What is Infrastructure as Code Security?

Cody Queen - May 14, 2024

Infrastructure as code (IaC) security definition

Infrastructure as code security is the practice of addressing security configuration issues in the IaC layer rather than scanning deployed cloud resources. It is, in effect, the shifting left of security directly into the IaC scripting process, where security issues can be addressed before IaC resources are deployed.

Given the fast-paced nature of IaC development, it’s entirely possible that a minor security misconfiguration could make it into the IaC script, infecting every deployment that follows. As a result, minor issues like improper permissions could lead to severe vulnerabilities. IaC security attempts to catch these issues before they even happen.

Benefits of infrastructure as code security

Infrastructure as code allows developers to move more quickly to deploy resources, create replicable and scalable infrastructure, and automate configurations to save time and resources. Because of this inherent speed and automation capability, however, IaC introduces some challenges that need to be addressed. One of these is security. Rather than securing IaC, infrastructure as code security is a method of integrating security protocols and checks into the IaC process, allowing for the automation of security.

As with IaC as a whole, this creates uniformity of security efforts and a single source of truth for your deployments. Embedding security scripting directly into the IaC layer also creates a running log of changes, providing a clear rollback path should a deployment prove problematic.

Infrastructure as code security challenges

Since IaC security involves recentering security attention directly in the IaC layer, it’s important to implement security tasks into every stage of the software development life cycle (SDLC). This involves considering the security at each stage and implementing policies to address vulnerabilities.

  • Image vulnerabilities: The use of base images in creating IaC templates can potentially introduce vulnerabilities if the images are not sourced from trusted registries. This will have knock-on effects as templates are deployed, increasing the costs of remediation.
  • Configuration drift: Configuration drift can accumulate as changes are introduced to the infrastructure. This can be caused by human error, poor configuration, or unintended changes to applications, or it can occur when a manual change is made to the cloud environment.
  • Access management: Developers may require access to secured systems to do their jobs. Though it is common to apply global privileges across an organization, providing users with privileges greater than they require can lead to unintended consequences in the event of a hack or simply through human error.
  • Secrets management: Secrets include valuable information such as application tokens, SSH keys, and passwords. Where you store your secrets can have a dramatic impact on their security.
  • Ghost resources: Tagging assets is critical to ensuring their proper function and control. Failure to do so can result in “ghost” resources that accumulate billing charges, create potential attack vectors, and make it difficult to fully visualize the cloud environment.

What is infrastructure as code security scanning?

IaC scanning is a method of proactively inspecting proposed templates before they’re deployed. Scanning tools — like CrowdStike Falcon® Cloud Security — will inspect your IaC files to look for any misconfigurations or missing parameters.

Using Falcon Cloud Security, securing your IaC scripts is as simple as pressing a button. The tool will analyze your code and send you an alert if any misconfigurations are detected. It will also offer tips for remediation. Once you’ve remediated the vulnerabilities, you can scan again to ensure compliance.

Learn More

Infrastructure-as-code can introduce fundamental risks into your cloud estate. If there’s a misconfiguration or vulnerability, they’ll now be present in every application. See how CrowdStrike Falcon® Cloud Security’s IaC scanning proactively stops misconfigurations and vulnerabilities from being introduced in the first place.Watch: Falcon Cloud Security IaC Scanning: Demo Drill Down

Infrastructure as code security tools

There is a wealth of infrastructure as code security tools available, depending on your cloud provider and IaC platform. Not only does each provider have its own security tools — a variety of open-source and platform support providers have created tools to fit into almost any workflow.

CrowdStrike Falcon Cloud SecurityFalcon Cloud Security is a cloud-native platform providing a full suite of security services for IaC workflows, including scanning, runtime protection, entitlement management, and more.
CheckovCheckov is an open-source static analysis tool for infrastructure as code. It supports multiple IaC languages, including Terraform, AWS CloudFormation, Kubernetes YAML, and ARM templates. Checkov scans your code for security and compliance issues, providing actionable insights to remediate vulnerabilities.
TerrascanTerrascan is an open-source static code analysis tool developed by Accurics. It scans Terraform code to identify security vulnerabilities and misconfigurations based on best practices and compliance standards.
KICS (Keeping Infrastructure as Code SecureKICS is an open-source IaC security scanning tool that supports multiple IaC languages, including Terraform, AWS CloudFormation, Kubernetes YAML, and Dockerfile. It scans code repositories and infrastructure configurations for security vulnerabilities and compliance violations.
ConftestConftest is an open-source tool that allows you to write tests against structured configuration data. It supports multiple data formats, including Terraform configurations, Kubernetes YAML, and JSON. Conftest can be used to enforce security policies and best practices across IaC files.
TFSecTFSec is a lightweight static analysis tool for Terraform code. It scans Terraform configurations to identify security issues, such as overly permissive identity and access management (IAM) policies, insecure resource configurations, and sensitive data exposures.
BridgecrewBridgecrew provides an open-source platform for IaC security and compliance. It integrates with popular IaC tools like Terraform, AWS CloudFormation, and Kubernetes to provide continuous scanning and monitoring for security vulnerabilities and compliance violations.
OPA (Open Policy AgentOPA is an open-source policy engine that allows you to define and enforce policies across various stages of the software development life cycle, including IaC. OPA can be integrated with tools like Terraform and Kubernetes to enforce security policies and best practices.

Infrastructure as code security best practices

The following is a list of common best practices that can help address common IaC security challenges.

  • IDE plugins: Utilizing security plugins in the integrated development environment (IDE) allows for early detection of potential risks. This allows for rapid feedback as you work in the IDE and reduces the time spent addressing issues later in the SDLC.
  • Threat modeling: Identify and prioritize the most critical risks to your infrastructure early in the SDLC. This will create the runway to address potential risks throughout the SDLC and allow greater flexibility in addressing them.
  • Principle of least privilege: Grant only the minimum permissions and access levels required for a user to perform their tasks. This helps ensure that, in the event of a breach or cyberattack, the damage that can be done by a single compromised credential is limited.
  • Managing secrets: You want secrets to be secure but accessible. A variety of open-source tools exist to help scan for secrets vulnerabilities.
  • Network segmentation: Separate your testing and production environments, but ensure they are as closely mirrored as possible.
  • Dynamic testing: Scan for policy deviations and potential vulnerabilities prior to deployment with tools like Falcon Cloud Security.
  • Immutability of infrastructure: Immutable infrastructure helps reduce potential risks by disallowing changes to the infrastructure post-deployment. Policies and controls are utilized to adapt infrastructure to evolving needs. If changes are required to the infrastructure, a whole new infrastructure should be deployed. The pre-existing infrastructure should then be retired.
  • Logging: Logs are key to ensuring that changes are recorded and that any attacks can be identified quickly. Enable audit and security logging to help analyze the root cause of incidents and promote faster recovery.
  • Threat detection: Runtime threat detection enables the identification of unexpected behaviors and potential threats as they occur. The faster you can identify a threat, the faster you can respond.

How CrowdStrike can help

Implementing infrastructure as code can lead to faster deployments, a streamlined SDLC, unified cloud infrastructure, and ultimately saved time and resources. But IaC comes with inherent security risks that must be mitigated. CrowdStrike Falcon Cloud Security delivers cloud-native, full-stack security that integrates with IaC workflows to detect misconfigurations, defend against breaches, and optimize cloud deployments. Check out our demo.


Cody Queen is a Senior Product Marketing Manager for Cloud Security at CrowdStrike.