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Infrastructure-as-code, and how it can secure the cloud

By Nick Forrester
Wed 31 Mar 2021
FYI, this story is more than a year old

It’s no secret that the rise of DevSecOps has paved the way for the widespread embedding of security into the development lifecycle for many years now. DevOps and engineering IT teams have seen success with DevSecOps — container security has shifted left, and tools like Snyk are spearheading the way to put security tooling in developers’ hands.

But cloud security, now even more critical to organisations than ever before, has lagged behind. Data breaches are getting more sophisticated, costlier, and more frequent, and gaps in cloud security have certainly not helped: according to recent studies, cloud misconfiguration is the number one cause of data breaches.

For cloud-native teams, addressing security from code to cloud is crucial. So how should these teams proceed?

One avenue to take would be to pursue infrastructure-as-code (IaC). Infrastructure as code tools like Terraform and CloudFormation enable teams to focus on provisioning rather than individual configuration management. 

This opened up roadmaps initially for infrastructure performance and scalability — but now, it is being utilised for security. It automates cloud security, empowers engineering teams to implement infrastructure code security best practices, and enables cloud insight in both runtime and build-time.

Bridgecrew, a specialist in cloud security, recognised IaC early on as one of the best ways for modern teams to delegate security ownership to individual contributors while distributing it across existing frameworks within CI/CD pipelines. This attribute meant that IaC was invaluable in securing cloud-native environments.

By embedding IaC security and compliance controls into your version control systems and CI/CD pipelines, you can start identifying and fixing errors earlier. But, to do so without being disruptive, it’s vital to lay out a strategy to determine where and how to enforce security controls to meet your goals without slowing your developers down, from experimentation to governing strategy.

Bridgecrew’s platform does all this and more. As a codified cloud security platform, it’s designed to provide both runtime cloud security monitoring and infrastructure security in build-time via developer-friendly integrations, native CI/CD workflow integrations, and graph-based visibility across an entire infrastructure.

Bridgecrew’s IaC platform leans into the built-in benefits of IaC to transfer the value of scalability and predictability to infrastructure security. It does this in part through Checkov, its open-source static analysis tool for IaC frameworks like Terraform, CloudFormation, and Kubernetes. 

Checkov’s functionality also allows teams to implement fixes as code and unify runtime cloud security posture monitoring with the IaC layer. Downloaded more than 1.2 million times already, reviews have been positive.

For IaC security tools to extract the greatest value and deliver success, they must be automated, delivered-as-code, and part of a continuous workflow.

Automated IaC governance

Infrastructure misconfigurations may (sometimes) be trivial, but finding them manually is not. Expecting all developers to be up-to-date with hundreds of security and compliance policies across cloud providers is unrealistic. 

Additionally, because the discipline is so new, it can be difficult to find helpful resources. By automating the scanning of IaC, you save time and get a level of coverage not otherwise possible.

Governed in code, secured in code

Finding the right tooling to automate the identification of IaC issues is imperative, and if security teams can apply that same methodology to fixing them, even better. To do that, fixes need to be delivered in a common language — code. 

Bridgecrew is unique in that it not only provides visibility and feedback but also security as code fixes. Automated fixes get delivered back into teams' infrastructure as code repositories via pull requests that include the secure and compliant code.

Continuous workflow

Finally, IaC security needs to be embedded into the tools and day-to-day processes that security teams already depend on, or it’ll never get adopted. 

Whether adding it to pull request checks or a failing step in a CI/CD pipeline, it should be part of every code review. Not only will that enable teams to identify newly defined policy violations, but it will harden the IaC over time by preventing misconfigurations from being deployed in the first place and help you avoid cloud drift.
 

While IaC is an excellent option for security teams wishing to embed security into their development lifecycle, it also adds complexity to oftentimes already complicated and robust cloud environments. That's why it's so important to implement and maintain a well-thought-out and cohesive IaC security strategy. 

Ultimately, it’s up to every security team to work closely with their engineering and DevOps to make security consumable and to prevent risk as early in the development life cycle as possible.

To learn more about Bridgecrew's cloud security solutions, click here.

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