NordLayer - Network Security

Securing Cloud Computing for Developers


By NordLayer
5 May 2021
8 min read
IDE security through IP Whitelisting

The cloud shift in software development

The ‘digital shift’ has changed the way many businesses operate and using the cloud has become standard practice for most companies in some form. 

For software developers and IT professionals, the cloud infrastructure is crucial for developing new applications and programs. It provides an unlimited amount of staging servers for developers, resulting in optimal testing with enhanced speed. The cloud is a cost-effective way to develop software since there’s no need to spend inflated amounts of capital on in-house servers or on-premise infrastructure. Additionally, the cloud also makes it easy for remote or contracted specialists to access essential resources during specific projects from anywhere on any device. 

However, though there are numerous benefits of the cloud for a developer, it may also present quite significant security risks. Without addressing these, company resources, infrastructure as code, open-source components, APIs, and private data are all quite vulnerable on the cloud. 

At NordLayer, we believe a good step towards protecting the network from such risks is implementing cloud security solutions such as IP allowlisting — NordLayer offers a bespoke IP allowlisting solution with an Advanced Plan, dedicated server option.

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What is IP allowlisting (whitelisting)?

IP allowlisting acts like a gatekeeper to your network and cloud environment. It manages who has permission to access different levels of the cloud, solely based on an IP address. 

The IP allowlisting solution fits into the Zero Trust model and goes by the principle of ‘deny all and permit some.’ So by default, all unknown entities aren’t granted access to the network’s resources. 

But how exactly is the IP allowlisting solution beneficial to developers? 

Benefits of IP allowlisting

Our IP allowlisting solution helps with productivity

Manually creating an IP allowlist is possible, but it’s often demanding to set up and time-consuming to manage. Therefore, building an IP allowlist from scratch is not advantageous when company resources are at a premium.

The NordLayer IP allowlisting solution relieves this burden. We’ve created an IP allowlisting solution with simplicity in mind, tailored to work perfectly with existing infrastructure and specific company requirements. 

Keeping track of which employees need access to what in the cloud is no easy feat, especially when your company is scaling and evolving. The NordLayer IP allowlisting solution enables admins to add new employee IPs right from our intuitive Control Panel, without the need to go through manual authorization steps. 

Additionally, updating or adding to the IP allowlisting causes minimal disruption, as IP authorization happens almost instantly and won’t hinder employees trying to access resources on the cloud.

IP allowlisting makes remote work and BYOD policies safe

Sometimes it’s necessary to hire specialists for projects that require a particular set of expertise. But consequently, you’re allowing strangers with unknown devices into the network.

IP allowlisting enables safe cloud IDE remote access, as such, a contractor working remotely is able to have authorization to the specific applications they require to complete their work. The rest of the cloud environment is essentially walled off from any activity related to their IP address, preventing a potential infection or data breach from them. 

BYOD (bring-your-own-device) policies are not uncommon for software companies. It’s economical and allows developers to work on devices both from the office and at home. It also lets short-term contractors or freelancers work with their own equipment. However, BYOD may cause problems as devices for both work and personal use are more likely to be infected with malicious programs such as malware or ransomware. 

When implemented, IP allowlisting reduces the risks that come with having a BYOD policy. An employee can work safely and remotely on their personal devices, as their home IP is given access to only a few applications from the company cloud. Though malware can infect a home device, IP allowlisting isolates it to the applications or resources that the IP address is given access to — limiting its ability to cause further infection.

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Programs in development are vulnerable

Cloud environments are crucial for flexible software development. They’re used to test and store many insecure programs and open-source code. A common way to test software on a cloud environment is through infrastructure-as-code (IaC). Typical cloud providers such as AWS, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure offer native tools for developers to build testing infrastructure via a codebase. 

IaC provides a quick turn-around of product test environments, scalable deployment of new cloud implementation at reduced costs, with more robust and versatile software development. However, IaC is pretty easy to exploit for someone who knows what they’re doing. 

There are plenty of avenues for unauthorized access. Areas of the cloud containing private data and resources are often accessible to less-savvy users in IaC environments because IaC doesn’t have access management as part of its functionality. Potential data breaches or accidental corruption of cloud environments can occur as a result.

NordLayer’ IP allowlisting allows software companies to set access to IaC environments for only developers working or managing them, preventing an unwitting user from finding their way to areas they shouldn’t be allowed to see. IP allowlisting is compatible with most cloud providers, meaning its access management function works seamlessly across the cloud environment.

Securing private applications

Another major threat to a software company on the cloud is unauthorized access to the network via unmanaged SaaS applications. A company has no way of controlling the access policy of a third-party Saas application or determining how its corresponding data is stored.

The fact that cloud service providers enable company employees to add Saas applications without consent from the IT department compounds the issue. The outcome is increased rates of malware or data breaches originating from exposed backdoors via SaaS applications. 

As part of a cloud-based security solution, the NordLayer IP allowlisting integrates into SaaS cloud applications and services, including Salesforce, Office 365, and G-Suite. NordLayer enables access permissions to be determined through a user-to-application model using an IP allowlisting. The admin controls all access to each cloud application and monitors end-user activity, all from a centralized control panel.

Protecting APIs on the cloud

Other applications on the cloud that are a cause for concern are Application Program Interfaces (APIs). They provide functionality for two applications to interact when elements from them are required to achieve the desired outcome. The great thing about APIs is that they save a lot of time and money during software development. As a developer, you don’t need to program every interaction across your applications — download and implement an API that does it for you. 

However, though some APIs have a user access authorization function, they tend to struggle when teams of people are assigned access permissions. The authorization function provided by some APIs do offer the ability to assign different roles to employees with varying levels of visibility and control, such as administrative and regular roles. Often this means they have the same access, which could result in data breaches or unauthorized access to private information.

What’s more, developers are prone to implement APIs that lack authentication control from the start, meaning APIs can be left exposed to the internet and used by bad actors to access private corporate data and resources.

IP allowlisting provides rigid access management for APIs on the cloud, so there’s no need to rely on unreliable authorization functions or broken authentication systems. Development teams will be able to set stable access permissions to and from all APIs correctly. For example, a privileged few can be given high-level access, clearly defining administrators and regular personnel. Access is denied to any unrecognized IP coming from an API or other areas of the network, reducing the surface area for potential attack or infection.

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