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Top 10 Infrastructure as Code Best Practices

Infrastructure as Code in cloud security refers to scanning Infrastructure applications and deployments for vulnerabilities and taking the necessary measures to remediate them. IaC security is cloud-agnostic and identifies security issues and misconfigurations. IaC scans involve checking files, templates, modules, and other variables, and ensuring that security policies that are being adhered to are set […]

Mansi B.

Written by Mansi B.

September 27, 2023 | 6 min read

Infrastructure as Code in cloud security refers to scanning Infrastructure applications and deployments for vulnerabilities and taking the necessary measures to remediate them. IaC security is cloud-agnostic and identifies security issues and misconfigurations. IaC scans involve checking files, templates, modules, and other variables, and ensuring that security policies that are being adhered to are set up correctly. Many open-source tools are available to assess IaC security scanning and coverage. However, delivering fixes through code is the easiest way to improve IaC security.

This blog will cover the top 10 Infrastructure as Code Best Practices and share additional information below.

Table Of Contents:

  1. What is Infrastructure as Code (IaC)?
  2. Why do we need Infrastructure as Code?
  3. Infrastructure as Code Challenges and Limitations
  4. Top 10 Infrastructure as Code Best Practices
  5. How to Improve Infrastructure as Code Security with PingSafe?
  6. Conclusion

What is Infrastructure as Code (IaC)?

Infrastructure as Code is codifying IT infrastructure and its underlying processes as software. It is an essential part of version files, and configuration files are kept under source control just like any other software source code file.

Generating Code for infrastructure also means turning infrastructure components into modular sectors and combining them in different ways using automation. Automating infrastructure provisioning on the cloud means developers don’t need to operate servers, storage, and other infrastructure services manually. Organizations can get started with Infrastructure as Code security by leveraging ready-to-use IaC templates, and there are many open-source and premium tools available that incorporate Infrastructure as Code best practices.

Why do we need Infrastructure as Code?

We need Infrastructure as Code best practices for cloud security because it simplifies the provisioning of cloud resources. IaC security is one of the only ways to make cloud security scalable, flexible, and immutable. It fixes misconfigurations, streamlines cloud orchestration modules, and is critical for understanding various cloud security risks and their complexities.

IaC security must establish appropriate compliance policy benchmarks and standards and remediate cyber threats. It boosts IT operations’ speed, efficiency, and security and reduces the risk of human errors with these processes. IaC security can be applied across multi-cloud environments and even secures hybrid deployments.

Infrastructure as Code Challenges and Limitations

Learn about the top infrastructure as code challenges and limitations below:

1. IaC Template Configuration Vulnerabilities – IaC-based images are prone to security and development vulnerabilities. IaC templates are known for having syntax errors, and one major security issue is the hardcoding of sensitive information like secrets and private keys in IaC templates.

2. Configuration Drifts – IaC configuration drifts are challenging to detect in complex cloud environments. The immutability of cloud infrastructure is broken, and malicious attackers can bypass pre-deployment security testing. IaC scripts are not usually scanned during development, and regular security updates are lacking.

3. Access Management Failures – Organizations may suffer from identity and access management failures in IaC environments. Conventional security assessment tools lack the features to conduct comprehensive IaC security assessments.

4. Too Expensive – IaC Security management requires a high degree of DevSecOps technical expertise, and companies may need to be appropriately staffed. Automation costs money, and improving the general quality of the IT infrastructures requires additional investment. Traceability and versioning are other issues in managing IaC security settings in environments.

5. Error Duplication – There is a risk of error duplication when generating the parent code. IaC architecture requires double-checking quality assurance inspections, and developers must review security processes manually. IaC code is also not optimized for quick application development, and workflow optimization is lacking. 

Top 10 Infrastructure as Code Best Practices

Following are the top 10 Infrastructure as Code best practices for organizations:

  1. #1. Scan for Misconfiguration
  2. #2. Enforce the Principle of Least Privilege Access
  3. #3. Avoid Hardcoding Secrets
  4. #4. Reduce Code Leaks
  5. #5. Harden IaC Accounts
  6. #6. Simplify IaC Security
  7. #7. Correct Environmental Drifts
  8. #8. Automate Developer Workflows
  9. #9. Make the IaC Security Documentation Concise
  10. #10. Maintain Code in Version Control Systems

#1. Scan for Misconfiguration

Static application security testing (SAST) and software composition analysis (SCA) scanning are the de facto Infrastructure as Code best practices. Few organizations effectively remediate misconfigurations in IaC environments. Running regular IaC scans against the Code and checking for changes in commits to cloud deployments are recommended.

#2. Enforce the Principle of Least Privilege Access

Enforcing the principle of least privilege access can reduce the risk of data breaches. It protects sensitive information by eliminating escalation privileges and prevents unauthorized access to IaC components and resources. Ad hoc security scanning identifies and remediates IaC vulnerabilities and integrates checks into the DevSecOps workflow. 

