What Is a Cloud-Native Application Protection Platform (CNAPP)?

Gui Alvarenga - April 27, 2022

A cloud-native application protection platform (CNAPP) is an all-in-one cloud-native software platform that simplifies monitoring, detecting and acting on potential cloud security threats and vulnerabilities. As an increasing number of organizations adopt DevSecOps, they are looking for ways to ensure cloud-native application security, protect business-critical workloads and streamline operations. A CNAPP combines multiple tools and capabilities into a single software solution to minimize complexity and facilitate DevOps and DevSecOps team operations. A CNAPP offers an end-to-end cloud and application security through the whole CI/CD application lifecycle, from development to production.

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What Problems Does a CNAPP Solve?

A CNAPP addresses the industry’s need for modern cloud security monitoring, posture management, breach prevention and control tools.

Enhancing Visibility and Quantifying Risks

By combining multiple cloud security capabilities into a single solution, a CNAPP increases overall visibility of the risks associated with your cloud infrastructure. CNAPP solutions provide security teams the ability to quantify and respond to risks in the cloud environment.

Combined Cloud Security Solution

A CNAPP is intended as an end-to-end cloud infrastructure security solution that eliminates the need to exchange information between platforms and software solutions. It consolidates all reporting, scanning and threat detection related to your cloud environment into a single software solution, thus minimizing human error associated with managing multiple tools and software while also reducing the time it takes for teams to be notified after a threat has been detected.

Secure Software Development

A CNAPP enables scanning and rapid response to misconfigurations. An increasing number of software development teams implement the continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) paradigm. A CNAPP can be easily integrated into CI/CD activities to scan changes like infrastructure as code (IaC) configuration and block unsecure deployments to the cloud.

CNAPP Features and Capabilities

A CNAPP typically packages many tools to help scan and protect your cloud infrastructure and services. It can also be integrated into your DevOps and DevSecOps pipelines and operations to enhance cloud security for your software development activities.

All CNAPP solutions provide cloud application security tools, but the features are generally vendor-specific. Let’s take a look at some of the most common CNAPP features.

Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM)

Cloud security posture management (CSPM) is a software solution designed to detect, prevent, and remediate misconfigurations which lead to exposure of cloud resources and potential security incidents. CSPM solutions also ensure that cloud resources and activities adhere to industry regulations and compliance mandates. If a resource is not compliant, security teams receive alerts to address them. CSPM not only give visibility and alerts, but also provide guided remediation or automated remediation to close security gaps and maintain golden standards and healthy security posture. A CSPM can be used for security risk analysis and monitoring, but also for incident response in case of threats. CSPM scanning in the DevOps CI/CD pipeline can also be used to ensure new IaC definitions are compliant with your cloud identity and access management policies.

Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) Scanning

Infrastructure-as-code (IaC) tools allow you to define your cloud architecture and services using configuration files or actual code. Among the most popular IaC tools for configuration files are Terraform, the Serverless Framework and AWS CloudFormation. For code, the Cloud LemmDevelopment Kit for Terraform (CDKTF) is one of the most popular.

IaC scanning is a form of automation to minimize cloud misconfiguration risks. Similar to code review, it is a means for ensuring code quality of the cloud infrastructure configuration files created by the scanning program itself in the CI/CD pipeline phase. IaC scanning can be manually launched too, which can be useful when developing IaC code to help you verify the security of your new code, for example.

IaC scanning tools scan your configuration files (e.g., HCL files for Terraform) to find vulnerabilities and misconfigurations. They can detect issues like vulnerable network exposures, compliance violations and infringements of the principle of the least privilege for resource access policies.

Cloud Workload Protection Platform (CWPP)

Cloud workload protection platform (CWPP) solutions help protect your cloud infrastructure workloads from security threats. This covers a wide range of workloads from your cloud provider services such as VM, database (SQL and NoSQL) or API, as well as containers and kubernetes. A CWPP detects and suggests corrections to prevent cybersecurity threats and keep production running smoothly.

Cloud Service Network Security (CSNS)

Cloud service network security software solutions focus on protecting your cloud infrastructure in real time. This is achieved by one or many mechanisms such as a web application firewalls (WAF) or web application and API protection (WAAP), DDOS protection and load balancing, and TLS examination.

Kubernetes Security Posture Management (KSPM)

Modern cloud infrastructure often uses Kubernetes for container orchestration to automate software deployments and to manage containers. Kubernetes security posture management (KSMP) tools help DevOps engineers manage Kubernetes activities. They offer:

  • Scanning of the Kubernetes environment and configurations to find and report on misconfiguration and security issues
  • Monitoring the environment, workload, configuration, clusters and more in order to minimize user errors
  • Cluster penetration testing
  • Benchmarking

Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management (CIEM)

Cloud infrastructure entitlement management (CIEM) helps you manage permissions and rights across your cloud environment, including across multi-cloud setups. It typically enforces the principle of least privilege and scans your cloud infrastructure configuration to find unnecessary access to resources to report them. It can also detect and report other misconfigurations such as a user or role having access to all actions on a resource when only read access is needed.

Integration to Software Development Activities

Cloud-native application protection platforms should be used not only for production operations but also within the scope of software development in order to increase reliability and testing in the CI/CD pipeline phase. A CNAPP can detect and prevent cloud infrastructure issues (as noted above in relation to IaC scanning) and run another type of static analysis such as the scanning done by KSPM or CSPM.

CNAPP Benefits

CNAPPs help organizations with their cloud-native application security in a number of ways. Some benefits include:

  • Prevents cybersecurity threats by decreasing the number of cloud misconfigurations.
  • Automates security-related tasks, reducing human error and improving reliability.
  • Provides combined and unique visibility of risks and accurate information, allowing for rapid response to threats and driving decision-making.
  • Reduces complexity and overhead by eliminating the need to run and maintain multiple cloud security tools.
  • Increases developer and DevOps team productivity by identifying misconfigurations and potential threats in the CI/CD pipeline phases, thus reducing the number of bug fixes and merge/pull requests.

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Summary

A CNAPP is a comprehensive tool offering DevOps and DevSecOps teams an unified and automated security solution that addresses the entire application lifecycle, including workloads, containers and security posture and compliance. It provides overall visibility and security for private, public, hybrid and multi-cloud environments. CNAPP also automates tasks and scans your configuration and infrastructure thereby preventing threats and improving productivity and response times when vulnerabilities are discovered.

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GET TO KNOW THE AUTHOR

Guilherme (Gui) Alvarenga, is a Sr. Product Marketing Manager for the Cloud Security portfolio at CrowdStrike. He has over 15 years experience driving Cloud, SaaS, Network and ML solutions for companies such as Check Point, NEC and Cisco Systems. He graduated in Advertising and Marketing at the Universidade Paulista in Brazil, and pursued his MBA at San Jose State University. He studied Applied Computing at Stanford University, and specialized in Cloud Security and Threat Hunting.