What Is Code Security?

3 min. read

Code security refers to embedding security into code. Unlike traditional cloud security posture management and cloud workload protection solutions, cloud code security focuses on code with several use cases, including infrastructure as code (IaC) security, application code security and software supply chain security.

Cloud-native technologies, such as IaC and containers, combine application and infrastructure development principles, allowing for greater flexibility, scalability and usability. These technologies have not only changed the way we build the cloud but also how we secure it.

IaC Security

Infrastructure as code is a modern technology and process in which infrastructure is provisioned and managed using machine-readable code files. Frameworks such as Terraform and CloudFormation allow teams to write declarative or imperative code files, check those files into their version control system and CI/CD pipeline, and then spin up the cloud resources across environments.

IaC introduces new security considerations that traditional approaches to security don’t address. Traditional security typically monitors for cloud security issues, also known as misconfigurations, in runtime environments. With IaC, one misconfiguration in a code file can lead to thousands of misconfigurations and alerts across cloud environments.

Figure 1: A secure IaC template through to deploy and runtime phases of the development lifecycle

Figure 1: A secure IaC template through to deploy and runtime phases of the development lifecycle

Code security solves this by surfacing security feedback earlier in the development lifecycle instead of taking a reactive approach. Addressing misconfigurations during the development and build phases allows for faster and cheaper remediations – before deployment. This reduces noisy alerts that security teams have to triage and cuts down on the time engineering spends addressing issues ad hoc.

The key to a successful code security strategy for IaC is ensuring security is embedded directly in developer tools and workflows. By surfacing actionable feedback in code and embedding security guardrails in the build pipeline, IaC security empowers developers to ship infrastructure that’s secure by default.

Application Code Security

Code security for applications focuses on identifying known vulnerabilities in source code, dependencies and open source packages. Vulnerabilities, specifically Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs), can introduce security risks across an application’s development stages, but code security focuses on the application code itself.

A strong code security strategy relies on secure coding best practices and code reviews to identify vulnerabilities. Through automated testing with technologies such as static application security testing (SAST) for custom code and software composition analysis (SCA) for open source code, code security solutions complement cloud workload protection by identifying CVEs as early as possible.

Again, the key to a strong code security strategy for applications is to provide actionable vulnerability findings to the people with the most context and knowledge about the code: developers. This is achieved through developer integrations and granular controls for how compliant versions can be bumped.

The other key to a cohesive code security strategy is context and visibility between infrastructure misconfigurations and application vulnerabilities. The lines between infrastructure and applications are blurred within cloud-native applications. Infrastructure is the foundation on which applications run and thus are inextricably linked. The same goes for security.

Having visibility into both the infrastructure and application layers of cloud-native applications improves teams’ ability to prioritize and address security issues based on their real-world exploitability. Improved visibility also enables teams to more quickly patch identified vulnerabilities, revoke overly permissive access, and lock down the relevant virtual machines (VMs) to minimize an attack’s blast radius.

Software Supply Chain Security

Software supply chains comprise application and infrastructure components as well as the underlying pipelines, including version control systems (VCS), continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines, and registries. And a cloud-native application is only as secure as its weakest link. So that’s why securing those delivery pipelines is also an essential part of code security.

If a VCS isn’t securely configured, attackers may be able to merge malicious code or get access to exposed secrets that could lead to a larger attack. And if CI/CD pipelines are compromised, attackers can gain access to exposed credentials and tamper with code, which can result in downstream incidents. Supply chain security best practices focus on hardening pipelines and configuring access controls and branch protections to restrict access as much as possible.

Figure 2: Secure components and pipelines within a software supply chain

Figure 2: Secure components and pipelines within a software supply chain

Software supply chain security is an important part of a strong code security strategy, as is understanding the connections between pipelines and infrastructure and application code across the development lifecycle. By increasing visibility across software supply chains, code security solutions enable teams to fully take advantage of all the benefits of cloud-native technologies and secure their infrastructure from code to cloud.