CNAPP for Dummies: All the basics in one book

Lacework EditorialJanuary 31, 20236 min read

Abstract architectural photo shot from the ground. Features a lot of modern windows and steel.Editor’s note: This is the first of a three-part blog series to provide a primer on CNAPP. This first blog focuses on how the CNAPP emerged on the scene and why they’re important to modern cloud security.

It’s only been two years since Gartner coined the term “cloud-native application protection platform,” or “CNAPP,” but the concept has already made a big splash among security practitioners. CNAPP refers to the approach of bringing disparate cloud security tools and functions into a single platform. It has huge potential for helping teams streamline their security practices and achieve greater visibility across multicloud environments.

Choosing a new security tool can be challenging for many reasons which is why we’ve created a new eBook— CNAPP for Dummies — a recent addition to the legendary For Dummies series that provides a comprehensive guide to CNAPP.

Let’s take a look at some of what the book covers.

CNAPP versus point solutions

In recent years, companies have embraced cloud-native application development, microservices architectures, containers, DevOps-style pipelines, container orchestration programs, and more — all for the speed and operational benefits they bring.

But managing security in a rapidly changing cloud environment is anything but easy. Clouds constantly shrink and expand with ephemeral resources often spinning up and down in the same day. With organizations now choosing to work in single cloud, multicloud, and hybrid cloud environments, it’s not surprising that security teams are struggling to protect this increased attack surface without impeding innovation speed.

Initially, many companies addressed their struggles by simply investing in a plethora of point solutions. This approach is sort of like the classic game Whac-A-Mole. When a new cloud security need arose, organizations would find a specific solution to meet that need. They assumed that more tools would result in better security, and fewer headaches when it came to securing their complex cloud. Sadly, that was not the case.

Turns out, more tools often lead to security gaps, blind spots, and a mismatch in how security is tracked, managed, and reported across a silo of disparate systems. More tools also add more costs, including licensing fees, maintenance, and upgrade charges — not to mention the steep learning curve that comes with using a new system. Plus, most of these tools aren’t even optimized for the cloud.

Security teams struggled to understand these tools, while writing and maintaining endless rules — a practice that may have worked for traditional security technologies but simply doesn’t scale for the cloud. The result? The security tools that were supposed to make the lives of their practitioners easier ended up making them much more difficult.

In CNAPP for Dummies, we dig into even more point solution pitfalls. But, TL;DR, there had to be an easier solution to cloud security. And that’s where CNAPP comes in.

CNAPP saves the day 

As it turns out, cloud security tools shouldn’t exist in isolation. Cloud environments are living, breathing organisms — constantly changing, shrinking, growing. And what happens on one side of the cloud may have implications for the other side. For example, how are you supposed to know which misconfigurations or vulnerabilities are most important to improving your cloud security posture without knowing what has been or is actively being attacked in runtime?

Through automation, CNAPP breaks down cloud siloes by ingesting data from across the cloud and making sense of it all. It’s like the brain of the cloud: analyzing and correlating data to provide insights directly into security, developer, and operations workflows, as well as visibility into activity, traffic, and application activity.

By correlating data across your cloud environment, a CNAPP can handle a variety of use cases more efficiently — threat detection, posture management, compliance, identity management, and many other activities. All of these use cases would have historically been divided and isolated into disparate point solutions.

A CNAPP can offer a consolidated view of hybrid, multicloud, and containerized environments so that, however and wherever your apps are built, security has comprehensive visibility into risks and threats. The platform also provides a consolidated view of what’s happening across all build and runtime environments so applications can be protected throughout the entire software development lifecycle (SDLC).

As opposed to the traditional point solution “soup,” CNAPP offers a way to keep pace with the cloud’s constant changes, scaling effortlessly under the weight of increased threats and wholesale cloud adoption.

Breaking down CNAPP

What’s in a name? As it turns out, it’s a lot.

We’ve already defined CNAPP itself, but within every successful CNAPP is a plethora of additional security technologies (and even more fun security acronyms). Most commonly, a CNAPP will offer the following capabilities within a holistic platform:

  • Cloud security posture management (CSPM)
  • Cloud workload protection platform (CWPP)
  • Cloud infrastructure entitlement management (CIEM)
  • Infrastructure as code (IaC) security and code vulnerability scanning

With these features in place, a CNAPP provides protection throughout the application development lifecycle: from build through runtime, code to cloud. The IaC and vulnerability scanning features work within continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines, so that issues are identified and fixed as soon as possible, within actual developer workflows.

Additionally, a CNAPP can  scan cloud environments for misconfigurations, manage identities and permissions, automate compliance, detect threats, and more — all from a single, centralized place.

That may seem like a lot — because it is! In CNAPP for Dummies, we further unpack each of these platform components and give some tips on what to look for (and avoid) in your search for the right cloud security platform.

Six advantages of CNAPP 

Organizations that invest in a CNAPP gain end-to-end visibility into their cloud environment while consolidating multiple point solutions. The promise of consistency, compliance, and peace of mind comes with even more benefits, including the following:

  1. Simplified approach: A single console covers all clouds, and a single tool handles vulnerabilities, remediation, compliance, and reporting across all cloud and local IT environments.
  2. Continuous visibility: A CNAPP provides complete visibility into events, activities, and ongoing behavior, surfacing context-rich insights to help teams prioritize the most harmful risks.
  3. Machine learning: Understand your cloud with automation that helps you readily identify and label behaviors, establish baselines, recognize new events or activities, and detect anomalies.
  4. Reduced noise and accurate alerts: By eliminating time spent chasing false positives and alert fatigue, you can focus IT and security teams on the most important tasks.
  5. Runtime workload protection: Protect against known and unknown threats using behavioral analytics and anomaly detection.
  6. Build time security: Shift security left with public and private container image registry cloud scanning, inline CI/CD scanning, and IaC scanning, along with fail-safe deployment protection to stop code that does not meet defined criteria from pushing to production.

Ready to learn more?

With CNAPP and the power of end-to-end cloud security automation, companies can address critical risks and uncover threats in a fraction of the time — no point solutions needed.

If you’re looking for a short, easy-to-read guide that will help you better understand the challenges CNAPP resolves, along with a complete deep dive into the advantages it can bring your organization, check out our new eBook: CNAPP for Dummies.

Inside, you’ll find chapters on:

  • Increasing cloud visibility
  • Efficiently managing cloud risks
  • Pinpointing cloud threats with speed
  • Ten benefits that justify a CNAPP investment

For a primer on how a CNAPP can protect against known and unknown threats, stay tuned for our second blog to learn more.

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