What Is Infrastructure as Code (IaC) Security?
IaC security is a security category that enables management and provisioning of infrastructure through code rather than manual configuration
Infrastructure as Code (IaC) security, or IaC scanning, is a security category that enables management and provisioning of infrastructure through code rather than manual configuration. IaC security automates detection of IaC misconfigurations in all cloud environments, especially production, and supports shift-left by securing IaC in lower environments, including the earliest development stages.
What is an IaC Scanning Solution?
Using IaC to manage infrastructure through code automation is a great way to drive scalability, consistency and efficiency in software development and change management. However IaC is not risk-free. In automated coding, human error and/or incorrect default settings can – despite built-in testing – go undetected and lead to misconfigurations, and violations of compliance standards and industry best practices. These flaws and vulnerabilities can end up in production.
By automatically scanning IaC, organizations can also detect and remediate issues before the code reaches production. IaC security enables shifting left - discovering and remediating security issues in lower environments before production. An added benefit of IaC security is that it enables distribution of security responsibility with developers and DevOps. IaC scanning can be integrated in development CI/CD pipelines to run scans each time IaC definitions are modified and deliver remediation recommendations directly to the relevant stakeholders for execution.
From an organizational perspective, IaC scanning solutions support digital transformation in that they facilitate error-free cloud infrastructure configuration management. As such, they serve as a cloudification enabler.
What Are the Benefits of IaC Scanning Solutions?
IaC scanning solutions offer many benefits:
- Detect and remediate risks early - integrate code fixes as they are written, hardening the cloud infrastructure before deployment and especially before production
- Integrate comprehensive security checks in the CI/CD pipeline
- Educate teams and improve security collaboration by enabling developers and DevOps professionals to build secure infrastructure
- Ensure compliance with industry standards and security best practices
Who Needs IaC Scanning Platforms?
IaC enables enterprises to speed up the process of configuration management. But such acceleration comes with risk. Gartner estimates that at least 99% of cloud security failures through 2025 will result from cloud customers’ actions or inactions, and primarily due to misconfiguration of cloud resources.
The responsibility for securing IaC falls to development, DevOps and DevSecOps teams. Cloud complexity makes detecting infrastructure-as-code misconfigurations hard – and even harder in multicloud environments.
IaC scanning solutions can dramatically help ensure that IaC coding does not contain errors that could lead to misconfigurations.
Key Components of an IaC Scanning Platform
IaC scanners are built to scan and identify misconfigurations and other vulnerabilities in IaC. They typically consist of several components:
- Scanning Engine. This component is the heart of the platform. The scanning engine analyzes IaC, compares it to standards and practices, and identifies vulnerabilities and misconfigurations.
- Standards Library. This component is a database consisting of rules, policies and regulations against which the engine analyzes and compares the infrastructure-as-code.
- Reporting Module. This component produces a list and analysis of the scanned results, alongside remediation recommendations.
- Integration with IaC Frameworks (CI/CD). Core to a IaC scanning tool is shift left integration with native development tools and workflows, enabling scanning and remediation to take place in code, during Ci/CD.
How Does Infrastructure as Code Scanning Work?
An Infrastructure as Code (IaC) tool integrates in the CI/CD pipeline, such as a GitHub workflow. When a developer changes the code, the CI/CD pipeline is triggered. The tool automatically scans the infrastructure-as-code definitions, analyzing them against security best practices and compliance standards. If security misconfigurations or compliance issues are detected, depending on the severity level of the findings the build may fail (if configured as such) or be completed but with a warning. Some tools generate code-based recommendations. Once these fixes are applied and no further critical issues are detected, the build is completed.
What To Look For in an Infrastructure as Code Scanning Solution?
The growing use of IaC makes automated IaC security a must-have. To ensure its efficacy, choose your tool well. Make sure it offers:
- Risk prioritization - All IaC scanners detect risk. Some offer robust capabilities that visual risk prioritization in context, enabling developers to quickly assess and make informed decisions about which critical risks to address.
- Integration with CI/CD pipelines - Embeds security checks in native CI/CD platforms like Jenkins, BitBucket, CircleCI, GitHub and GitLab and surfaces findings and recommendations in workflows in DevOps tooling like Terraform and CloudFormation.
- Built-in remediation - Integrates with existing workflows, ticketing systems and source code repositories for a variety of remediation options tailored to the organization’s needs. For example, an IaC scanning solution can offer remediation wizards or enable teams to add comments.
- Compliance - Contextualizes findings to assess adherence with industry standards and benchmarks like SOC 2, PCI-DSS, CIS Benchmarks, PSD2, GDPR, NIST, HIPAA, and customized benchmarks.
- Recommended: IaC scanning integrated in an application lifecycle platform. A standalone IaC scanning tool will always lack the integrated risk intelligence and remediation offered by a Cloud-Native Application Protection Platform (CNAPP) solution in which IaC scanning is a key pillar alongside Cloud Workload Protection (CWP), Cloud Identity Entitlement Management (CIEM), Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) and Kubernetes Security Protection Management (KSPM).
What's the Difference between IaC Scanning and CSPM?
Infrastructure as Code (IaC) scanning and Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) are related cloud security concepts, each with a different focus and scope. Both are core to a comprehensive cloud security strategy – and Gartner considers them core to a CNAPP solution.
IaC scanning analyzes code used to define and provision infrastructure, identifying security issues in infrastructure-as code in all cloud environments, and especially production. It is also useful in lower environments, such as dev, staging and testing, supporting shift-left strategy to detect and remove flaws prior to deployment. CSPM focuses on continuously monitoring cloud security posture and compliance across the organization’s cloud environments, and automatically identifying and remediating misconfigurations and compliance violations.
What’s the Difference between IaC Scanning and KSPM?
Infrastructure as Code (IaC) scanning and Kubernetes Security Posture Management (KSPM) are related cloud security concepts, each with a different focus and scope. Both are core to a comprehensive cloud security strategy – and Gartner considers them core to a CNAPP solution.
IaC scanning analyzes code used to define and provision infrastructure, identifying security issues in infrastructure-as code in all cloud environments, and especially production. It is also useful in lower environments, such as dev, staging and testing, supporting shift-left strategy to detect and remove flaws prior to deployment. KSPM is specifically focused on continuously monitoring security posture and compliance in the organization’s Kubernetes clusters, automatically identifying and remediating misconfigurations and K8s policy violations.
If you have IaC scanning and KSPM in place, you can link Kubernetes security violations with the Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) manifest in your Kubernetes resources git repository, gaining the synergistic benefit of identifying Kubernetes-related flaws in both the deployment blueprint and the actual deployed infrastructure.