What Is a Cloud Workload Protection Platform (CWPP)?


A Cloud Workload Protection Platform (CWPP) is a cybersecurity tool used to diagnose and protect workloads running on cloud environments. Whether the cloud environments are on-premises, hybrid, or cloud, CWPPs provide security features specifically for cloud workloads such as virtual machines, databases, and machine learning models.

What Is a Cloud Workload?

Cloud workloads are the computational processes that run on a cloud environment. Cloud workloads can vary in complexity, size, and security risk. Here are a few common examples of cloud workloads:

Web Applications and Development

Nearly all modern websites utilize scalable cloud infrastructure to operate on the Internet. Depending on the amount of traffic to the website, the web application workload in a cloud environment can drastically vary. For example, a global news network website may see consistent traffic but see large spikes when popular news articles are hosted on its site.

Similarly, web and software applications have development environments, which are equivalent but separate cloud workloads that allow developers to make changes to the code without affecting the production code using preconfigured virtual machines and containers.

Databases and Analytics

The storage and analysis of data in a cloud environment is a common cloud workload, as many large organizations store large amounts of data. For example, an E-commerce company may host several different databases for products, vendors, and customers. These databases must be managed and serviced (which are workloads) to provide backups, patching, and scaling, ensuring data is available but secure.

The analysis of large amounts of data, commonly referred to as Big Data, is a computational workload that has only recently become available with the advent of the cloud. Big Data cloud workloads may include processing large amounts of transactional data to identify purchasing trends, customer insights, vendor scores, and more.

Virtual Machines and Containers

Virtual machines (VMs) are software-based emulations of physical computers that are designed to run an operating system and application in a cloud environment rather than on a physical device. Virtual machines are commonly used for running complex computational workloads or development on large code bases.

Meanwhile, containers are similarly utilized for scaling software. Containers are lightweight software packages that include everything needed to run an application such as code, libraries, and system tools. Container workloads are similar to virtual machines but do not require an operating system to run, making them very common in cloud environments as they streamline the process of developing, testing, and deploying cloud applications.

What Are the Primary Capabilities of CWPPs?

CWPPs provide security features specifically for protecting cloud workloads. As such, these security features are specialized for cloud workloads but diverse enough that they can protect a multitude of different types of workloads. Here are a few examples of features to look for in a CWPP solution:

Workload Discovery and inventory

First and foremost, a solution needs to understand the scope of the security that it needs to provide. A CWPP can help discover cloud workloads across a variety of different cloud environments and provide an actual inventory of the different types of workloads.

For example, if an organization utilizes different cloud providers for different applications, a CWPP can take inventory of the workloads across all providers. The comprehensive workload inventory allows the organization to know the exact location, size, and status of all assets across its cloud environment.

Vulnerability Scanning and Configuration Management

When building software workloads, it is critical to understand the security risks of new applications and features. CWPP solutions can scan workloads for security vulnerabilities to help identify workload-specific risks, ensuring the workloads are configured securely before they are deployed.

For example, a development team may use a CWPP to scan a new container for security vulnerabilities before it is deployed. It may also use a CWPP to verify that the container is configured correctly for use with cloud storage services, ensuring the correct access controls are used, and preventing misconfiguration. If vulnerabilities in the container or its configuration are detected, the CWPP will provide a detailed remediation solution to fix the issue.

Runtime Protection, Behavioral Monitoring, and Threat Intelligence

A CWPP commonly provides real-time security monitoring to detect threats, including using machine learning to identify suspicious activity within workloads. This active anomaly detection can help secure individual workloads as well as the entire cloud network.

For example, a CWPP could be used to monitor a containerized application during the application runtime. If the CWPP detects that the application tried to open network connections to an irregular IP, it may use machine learning to analyze the validity of the anomaly. If the CWPP identifies the anomaly as a risk it can even enforce network segmentation measures to limit the access of the irregular network connection, thereby limiting any potential attack surface.

Compliance and Governance

One of the key features of a CWPP is that it can be configured to protect an organization from compliance risks and to meet regulatory compliance. While a CWPP may continuously monitor for threat detection, it can also be used to continuously monitor that compliance requirements are met.

For example, a multi-state healthcare organization may configure a CWPP to automatically generate audit-ready compliance reports to meet HIPAA standards. This monitoring methodology ensures that all workloads follow the required security standards and reduces the human interaction needed to mitigate compliance violations.

What Is the Difference Between a CWPP and a CSPM?

Cloud Workload Protection Platforms (CWPPs) and Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) solutions have very similar intent but are fundamentally different in their approach. CWPPs are focused on securing internal cloud workloads and mitigating cloud configuration risk. Meanwhile, CSPM tools focus on assessing and monitoring the overall cloud environment from the outside inward. CSPMs still aim to identify security threats and identify compliance issues but they do so by monitoring a cloud environment external to the network.

Conclusion | How to Get Started With a CWPP

A CWPP can be a critical cybersecurity solution for organizations, protecting an entire multi-cloud environment by securing individual workloads internally. Whether the goal is to meet compliance standards, manage workload vulnerabilities, or intelligently discover and manage threats, a CWPP can help maintain a strong cybersecurity posture.

To learn more about how to search for the right CWPP solution, review our Cloud Workload Protection Platform Buying Guide or reach out to request a demo of SentinelOne’s industry-leading CWPP solution.

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