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Microsoft Security

What is a CWPP?

A cloud workload protection platform (CWPP) is a cloud security solution that helps protect cloud workloads in multicloud and hybrid environments.

Cloud workflow protection platform (CWPP) defined

A cloud workload protection platform is a comprehensive cybersecurity solution providing a series of protections across cloud environments in an organization connected to physical servers, serverless functions, virtual machines, and containers.

With more environments comes more potential security risks. To mitigate these risks and quickly stop active threats, companies need solutions capable of protecting and monitoring these many environments. Cloud workload protection (CWP) solutions are those that provide ongoing security by monitoring and managing cloud workloads.

CWPPs continuously and automatically detect and address threats, vulnerabilities, and errors within any of the above infrastructures, supporting the workloads that interact with cloud environments.

Cloud workloads defined

Workloads are the applications and programs running within an organization that require computer power and memory.

A cloud workload is the same thing—with the workload hosted in the cloud. These cloud-native workloads are part of environments that are constantly scaling, supporting more activities like microservices, and accessible to a growing number of users.

An organization lacking extensive CWP solutions will have a hard time maintaining control, enforcing best practices, and finding and fixing vulnerabilities and issues that may lead to serious threats.

This is where a CWPP comes in.

How CWPPs work

CWPPs detect any workloads deployed in your cloud environments and automatically perform assessments, monitor networks, detect issues, and apply security standards based on your organization’s policies.

As many organizations incorporate continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines for cloud-based applications, CWPPs can also keep up with these constant changes and apply the same standards to applications before they’re released.

CWPP capabilities

CWPPs offer a host of features to allow your organization to take a unified approach to cloud security. These include:
  • Vulnerability management. CWPPs assess the applications and software running in your cloud environments to find any potential security concerns such as misconfigurations before these workloads are published.
  • Network segmentation. CWPPs help ease the challenge of managing the security of multiple environments by dividing your network. This makes it more difficult for attackers to access an entire network through one entry point and gives your team visibility into where threats appear faster.
  • Immutability. CWPPs prevent against malicious components getting into your environments by supporting immutable infrastructures, in which servers cannot be changed after a deployment. Anything outside of approved behaviors will automatically raise concern and be addressed before any damage can be done to an environment.
  • Integrity protection. Cloud workload protection platforms work constantly to make sure everything runs in your cloud environments properly—giving your security teams peace of mind and time to focus on more intensive tasks.
  • Memory protection. Because they work continuously, CWPPs can identify vulnerabilities that appear in applications whenever they’re running.
  • Allowlisting. A common risk for any organization is the installation and use of unauthorized software. Not only does this make it harder to track and enforce security best practices, but also offers more potential gateways into your network that may go unnoticed. With CWPPs, you can reduce these risks with lists that are automatically enforced to allow and block applications within your cloud infrastructures.
  • Intrusion prevention. CWPPs constantly monitor your network for any suspicious activities or malicious software. As soon as anything unusual or policy violating is detected, your CWPP will act to prevent any issues.
  • Endpoint detection and response. With multiple users working across several environments, CWPP plays a crucial role in monitoring devices connected to the network to detect threats and suspicious behavior, and quickly remediate these issues.
  • Antimalware scanning. Automatic scanning takes much of pressure off your security teams to monitor the cloud workloads across your organization. CWPPs detect malware in workloads and eliminate the issues before anything enters your infrastructures.

Key benefits of CWPPs

Cloud workload protection platforms offer the protections needed by organizations that are expanding and modernizing their cloud environments with a range of infrastructure types.

CWPPs are playing a big role in consolidating security resources for organizations with:

  • Legacy infrastructures and apps that aren’t in the cloud.
  • Multiple cloud and hybrid environments and vendors.
  • Developers who constantly publish and revise code.
  • A wide network of employees running apps.

They offer several benefits, including:

  • Multicloud protection with one platform to monitor and mitigate risks across your organization.
  • Increased visibility for all your environments with one security solution to assess vulnerabilities, enforce security policies, manage traffic, and segment networks for your cloud workloads.
  • Scalability to help you manage protections for an increasing number of applications.
  • Agility to keep up with continuous development cycles, allowing your devs to configure pipelines with security best practices that apply to workloads, reducing the amount of manual monitoring that needs to occur.
  • Cost savings with a unified platform for your cloud infrastructures. Also, with many vendors billing by usage, there are fewer maintenance fees and the extensive security measures will prevent costly issues that may lead to fines, loss of revenue, and high overhead costs.
  • Compliance with your organization’s security policies. CWPPs are designed to align with your needs and industry data regulations. They make it easier to prevent potential threats and violations with automatic vulnerability scanning and adherence to set rules for your organization’s cloud workloads.
  • Improved efficiency from your security teams, who can prioritize their work based on what a CWPP can automate, target and remediate risks faster, and align security standards across your organization.

