/ What Is Cloud Workload Security?

What Is Cloud Workload Security?

Cloud workload security is a security solution designed to protect workloads in databases, containers like Kubernetes, virtual machines (VMs), and physical servers as they move through cloud environments.

Why Is Cloud Workload Security Important?

As more organizations move away from on-premises solutions and toward digital business models centered around cloud computing, their data and applications migrate to the cloud through cloud providers such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. This migration presents challenges for protecting data moving between applications and SaaS as they communicate with one another in different cloud environments and data centers, all connecting over the internet.

Namely, there’s a litany of vulnerabilities to seal up when it comes to securing cloud workloads. A cloud workload security solution enables organizations to identify, manage, and secure these workloads to decrease risk, increase compliance, ensure greater application scalability, and improve overall security posture.

How Does Cloud Workload Security Work?

Cloud workload security, also known as cloud workload protection, revolves around workload segmentation, wherein application workloads are segmented into smaller pieces to simplify and secure traffic inspection.

Cloud workload security solutions allow organizations to discover, monitor, and secure cloud accounts, compute and storage instances, and the control plane. This decreases the likelihood of misconfigurations upon deployment, making it possible to develop and release more cloud native applications at scale while reducing the risk of cybersecurity issues.

Security Risks of Cloud Workloads

In a modern environment powered by cloud infrastructure, applications and services should be—but are often not—at the center of an overall security strategy. Most traffic in a cloud environment moves east-west (within the environment), and traditional security controls typically protect traffic that moves north-south (into or out of the environment) through a perimeter gateway, so it’s no longer sufficient to define software by its traffic route.

Security controls must be workload-centric and decoupled from the cloud platform. It’s crucial to move access controls and permissions away from the network paths that applications travel on and tie them directly to the identity of the communicating applications and services. Not doing so makes it easier for network-borne threats to get into your cloud systems.

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.

- VMware

Why Outdated Security Strategies Fall Short

Legacy security tools work on a trust model that’s no longer relevant in the modern threat landscape as more applications live in the cloud and communicate over the internet. Network security perimeters are disappearing, and traffic inspection is more difficult because almost all traffic is encrypted.

Outdated security controls that can’t decrypt, inspect, and re-encrypt traffic could be overlooking cyberattacks such as ransomware and other malware. To defend themselves against these attacks, organizations using private and public clouds need to focus on protecting themselves at the workload level, not just at the endpoint.

Key Requirements of a Cloud Workload Security Platform

Let’s explore the necessary strategies for strong cloud workload security.

Microsegmentation is a method of creating secure, secluded zones within a data center, network, or cloud environment that allows workloads to be individually isolated and secured. It’s designed to enable granular partitioning of traffic for better protection from attacks.

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

This is not to be confused with network segmentation, which involves using stateful inspection firewalls or next-generation firewalls to split the network into smaller, more easily monitored chunks. This strategy has been effective in the past, but it has particular limitations for cloud and multicloud environments.

Another key strategy is zero trust network access (ZTNA), also known as a software-defined perimeter (SDP). ZTNA is achieved with a set of technologies that operate 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.

Gartner predicts that by 2023, 60% of enterprises will phase out their remote access virtual private networks (VPN) in favor of ZTNA. This is true for a number of reasons—not least for improved protection and security for cloud workloads.

Microsegmentation and ZTNA can both help secure an organization’s traffic and applications at runtime, but using a cloud workload protection platform will ensure full cloud workload security 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.


Key Benefits of Cloud Workload Security

Here are some of the ways cloud workload security helps you decrease risk and simplify security for your organization:

Reduced Complexity

In a service-oriented architecture, tracking asset and policy inventories is difficult, and every cloud instance change affects dependencies, creating management and availability issues. Additionally, dataflow mapping in a cloud is complex because services can change location, increasing the number of data points to monitor and manage. Cloud workload security simplifies tracking and protection, and anticipates the impact of change by focusing on applications rather than their environment.

Gap-Free Protection

Traditional security tools that use IP addresses, ports, and protocols as the control plane are not ideal for cloud use cases. The dynamic nature of cloud services makes these static security controls unreliable because they can change at any time. To counter the problem of address-based controls, cloud workload security platforms provide consistent workload protection and don’t require any cumbersome architectural changes.

Continual Risk Assessment

Most security professionals know their corporate networks are vulnerable to compromise, but most can’t quantify the risk, particularly related to application exposure. Cloud workload security solutions can automatically measure your visible network attack surface to understand how many possible application communication pathways are in use, quantify risk exposure based on the criticality of communicating software, and recommend the fewest number of security policies to reduce your risk of data breach.

Cloud Workload Security Best Practices

When selecting a cloud workload security platform, be sure it can:

  • Secure workloads from build through runtime while remaining aligned with DevOps
  • Secure connectivity for cloud workloads to the internet, data center, and other apps
  • Run on a zero trust architecture for all users and workloads in a consistent manner

Ultimately, you want to ensure your cloud workload security platform can help your security team answer these questions:

  • Which applications are communicating?
  • Which ones should be communicating?
  • Are the right systems talking to one another without allowing malicious traffic to persist?

Today’s cloud workloads need security that provides comprehensive zero trust coverage while simplifying management for DevOps and SecOps. What you need is a proven platform built in the cloud, for the cloud—a platform only Zscaler can provide.

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

How Zscaler Secures Cloud Workloads

Zscaler Workload Communications secures workload-to-internet, multicloud, and multi-region traffic for your mission-critical cloud workloads. With the power of the Zscaler Zero Trust Exchange™, it inspects all traffic inline to protect against cyberthreats and data loss, establishes the identity and context of access requests, and applies appropriate policies before establishing connectivity to the internet, SaaS apps, or private workloads.

Workload-to-Internet Communications

Cloud workloads can access any internet or SaaS destination (e.g., third-party APIs, software updates) with a scalable, reliable security solution that inspects all transactions.

Workload-to-Workload Communications

Workloads in one public cloud can securely communicate with any public or private cloud as well as across VPCs, zones, and regions in the same cloud—no need for VPNs or risky, complex bespoke cloud routing.

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Eliminate lateral movement, reduce operational costs and complexity, and ensure consistent threat and data protection with Zscaler Workload Communications.

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