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DevOps Chat: A New Take on Application Security with Portshift


Portshift brings a new identity-based application security model from code to runtime. Cloud or on-prem, Portshift works. In this DevOps Chat we speak with CEO Ran Ilany and VP Business Ops Eran Grabiner about what is unique to the Portshift solution and why you should consider it for your own application security, especially for your DevOps teams.

As usual, the streaming audio is immediately below, followed by the transcript of our conversation.


Alan Shimel:Hey, everyone, it’s Alan Shimel, DevOps.com, Security Boulevard, and you’re listening to another DevOps Chat. In today’s DevOps Chat, we actually have a new company to introduce to our audience anyway and that company is Portshift. And I’m joined by two of the key folks at Portshift. We have Eran Grabiner, who’s VP of Business Ops, and Ran Ilany or Ilani I mispronounce your name, I apologize Ran Ilany, CEO and

Ran Ilany:Ilany.

Shimel:Ilany, great. CEO and cofounder. Gentlemen, welcome.

Ilany:Thank you.

Eran Grabiner:Thank you, Alan. Thank you for having us.

Shimel:Oh, my pleasure. So, Ran, you’re the CEO. I’m gonna let you kick off. A lot of people in our audience may not be familiar with Portshift. Fundamentally, what’s Portshift about?

Ilany:So, fundamentally, Portshift is trying to solve solving a problem which is a hard problem that wasn’t solved in the last couple of decades and was very much introduced as a solution, during early ’90s, with the firewalls technology. And now we’re moving to the cloud infrastructure, we see that the same firewalls that were used 20 years ago are not longer, I would say, valid, in order to run a application. And, essentially, there are, I would say, two to three reason that to that and I will let Eran elaborate about the reason of why.

Grabiner:Yeah. Sure, so, you know, Alan, when speaking about the cloud, there are two things that fundamentally changed everything for IT folks and DevOps engineers. The first thing: you don’t own the infrastructure, so the level of network and infrastructure, you simply don’t control it.

And, secondly, a lot of change through time in the world of compute. If I don’t know ten years ago, we had the monolithic application sit down in our data centers in the office, right now, when we’re in the cloud, our application is broken into many different pieces, many different _____ services. Everything is much more automated. Software is being updated on an hourly basis. And developers and engineers, they have much more power to do things with their software. So, because those two reasons that the old tools that we had, in order to orchestrate security in our network, simply doesn’t work.

Ilany:Yeah, and

Shimel:Agreed. Ran?

Ilany:And just to add to those points, there are two layers that essentially impose the challenge. The first one is the fact that, if you’d really like to, I mean, to use firewalls within the cloud environment, you really need to understand the network infrastructure. To understand the network infrastructure, you need to understand what is the application is doing out there in the cloud, and, in order to do this, you need to configure those IPs and those ports, which actually create a very, very close binding to the actual network infrastructure, for one hand.

And, for the other hand, you obviously need to have this type of discussion between the security folks to the actual operation folks, which actually creates a lot of bureaucracy that was possibly valid, you know, 15 years ago in the data center, but, now we’re moving to the cloud and everything is automated with CI/CD, you need something else. Okay? You need to break the paradigm, at least from being tied to the actual network, from one hand, and, from the other hand, you need to make things to be much more fast and much more intertwined with the development life cycle. Which is essentially the primary objective that Portshift’s have put in as a target and as a solution.

Shimel:Absolutely. So, guys and, look, I’ve been in this a while myself. You know, when we first started with the next-gen firewall, right, and that was sort of the premise, is that we were gonna get the developers involved and application-aware firewalls and all that, but it didn’t translate to the cloud. You’re right. But, Ran, I’m interested, as the CEO/cofounder, so this is obviously a problem, right? How do we do this in a cloud environment, at cloud scale, at cloud speed and all of that?


Shimel:How did this affect you personally or in your kind of journey to where you’ve got here today, where you recognized and said, “Hey, we gotta do something about this, that this is a problem looking for a solution here”?

Ilany:Yeah. So, essentially, we understand that there is a problem that requires a solution, you know, while talking with customers. I mean, those are usually the No. 1

Shimel:That’s the way

Ilany:Yeah, and

Shimel: the best way to do it.

