Terraform Cloud Security Model

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Automating the deployment of mission-critical production systems is becoming more familiar with the Terraform Cloud security model. Security is of the utmost importance since any breach of a Terraform template, or a system that Terraform automatically deploys may lead to the breach of several additional deployments. In addition, standardizing security best practices and controls, and leveraging infrastructure as code (IaC) solutions like Terraform may improve your security posture.

This post introduces Terraform, goes through its security features, and offers recommendations for protecting Terraform development and deployments.

What is Terraform?

HashiCorp Terraform is an open-source infrastructure as code (IAC) software tool. It allows DevOps engineers to provide the physical resources an application requires to run programmatically. 

Terraform uses the JSON-like HashiCorp Configuration Language (HCL), which makes it simple to provide infrastructure across several local or cloud data centers. Because it is open source, programmers can modify or add new plugins.

Terraform users may use version control and configuration files to design their whole infrastructure. When a user instructs Terraform to deploy and execute a database, server, or load balancer, Terraform calls the resource provider’s API.

The infrastructure Terraform manages can be hosted on public clouds like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. It can also be hosted on-prem in private clouds such as VMWare vSphere, OpenStack, or CloudStack. Terraform treats infrastructure as code (IaC), so you never have to worry about your infrastructure drifting away from its desired configuration.

Terraform, an Infrastructure as code (Iac), has gathered a lot of attention in recent years because it helps solve issues that have plagued infrastructure management. We have infrastructure as code (IaC) to thank for making the deployment and management of cloud resources faster and simpler than ever. IaC eliminates time-consuming manual configurations and one-off scripts. Instead, you use code to manage infrastructure like how you would manage apps and services. For example, networks, Kubernetes clusters, servers, databases, and complete application stacks are all part of this infrastructure.

The fact that Terraform is modular is another fantastic feature. Teams now find it simpler to install and expand infrastructure with only a small amount of code. You can create networking, storage, or compute workloads ready for deployment by changing a small number of factors. 

What Is Terraform Cloud?

Terraform Cloud is an application that helps teams use Terraform together. It manages Terraform runs in a consistent and reliable environment and includes easy access to shared state and private data, access controls for approving infrastructure changes, a private registry for sharing Terraform modules, detailed policy controls for governing the contents of Terraform configurations, and more.

Terraform Cloud is a hosted service at https://app.terraform.io. Small teams can sign up for free to connect Terraform to version control, share variables, run Terraform in a stable remote environment, and securely store remote state. Paid tiers allow you to add more than five users, create teams with different permission levels, enforce policies before creating infrastructure, and collaborate more effectively.

Terraform Cloud is a SaaS. Instead of running Terraform on your local computer, which is still an option as we support it, it now stores and gets its state file from Terraform Cloud, which is operating over here. This simplifies many things. First off, this is essentially undetectable. Secondly, we could tighten up the security of this access far further. You may manage who has access to your state file by checking who is viewing it and doing other things.

In addition, Terraform Cloud will version and backup your state file so you can look back in time to see what your infrastructure looked like in the past or restore an earlier version if something goes wrong. Because this is a typical computer file, managing a local file may be quite challenging. You would be in charge of managing the local file yourself. In Terraform Cloud’s situation, you may still speak directly to the various cloud providers. That is how Terraform Cloud currently functions. That is the main advantage that living in a rural state offers you.

How Terraform Can Help You Adopt Better Security Practices

You can use HashiCorp Terraform to provision infrastructure effectively and safely. The Terraform Cloud security model uses infrastructure as code, which is typically praised for its advantages in terms of speed and efficiency compared to traditional point-and-click provisioning methods. Terraform includes tools for safeguarding those deployments, reducing risk, and offering quicker deployments. 

Sentinel Policy as Code

Sentinel is a policy-as-code platform that is integrated with corporate products from Hashicorp. While running Terraform, you may utilize Sentinel to specify and implement security policies for your infrastructure. Sentinel may proactively check to ensure the infrastructure is set in accordance with your policies. This is in contrast to traditional tools that scan existing infrastructure for policy violations.

You can write regulations as code for various goals, like limiting the deployment of bigger clouds and avoiding inappropriate infrastructure labeling.

Module Registry

The Terraform module registry is another tool that ensures your infrastructure follows best practices. Modules (packages of infrastructure as code) are available in the public Terraform registry and in private registries created by businesses using Terraform Enterprise. While more complicated modules may contain as many compute instances as the designer chooses, simpler modules may only contain one.

Infrastructure experts can produce standardized modules of best practices for infrastructure components for companies that use private registries and offer developers self-service. Using unique modules enables developers to create the architecture necessary to execute their apps. Accelerated development is possible without degrading the infrastructure’s quality.

Tips for Using Terraform Cloud Securely

  1. Making Effective Authentication Mandatory: SMS and one-time passwords are both supported by Terraform Cloud for two-factor authentication. You may set the needed authentication for each user in the organization settings. Single sign-on (SSO) configuration is an option for business-level companies.
  2. Reduce Ownership to a Minimum: All workspaces within an organization are accessible to users with ownership credentials. Users in the Owners team can still authenticate using their username and password even when SSO is enabled. Only a few managers should be a part of this team, and its composition should be revised frequently.
  3. Control Access to Source Code: Planned operations are automatically started by pull requests and committed to a connected VCS repository by default in Terraform Cloud workspaces. You must grant access to connected repositories only to trusted operators because Terraform Cloud does not offer protection against malware. You can configure your workspace to enable or disable the automated scheduling of pull requests to a linked repository. If untrusted users can open pull requests in the connected VCS repository, this setting needs to be disabled.
  4. Secure API Tokens: Terraform Cloud supports the establishment of API tokens for users, teams, and organizations. These tokens must be kept securely and rotated regularly. Vault users can use the Terraform Cloud Secret backend to generate temporary tokens.

Conclusion

The Terraform Cloud security model is an important tool for managing your infrastructure. Securing your infrastructure from development to production as it grows and expands is very important. I sincerely hope this will be useful as you maximize Terraform’s cloud potential while boosting the security of your IT environment.


Israel Tetteh is a DevOps engineer and Technical Writer. He is proficient in DevOps and integrating the DevOps culture to automate the software delivery lifecycle. He is also skilled with AWS, Azure cloud, and several other DevOps tools like Kubernetes, Github, Jenkins, Docker, Terraform, Ansible, and Prometheus.


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