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How to Secure Cloud-Native Applications

Businesses these days depend a lot on technology to facilitate their day-to-day operations. For instance, enabling faster time to market and modernize business operations, businesses are embracing Cloud Native Application Development and design patterns. However, security threats of several types pose a serious challenge while availing and or deploying cloud computing services. Security issues need to be dealt with with precision as they can deeply impact the image of the business organization.

With the growing dependence on cloud platforms and applications, there have been several cases of security and identity theft. Some of the instances of security threats include -Application vulnerabilities, data breaches, insecure APIs, account hijacking, data loss, malicious insiders, insufficient credential management, and denial of service are some of the risks. Securing an application’s Cloud Native Infrastructure entails the implementation of Cloud Native Security architecture which is a strategy that facilitates the visibility of everything running within the cloud to help security teams monitor and secure applications, platforms, and infrastructure on the cloud.

Ensuring Protection against Threats

Organizations should implement a two-pronged strategy to counter these threats. Firstly, they should adopt a zero-trust model for their services and data. Secondly, they should integrate security practices throughout the lifecycle of software development (SDLC) by embracing the DevOps movement. For simplifying the deployment workflow and packaging of cloud-native applications, enterprises are using container technologies. Docker is one such container technology. Another is the Elastic Container Service which makes it easy for you to position, manage and scale containerized applications for automating the deployment of container applications, scaling, and management.

4 Cs- The pillars of Cloud-Native Security

Cloud, Clusters, Containers, and Code are the 4 Cs of Cloud-Native security. The Code layer forms the topmost layer of protection with the Cloud, Cluster, and Containers forming the successive layers underneath.


Considered the foundation of all layers of security, infrastructure security is integral to the Cloud services of the respective providers like AWS (Amazon Web Services), Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and IBM Cloud.


Kubernetes is the standard operating tool of this layer that addresses the primary security concerns like secrets management, RBAC authorization, network policies, and pod security policies.


The recommended security postures of this layer are image signing, container vulnerability scanning, and prohibiting privileged users.


Organizations have maximum control over this layer to implement security recommendations like adopting DevSecOps practices, performing static code analyses, and ensuring security is a part of the CI/CD pipeline.

A Shared Responsibility Security Model

In the public cloud, the service providers and their customers share the responsibility for ensuring security. The service provider is responsible for ensuring the security of the overall Cloud infrastructure used for delivering services and of the operational concerns in the network and physical layer. On the other hand, customers take responsibility for their business logic including data layer protection and the application code. Good teamwork between service providers and customers is necessary to ensure a strong security layer.

Automating Cloud Native Security

Increased collaboration and transparency between operation and development processes are central to the DevOps methodology. However, enterprises must not neglect security in pursuit of speeding up the time to market and should avoid all attempts to push security further down in the pipeline. DevOps helps to prevent dilution of security as it incorporates security measures and operations quite early in the software development cycle.

Shift-Left Security Strategy

Security should be at the top of the developer’s mind when designing and building systems. Therefore, it is essential to shift security to the left in the development process. Since fixing security vulnerabilities during production is overly expensive, implementing the shift-left security strategy ensures the implementation and testing of security during the development process while avoiding doing it just before deployment to production.

Most vulnerabilities show up at the application level which increases the risks of cyber-attacks. Static application security testing (SAST) and allied tools help in scanning the entire code base and apply security-related rules to detect vulnerabilities like cross-site scripting, SQL injection, code injection issues, and denial of service.

Container Security

Although containers provide some level of security and isolation, it also raises some security concerns like denial-of-service attacks; kernel exploits, container breakouts, poisoned images, and compromised secrets. It is critical to minimize the container attack surface because issues in one container can potentially affect other instances running on the same host. Ensuring restrictive user access and applying the principle of least privilege is part of the best practices.

Infuse Security into CI/CD Pipelines

Infusing security controls into the automated pipelines is critical for delivering quality software. Equipped with the necessary permissions, since the DevOps pipeline can facilitate the implementation of changes to your environment you should have stringent security fencing around it.

Last but not the least, developers can use commercial and open-source security tools for their CI/CD pipelines. Identifying the security early and implementing low-friction measures can ensure proper infusion of security in the pipelines.


Written By

Ankur Kumar is a Content Lead with a Premier AWS Consulting Partner and an experienced tech blogger. He likes to ideate and write on various topics including technology, digital marketing, start-ups and environment. An avid outdoorsman, explorer and nature lover who believes in minimalist lifestyle.

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