great strides in automating the way it builds software; however, continuous patch delivery is not always at the same level. This is due to automation gaps, which impacted the time it took to deploy security patches to applications.
Going forward, organizations should rely on automation to effectively respond to breaches to minimize the disruption they can cause. The harder the software is to fix, the less this will happen, but organizations wouldn’t worry if they embraced automation.
As more and more organizations turn to cloud-native development because of the benefits it can bring to the business, they cannot overlook the importance of minimizing security risks. The consequences of a breach can be significant, so developers should ensure that security is built in from the start of an application’s development and is regularly updated and patched. Although cloud native security is seen as a complex subject in theory, it doesn’t have to be in practice with these five steps.
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