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In Cloud Computing Last updated: August 30, 2023
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Ever since Gartner coined cloud-native application protection platforms in 2021, the sector has grown robustly.

According to Zion’s market research report, by 2030, the market size is expected to grow from $5.9 Billion (in 2021) to $23.1 Billion. This means enterprises are concerned about securing and protecting cloud-native applications from development to production.

No matter how heavily automated or dynamic your cloud environment is, CNAPP unifies and integrates security sets and compliance capabilities into a secure design free from cyberattacks.

While companies adopt DevOps and DevSecOps, software that reduces complexity through the CI/CD application life cycle should secure development, provide enhanced visibility, and quantify risks. For many organizations, it’s a step up the ladder from a reactive to a proactive state.

Cloud technology is a big player in many businesses, revolutionizing the data flow in applications’ workloads. As a result, this requires a new approach to the threat landscape (as it evolves) using security solutions compatible with dynamic infrastructure. And that’s where CNAPP comes in.

We will delve deep into cloud-native application protection platforms, what they are, their benefits, and why you should consider them a good investment for your company. So, let’s begin.

What is CNAPP?

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CNAPP describes a platform that encircles security and compliance aspects and how they prevent, detect, and act on cloud security threats. Simply put, it integrates many cloud security solutions, traditionally bunkered into one user interface, to ease how enterprises protect their entire cloud application footprint. To understand why CNAPPs exist, let’s break down the term into cloud-native and application protection.

Shifting to cloud technology unfolds a new streamlined business era. However, with the rise of dynamic environments, there’s equal growth in unpredictable interactions. Traditional-based security approaches can’t keep up with new technologies like containerized and serverless environments.

When it comes to application security, cloud security tools focus on helping IT teams understand the safety levels of their infrastructure. But is that enough? Obviously not. First, there are many ways to expose applications to risk in the cloud, from over-granting permission rights to public internet exposure.

Second, individual solutions focus on narrow sets of security issues and may not integrate with your cloud solutions to seamlessly correlate signals. In this case, the blocker is that many prioritize low-concern alerts.

Why Do You Need a CNAPP?

Gartner released insights into his innovation, cloud-native applications protection platform, in a report. But CNAPPs aren’t just hyped security tools. Such software aims to replace multiple independent tools with a single holistic security structure designed for modern enterprise cloud workloads. Spearheaded by the need to consolidate tools and security, a CNAPP treats compliance and security like a continuum; it’s a logical evolution of DevOps and “shift-left” security.

While multiple disjoint solutions could serve the same purpose as a CNAPP, you’ll often face visibility gaps or integration complexity. As a result, your DevOps teams will have more work and lesser observability across organization workloads.

The benefits of using a CNAPP include:

  • Cloud-native security – Traditional security approaches suit well-defined network parameters and won’t work best for cloud-native applications. CNAPPs are built encircling containers and serverless security by integrating CI/CD pipeline protection, whether your workload is on-premise, private, or public clouds.
  • Better visibility – As mentioned, many security scanning and observability tools exist. A CNAPP stands out because it can contextualize information while providing end-to-end visibility across your entire cloud infrastructure. A good use case is when you need to view a cloud system at granular levels or identities and gather insights into tech stacks; a CNAPP will prioritize the most pressing risks in your enterprise.
  • Firm control – If you misconfigure secrets, cloud workflows, Kubernetes clusters, or containers, you’re posing a risk to your enterprise applications. With the help of a CNAPP, you can actively scan, detect, and quickly take corrective action regarding security and compliance configurations.

Additionally, a CNAPP automates security tasks to eliminate human error, improving reliability. There’s also improved efficiency and productivity in DevOps. One, there’s automated identification of misconfigurations. And second, there’s no need to maintain multiple security tools with high complexity.

