Top Considerations for Securing Web Applications in the Cloud

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The core driver of most digital transformation is the ability to rapidly innovate and introduce new digital capabilities that present the potential to significantly enhance business agility and outcomes. Part of the cloud capabilities such as dynamically scaling compute and storage resources with an elastic infrastructure, and then using web applications to support workflows and transactions, and enhance productivity and access to resources are fundamental in this digital transformation. Over time web applications have evolved beyond creating online webpages, storefronts customers portals, to run business-critical applications that were once only performed by heavy duty mainframe computers. Internal business applications are now built using cloud and web scale technologies and effectively streamline workflows and simplify access to critical information from virtually any device in any location, resulting in increases in productivity, profitability, and job satisfaction.

Security is a Critical Element of the DevOps Process

One of the key requirements to support this transition is to provide DevOps teams, who are at the heart of the digital transformation, with the resources needed to develop, deploy, and update web applications quickly. As a result, DevOps issues have now begun gaining more visibility and rolling up to the executive suite, indicating that web applications are critical for strategic initiatives in the mainline business.

And because these applications cross so many infrastructure boundaries and touch many critical resources, security has also become an essential element of application development. Unfortunately, most DevOps teams have little to no security experience, and at the same time, IT security folks are still very unfamiliar with all of the elements and processes that go into an effective DevOps process. All of which makes implementing security very difficult.

However, in spite of these skills gaps, because applications and resources are critical to the business, organizations still place a high priority on building security into their applications. That requires implementing a strategy that ensures that security can be achieved without also overcomplicating the development process, slowing down the delivery of critical information and services, or reducing efficiency and productivity.

The Challenge of Integrating Security into DevOps

To address this challenge, here is a list of the top considerations for any organization looking to secure their applications and reduce risk without derailing their digital business plans.

DevOps teams need security tools designed specifically to integrate with the application development process. Because so many critical services now utilize CI/CD Pipeline methodologies, deployment, updating, and use of web applications, Web Application and API Protection products (WAAP/WAF) with the right capabilities are essential to increase the confidence of DevOps teams rapidly iterating. Primarily because they provide a full spectrum of advanced, purpose-built web security capabilities that can be consumed in a variety of form factors. A basic cloud WAF leveraging static signatures may be fine when deploying a traditional, off the shelf, and static cloud-based application. But it can be far less effective when it is being used to secure web applications and related transactions that undergo constant revisions and updating, need to support a global workforce or customer base, and often run on or span across multiple cloud platforms.

For example, whenever DevOps introduces a new web application version, typical web security products require a professional’s time and skill to learn and weed out false positives while fine tuning the policies. It also needs help in scaling its defenses as websites and applications traffic grow, and as applications change, any related security elements need additional fine tuning so the WAF doesn’t drop legitimate traffic. This process takes time and skill that most DevOps teams don’t have.

WAF as a SaaS Solution

DevOps teams primarily focused on rapid delivery of business capabilities need security tools that don’t require them to become experts. Instead, they want to be able to quickly attach security capabilities to their applications and then gain the peace of mind that applications are protected and will require minimal ongoing management and operations.

Speed is another critical component of DevOps efforts. It is what justifies their existence. Anything that takes away from their ability to act fast puts undermines the value of their methodologies. Security tools must be rapidly deployed and become effective very quickly avoiding any delay in the DevOps CI/CD Pipeline.

Leveraging a SaaS deployment that dynamically places protection resources close to origin servers of web applications is an effective way to implement security while supporting the ease of use, speed and highly effective nature required for web applications.

SaaS solutions are also auto-deployed, auto-configured with a requirement to only make minimal configuration changes in order to turn effective, and often include simple to use interfaces and APIs so they can be easily integrated into the application lifecycle. All the expertise needed for deployment, maintenance, and fine-tuning is relieved by nature of SaaS being a managed service. Furthermore, solutions that leverage machine learning capabilities to fine-tune policies in real time further enhance accuracy while relieving from the need to spend precious time fine tuning policies and eliminating false positives. Machine learning enables the WAF to more accurately differentiate between benign anomalies, malicious intent, and normal behavior, allowing new and updated applications to be rolled out quickly without compromising on protections or productivity.

Conclusion

Maintaining an efficient application development methodology and process is critical for today’s businesses success. However, as web applications play an even more crucial role in business initiatives, security has also become a critical attribute of the ability to confidently iterate and leverage digital assets for business. Selecting the right tools for the organization, will help ensure that your digital business strategy stays on track without compromising on the protection of critical customer information, brand reputation, regulatory compliance and even business resources and business enabling functionality. However, security overhead can quickly erode the advantages of a web application offering. Adding expert managed solutions, such as a SaaS Cloud WAF, provides organization with the security they need without impacting the performance, agility, and functionality today’s digital marketplace requires.

Read more about Fortinet's FortiWeb Cloud WAF-as-a-Service in this news release for more details.

Learn more about how Fortinet’s multi-cloud solutions provide the necessary visibility and control across cloud infrastructures, enabling secure applications and connectivity from data center to cloud.

Test drive a live demo and try FortiWeb Cloud WAF-as-a-Service for free for 14 days.

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