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Best Practices in Patch Management for Cloud Workload Security

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Over the past decade, organizations of all sizes have been increasingly migrating their workloads and IT infrastructure to the cloud. From the way mobile and content services are delivered and consumed, to serving as an alternative to traditional network computing infrastructure, cloud computing is now foundational to how businesses operate. Today, 81% of enterprises have a multi-cloud strategy already laid out or in the works, and an estimated 82% of enterprise workloads reside in the cloud.

Yet, as organizations move to the cloud, so do the cybersecurity threats. With firms increasingly leveraging a mix of on-premises computing technologies as well as public and private clouds, the attack surface has expanded exponentially, making it more difficult for security teams to protect.

For strong security in today’s multi-cloud and hybrid IT environments, organizations need integrated patch management solutions that are compatible with and provide visibility across not only on-premises technologies but also all types of cloud workload distribution methods and assets – from databases to containers, microservices, virtual machines and more.

What are Cloud Workloads?

A cloud workload is any type of resource, service, capability or specified amount of work running on the cloud. This can include containers, applications, virtual machines, and infrastructure as a service (IaaS). More than 68% of companies are using managed cloud infrastructure services today and according to Gartner, the worldwide IaaS market grew 40.7% in 2020 to a total of $64.3 billion, up from $45.7 billion in 2019.

The majority of enterprise cloud environments run on the open-source operating system, Linux. Unfortunately, Linux systems are often overlooked when it comes to cybersecurity and are left misconfigured or poorly managed. Some security analysts may believe that Linux systems are secure by design, but this is not the case and as cloud computing becomes more prevalent, attacks on Linux systems are also growing.

Threats to Cloud Workload Security

Attackers are increasingly targeting public cloud infrastructure and Linux systems for ransomware and cryptojacking campaigns. They know that by exploiting common misconfigurations and vulnerabilities in widely used public clouds like AWS and Azure, they can spread their ransomware campaigns further or rely on other organizations’ computing power and energy to perform their cryptomining operations.

When it comes to use of public clouds, security is a shared responsibility. The cloud service provider has certain responsibilities for securing the underlying cloud infrastructure, but each organization or customer (specifically with IaaS) is responsible for patching and securing their operating systems, applications and workloads running on that shared cloud solution. Ultimately, this is true for all data stored and or processed in the public cloud regardless of the Service model. That is why proactive and continuous patch management for Linux and cloud workloads must not be overlooked and should be a priority for enterprise security.

Whether using public or private clouds, or a mix of both, organizations with multiple cloud workload distributions and assets (containers, applications, virtual machines, etc.) must keep them all actively patched and protected against vulnerabilities and zero-day threats. Businesses that do not employ stringent, proactive patch management processes leave themselves open to attack.

Best Practices in Patch Management for Cloud Workloads

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to patch management for cloud workloads, there are some best practices that every organization should follow:

  1. Continually assess the entire infrastructure Organizations need the ability to continually assess their full infrastructure – from on-premises technologies to services and infrastructure running in the cloud – to identify what security controls are present and which are missing. Examine your entire infrastructure to identify vulnerabilities and misconfigurations and gain an understanding of how exposed your infrastructure might be.
  2. Consider managed services An organizations’ environment is continually changing, and new vulnerabilities or misconfigurations can arise at any time. Consider subscribing to a managed service that can help identify vulnerabilities in your infrastructure that may not be related to a specific, known threat, but can still be remediated with patching to make your environment more cyber resilient.
  3. Map patch management to risk management and compliance Many organizations rely on a strong risk management program to maintain compliance with regulatory requirements. As part of this, they perform continuous vulnerability management to ensure all systems are hardened and there are no vulnerabilities that pose a risk to the organization. Ultimately, patch management is a response to vulnerability management, enabling organizations to properly address risks. The ability to map patch management to vulnerability and risk management processes is essential for not only strengthening cybersecurity but also demonstrating compliance.
  4. Integrate patch management with threat detection and response technologies Patch management is most effective when it is integrated with a comprehensive cloud workload protection platform (CWPP) that combines patch management with threat detection and response capabilities. In the event of zero-day threats, there is no existing patch available but with an integrated solution, security teams can use elements from their endpoint detection and response (EDR) capabilities to remediate the vulnerability, and better identify and proactively patch similar vulnerabilities in the future.
  5. Consolidate technologies – Patch management is never as simple as merely identifying that a patch is needed and pushing it out to the whole system. It is a complex process involving multiple steps including staging, testing, configuration management and more. Relying on multiple different technologies for vulnerability assessment, patch management and remediation wastes time and resources. Instead, organizations should look to a single, comprehensive solution that provides visibility and control across the entire infrastructure, including all cloud workload distribution systems, to simplify and automate security processes.

Conclusion

As the world becomes more digital-first, businesses will continue to turn to cloud computing as a way to accelerate innovation, become more efficient and agile. However, as they do, attackers will also increasingly turn their attention to targeting cloud infrastructure and the Linux systems they operate on. Today, many DevOps teams know they should better protect their Linux and cloud systems, but the trade-off between securing vulnerabilities and sacrificing performance is so high they decide to simply accept the risk. This doesn’t have to be the case.

Bitdefender delivers integrated patch management capabilities with comprehensive visibility across on-premises systems, Linux environments and all types of cloud workload distribution methods and assets. These solutions are optimized for any infrastructure, whether physical device, part of a datacenter, cloud workload, or even in a public cloud, so organizations can optimize the entire process of securing their assets, data and cloud workloads without compromising performance.

Learn more about integrated patch management for cloud workload security with GravityZone.

 

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