Key Components of CNAPP

While the market is flooded with CNAPPs, each with its unique and distinguishing features, there are several core features spanning across all CNAPPs for them to provide robust protection for your cloud infrastructure and applications. Whichever solution you opt for should integrate the following features:

Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM)

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CSPM is about visualization and security assessment. It’s a gateway to configuring cloud resources and continuously monitoring them. By certifying that cloud and hybrid environments match configuration rules, it locates misconfiguration instances and alerts security teams about them. The system complies through inbuilt custom standards and frameworks, redressing the non-compliant aspects.

Besides analyzing security risks, a CSPM is suitable for incident response in cases where there are successful threats. Moreover, a CSPM helps you classify inventory assets across infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), software-as-a-service (SaaS), and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) architecture.

This, in turn, automates detecting and remedying security threats that could lead to data breaches. Cut short, CSPM ratifies that misconfigurations don’t get past development mode to production.

Cloud Workload Protection Platform (CWPP)

CWPP protects workloads deployed across the private, public, and hybrid clouds. Through CWPP, DevOps teams can use the shift left security approach. As a result, teams integrate security solutions and best practices early and continuously throughout the application development life cycle.

Solutions under this domain help you view and mitigate risks across virtual machines (VMs), containers, Kubernetes, databases (SQL and NoSQL), application program interfaces (APIs), and serverless infrastructure without depending on agents.

Additionally, CWPP scans workloads, detects security, and points you toward how to address vulnerabilities. This way, teams can enact speedy investigations across runtime functions, network segmentation, detect malware on workflows (in the CI/CD pipeline), and enrich data via agentless visibility.

Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management (CIEM)

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CIEM manages permissions privileges in cloud environments and optimizes access and entitlements. The ideal goal here is to prevent malicious or accidental misuse of permissions.

By employing the principle of least privileges and scanning your infrastructure configuration, CIEM checks for unnecessary access to resources and reports them. The system analyzes permission principles to detect potential leaks for credentials and secret keys that compromise your cloud assets.

A good use case of CIEM is when you need to identify a user with all access to resource actions while the intended permission is read-only. For practical use, consider a case where you must operate on Just-in-Time access to revoke temporary privileges after use. And that’s how you can mitigate risks of potential data breaches in public cloud workflows by continuously monitoring identity permissions and user activity.

Data Security Posture Management (DSPM)

DSPM protects sensitive data in your cloud environments. It seeks sensitive data and avails visibility into its directory whether you’re on data volumes, buckets, operating systems environments, non-operating system environments, or hosted and managed databases.

By interacting with your sensitive data and its underlying cloud architecture, DSPM oversees who has access to it, how it is used, and its risk factors. This involves assessing the data security state, pinpointing system vulnerabilities, launching security controls to counteract risks, and regular monitoring to update the overall posture, ensuring it’s effective.

When integrated into your cloud solutions, a DSPM discloses potential attack paths, allowing you to prioritize prevention for breaches.

Cloud Detection and Response (CDR)

Cloud detection and response (CDR) in a CNAPP detects advanced threats, investigates, and provides incident response by continuously monitoring your cloud environments. By leveraging other techniques like cloud workload protection platforms and cloud security posture management tools, it gains an overview of your cloud assets, configurations, and activities.

It monitors and analyzes cloud logs, network traffic, and user behavior to showcase indicators of compromise (IoC), suspicious activity, and anomalies to identify breaches.

In the case of a data breach or an attack, CDR initiates rapid incident response through an automated or step-by-step approach to respond to the incident. Driving containment, remedy, and investigation of security threats helps enterprises minimize risks.

When integrated into CNAPP, CDR encompasses vulnerability management, proactive cloud security controls, best coding practices, constant monitoring, and response capabilities. This way, it ensures cloud applications have protection throughout the life cycle, from development mode to production, maintaining a solid security posture.

Cloud Service Network Security (CSNS)

A CSNS solution augments CWPP by providing real-time protection of cloud infrastructure. While not precisely identified as a part of CNAPP, it targets dynamic parameters for cloud-native workloads.

By enacting granular segmentation, a CSNS encompasses many tools, including load balancers, next-generation firewall (NGFW), DDOS protection, web applications and API protection (WAAP), and SSL/TLS inspection.

