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The Case For An Application-centric Approach To Security

Why Security Needs An Application-Centric Lens

The case for an application-centric lens into threats

During my time running IT infrastructure for several large Wall Street banks, my biggest challenge was securing systems from unauthorized access and protecting customer data. Because critical business assets are controlled and managed by applications, they represent the highest-value targets.

What became clear to me after any breach postmortem was that traditional “infrastructure-centric” methods we were using to secure applications and data were a poor fit for our needs. We were missing an additional application-centric view of threats and our environment.

Infrastructure-centric tools are designed to protect component layers of the stack, like endpoints, VMs, containers, networks and servers. What they lack is observability and a contextual understanding of security-relevant behavior in the application layer of the IT environment. For example, network security tools don’t understand if certain applications should be using specific ports when they’re interacting with other applications.

Four critical security capabilities for an application-centric view of security

  1. Full security transparency and understanding the application environment

    This includes the ability to discover applications and understand their relationships and dependencies, even as applications are continuously being added, patched and updated. It also includes the ability to observe and profile application behaviors to determine baseline normal security states and the associated network and data path interactions within and between applications.

  2. Purpose-built application-aware security controls for protecting workloads and data

    These refined controls should enable security teams to patch, scan and modify software host and network systems with an application context they don’t have today. Controls should include application-layer hardening, segmentation, integrity assurance and allow listing, exploit prevention, and service identity protection capabilities.

  3. Application-centric detection and response capabilities

    Application-centric detection and response should prioritize alerts based on anomalous behavior and its application impact. These quickly lead SOC personnel to the source of a security event for investigation and remediation. What took my team weeks of analysis to understand and respond to could be done in minutes if alerts provided application-level context.

  4. Continuous assessment and reporting on application security posture

    Many CISOs are in the dark when it comes to understanding the risk posture of their application environment and operational security teams lack visibility into current risk levels needed to prioritize their activities. This creates critical security blind spots at both the executive and operational levels. Viewing security through the lens of the application, rather than the underlying infrastructure it runs on, provides new levels of visibility, control and reporting that organizations can use to gain the intelligence they need to harden their applications and data against cyberthreats and respond more quickly to shut down attacks when they do occur.

Where to Start

  • Focus on the applications that matter most — in other words, your crown jewels.
  • Identify and prioritize the top security challenges you’d like to address, especially those that will have the greatest positive impact on the security team’s productivity and the organization’s security.
  • Schedule a Demo with TrueFort to see all the ways our zero trust platform is purpose-built to protect your applications and workloads.

Get the Guide: How to Reduce Risk with Application-Centric Security

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