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What is Cloud Workload Security?

What is Cloud Workload Security?

Cloud workload security is a security solution designed to protect workload data as it moves through cloud environments. As more organizations move away from on-premises solutions and toward a digital business model, their data and applications are migrating to the cloud. This migration presents challenges for protecting data moving between applications as they communicate with one another in different cloud environments and in data centers, all connecting over the internet. A cloud workload security solution enables businesses to identify, manage, and secure these workloads, thereby decreasing risk, increasing compliance, and ensuring greater application scalability.

In a modern cloud-native environment, applications and services should be placed at the center of an overall security strategy. Most traffic in a cloud environment moves east-west, and traditional security controls typically protect traffic that moves north-south through a perimeter gateway, so it’s no longer sufficient to define software by its traffic route. Security controls must be workload-centric and not coupled with the cloud platform. It is crucial to move access controls away from the network paths that applications travel on and tie them directly to the identity of the communicating applications and services.

Outdated security strategies fall short in a cloud-based environment

Legacy security tools work on a trust model that is no longer relevant in the modern threat landscape, as applications increasingly live in the cloud and communicate over the internet. Security perimeters are disappearing and traffic inspection is made difficult by encryption as traffic passes through outdated security controls that lack the capacity to decrypt, inspect, and re-encrypt traffic that could be masking bad actors and malware, presenting a risk to organizations

To defend themselves against cyberattacks, businesses using private and public clouds need to focus on protecting themselves from harm at the workload level, not just at the endpoint.

Network segmentation, which creates “secure zones” within a network, is a security strategy that has been effective in the past, but has some limitations, particularly for cloud and multi-cloud environments. On the network, segmentation involves using firewalls or next generation firewalls to split the network into smaller, more easily-monitored chunks, and relies on network constructs, such as IP addresses, ports, and protocols, as the control gateway. 

Alternatively, microsegmentation is a method of creating secure, secluded zones within a data center, network, or cloud environment, allowing companies to isolate workloads from one another and secure them individually. It’s designed to enable granular partitioning of traffic to provide greater attack resistance.

With microsegmentation, IT teams can tailor security settings to different types of traffic, creating policies that limit network and application flows between workloads to those that are explicitly permitted. By applying segmentation rules and granular policies down to the workload or application, IT can reduce the risk of an attacker moving undetected from one compromised workload or application to another.

Another security strategy that has gained popularity is zero trust network access (ZTNA), also known as a software-defined perimeter (SDP). ZTNA is a set of technologies that operates on an adaptive trust model, where trust is never implicit, users must be verified, and access is granted on a “need-to-know,” least-privileged basis defined by granular policies.

Network segmentation, microsegmentation, and ZTNA can all be used to help secure an organization’s traffic and applications, but the security strategy should also include comprehensive cloud workload security to ensure full coverage.

Cloud workload security solutions allow businesses to discover, monitor, and secure cloud accounts, compute and storage instances, and the control plane. This makes it possible to develop and deploy more applications at scale, while reducing the risk of introducing security issues and improving overall security and compliance posture.

How does cloud workload security work?

Cloud workload security revolves around the process of workload segmentation, meaning that application workloads are segmented into smaller pieces to simplify and secure traffic inspection. Zscaler allows companies to protect cloud workloads by placing protection at the application level instead of around individual devices or end users. We help answer the questions: Which applications are communicating? Which ones should be communicating? Are the right systems talking to one another without allowing malicious traffic to persist?

Zscaler Workload Segmentation (ZWS) is a new way to segment application workloads. With one click, you can enhance security by allowing ZWS to reveal risk and apply identity-based protection to your workloads—without any changes to the network. The software identity-based technology of ZWS provides gap-free protection with policies that automatically adapt to environmental changes, therefore eliminating your network attack surface.

Built on zero trust, Zscaler allows only verified workloads to communicate in your public, private, or hybrid cloud environment, thereby mitigating risk and offering the highest level of data breach protection.


Why zero trust is important for cloud workload security

ZWS uses zero trust protection at the software level to verify the identity of communicating applications and services. This reduces the headache of managing ever-changing environments. The concept of zero trust was built around the idea that organizations should never inherently trust any user on or off the network. Access is granted based on user identity, device posture, and the policies defined for a particular application. 

Zscaler Workload Segmentation has the potential of being the de facto product for every company in the world. With all of the purpose-built security tools existing today, I would still say Zscaler Workload Segmentation supersedes their protections by a tremendous factor. And what’s even better is that it does so with incredible ease of use.
John Arsneault CIO Goulston & Storrs

The top benefits of cloud workload security

Reduced complexity

In a service-oriented architecture, tracking asset and policy inventories is difficult, and dependencies are affected every time a cloud instance changes, creating management

and availability issues. Additionally, data flow mapping in a cloud is complex because services can change location, which increases the number of data points that must be monitored

and managed. In contrast, Zscaler simplifies tracking and protection, and anticipates the impact of change by focusing on applications rather than the environment in which they are communicating.


Gap-free protection

Traditional security tools that use IP addresses, ports, and protocols as the control plane are not ideal for cloud architectures. The dynamic nature of the cloud makes these static security controls unreliable because they can change at any time. To counter the problem of address-based controls, Zscaler cryptographically fingerprints software based on immutable properties that attackers can’t exploit. Our zero trust, identity-centric policies provide consistent workload protection and do not require any cumbersome architectural changes. 


Continual risk assessment

Most security professionals know that their corporate networks are vulnerable to compromise, but most can’t quantify the level of risk these networks pose to the organization, particularly related to application exposure. Zscaler automatically measures your visible network attack surface to understand how many possible application communication pathways are in use, quantifies risk exposure based on the criticality of communicating software, and recommends the fewest number of zero trust security policies that dramatically reduce your probability of data breach while remaining easy to manage.


Zscaler Cloud Workload Security can make a difference for your business

Want to learn more about how Zscaler Cloud Workload Security can protect your organization? Request a demo to get started.

Prevent application compromise and data breaches with workload segmentation

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Goulston & Storrs elevates security of client data with Zscaler Workload Segmentation

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How microsegmentation differs from network segmentation

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How Microsegmentation Differs from Network Segmentation