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Welcome back to Part 2 of our series on Cloud Vulnerability Management.
In Part 1, we highlighted common vulnerable areas in cloud infrastructure. Here, we explore vulnerability management tools that can help you discover and fix vulnerabilities, and improve your cloud security posture.
For effective vulnerability management, always prioritize vulnerabilities that are most likely to cause serious problems. Also, leverage the cloud asset management pipeline to get a holistic view of your asset inventory, leaks and risks.
These scanners effectively find vulnerabilities like outdated network services, insecure connections, absent security patches, and poorly configured servers
However, they can’t review software components, REST APIs or library components. They also cannot scan the entire Internet or your cloud provider, so must provide a list of network addresses to scan. Missing addresses will create unknown vulnerabilities. Automated inventory management can address this problem.
These tools also generate many false positives which can lead to alert fatigue, or cause genuine vulnerabilities to be ignored. To avoid this issue and prevent unnecessary risk, it’s important to create a robust process to mask false positives and ensure that all relevant alerts are appropriately investigated
In addition, it’s vital to ensure that the scanner scans every component, and that any vulnerabilities found on a segment of a protected virtual private cloud network are never ignored. Finally, network vulnerability scanning of the test environment is also crucial. If genuine issues are found, teams must block deployment and fix the issues on priority.
Agentless inventory and vulnerability scanners and configuration management systems like Ansible connect over the network. They get inside the configured system to find vulnerabilities like local privilege escalations that network scanners often miss. They can also detect missing patches, and perform security configuration management and fixes in line with policy requirements.
One drawback is that automated fixes can disrupt availability, so it’s better to roll out a new system instead of trying to fix it in place. Also, they cannot function well on items they don’t recognize, like software or operating system versions.
Agent-based scanners like Amazon Inspector or Azure Update Management generally perform the same checks as agentless scanners. However, they install a small component (agent) on each system that pushes results to the controller, rather than pulling them in from the systems. They don’t require all systems’ credentials, making them less attractive targets to threat actors. Also, if provided by the cloud service provider (CSP), they can be deployed automatically.
A drawback is that a vulnerability in the agent can put the entire cloud infrastructure at risk. To mitigate this risk, it’s critical to always keep the scanner updated and maintain it in ‘read-only’ mode.
The bigger CSPs like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Provider (GCP) and Microsoft Azure offer numerous security management tools that enable organizations to protect their cloud infrastructure, web applications, APIs, etc.
These tools are a one-stop dashboard for multiple security functions, including:
They may gather configuration and vulnerability information via agents, agentless methods, or third-party tools. Some can also manage infrastructure parts not hosted by that CSP.
Containers, being lightweight processes, are not well-suited for agentless or agent-based scans. Deploying an agent designed for a virtual machine environment can cause performance and scalability challenges. Also, containers don’t allow a traditional network login, so agentless scanners are also not the best choice. For these reasons, container scanners should be part of the organization’s cloud vulnerability management ecosystem. These scanners scan container images and build processes to proactively detect security issues and vulnerabilities before they can be exploited by threat actors.
To scan containers, organizations can deploy one of two approaches. One is to use scanners that check images for vulnerabilities. One best practice is to replace existing containers if they contain vulnerable images, and also avoid deploying new containers based on these images. Another is to use immutable containers, and regularly replace them to prevent threat actors from persisting in the network. The advantage of this approach is that this scanner does not need access to the production system. The drawback is that the organization needs an up-to-date inventory of all running containers to ensure all found vulnerabilities are quickly fixed.
The second approach to container scanning is to use an agent to scan each container host. The agent scans the containers on that system, and reports vulnerabilities to be fixed or replaced. This ensures that no containers continue to run vulnerable images after a new fixed image is created. The drawback is that this approach may cause performance issues.
A DAST tool – also known as a web application vulnerability scanner – performs tests by attacking an application from the outside. It checks the exposed surfaces of an application for flaws and vulnerabilities, and simulates external attacks on it while it runs.
It can find issues like:
Most DAST tools can be invoked automatically.
SAST scanners directly analyze source code of at-rest components. They provide immediate and early feedback on software flaws and weaknesses like SQL injection, broken access control, memory leaks, security misconfigurations, etc, so you should run them as soon as new code is committed. One possible issue is that they generate false positives, so create a process to mask them and reduce alert fatigue.
Magalix provides an easy way to implement SAST in your cloud infrastructure environment. With hundreds of codified policies, you can easily and effectively secure your run-time infrastructure and Infrastructure as Code (IaC). And with a powerful policy-as-code engine, you can centralize policy management, and tighten your security and compliance postures.
SCA scanners look at vulnerabilities in open-source components like libraries and frameworks. Some tools automatically propose code changes, and also check component licenses to ensure that you’re are not using open-source components with outdated code or unfavorable licensing.
An IAST tool can do both dynamic and static scanning, which is its biggest advantage. However, it can decrease performance in production. Mitigate this challenge with horizontal scaling.
Like IAST, RASP is an agent deployed alongside the application code. It can both detect vulnerabilities and block attacks. However, since it scans code in production, it can degrade performance.
To improve your cloud security posture, you can also employ manual code reviews and penetration tests.
Manual reviews can find many vulnerabilities that automated scanners miss, so they should be a part of your security arsenal.
A penetration test (pentest) is performed by a tester (that you hire) who tries to gain unauthorized access to your cloud environment. They mimic the actions of real hackers, so you should prioritize these findings and fixes above others.
In white box pentesting, the tester has complete system information, so they can immediately start looking for vulnerabilities. This is why it is usually more effective than black box pentesting where the tester has no information about the system.
Several tools are available to help you streamline cloud vulnerability management. Deploy them wisely and you can strengthen your cloud infrastructure from threat actors.
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