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Cloud Workload Security Guide

by John Cirelly - Last Updated: December 11, 2023

Cloud Workload Security Guide

Regardless of a company’s scale, it is never truly safe from cyber attacks. Every application is vulnerable to breaches and requires security measures for data protection. The same can be said for cloud resources.

However, many people are unfamiliar with this practice, its needs, and how to implement it. Well, there’s no need to worry as this comprehensive guide will cover all you should know about Cloud Workload Security. Let’s get started!

What is Cloud Workload Security?

First things first, what is cloud workload security? It is the process of protecting your applications and services on the cloud. Since a company’s cloud presence can be open for cyberattacks, this practice safeguards your workload across multiple environments. It works for private and public clouds and offers maximum protection against breaches and data loss.

However, it does not only involve implementing protection measures. Cloud workload security includes continuous monitoring of your cloud environment. This way, you can pinpoint and remove threats that can harm your workload.

Usually, we use a Cloud Workload Protection Platform (CWPP) for this purpose. It is a security solution that offers security parameters across your cloud workloads. This process is completed by two methods, micro-segmentation, and bare-metal hypervisors.

Microsegmentation breaks down the data center into separate security segments, while bare-metal hypervisors create virtual machines to separate software from hardware on a computer.

Security Risks of Cloud Workload

A cloud workload has many security risks. That’s because it is a huge architecture and is based on various applications. However, the biggest threat to a cloud workload is malicious code. It can impact your applications and services to wreak havoc. This type of code can enter your cloud workload in three ways:

  • Legitimate Interfaces These can be the applications or services included in the cloud. However, legitimate interfaces could also mean public apps and third-party tools. Most providers use web applications and API servers. These are vulnerable as they include coding. Software with malicious code can enter your applications and steal sensitive data. However, your software packages could also fall victim to these codes. That is because they can infiltrate other applications as well. In short, your applications could be stealing your data, and you might be unfamiliar with it.
  • Data Handling Data handling refers to data processing and other functions regarding your cloud applications and services. These also include processing media uploaded by customers. This data is out of a user’s hand in terms of quality. But, what you can control is the monitoring for data handling. That’s because it is an easy path for embedded malicious codes to exploit your cloud environment. Not only do they access necessary information, but they also result in data leakage.
  • Supply Chain Attacks A supply chain attack refers to a malicious code transplanted in one of your packages. It affects the cloud workload stack from just one application. Moreover, it is pretty tricky to find this exploited code. That is because it is usually hidden in an encrypted form. According to the condition that the hacker has applied, the code decrypts itself and breaches your sensitive data. It starts running automatically in your cloud environment, affecting all other resources.

Why Do You Need Cloud Workload Security?

  • Protecting Workload A workload is a broad term that involves various aspects. It stands for cloud applications, services, devices, virtual machines, and containers. Thus, protecting a cloud workload can be challenging. However, you can implement the best practices of cloud workload security. This way, your data remains safe, and there’s no room left for a cyberattack.
    The best part is that you do not have to do it manually. All you need is a security solution that will do the job for you.
  • Highlighting Weak Areas When there’s an application, there are some vulnerable areas. Every cloud resource has several weak parts. These are open for cybercriminals to breach and steal your data. But, cloud workload security measures allow you to keep watch on your entire cloud resource. That also includes pinpointing weak areas so that you can improve their security.
  • Full Automation You can try manual techniques to improve your cloud security. However, it takes too much time and is not very effective. On the other hand, a cloud workload security solution will automate this process. It means the tool will automatically detect your cloud resource and its weak areas. It allows continuous monitoring so that you can view and stop any suspicious activity on your cloud premises. Since it is automated, you get efficient results as well. This way, you would not need extra work power on security. You and your customers can keep working while these security measures keep the environment safe.
  • Allow Access With every cloud application, the downside is user authorization. It is one of the most vulnerable aspects that lead to data loss and breaches. But, you can strengthen your authorization and authentication with cloud workload security. It ensures that your applications and data are only available for appropriate users. Moreover, you can also keep track of all users accessing your resources to prevent unauthorized access.
  • Keeping Up with Modern Technology It is necessary to build and shift applications that are up to modern standards. That is because almost every business moves to the cloud, regardless of its scale. But, the downside is that new technology could also mean less security. With a cloud workload security solution, you can ensure that your business applications remain safe and secure for everyone while still keeping up with modern standards. It also supports integrations and third-party tools so that there are no disruptions in your cloud resources.

Difference between Traditional Security and Cloud Workload Security

A frequently asked question is, why should I move to cloud workload security from traditional IT security? Also, many people confuse these both as the same. But, that’s not the case. Let’s answer this question by offering you a broader perspective.