Ilany:And we saw that there are and we call it “the impossible tradeoff,” okay? They either need to be very, very fast they want to run very, very fast in the cloud, from one hand, but then they have a security constraint. They really want to control, I mean, the communication between the application and where the application should run. And there, there is the where to be in the curve of being Agile and being secure every organization has to find itself, in this type of curve, and to find what is the level of security that it wants to enforce or impose.

And this is, I would say, what led us to think of changing the paradigm or breaking the paradigm or making a solution that the customer will not have to make this type of tradeoff or make this type of decision and target to be both fast and Agile but also secure from the other way around _____ _____.

Grabiner:And we basically looked at what’s going on in the cloud from the DevOps perspective and we saw that many things changed to be better, with automation, with CI/CD tools, and we ask ourselves why, with security, this is not happening? Why the workstation or the tools that the DevOps engineer is now using to deploy software, why security tools can’t look the same? Why they can’t be part of the same idea and the same work cycles? And this is what got us to think that we need to, in a sense, push security to the left, shift left, and take it to be something that is part of the DevOps life cycle and part of the CI/CD infrastructure of the organization.

Shimel:Sure. So, guys, obviously so we call this “DevSecOps,” right? Is part of it.

Grabiner:Yeah, right. Yeah.

Shimel:It’s something that I you know, between DevSecOps Days and events we put on at RSA and so forth, it’s something we’re very involved in. My question for you then is, so it sounds like Portshift is really aimed at helping DevOps engineers, DevOps teams, developers, get more involved in the security or in the cloud firewall kind of paradigm for security. Is Portshift aimed then at the security team, the developer team, or both?

Ilany:So I think well, obviously, the focus of Portshift is not to try to educate Dev and DevOps to be security folks this is obviously not the target but think the good news is the fact that Dev and DevOps have the knowledge, okay? And the knowledge is where, essentially, they know their intention. They know where, essentially, they want to deploy the application and, essentially, who should talk to who, in terms of application containers or processors, depending, obviously, on your infrastructure. And this is, I would say, the basic assumption that the whole concept of Portshift is based on, okay? We actually take this type of knowledge, okay? We create from this knowledge or this attributes, we create the actual identity of the application, which is essentially a signed infrastructure or crypto-signature of those attributes. And we use those intentions that are described by DevOps, in their own natural language I mean, a recipe in Cookbooks with, you know, _____

Shimel:A Chef or a Puppet.

Ilany:Yeah, of course. Or Ansible or Kubernetes, obviously, infrastructure. We use this type of information while creating the crypto-identity, in order to deploy those application or signed application in the cloud and enforce the actual security that we describe formally. And the whole point is, essentially, that those folks don’t have to change the way that they work, okay? The security is more intertwined with their own system, the CI/CD system.

We leverage this type of information in order to create the security and the actual security folks will actually define guardrails. Okay? They will define operational environment in high level the production environment, the testing environment, or the preproduction environment where the actual application should run within. And the security will be sort of enforced and be visible automatically, without the pingpong, okay, or without the never-ending discussion between the security and the DevOps folks, which we all know it’s part of the problem, okay? It’s part of the challenge of securing the application in the cloud prams.

Shimel:Absolutely. So I guess this well, let me back up a sec. I just wanna make sure. Portshift, I know you work with AWS, obviously.


Shimel:Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud as well?



Grabiner:We’re totally agnostic to the infrastructure.

Shimel:Okay. And what I’m curious ’cause this is something that we going back and forth on, back and forth on. The attitude of the developers, the DevOps teams. I mean, you never meet a developer who says, “Oh, I’d wanna make an insecure application or I want my stuff to be hacked,” right?

Grabiner: No.


Shimel:And you’re right they’re not security people, but they’re security-aware and they need to be security-responsible.


Shimel:Right? On the other hand, look, we all know security people who’ve said, “The developers will do what I tell them,” right? “And they’ll be secure when I tell them they’re secure.” But that doesn’t work either in this new world. Right? It’s gotta be together. So you talk about integrating with the CI/CD process. Give us an idea of how you work within the CI/CD process.

