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Enhancing cloud infrastructure security via infrastructure as code

BrandPost By Microsoft Security
Jun 28, 20235 mins
Cloud Security

As cloud computing only continues to grow in popularity, forward-thinking companies are taking this specific approach to equip and defend the next generation of cloud-enabled workers.

Credit: iStock/valentinrussanov

As more and more companies move to digitize their operations, cloud adoption is growing in kind. According to one Microsoft survey, 86% of businesses plan to increase their investment in hybrid or multi-cloud technology and 95% believe it is critical to their business success.

Yet, cloud technology is not without its challenges. The same advantages that make cloud technology an invaluable resource for scalability, agility, and collaboration can also make it a security liability.

When dealing with multiple cloud platforms or a blend of on-premise and cloud technology, it can be difficult to create a centralized view of your entire network or contextualize security alerts to understand their impact on the organization as a whole. There's also the risk of misconfigured cloud infrastructure entitlement, which can lead to overprivileged access to infrastructure and heighten your risk for exploitation and infiltration.

Organizations need a reliable way to secure their hybrid and multi-cloud environments. That's where infrastructure-as-code (IaC) comes in. When infrastructure automation companies like HashiCorp and cloud providers like Microsoft work in tandem, they can leverage best practices in cloud security and IaC to deliver a more secure infrastructure for their customers. Read on to learn how.

What are the benefits of infrastructure as code?

The global IaC market is growing rapidly, jumping from a $800 million valuation in 2022 to a projected $2.3 billion in 2027. Much of this growth is due to the inherent benefits of IaC.

Namely, its promise around automation, scalability, and repeatability.

Essentially, because IaC enables organizations to manage and provision infrastructure through code rather than manual processes, organizations can more easily scale their operations to meet current business needs. Once you create your first workload using IaC, you can then reuse that same code to build subsequent pieces of infrastructure--reducing the load on development teams and enabling improved code sharing.

"Using pre-approved patterns or code widely across the enterprise enables companies to essentially self-service their workloads. This empowers users and business teams alike. When you introduce infrastructure as code to the organization via the right automation, this makes it much simpler for them and allows for tangible benefits that make the organization run faster." - Arnaud Lheureux, Lead Architect of Strategic Partnerships at Microsoft

Organizations can also use IaC to codify and document configuration specifications and changes. This is especially critical when dealing with complex hybrid or multi-cloud environments because it provides clear visibility into where exactly a piece of code was integrated.

In the event of a security patch or code error, developers can quickly update the system where needed and test any changes within a pre-defined framework before launching the update. This visibility and documentation is also helpful for companies that operate in highly-regulated spaces and need to remain compliant with certain industry standards.

How infrastructure as code drives increased cloud security

A key element of IaC is its repeatability. And while we've discussed the workload and scalability benefits, it also has significant implications for security. This is because development teams can rigorously validate and test their code against a pre-defined security framework like NIST or a Cloud Adoption Framework before ever deploying it in their cloud environment. This helps create a high level of confidence that the code will not introduce new security vulnerabilities into their environment.

"From a security perspective, infrastructure as code pushes companies to think about how they can build pre-approved, pre-defined modules that allow them to achieve an outcome. They're not just configuring something within a user interface on the fly--which creates room for human error--they're building a piece of code that can be validated, vetted, and tested to create a baseline security construct." - David Wright, Global Staff Solutions Engineering Lead at HashiCorp

However, if organizations fail to validate their code or they unknowingly introduce a misconfiguration in their IaC module, that error can then be propagated across the entire cloud infrastructure--ultimately creating a wide attack surface.

To combat this risk, companies can leverage tools like Defender for DevOps to create stronger collaboration between security and development teams. This enables security teams to review security hygiene and identify critical IaC misconfigurations, providing clear guidance back to the developers on the severity of the issue and how to remediate it.

As an additional security measure, Microsoft also partners with companies like HashiCorp to create pre-defined IaC modules that align to cybersecurity best practices. This enables organizations to embed security tooling directly into their environment, creating secure, compliant, and easily maintainable cloud deployments.

Cloud computing is only going to continue to grow in popularity as more companies adopt digital ways of working. When used in concert with cybersecurity best practices, IaC is a powerful tool that enables us to equip and defend the next generation of cloud-enabled workers.

To learn more about cloud security and the benefits of IaC, visit Microsoft Security Insider and check out the HashiCorp blog.