Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is widely adopted by organizations to easily manage and provision their infrastructures on the cloud and automate their deployment process. It allows engineers to quickly build, provision, scale, update, or delete infrastructure resources on cloud platforms using automation tools.
With great automation, comes the potential for great risk. While infrastructure as code has brought exponential efficiency gains to development teams, it has also brought new security risks. Fortunately, with the right approach, these risks can be mitigated successfully.
Security risk associated with IaC
Developers, who aren’t typically security experts, are under constant pressure to release new applications and updates. This focus on “shipping” new products requires them to put speed and innovation first, often at the expense of security.
Developer focus on speed combined with the automation that IaC provides creates a recipe for rapid spread of security issues. A mistake made in an IaC template ends up being propagated across all infrastructure provisioned from that template. While this provides fantastic developer efficiency, it also amplifies mistakes, including security mistakes. A single IaC template misconfiguration might be automatically applied to hundreds, or even thousands, of cloud workloads, magnifying the impact of that misconfiguration 100x or more.
Moreover, Insecure IaC templates can expand the attack surface and pave ways for critical attack vectors. Security groups, open ports, publicly accessible services, and internet wide accessible storage and databases are some of the critical things that must be monitored continuously. Continuously changing environments and the use of multiple tools may lead to configuration drift and compliance violation.
Due to the risk of misconfigurations in the cloud infrastructure, it is essential to implement a way to ensure visibility and real-time feedback for developers of IaC before they build cloud environments. As an added benefit, identifying and fixing security issues early in the development cycle is faster and requires fewer resources.
Solution: achieve better security outcomes with security built-in
With this context in mind, it is important for the security and compliance team to work hand in hand with developers to integrate Infrastructure as Code security into development and DevOps tools and day-to-day processes across distributed environments without slowing release velocity or performance. With the right cloud security platform and policy framework, all teams can better work together using the same policies at every stage of the cloud infrastructure lifecycle. It also enables all teams involved to meet their objectives and goals.
Key benefits: drive consistent and secure releases with strong team collaboration
Benefits for developers:
- Automated security reviews: Developers are able to stay in their tools and deliver secure code. They can scan their code against standard policies and configuration checks to validate their code for misconfigurations and violations. It helps them to easily identify new violations and misconfigurations that can be prevented, including pass/fail results, the exact policies violated and non-compliant resources, with remediation guidance.
- Accelerated innovation: Developers can spend more time innovating and less time collaborating with security teams on issues, including trying to understand security standards and documenting compliance reports.
Benefits for security teams:
- Continuous monitoring: Security teams can continuously assess risk, speed up reviews, detect violations, and prevent insecure IaC code from reaching production.
- Risk prioritization and alert fatigue elimination: Automatically prioritize risk with rich context so that developers can focus on the violations that are most critical. Easily notify code owners on critical violations with near to real time alerts on IaC security issues by integrating with existing tools.
- Enriched developer experiences: Guide developers to remediate issues quickly thus saving time and resources while keeping pace with new security risks and regulatory compliance changes. Security teams can also enforce consistent policies and controls to prevent configuration drift and the tampering of IaC configuration with unauthorized access.
- Reduced cross team friction: Significantly reduce the friction between security and development teams, as the security feedback is provided in the development environment (IDE) when the code is composed, providing the developer with confidence that the build will not fail due to security violations.
- Reduced workloads and consistent security: Automated guardrails reduce the burden on security teams and resources in their efforts to prevent the provisioning of risky code, even if it is not addressed by the developer.
Benefits for the GRC/Compliance team:
- Continuous compliance assurance: With IaC security controls in place, any code that violates compliance requirements can be flagged and addressed early in the infrastructure lifecycle. Thus, compliance and security processes become streamlined. This enables the compliance team to achieve continuous compliance with minimal efforts and manual intervention.
Additionally, code that violates compliance requirements can be flagged and addressed early in the infrastructure lifecycle.
Securing IaC with Zscaler
Zscaler IaC scanning supports popular IaC tools including Terraform. It helps to integrate and embed IaC security directly into developer workflows within minutes. Moreover, IaC scanning can:
- Scan infrastructure as code (IaC) templates (e.g. HashiCorp HCL, AWS CloudFormationTemplate, Kubernetes app manifest YAML) before they are committed to source control for default variables or configuration errors, vulnerabilities, and insecure deployments that violate security standards.
- Benchmark configurations against IaC security best practices and compliance controls.
- Identify misconfigurations, vulnerabilities, policy violations, and aid risk prioritization.
- Integrate with ticketing systems to generate near to real time alerts on violations, and misconfigurations which kick off notification workflows, and provide guidance to developers on remediation, and code fixes for rapid resolution and secure deployments.
As you can see, it is better to automate the IaC security process by embedding IaC security in developer workflows so that security responsibility is shared between developers, security, and GRC teams. It’s a win-win scenario for the DevOps, Security, and GRC teams. It increases the speed of secure deployment and reduces misconfiguration and compliance errors while improving the organization’s overall security posture.