Bonus: Multipipeline DevOps Security and Infrastructure-as-Code Scanning

The cloud-native application ecosystem automates everything an application needs to run: Kubernetes, docker files, templates for CloudFormation, or Terraform plans. You must protect these resources as they work jointly to keep your application running.

DevOps security management allows developers and information technology teams to handle security operations across CI/CD pipelines from a central console. This provides a stronghold by minimizing misconfigurations and scanning new code bases as they are shipped to production.

When infrastructure-as-code (IaC) is implemented in DevOps, you can build your cloud architecture using actual code and configuration files. With IaC scanning, the idea is to net security flaws in your cloud workflow before they make it to production.

Operating similarly to code reviews, it ensures consistent code quality by scanning programs in the CI/CD pipeline phase, verifying the security of new code bases. You can use IaC scans to assert that your config files (e.g., Terraform HCL files) are vulnerability-free.

Additionally, you can use the tools to detect susceptible network exposure compliance violations and ratify the principle of least privilege when managing resource accessories.

How Does a CNAPP Work?

A CNAPP operates in four key roles. Here’s an overview:

#1. Complete Visibility Into Cloud Environments


A CNAPP provides visibility across your cloud workloads, whether on Azure, AWS, Google Cloud, or any other solution. In the context of resources, a CNAPP provides oversight across all your environments, including containers, databases, virtual machines, serverless functions, managed services, and any other cloud services.

On assessing risk factors, a CNAPP avails cohesive visibility on malware, identities, and vulnerabilities to deliver a clear security state. Finally, a CNAPP removes blind spots by scanning through resources, workloads, and cloud service provider’s APIs for smooth maintenance and configuration.

#2. Unifying, Independent Security Solution

A CNAPP uses one platform to unify processes and deliver consistent control spanning all environments. This means that all are fully integrated, unlike using coupled independent modules. All key CNAPP components (those covered in the preceding section) are unified in the risk assessment engine.

For the defense strategy, a comprehensive CNAPP covers prevention measures, monitoring services, and detection solutions to provide an efficient approach to overall security.

Additionally, a CNAPP solution has a single frontend console running on a unified backend, eliminating the need for switching between multiple consoles.

#3. Prioritizing Contextualized Risks

When CNAPP identifies a threat in your architecture, it provides you with the context around it. This means finding attack paths and understating the criticality tied to the risk.

Using a security graph, a CNAPP lets you understand the relations between elements in your cloud environment. On evaluating the criticality of threats, a CNAPP prioritizes risks, allowing you to focus on remediating the threats instead of wasting time on distractions.

#4. Bridging Development and Security Teams


A CNAPP provides security checks throughout the software development life cycle when integrated into development. Developers use CNAPP insights to prioritize and address security gaps with context without the need for additional guidance or help from external audits. This, in turn, empowers developers to ship secure digital products faster.

The Future is Bright

Despite the complexity of cloud security, cloud-native application protection platforms simplify it and tackle it with new approaches streamlining workflow for DevOps teams. Development teams can ship secure products by uncovering security risks and potential threats in your dynamic cloud environments.

Since the field is ever-growing and evolving, and you may be searching for reliable solutions, consider using comprehensive platforms that combine all the highlighted security components.

The service you choose should be dynamic, highly scalable, and provide end-to-end security spanning all workloads across popular cloud services like Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services, and Azure Cloud services.

Ensure that your choice draws from industry-leading global insights when identifying emerging threats as new technologies rise and evolve across many fronts.

Next, check out the best CNAPP Platforms for better cloud security.

  • John Walter
    John Walter is an Electrical and Electronics Engineer with deep passion for software development, and blockchain technology. He loves to learn new technologies and educate the online community about them. He is also a classical organist.
  • Rashmi Sharma

    Rashmi is a highly experienced content manager, SEO specialist, and data analyst with over 7 years of expertise. She has a solid academic background in computer applications and a keen interest in data analysis.

    Rashmi is… read more

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