Why Workload Security Should Be a Top Priority for Hybrid IT Environments

Why Workload Security is Essential for Hybrid IT Environments 

Most companies are in the midst of transitioning data to the cloud but may never fully migrate critical applications. This leaves IT operating in a hybrid model—some data in the cloud and some stored in private data centers. There is great flexibility in this arrangement, but from a security perspective, it is very complex. 

Attacks in the data center deploy different methodologies than modern workload attacks. Many attacks in the data center involve an attacker manipulating the executables, processes, and operating system of the asset itself. They modify the OS, introduce new executables, leverage trusted system processes to move across the data center, and abuse those processes to aid data exfiltration. In comparison, since modern workloads are distributed across different environments, attackers have more avenues than ever to breach and penetrate the enterprise undetected. 

A workload security solution is needed to reduce the attack surface and protect cloud workloads as they travel across your multi-vendor, multi-host, multi-cloud, hybrid environment. The faster that companies with hybrid data centers embrace workload security, the better prepared they will be to stop current and future threats. 

Workload Security is More Complex in Hybrid Environments  

Workload security is especially complicated in hybrid data centers. This is because they employ everything from physical, on-premises machines to multiple public cloud environments, to container-based application architectures. As cloud workloads co-mingle with multiple vendors and hosts, it is difficult to monitor its behavior. Let alone the fact that the responsibility for remediating issues and hardening the workload must be shared. 

Consider virtualized systems. They are “hard to see into” and security won’t often get rights to log into virtualized machines or the virtualization infrastructure to perform vulnerability scans, or even receive security alerts from next gen antivirus or endpoint detection and response products.  

Furthermore, enterprises utilizing modern environments, like containers, see a whole host of new security risks. Containers add an orchestration layer, which controls and automates tasks such as: 

  • Provisioning and deployment of containers 
  • Redundancy and availability of containers 
  • Scaling up or down containers to spread application load evenly across host infrastructure, and  
  • Configuration of an application in relation to the containers running it

Containers and code sit inside this orchestration layer and open you up to misconfiguration issues and vulnerabilities that can’t be seen with endpoint protection solutions. 

Workload Security Solution Features Needed for Hybrid Data Centers 

Hybrid environments require a different approach for security. It is critical to have visibility across virtual, physical, cloud and containerized environments. And endpoint protection can’t provide that alone. The key steps needed to stop threats to critical applications and workloads are to shrink the attack surface by enforcing known good application behavior and use behavioral threat detection on workloads to disrupt attacks that abuse trusted processes. 

Combining a hypervisor-based, least privileged model with behavioral analytics delivers the most robust security available for workloads in hybrid data centers. A workload security solution with these technologies will allow you to do the following: 

Enforce Known Good – By monitoring application behavior, the solution needs to recognize when changes are made. This contextual intelligence removes the guesswork in determining which changes to processes, executables, and operating systems are legitimate and which indicate real threats.  

Detect Unknown Threats and Advanced Attacks – Any attack that isn’t prevented by locking down the workload’s behavior needs to be picked up by adaptive prevention. This is the method of using machine learning and behavioral analysis to correlate multiple events over time and reveal attacker behavior. By monitoring the activity within workloads, previously unknown threats and sophisticated attacks are detected. Continuous behavioral analysis highlights all anomalous activity, preventing attackers from leveraging trusted system processes to move laterally through the network. 

Enable an Automated, Orchestrated Response – Once an attack is identified, the solution should provide options for containment and remediation. Files can be deleted, processes can be terminated, actions can be denied, network communications blocked, and virtual machine-level actions can be taken (snapshot, suspend, quarantine, power off). Additionally, the solution should provide an API framework that can be leveraged by orchestration platforms to automate common incident response and containment activities. 

Share Visibility for Proactive Workload Hardening – A smart workload security solution will be embedded directly into the virtualization layer. This will enable workload visibility and change control by virtualization administrators. This means that IT admins and security teams can work together to handle immediate threats as well as reduce the attack surface area via continuous IT hygiene. 

The Path to Workload Security is Critical, Yet Simple  

As our applications and data become more distributed and dynamic, they become more difficult to secure. Traditional security solutions are not nimble enough to keep pace. This leads to breakdowns in security, increasing the risk of a breach. In addition, siloed information and disparate tools disrupt security remediation and slow incident response, increasing dwell time of attackers.  

Companies need to address workload security with urgency. And doing so will enable that investment to continue to protect your data as you modernize your IT infrastructure. Workload security is a logical step to protect your hybrid data center. Check out the learning path for workload security to find out how it can work in your modern environments.