Staying Safe in Times of Cyber Uncertainty

What is Cloud Application Security?

Cloud application security (a.k.a. cloud app security) is a system of policies, processes, and controls that enable enterprises to protect applications and data in collaborative cloud environments.

Cloud solutions are ubiquitous in modern enterprises. As a result, cloud security is now front and center for optimizing enterprise security posture. Our survey of over 650 cybersecurity professionals reinforced this truth, indicating that 94% are moderately or extremely concerned about cloud security. Here, we’ll take a closer look at cloud-native application security, common threats facing modern enterprises, and best practices and tooling that can help mitigate risk and improve cloud security posture. 

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What is Cloud Application Security?

The Need For Cloud Application Security

Modern enterprise workloads are spread across a wide variety of cloud platforms ranging from suites of SaaS products like Google Workspaces and Microsoft 365 to custom cloud-native applications running across multiple hyper-scale cloud service providers. 

As a result, network perimeters are more dynamic than ever and critical data and workloads face threats that simply didn’t exist a decade ago. Enterprises must be able to ensure workloads are protected wherever they run. Additionally, cloud computing adds a new wrinkle to data sovereignty and data governance that can complicate compliance.

Individual cloud service providers often offer security solutions for their platforms, but in a world where multi-cloud is the norm — a Gartner survey indicated over 80% of public cloud users use multiple providers — solutions that can protect an enterprise end-to-end across all platforms are needed. 

Cloud Application Security Threats

  • Account hijacking: Weak passwords and data breaches often lead to legitimate accounts being compromised. If an attacker compromises an account, they can gain access to sensitive data and completely control cloud assets. 
  • Credential exposure: A corollary to account hijacking is credential exposure. As the SolarWinds security breach demonstrated, exposing credentials in the cloud (GitHub in this case) can lead to account hijacking and a wide range of sophisticated long-term attacks. 
  • Bots and automated attacks: Bots and malicious scanners are an unfortunate reality of exposing any service to the Internet. As a result, any cloud service or web-facing application must account for the threats posed by automated attacks. 
  • Insecure APIs: APIs are one of the most common mechanisms for sharing data — both internally and externally — in modern cloud environments. However, because APIs are often both feature and data- rich, they are a popular attack surface for hackers. 
  • Oversharing of data: Cloud data storage makes it trivial to share data using URLs. This greatly streamlines enterprise collaboration. However, it also increases the likelihood of assets being accessed by unauthorized or malicious users. 
  • DoS attacks: Denial of Service (DoS) attacks against large enterprises have been a cybersecurity threat for a long time. With so many modern organizations dependent on public cloud services, attacks against cloud service providers can now have an exponential impact.  
  • Misconfiguration: One of the most common reasons for data breaches is misconfigurations. The frequency of misconfiguration in the cloud is due in large part to the complexity involved in configuration management (which leads to disjointed manual processes) and access control across cloud providers. 
  • Phishing and social engineering: Phishing and social engineering attacks that exploit the human side of enterprise security are one of the most frequently exploited attack vectors. 
  • Complexity and lack of visibility: Because many enterprise environments are multi-cloud, the complexity of configuration management, granular monitoring across platforms, and access control often lead to disjointed workflows that involve manual configuration and limit visibility which further exacerbates cloud security challenges. 

Types Of Cloud Application Security Solutions

There is no shortage of security solutions designed to help enterprises mitigate cloud application security threats. For example, cloud access security brokers (CASBs) act as a gatekeeper to cloud services and enforce granular security policies. Similarly, web application firewalls (WAFs) and runtime application self-protection (RASP) to protect web apps, APIs, and individual applications. 

Additionally, many enterprises continue to leverage point appliances to implement firewalling, IPS/IDS, URL filtering, and threat detection. However, these solutions aren’t ideal for the modern cloud-native infrastructure as they are inherently inflexible and tied to specific locations. 

Web Application & API Protection (WAAP) has emerged as a more holistic and cloud-native solution that combines — and enhances — the functionality of WAFs, RASP, and traditional point solutions in a holistic multi-cloud platform. With WAAP, enterprises can automate and scale modern application security in a way legacy tooling simply cannot. 

Cloud Application Security Best Practices

Enterprises must take a holistic approach to improve their cloud security posture. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach that will work for every organization, but there are several cloud application security best practices that all enterprises can apply. 

Here are some of the most important cloud app security best practices enterprises should consider:

  • Leverage MFA: Multi Factor authentication (MFA) is one of the most effective mechanisms for limiting the risk of account compromise. 
  • Account for the human aspect: User error is one of the most common causes of data breaches. Taking a two-pronged approach of user education and implementing security tooling such as URL filters, anti-malware, and intelligent firewalls can significantly reduce the risk of social engineering leading to a catastrophic security issue. 
  • Automate everything: Enterprises should automate cloud application monitoring, incident response, and configuration as much as possible. Manual workflows are error-prone and a common cause for oversight or leaked data. 
  • Enforce the principle of least privilege: User accounts and applications should be configured to only access the assets required for their business function. Security policies should enforce the principle of least privilege across all cloud platforms. Leveraging enterprise identity management solutions and SSO (single-sign-on) can help enterprises scale this cloud application security best practice.
  • Use holistic multi-cloud solutions: Modern enterprise infrastructure is complex and enterprises need complete visibility to ensure a strong security posture across all platforms. This means choosing visibility and security tooling that isn’t inherently tied to a given location (e.g. point appliances) or cloud vendor is essential. 
  • Don’t depend on signature matching alone: Many threat detection engines and anti-malware solutions depend on signature matching and basic business logic to detect malicious behavior. While detecting known threats is useful, in practice depending only on basic signature matching for threat detection is a recipe for false positives that can lead to alert fatigue and unnecessarily slow down operations. Additionally, reliance on signature mapping alone means enterprises have little to no protection against zero-day threats that don’t already have a known signature. Security tooling that can analyze behavior in-context, for example by using an AI engine, can both reduce false positives and decrease the odds of a zero-day threat being exploited. 

Cloud AppSec With Check Point

Modern cloud application security requires solutions built with the cloud in mind. CloudGuard AppSec from CheckPoint enables enterprises to protect data and assets end-to-end across all clouds and was built with the modern cloud-native businesses in mind. AppSec is trusted by a wide range of modern enterprises and has proven itself in real-world applications. For example, CloudGuard AppSec was the only security solution that protected customers from Log4Shell (CVE-2021-44228) before it was publicly announced. 

With AppSec enterprises gain:

  • Holistic multi-cloud protection in a single platform.
  • Preemptive application security powered by a patented AI engine which analyzes requests in context and helps mitigate the risk of zero-day exploits. 
  • Prevention of common web application attacks and exploits, including the OWASP Top 10, site defacing, and user session hijacking.
  • API protection with intelligent contextual analysis. 
  • Bot prevention and protection against scraping, credential stuffing, and other automated attacks.
  • Elimination of false positives with contextual AI instead of simple signature mapping.

To see CloudGuard AppSec in action, you’re welcome to schedule a free application security demo today. In the demo, you’ll see firsthand how CloudGuard’s automated application security provides enterprises with fine-grained security that can tightly integrate with DevSecOps workflows and eliminate gaps in overall cloud security. 

If you’d like to learn more about cloud app security, download the free Cloud Application Security Blueprint: Architectures and Solutions whitepaper. In this whitepaper, you’ll learn the latest in modern cloud-native application security including how to automate workflows, reduce your application security TCO, and prevent false positives. 

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