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Why vulnerability management enhances your cloud application security strategy

Application security and vulnerability management are more important than ever as organizations transform to cloud-based services. At Dynatrace Perform 2022, the application security track explores how vulnerability management can better secure applications in dynamic multicloud environments.

Key takeaways from this article on vulnerability management for cloud application security:

  • Today’s cloud apps with their fast innovation cycles and frequent use of open-source libraries must address a gap for runtime vulnerability management in production environments. Modern software development requires DevSecOps approaches that shift right into production in addition to shift-left efforts in development.
  • The Log4Shell vulnerability illustrated the importance of runtime vulnerability management that uses AI, automation, and a context-driven methodology.
  • A modern approach to vulnerability management uses runtime analysis and contextual intelligence to automatically identify threats and prioritize them—using AI and automation to scale across large complex multicloud environments.
  • At Dynatrace Perform 2022, the Advancing DevOps and DevSecOps track will highlight the importance of an automatic and intelligent approach to vulnerability management for modern multicloud environments.

As organizations increasingly rely on cloud-based applications and open-source software to quicken the pace of innovation, teams face an even greater challenge to release apps fast and securely. Meeting the need for speed without exposing exploitable vulnerabilities requires that teams adopt DevSecOps approaches that “shift right” (observability in production) as well as “shift left” (observability in development).

Distributed, complex cloud-native environments have surpassed the human ability to track all of an environment’s services and interdependencies. This complexity, combined with the increasing volume of threats, makes it more difficult to detect the continued presence of vulnerabilities and assess their risk in these environments.

Why vulnerability management is crucial for today’s cyberthreats (Read: Log4Shell)

Consider the Log4j vulnerability, which affected millions of devices after it emerged in December 2021.

Log4Shell is a software vulnerability in Apache Log4j 2, a popular Java library for logging error messages in applications.  Because the Log4j library is such a pervasively used component, the vulnerabilities affect not only applications that use vulnerable libraries, but also any services that use these applications.

Experts described Log4Shell as the largest vulnerability ever, given its widespread use in a variety of applications, from Amazon Web Services to VMware. For many, identifying and addressing the web of dependencies among affected platforms and services makes patching complex, time-consuming and costly.

How vulnerability management at runtime changes the game

Traditional vulnerability management approaches such as scanners are manually intensive and may slow the pace of innovation. These approaches often take place earlier in the software development lifecycle, and may not identify the vulnerabilities running in production.  Without a centralized approach to vulnerability management, DevSecOps teams waste time figuring out how a vulnerability affects the production environment and which systems to fix first.

Because cloud-native environments with microservices and containers are so much more dynamic and distributed than traditional computing environments, they’re breaking traditional perimeter security approaches that rely solely on firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and vulnerability scanners. Traditional perimeter security methods also lack detailed application context needed to prioritize and effectively remediate application threats.

By contrast, a real-time observability platform with code-level application insights can automatically identify vulnerabilities at runtime. It can also provide the context needed to help prioritize remediation efforts, which can make the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful attack.

Armed with intelligence about system states, locations, and dependencies, runtime application security can detect and automatically calculate risk exposure to a vulnerability such as Log4Shell in production.

Why vulnerability management is critical for cloud application security

Vulnerability management that enlists AI to understand threats has several components, and we will explore them at Perform:

  • Continuous vulnerability detection in production. Static code scanners don’t cover all scenarios in production, and vulnerabilities often leak through to production. As a result, organizations need full visibility across applications, services and libraries that are used in production, which create the biggest and most immediate risks.
  • Real-time analysis of dependencies to enable automatic risk scoring. In environments with thousands of applications and microservices, DevOps and DevSecOps teams can’t keep pace with the complexity of determining which vulnerabilities are present dangers. They need a solution that automatically analyzes dependencies, assesses risk, and prioritizes critical systems so teams can effectively remediate them without slowing innovation or creating additional risk.
  • Contextual insight. Real-time observability provides additional context about problems (such as dependency mapping, public internet exposure, sensitive data exposure) by analyzing the app, its code, and its transactions in context. With contextual insight into a vulnerability’s web of impact and its risk level, teams can prioritize and resolve vulnerabilities with the most critical impact first.

Transform your approach to DevSecOps

Explore our interactive product tour to see how our unique approach to application security helps DevSecOps teams innovate faster with less risk and drive better business outcomes.

For our complete Perform 2022 conference coverage, check out our guide.

Register for Perform 2022 today, and check out the Advancing DevOps and DevSecOps track.