Organizations are now turning to an increasingly hybrid cloud infrastructure model to support remote workforces, a trend that has accelerated significantly amid the recent global health crisis. This presents a new challenge as cloud environments (both private and public) require a purpose-built approach for protection with priorities that are different than securing standard endpoints. With these challenges becoming more apparent over the last few months, workload protection is a topic that should be driving a lot of internal discussions as organizations prepare to adapt their technology stacks for 2021 and beyond.

What is Cloud Workload Security?

Cloud workload security is a solution built to protect applications hosted on, and data moving through virtualized environments. Today, many organizations are in flux with these environments. Some businesses try to leverage a hybrid cloud model with a combination of infrastructure remaining on-premise and on the public cloud. This also requires network resources to connect users to the application or various parts of the application. Overall, this approach presents challenges for protecting data moving between these applications.

A cloud workload security solution enables you to identify, manage, and secure these workloads. This will help you decrease risk, ensure better application scalability, and increase compliance. The primary purpose of a Cloud Workload Protection Platform is to help you understand what workloads are running where.

What is a Cloud Workload Protection Platform?

The term Cloud workload protection platform (CWPP) was first coined by Gartner and refers to security strategies built for cloud-native protection of workloads. Gartner specifically defines CWPPs as “specialized tools to address the modern hybrid data center that utilize both cloud and on-premises deployments,” and recommends that organizations “separate the purchasing decisions for server workloads from any product or strategy​ decisions involving endpoint protection.”

Cloud workload protection platforms help you to continuously assess risk across the cloud, identify vulnerabilities and misconfigurations before deployments, and reduce runtime issues.

Top benefits of Cloud Workload Protection Platform

A cloud workload protection platform can provide protection across diverse workload environments. Here are the main benefits that should always be top of mind when evaluating workload protection:

  • Hardening Systems – Misconfigured cloud servers were the most frequent initial vector used in successful attacks, appearing in 19% of all breaches in the previous year, according to the 2020 Cost of a Data Breach Report. Due to the significant risk posed to these environments, a cloud workload protection platform should give both the Security Team and the Infrastructure team visibility into the current state of configurations across the virtualized environment and help administrators to quickly remediate any configuration issues to reduce the attack surface.
  • Eliminating Vulnerabilities – A cloud workload protection platform needs to automate some of the risk assessment and prioritization process to help teams eliminate the most potential risk with the least possible effort. When it comes to vulnerability assessment on workloads, it’s more important to efficiently eliminate the riskiest vulnerabilities than to spend time playing whack-a-mole with the thousands of vulnerabilities that pop up each year.
  • Increasing Visibility – Along with visibility into the state of workloads, an effective cloud workload protection platform will also provide visibility into the activity that is occurring on those workloads. Similar to endpoint detection and response, cloud workload protection platform solutions need to help the Security team uncover and respond to suspicious activity occurring on these systems.
  • Preventing Attacks – While it’s not quite as high of a priority with cloud workloads as it is with user endpoints, the ability to block known and unknown threats, including malware, fileless, and living-off-the-land attacks, is an important factor for cloud workload protection platforms. And achieving this without having a meaningful impact on resource allocation is extremely important.
  • Simplifying Operations – Due to the critical nature of workloads for any organization, any effective cloud workload protection platform solution needs to require as little overhead as possible. This includes everything from the resource impact it has on the workloads themselves to the amount of time it takes to deploy and maintain. It should also enable the multiple stakeholder teams from across the organization to work more effectively together by sharing the right level of information between the Security team, Infrastructure team, and DevOps team.

The security landscape is continuously evolving, and cloud protection is becoming a crucial investment for organizations that are shifting to the cloud as part of their computing infrastructure. Legacy solutions are not adequate for cloud environments anymore. Organizations need a cloud workload protection platform that provides full visibility into multiple environments, helps consolidate IT and security teams and mediates security alerts.

Looking for more insights? Learn how VMware Carbon Black Cloud Workload™ delivers a unified cloud workload protection solution to strengthen your security posture across all stages of the workload lifecycle.