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Infrastructure as Code or IaC is a modern practice of managing IT infrastructure through code. All infrastructure configuration specifications are codified by creating configuration files, which makes it easier to edit and distribute configurations and to automatically manage monitor and provision resources.
IaC ensures that the same environment is provisioned every time as per the organization’s practices and policies, and also prevents ad-hoc undocumented configuration changes. Another advantage is that IaC aligns well with DevOps environments, and prevents delays in application deployments. It also supports automated testing, and the continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipelines that developers use for application code.
But despite its benefits, IaC also poses some risks. This article highlights these risks, and also provides potential solutions, so your organization can take full advantage of IaC, while avoiding the disadvantages.
Configuration drift occurs when admins make configuration changes to the infrastructure that are outside the set IaC template so that the configuration is no longer identical to a previously populated value. They may also fail to record or track these changes systematically. Information gaps between teams can also lead to changes that are not aligned with the original plan. All these issues can lead to configuration drift in IaC.
Configuration drift can create security blind spots that leave the infrastructure exposed to cyberattacks and data breaches. Ad hoc changes can also destabilize the environment, cause deployment issues, and increase costs.
To avoid or at least minimize configuration drift, it’s important to integrate IaC into all IT operations and DevOps practices. Well-documented policies and procedures should be part of this integration.
One way to mitigate drift-related risks is to determine configuration changes programmatically using policy as code. Policy as code is very effective in automatically implementing security best practices, guidelines, and policies, minimizing safety and compliance risks, and building a “self-healing” infrastructure.
If drifts do surface, it’s vital to resolve them close to developers, because it’s usually easier and faster to figure out who made what change and why by routing drift issues directly to code owners.
IaC is about codifying your infrastructure, so you have templates for all provisioning tasks. However, some templates may have misconfiguration errors or insecure default configurations that could increase the risk of cyberattacks, or expose sensitive data.
Other templates may unintentionally use container images from untrusted sources, which could create backdoor threats, or allow attackers to hack servers, run malicious code, or deploy cryptocurrency miners that infect cloud servers, spike CPU usage, and overload systems.
To minimize these risks, users or admins should find and fix violations before they enter the deployment environment. And for this, validation and remediation using policy-as-code is a highly effective solution.
With Magalix and its “write once, apply everywhere” model, admins can discover and remediate vulnerabilities. They can also incorporate policy checks into the SDLC, and implement long-term plans to prevent a recurrence.
In IaC, a single application can manage the multiple environments described in the configuration files. While the application can describe the target environment in different ways, the configuration itself remains the common factor, along with its secrets, which are required to connect to the managed infrastructure.
These secrets contain sensitive data, such as passwords, authentication tokens, and Secure Shell (SSH) keys. Some organizations store secrets inside source code management (SCM) systems or plaintext files, which can expose them to many threats, and allow adversaries to exploit them to compromise the infrastructure, and launch cyberattacks.
Secrets are too important and potentially dangerous to store inside SCM systems or plaintext files. Instead, it’s safer to store them in vaults, and then reference them inside the configuration files.
An automated secrets management system can also minimize human involvement in creating, managing, distributing, and maintaining secrets. This reduces potential failure points and protects the IaC resources.
One way to securely manage secrets is to leverage the cloud platform’s secrets capabilities. Here, the cloud provider functions as the root of trust to safely authenticate and authorize applications, and provide the secrets as required.
Other effective practices to secure secrets include using a centralized secrets management solution, implementing role-based access control (RBAC), and regular auditing.
DevOps teams often leverage IaC to provision full-stack cloud environments. For this, they often use privileged accounts. This increases the risk of unauthorized privilege escalation. In combination with hard-coded secrets and insecure IaC configurations leading to network exposures, this risk can expand the attack surface, and allow attackers to deliver serious cyberattacks to the IaC.
One way to mitigate the risk of privilege escalations is to follow the “principle of least privilege” (POLP) in IaC. POLP states that every user gets only the level of access required to perform their specific role, and nothing more. Further, any account or role that’s assigned for a specific purpose should be used with limited capabilities.
It’s also important to track and control privilege creeps. Finally, a static security analysis of IaC can help to eliminate risks early in the deployment lifecycle.
When infrastructure and applications are configured declaratively, violations can happen. It’s critical to find and fix these violations early, because unconfigured security settings, non-compliance, and other serious misconfigurations discovered at runtime can be disastrous and costly. Fortunately, admins and users can intercept and fix IaC violations early in the development cycle – with Magalix.
Magalix policy as code enables users to incorporate security checks into their CI/CD pipelines. They can identify IaC violations, revert misconfigured resources, and implement security-as-code fixes into the development cycle. They can also convert risks into secure IaC configurations to prevent runtime drift. With tested and verified policies from Magalix, IaC users can enforce cloud security and best practices at build and deployment to create and maintain a secure infrastructure.
Metadescription: Learn the recommended best practices and strategies that can be adopted to secure the microservices deployed in the cloud.
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