How to implement a CWPP

CWPPs are just one of many security solutions for businesses to consider as part of their multicloud security strategy.
Once you choose your CWPP solution, take the following steps to ensure everything functions as necessary:
  • Set up monitoring and alerts. Gain visibility into your environments and help your security team track and remediate possible threats with real-time reports and alerts.
  • Align with your development pipelines. Help secure CI/CD cycles by connecting them with your vulnerability assessments, threat monitoring, and policy enforcement solutions.
  • Configure automation activities. Automate scans, monitoring, and remediation so your solution can begin protecting your network, identifying issues and misconfigurations, and addressing possible threats fast.
  • Create a feedback loop. Review analytics, logs, reports, and other relevant data to ensure your solutions are working correctly—and to identify potential areas in need of security improvements.
  • Promote ongoing security awareness and best practices. Maintaining the security of your cloud workloads requires users to stay aware of potentially harmful behaviors and adhere to the policies put in place.

For many, a CWPP is part of a larger cloud-native application protection platform (CNAPP).

A CNAPP combines the workload protection tools from a CWPP along with cloud security posture management (CSPM) solutions, which focus on the accounts associated with cloud applications.

Additionally, you can also integrate your CWPP with a security information and event management (SIEM) solution, or in the case of cloud-based platforms, cloud infrastructure entitlement management (CIEM) solutions. These tools specifically manage user permissions to identify permission violations, unauthorized users, and breaches, essential for maintaining multicloud workload protection at every endpoint.

Lastly, your organization may incorporate a cloud access security broker (CASB)—a security policy enforcement point between cloud users and cloud service providers that offers multiple security tools applicable across cloud apps. A CASB works together with a CWPP to mitigate risks and enforce policies in the cloud and across the many applications and devices connected to it.

CNAPP enables all these solutions to collaborate and help maintain your organization’s security, which includes workloads, development pipelines, user accounts, and data in every environment.

CWPP best practices

Multicloud workload protections such as CWPP offer a large-scale approach to securing your environments. Still, as powerful as these solutions are, it’s still important for your organization to establish best practices to help users remain proactive and work in accordance with your CWPP.

To do so, consider:
  • Automate your threat response. Automation makes reviewing and remediating potential threats across large networks easier for your security team. Now, AI-powered tools are available to help collect data, detect threats and minimize false positives, investigate issues, and respond to issues faster.
  • Operationalize your security. Governance rules are important to keep in mind when implementing a security platform. Use them to inform the standards for automated remediation—this will support a more organized, efficient ticketing system for reviewing and fixing issues.
  • Provide ongoing security education. Even with powerful technology protecting your environment, you can further reduce risks and increase awareness with security education. Keep your employees up to date on best practices and ongoing training so everyone in your organization understands the role they play in maintaining a secure company.
  • Promote awareness. Risk mitigation and threat monitoring are important for your teams to prioritize—even with the right tech in place. Promote smart security behaviors by keeping your teams aware of the latest threats, industry compliance standards, and any new protocols you put in place. With users accessing the cloud from any number of devices, it’s crucial for them to follow endpoint security procedures so your security teams can manage and monitor access controls across the network with less hassle.
  • Implement a Zero Trust model. There’s always the potential for a threat to become an issue even with the most robust of cybersecurity platforms. That’s why it’s important to enforce Zero Trust across servers, virtual machines, devices, and applications. Requiring user authentication, authorization, and permissions works to prevent workloads from being compromised.

When searching for the right CWPP for your business, consider the size of your network—how many servers, containers, databases, virtual machines, and other infrastructures you plan to cover.

Microsoft Defender for Cloud is a comprehensive CNAPP that incorporates CWPP, CSPM, and additional security solutions to protect multicloud and hybrid environments. Reduce risks, identify and respond to threats faster, and unify security management for apps, development pipelines, and devices.

Learn more about Microsoft Security

  • Microsoft Defender for Cloud

    Secure your multicloud and hybrid environments with a comprehensive CNAPP.

  • Microsoft Defender for Cloud Apps

    Protect apps and data, and improve your security posture with software as a service (SaaS) security solutions.

  • Microsoft Defender Cloud Security Posture Management

    Reduce risks with full visibility and insights into your cloud environments.

  • Microsoft Defender for DevOps

    Unify DevOps security management across your multicloud development pipelines.

  • Microsoft Sentinel

    Make your threat detection and response smarter and faster with intelligent security analytics.

Frequently asked questions

  • The difference between CWPP and CSPM is what part of the cloud they secure. CWPPs secure workloads running across whatever cloud environments they’re deployed in. CSPM offer similar assessments and automated security processes, but for the cloud infrastructures themselves.

  • A CWPP can be considered one part of a CNAPP. CNAPP brings together the elements of other CWP solutions—this includes CWPP’s workload protections and CSPM’s infrastructure protections—in addition to CIEM identity management.

  • Risk detection
    CWPP runs vulnerability assessments based off your security policies to uncover potential compliance issues, malware, and unauthorized changes to workloads that may open the door for threats.

    Runtime protection
    Gain visibility into the security of CI/CD pipelines—and automatically find and remediate errors while your development team focuses on more intensive work.

    Network segmentation
    Apply a unified approach to your network across cloud environments and user devices by monitoring behaviors and managing application controls. This helps prevent threats and enforce security requirements.

  • You can secure your cloud workloads with the security solutions offered in a cloud workload protection platform. A CWPP includes vulnerability scanning, threat detection and prevention, access controls, and compliance enforcement for the workloads running across your various cloud environments. This includes physical servers, virtual machines, containers, and serverless functions.

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