  • IT Security Conventional IT security methods are overlooked by third-party service providers. They offer different applications, tools, services, and resources to ensure your offerings are secure. However, customers do not participate in this form of security measures. It means that you give complete control to the IT security service provider. They have full access to your resources and do not involve customer input in their work.
  • Cloud Workload Security Cloud Workload security creates a shared working environment for service providers as well as customers. It assigns responsibilities and duties to both parties. The cloud security provider is responsible for managing the security of the infrastructure. It includes cloud computing services, cloud networking services, and cloud storage services. On the other hand, it assigns some level of security responsibility to customers. It involves tasks like users, applications, operating systems, and data.  To summarize, customers are responsible for the security in the cloud, while service provider works for the security of the cloud.

What does a Customer Get With Cloud Workload Security?

The previous section also elevates another question: What can a customer do with cloud workload security? Since they supervise various aspects, it is essential to understand their full capability and responsibility.

In short, a customer only handles customer-level data. It includes the platform, offered applications, services, access management, and identity. However, a customer also looks for the operating system and network & firewall configuration. Because these parts are users’ priorities, cloud workload security grants them.

But, there’s more. As a customer, you can encrypt, integrate, and authenticate client-side data. You can also handle server-side, including file system. Lastly, a customer is also responsible for managing networking traffic protection. It is one of the key factors that involves integrity, identity, and encryption.

Best Practices for Cloud Workload Security

  1. Secure Cloud Management Console The first and foremost thing to protect is the cloud management console. It is the most basic service offered by all cloud service providers. This console allows you to administer the account, monitor usage, track billing, troubleshoot problems and manage services. Users can keep track of all the necessary information via this console. However, it is also quite vulnerable and the first target for cyber attackers. By securing this part of cloud services, a business is safe from data leakage and identity thefts
  2. Protecting API SSH Keys Cloud applications invoke APIs to stop and start servers. It is a common service that almost every provider allows. You can also use APIs to make changes in the cloud environment. API is used for accessing credentials, like SSH keys. These are coded into applications for various purposes. However, many cybercriminals use SSH keys to target their attacks. The best practice is to separate SSH keys-protected applications from ordinary ones. You can do so by authorizing your cloud apps. This way, a business can remove embedded SSH keys that do not need them.
  3. Secure Infrastructure The most prominent target for a cyber attacker is the infrastructure. It includes data stores, containers, virtual servers, and other cloud resources. Usually, cybercriminals use tools like Ansible to disrupt apps and services. However, a strong security system can protect your vital infrastructure. It should be your priority as it directly impacts your workload. Most cloud workload security solutions prevent unauthorized access. They discard any cloud automation script and provisioning tools used to breach in.
  4. Securing Admin Accounts An admin account is one of the basic offerings of every cloud service. Most SaaS providers include a management console. It is used for managing services as well as users. Due to these responsibilities,  an admin account has more authority. However, it is also a common weak area for hackers and cybercriminals. Good practice in cloud workload security is to monitor the admin console tightly. This way, you can keep track of everyone who can access the services. Since you can also grant privileges, there are reduced risks.
  5. DevOps Pipeline Code, Admin Consoles, and Tools Hackers use the DevOps pipeline to exploit cloud applications. That’s because it is not tightly protected in traditional IT security services. Usually, attackers good with coding can also code security credentials into source code. Then, these storage services are shared on public code repositories.
    In short, these applications can steal information and lead to huge issues, such as data leakage, identity thefts, etc. To protect this vulnerable area, you should go through the source code and remove all malicious parts. The next important segment is the DevOps admin console. It offers tools to administer user information and services. Many DevOps organizations use a collection of CI/CD tools to develop and deploy cloud applications. Hackers can use the admin consoles to steal data. Cloud workload security focuses on restricting control and access to the admin console and its tools.
  6. Automation at Every Stage A huge drawback of traditional security systems is that they are not fully automated. However, cloud workload security is all about automation. It does automate not only the security implementation but also its monitoring. This way, an application can stay secure and updated with new technology. Furthermore, the results are much more efficient than manual and old-school security measures.
  7. Protect Individual Workloads To protect cloud applications and services, the best practice is to focus on all workloads individually. You can track and monitor each workload that makes an application.

Cloud-Native Application Protection Platforms

The cybersecurity industry is consolidating all of its cloud protection systems into a standard platform, called a Cloud-Native Application Protection Platform (CNAPP). Typically, a CNAPP provides vulnerability scanning for platforms and applications in a Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) service and live security monitoring with a Cloud Workload Protection Platform (CWPP).

While the CSPM and CWPP are the core modules in a CNAPP, these packages typically also include scanning for the platform, Infrastructure as Code, and containers used to deliver the applications.


And that brings us to this detailed guide on cloud workload security. We have covered the threats of a cloud workload, why you need it, how it differs from traditional IT security, and the best practices you can implement to protect your cloud environment.

To conclude, it is safe to say that your applications and resources need maximum security on the cloud. And, you can only provide that with the right solution, considering your model, services, and requirements.