What is Workload Protection?

Cloud workloads are any capabilities, or work, that you place on a cloud instance and could entail files, containers, functions, nodes, etc. Cloud workload protection  is the overall protection and best practice security protocols placed around your cloud workloads. Furthermore, these workloads could run on a single cloud or on multiple clouds which makes security even more important, and more complicated.

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What is Workload Protection?

Many people mistakenly believe that workload protection  is an inherent responsibility of your cloud service provider. For example, if you make use of Amazon Web Services (AWS), you might believe that Amazon is responsible for your workload protection . But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Security is a shared responsibility, and each cloud provider has developed a Shared Responsibility Model to clearly delineate what is the security responsibility of the provider and the client. For instance, Amazon Web Services outlines that they are responsible for the security of the infrastructure, whereas the client is responsible for the security of the data and applications running within that infrastructure. Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform have a similar model. They have the concentrated effort to improve security on their end, it’s the clients responsibility to manage and secure your workloads.

In many organizations, workload protection  becomes the focus of developers and entire DevSecOps teams have been created with the sole purpose of enhancing workflow and efficiency around modern cloud applications and workloads. But how are things different, what are the stakes, , and what steps should one take to improve it?

Common Threats in workload protection

Let’s take a look at some of the common threats that workload protection  seeks to prevent:

  • Account theft. In other cases, a cybercriminal may attempt to hijack your account, impersonating you or one of your employees. Some of the most common methods here include phishing, and social engineering (in which someone masquerades as an authority figure to seize login credentials).
  • API access. In many cases, APIs are weak points. API infrastructures allow two or more applications to “talk” to each other, exchanging data in a specific way. These are oftentimes easily accessible, and are hard to secure, making them common targets of hackers.
  • Third-party vulnerabilities. Similarly, if you’re integrating a third-party tool, or if you’re working with an external partner, any vulnerability in that third party could ultimately make you more vulnerable.
  • DDoS and similar attacks. In a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, servers are overwhelmed with requests so they can no longer function adequately. These and similar style attacks can often be prevented if they’re detected early enough.
  • Employee mistakes. Some vulnerabilities are due to simple employee mistakes. When employees don’t follow best practices for security, they compromise not only their accounts, but the entire organization’s network. For example, they may choose a weak password, fall for a common scheme, or neglect using two-factor authentication. Employee education, training, and the enforcement of best security practices can all help here.

These threats can lead to data breaches with severe penalties. If a malicious actor gains access to your system, they may gain access to protected, confidential, or otherwise sensitive data. Depending on your regulatory compliance, the extent of the data involved, and how that data is used in the future, this could potentially cost your business millions of dollars in recovery expenses.

Approaches to workload protection

So what steps can you take to improve your workload protection ?

There are many steps you’ll need to take, including implementing the right software and tools designed for mechanics of emerging cloud workloads and modern applications. You’ll also need to look at the make-up of your security and development teams to ensure they have the right skill sets, continuous training, and distribute the responsibility for maintaining organization security. These days, security needs to be a team effort.

In all your new efforts, these should be your top priorities.

  • Visibility. For starters, you’ll need better visibility over all your systems. You should know what kind of traffic patterns your servers are seeing, and you should understand how your internal users are accessing your data. The more visibility you have, the sooner you’ll be able to detect potential threats—and the more you’ll learn about your organization’s vulnerabilities.
  • Control. Good systems will also institute a number of direct controls. You should be able to whitelist and/or blacklist certain sources, customizing how your servers or network are accessed. You should also have strict control over the users and administrators of your system; no one should have access if they aren’t authorized.
  • Automation. Ideal security systems involve significant automation. Not only will automated solutions save you time and money (since they replace manual human effort), they’ll also reduce the possibility of human error. For example, you may have a solution that automatically detects unusual traffic activity, then takes action to mitigate a DDoS threat. Automation does have some downsides, especially if it’s not executed correctly, but in most applications, it’s valuable.
  • Integration. Ideally, you’ll be able to integrate many different security apps and services together. You should be able to manage all your security solutions with a single dashboard, or an intuitive platform, and you should make use of the strengths of each app or service used by your team.

The Principles of Shift Left

workload protection  centers around the principals of “shift-left” testing, an approach to software testing and system testing that requires you to perform tasks earlier in the development lifecycle. Shifting security testing “left” to development.

Key principles of shift-left include:

  • Proactivity. Rather than responding to an active threat and trying to eliminate it, you’ll focus on detecting and eliminating threats before they become significant. Testing early and often gives you unprecedented visibility, allowing you to remain one step ahead of your biggest threats.
  • Collaboration. Shift-left also demands more collaboration between individuals and teams that may not be used to working with one another. Security should be something that testers, developers, and other people within your organization all collectively prioritize; in this way, the entire business is guarded against more threats.
  • Continuous feedback. Shift-left also incorporates principles of continuous feedback. Security isn’t something you plan for and execute once; it’s something you roll out and tweak gradually as you learn more.

A shift-left mentality can help you guard against a wide range of different threats, and address most problems before they ever interfere with your organization. Combined with the right workload protection  practices, it can provide your organization with much more robust security.

Are you interested in incorporating better cloud workload protection  in your organization? You’ll likely benefit from the help of cloud security tools that can make your life simpler. Take a look at our cloud security solutions, and sign up for a free demo today!

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