Glossary: Everything You Need to Know about Enterprise Application Security

Everything You Need to Know about Enterprise Application Security

Any organization that develops and/or deploys software applications must have application security controls in place to protect those apps. However, enterprises face certain special types of security challenges – which is why organizations that operate at an enterprise scale require enterprise application security.

This article breaks down the meaning of enterprise application security, explains what makes enterprise AppSec unique, and discusses best practices for getting the most from enterprise application security.

What is enterprise application security?

Enterprise application security is the practice of securing applications deployed by enterprise organizations across all stages of the software delivery lifecycle (SDLC). Enterprise AppSec allows large businesses to detect security risks in source code, within newly compiled application release candidates, and within runtime environments.

In addition, enterprise application security can protect all of the layers and components of modern applications – including not just applications themselves, but also orchestrators, service meshes, APIs, and the various other resources that applications typically rely on today.

As a contextual point, we should note that it's debatable exactly how large a company needs to be to qualify as an enterprise (and, by extension, require enterprise AppSec). But to cite one prominent definition, the OECD considers any organization with at least 250 employees to be a "large enterprise." So, when we refer to enterprise application security, we're talking about application security within any decently sized organization. You don't need to have tens of thousands of employees to count as an enterprise.

Why is enterprise application security important?

Enterprise application security is important because it addresses the unique security challenges that affect large organizations.

To understand fully what that means, let's discuss application security in general, then explain what makes enterprise application security requirements unique. The fundamentals of application security are the same regardless of how large your organization is. Companies large, small, and in between must manage application security risks such as vulnerabilities in source code, software supply chain risks, and configuration mistakes in Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) templates that leave applications or environments vulnerable to attack.

However, in enterprise environments in particular, additional security considerations apply, such as:

  • Scale: The large size of enterprises means there is typically more code to secure, as well as more teams and deployment environments. This makes it extra important to ensure that AppSec processes remain efficient and scalable.
  • Complexity: The scale of enterprise operations also breeds complexity. There may be dozens of applications running in a single Kubernetes cluster, for example, and the business may depend on multiple clouds or data centers to host its apps. As a result, enterprise application security must be able to detect and address risks across complex deployment architectures.
  • Collaboration requirements: In a small company, a single employee or team may be able to manage all aspects of application security. But in a larger business, that work must be shared across teams, requiring an AppSec solution that enables efficient collaboration.
  • Shadow IT risks: The larger your business, the easier it is to accumulate "shadow IT" – meaning infrastructure, applications or even "zombie" APIs that employees deploy without official approval, or that they forget to turn off when they're no longer needed. Guarding against these risks is especially important in the context of enterprise AppSec.

In short, enterprise application security must operate with levels of scalability, effectiveness, efficiency, and comprehensiveness that are less important when managing application security risks in smaller organizations, where there is typically less complexity to contend with.

How does enterprise AppSec work?

The best way to manage the special challenges that apply to enterprise AppSec is to deploy a comprehensive application security platform that can manage and help respond to risks of all types, across all applications, at all stages of the SDLC.

For this reason, most enterprise application security strategies focus on discarding siloed security tools and replacing them with an integrated, holistic application security platform, such as a cloud-native application protection platform (CNAPP). This approach adds efficiency and helps teams collaborate because they can manage application security via a consolidated CNAPP solution. It also reduces the chance that some security risks or threats will remain undetected due to gaps within security toolsets.

That said, it's important in many enterprises to give developers and security analysts some control over how they work. The team that develops one app may have different tooling preferences than another, for example. To that end, enterprise application security programs should be flexible enough to accommodate different approaches to application development and delivery.

Businesses can implement this flexibility by ensuring that the enterprise security platform they adopt is capable of integrating with whichever Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) tools they choose to work with. That way, individual teams can tailor enterprise security processes to their workflows, rather than being forced to structure their procedures around rigid security requirements. 

Enterprise AppSec best practices

Deploying a holistic, flexible enterprise security platform is one key step toward effective enterprise AppSec. However, businesses can achieve even more value by adopting best practices like the following:

  • Automate, automate, automate: Automation is key to operating effectively at scale. You may be able to manage security scans and tests manually in a small business, but within an enterprise, you should strive for automated application security wherever possible. 
  • Integrate security into the SDLC: Integrating security tests and scans into the SDLC for enterprise applications also helps to make security processes efficient and scalable.
  • Build intuitive, repeatable processes: In large businesses, individual employees come and go frequently. This makes it important to ensure that AppSec processes are easy for new engineers to learn and manage. Avoid situations where only one employee or team knows how to perform a critical type of security test, for example.
  • Prioritize risks: The large size of an enterprise means that application security alerts are typically never-ending. However, because some risks are more important than others, it's important to determine which ones to prioritize.

Conquering enterprise AppSec with Checkmarx

Enterprises seeking a flexible, comprehensive application security solution will find it in Checkmarx One. As a holistic enterprise AppSec platform that delivers SAST, DAST, API security, IaC security, and more, Checkmarx One covers all critical aspects of enterprise AppSec. In addition, integrations with a wide variety of CI/CD tools mean that Checkmarx One gives developers the flexibility to work as they choose, while coupling security tightly into the SDLC.

To learn more, request a demo.

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