What is Infrastructure-as-Code Security

5 min. read

Infrastructure as code (IaC) presents an incredible opportunity to embed consistent and scalable cloud security coverage.

IaC security refers to addressing cloud configuration issues in IaC rather than deployed cloud resources. Because IaC does not represent infrastructure itself, IaC security isn’t “securing IaC” but rather ensuring that it is configured in such a way that it will provision secure resources. IaC security is a modern take on cloud security that has historically addressed configured cloud resources after being deployed and ensuring that periodic manual configuration doesn’t introduce new issues.

Cloud security issues are often related to securing access to critical services and customer data. Each cloud and resource has its own set of security best practices and corresponding compliance benchmarks. Organizations may also enforce their own policies unique to their infrastructure and business.

IaC security transfers security monitoring of provisioned cloud resources to the infrastructure code layer.

How IaC Security Works

The most basic form of IaC security is being able to identify misconfigurations and security issues. Scanning IaC enables you to identify all the variables for which the proper settings are either missing or are incorrectly set. Scanning IaC involves checking templates, files, and modules and their variables against known policies. Policy violations occur when proper settings are either missing on variables, or the settings are incorrectly set.

Because IaC is often cloud-agnostic, you may be dealing with hundreds of policies to check against. The best way to get complete coverage across cloud security best practices and compliance controls are through automation. By automating the scanning of IaC, you save time and get coverage not possible with manual work. There are a few open-source tools such as Open Policy Agent (OPA) and Bridgecrew’s Checkov that enable anyone to scan infrastructure as code files or directories against known policies.

IaC security is incredibly valuable in that it puts the same flexibility and repeatability that IaC uses to provision resources into securing it. Code is inherently extendable, and applying the same methodology into cloud security is the best way to secure it consistently.

But for scanning to be valuable, IaC security must occur continuously. Whether you’re adding it to your pull request checks or a failing step in your CI/CD pipeline, IaC works best when it’s part of everyday code reviews. Not only does that ensure IaC is constantly covered, but it will harden your IaC over time by preventing misconfigurations from ever being deployed in the first place and avoiding cloud drift.

Finding the right tooling to automate the identification of IaC issues is imperative, and enforcing security policies continuously is just as important. Applying those methodologies to fixing issues in IaC is also important to a strong IaC security policy. The easiest way to make IaC security feedback actionable is to deliver fixes in a common language—code. Implementing infrastructure security as code not only equips developers with real solutions to their problems but helps set policies to govern infrastructure in the future.

Why is IaC Security Important?

As IaC adoption soars, it’s becoming more important to understand the security risks and complexities involved with it. Because IaC best practices are still being established, there are very few universally-recognized resources and processes when it comes to IaC security.

IaC is designed to make cloud provisioning simpler, faster, and predictable. But in order for teams to recognize those benefits, the same philosophy must be applied to how they approach cloud security. IaC security is the answer to cloud security in IaC-forward environments. It is the only way to get consistent, scalable, and immutable security. If security is not applied at the IaC layer, misconfigurations are inevitable. And when clouds are orchestrated by inherently misconfigured code, they’ll continue to be orchestrated and configured incorrectly in production.