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Infrastructure as Code Security

May 13, 2020

Development and deployment cycles are running at faster rates than ever before. Through continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD), businesses are able to create and implement applications at a rapid rate. While this is driving innovation, it is also creating new challenges. The faster ideas are traveling through the CI/CD pipeline, the less time there is to address emerging security concerns. This is why Infrastructure as Code Security (IaC) is becoming an increasingly important part of DevOps. Learn more about IaC and how you can leverage it to improve security without having to slow the pace of growth.

Advantages of IaC

IaC allows users to automate many tasks within cloud deployment and provision. In the past, all this would have to be performed manually and IT professionals would have to take the time to physically configure hardware. With IaC, you can establish an automated plan of action that will allow deployment to keep pace with development.

Potential Security Problems With IaC

However, it is important to remember that automation still needs to be monitored. It is possible to implement a configuration that creates a new vulnerability. If you aren’t running tests and looking for abnormalities, this problem could go unchecked. So while automation can save time, that doesn’t mean you can simply put it in place and forget about it.
 Code Security

This is especially true when changes are constantly being pushed out to the application. Instead of taking down the application, making changes and running testing before going live again, now updates are happening in real-time. As a result, traditional approaches to security simply won’t be effective in a new age of cloud technology. Fortunately, these risks can be reduced and security can keep up with development if certain measures are put into place.

Security Best Practices for IaC

You can take full advantage of IaC and improve security by implementing these best practices:

1- Continuous compliance. The best way to ensure compliance is to create clear standards for each stop along the pipeline. Continually reassessing compliance throughout the process according to predetermined rules is an excellent first step toward improved security. This will also allow you to test code against identified threats in a sandbox environment before fully implementing changes.

2- Least privilege principle. To make the process easier, usually DevOps engineers have a master account connecting to the cloud provider and provisioning all the resources with that master account. While this is a fast and easy approach, it is not the most secure approach. The recommendation is to have a set of different accounts with various Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) in place. These allow you to run the IaC or infrastructure as code security code with a minimum privilege access mindset.

3- Monitor and update cloud security and compliance tests. It is also important to address security at the cloud environment level. This should include constant risk assessment and threat modeling. As new users are added and changes are made, you should continue to adjust access control and update firewalls.

4- Keeping secrets in a vault. While connecting to a cloud provider, you need secrets for the initial authentication and accessing resources. These secrets should be kept in a vault for maximum security and all the vault communication should be encrypted as well. Also, you should think about the rotation of secrets to prevent exposing them in the long run.

5- Require encryption. With modern encryption tools, there is no reason not to encrypt all data that is transmitted in the cloud. This is an essential tool that will protect sensitive data and add a layer of protection.

6- Automate alerts. There tool that will update your model repository as the IT and security communities learn about new threats. In addition, AI can be used to identify any abnormalities and automatically trigger alerts. These are important tools that incorporate security into the everyday flow of CI/CD.

7- Staging environments. It is highly recommended to have separate environments for development, QA and Production. Keep in mind, IaC or infrastructure as code security always starts from the development environment and then goes to QA and production. Never deploy something to higher environments while you were not testing that in lower environments.

8- Remove the manual access to the cloud portal. In higher environments (QA, Prod) if developers and DevOps engineers have access to manually change the configurations, you could see configuration drifts from the IaC templates down the line. Always remove individual contributor access to higher environments and just give your developers the Read permission to validate resources manually. If they need to change something, it should go through the IaC process.

IaC provides businesses with the potential to accelerate DevOps and continuously update and improve applications without skipping a beat. This sort of fast-paced environment inevitably creates new security concerns, but there are existing tools and techniques that will allow you to take advantage of IaC while also addressing and reducing security risks. With the right security plan in place, you can confidently use IaC and remain flexible, scalable, and safe.

For additional help designing and implementing an IaC security plan, contact the experts at prancer.