#3. Avoid Hardcoding Secrets

One of the most widely agreed Infrastructures as Code best practices is to avoid hardcoding secrets. Secrets contain confidential information, and hardcoded secrets make it easy to breach data due to password guessing for associated accounts. Developers should employ real-time secret scanning and prevent secrets from ever reaching version control systems. This can be done by checking commits before merging into main branches. 

#4. Reduce Code Leaks

Established IaC security protocols to reduce potential code leaks and design effective contingency plans for whenever leaks occur. Regular checks across public repositories and code-sharing sites can prevent source code leakage. Any code leaks must be addressed immediately so the malicious actor doesn’t find them. Developers should avoid publicizing the source code since it may lead to intellectual property theft. 

#5. Harden IaC Accounts

Hardening IaC accounts can prevent code tampering, and it is one of the more popular Infrastructure Code best practices. It is essential to know when changes have been made and verify if they have been sanctioned. Developers should identify data points where the source control code doesn’t match the build system’s Code. Ensuring code integrity by comparing multiple phases of the build cycle can also prevent code tampering. Checking for changes in IaC template configurations and employing continuous code monitoring reduce code tampering risks. Critical code monitoring must be used on feature code, enabling high visibility into the cloud infrastructure. 

#6. Simplify IaC Security

One of the significant challenges of Infrastructure as Code security is increasing complexity. The key to adequate IaC security is obtaining a unified view. It helps decrease response time and gives developers the tools and resources for effective code management. Developers should adopt a defense-in-depth strategy and approach IaC security in multiple layers via a holistic view. 

#7. Correct Environmental Drifts

Detecting environmental drifts for different IaC environments, configurations, and templates is crucial. Configuration drifts can happen due to poor maintenance and cause testing and production environments to fall out of sync. Some drifts can occur without any malicious intent or due to careless errors. Developers should aim to minimize environmental drifts, correct them, and ensure they are fixed. One of the best ways to identify and correct environmental drifts is by implementing IaC security and compliance scanning. 

#8. Automate Developer Workflows

Developer workflows for IaC environments can be automated using Infrastructure as Code security tools. Other good practices are establishing security build rules and implementing continuous CI/CD integration unit testing. It is easier to track changes by using microservice architecture. A good recommendation is to ensure modularity and restrict the number of configuration changes. This improves accessibility controls and makes dependency management highly efficient.

#9. Make the IaC Security Documentation Concise

Adding diagrammatic representations, flow charts, and visuals to guide new users into using IaC security solutions is recommended. It’s important not to overwhelm them with too much information and keep the essentials concise.

#10. Maintain Code in Version Control Systems

It makes tracking IaC configurations much easier and creates an audit trail to facilitate code changes. Git branching and merging features can also enhance collaboration and manage updates on the IaC codebase.

How to Improve Infrastructure as Code Security with PingSafe?

PingSafe can help organizations improve their Infrastructure as Code security by leveraging its advanced Cloud-Native Application Protection Platform (CNAPP).

CNAPP offers various features like Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM), Infrastructure as Code (IaC) scanning, secret scanning, Cloud Detection and Response (CDR), Cloud Workload Protection Platform (CWPP), and Kubernetes Security Posture Management (KSPM).

It can detect over 800+ types of secrets and implements continuous compliance monitoring for over 20+ industry regulations. PingSafe ensures compliance with PCI-DSS, NIST, ISO 27001, CIS Benchmark, and many other frameworks.

It can detect cluster misconfiguration vulnerabilities and conduct effective remediation. The CNAPP tool proactively detects misconfigurations across CloudFormation, Terraform, and other IaC templates.

It enforces shift-left security and adopts 360-degree protection for cloud VMs, containers, and serverless functions. PingSafe can conduct zero-day vulnerability assessments; it performs agentless VM snapshot scanning and identifies cloud resources with known CVEs.

It can generate graph-based visualizations of detected misconfigurations and support CI/CD integration. Native integrations with GitHub, GitLab, and Bitbucket Cloud are also supported, along with continuous monitoring of all developer’s repositories.

Customers can write custom security policies and use its event analyzer capabilities to query, search, and filter events as needed for investigations.

PingSafe generates SBOM from Code for each container image, prevents IaC and cloud credentials leakages, and can export compliance reports.

Alerts regarding IaC threats are sent automatically to security administrators, and teams can ensure strong authentication throughout the Software Development Lifecycle. PingSafe helps apply Infrastructure as Code best practices and prevents security oversights at each point of the IaC lifecycle.

Conclusion

Employing Infrastructure as Code best practices can help organizations improve the quality of deliveries, ensure automation, and protect assets. Setting up the IaC environment correctly is the first step to enhancing IaC security, and one of the best ways to do that is by using IaC security solutions.

As a developer, you should establish consistent data governance and ensure that all IaC assets and resources are well-reviewed and trackable. Running regular tests and incremental changes to quality workflows is an effective strategy. When testing is applied throughout the infrastructure and security scanning follows an iterative approach, you are well on enhancing Infrastructure as Code (IaC) security.