Grabiner:Got it. Yeah, so, basically, what we’re doing, we are asking the developers, the DevOps engineers, to use a very simple set of APIs, whenever they are using their infrastructure as a code or whatever the tools that they’re using, to send Portshift the relevant information that we need, in order to identify the piece of application that they’re deploying. This information can be technical information about the build, the version, the namespace of the application, and other attributes, that will allow us to rip up an identity that is unique, for each and every one of the pieces of the application. So this is the first part, where we learn your application logic, where we understand who should speak with who, and we know your business.

Now, when we take this identity and we move into runtime, we see all the different pieces and, first of all, we see them for sure. We know because we find them during CI/CD. If something didn’t go through CI/CD, if a developer deployed a container without asking, if, god forbid, an attacker is moving in the network, we would immediately see that because we signed the components during CI/CD. And we can see them. We can see them communicate. And now security folks and also DevOps engineers, they can easily define their agenda and their rules, based on their application logic.

A simple example: if they want their billing app to speak with their financial database, something that can take days just to config because your application is broken into different pieces and you need to config security groups and make sure you did it right and so on, with Portshift, you would simply write this sentence. You would just say, in English, “I want my billing application to speak with financial database,” and that’s it. Everything will work from then on.

Shimel:So it sounds magical, right?


Shimel:You know, I’m too old to believe in magic. What’s going on behind the scenes, though? When I write that, what’s actually happening behind the scenes?

Ilany:Yeah. So, essentially, what happens behind the scenes is we have two phases for this identity bit generation. As eloquently mentioned by Eran, the first phase is done by offline, okay? We take this type of attributes, which are sort of the intention, okay, in the CI/CD. We grab those as attributes of the identity and this is essentially the description of the application wherever the application should run, who should it talk to within the actual environment that we’re targeting to.

And then we have the correlation with the runtime properties. Every process, every containers have runtime characteristics for instance, the process ID, the UID, memory footprint, and stuff like that so we combine all together the offline attribute that was created with the ICD, with runtime attribute. We sign them all together.

And this essentially creates one unique entity that is running out there and this is what we’re using in order to enforce. We are transferring this type of identity in the traffic stream so that a conversation between two different application is, first and foremost, authenticated, okay, and only then authorized. Okay? This is what we call the classical “zero-trust” approach, okay? We’re not trusting the IP; we’re trusting the identity on the counterpart.

And this brings another where we talked, I believe, a little bit about the operational benefits and the fact that it’s very Agile and useful for the Dev and DevOps and the security collaboration. But there is another very important advantage and it’s the fact that, now that we are not talking about an attack surface which are segments, network segments, we are talking about type of access. Okay? So, if an attacker, for instance, get into one of my workloads or one of my application, we are not losing the whole segment, okay? We are losing a single part.

And now we have, I would say, less we’re much less concerned from the extent that we are exposed, okay, because we are talking about only point-to-point access permitted. They’re not network segments, which are open and, from the attacker perspective, it’s like a dream come true. If I find a flat network and I get into your flat network in some miraculous way, then I can get into every resource or application that is out there.

Shimel:A good target.

Ilany:Yeah. And this is, essentially, the basic concept of the security perspective of identity-based access control between different applications.

Shimel:Sure. Guys, it sounds fascinating. As I mentioned to you when we started, the time goes very quickly. We’re kind of at the end of our time.


Shimel:I apologize, but maybe we can continue the conversation. For people who are interested, Portshift, you can get more information at portshift.io. Correct?


Grabiner:That is correct.

Shimel:And you guys will be at AWS Reinvent, though


Shimel: _____ _____ after. Will you be at RSA conference?

Grabiner:Yes. We will also be presenting there, at a startup venue.

Shimel:Oh, the Launchpad or the Sandbox?

Grabiner:The I think it’s called I think it’s the Launchpad. Yeah, it’s where all the early-stage companies are. Yeah.

Shimel:Yep. Sandbox that might be the Innovation Sandbox. Launchpad is more for ideas.

Grabiner:Oh, yeah.

Shimel:I think you fit more in yeah, we’re a big part of RSA, so, yeah, I just did a podcast with them about both of those, so little bit I know. Anyway I’m sorry. Thank you very much for joining us and we will if we don’t see you at AWS, we’ll see you then at RSA. Well, we’d like to probably hear more because this kinda fits right into our sweet spot. Ran, Eran, thank you for joining us on DevOps Chat today. Good luck with Portshift. This is Alan Shimel for DevOps.com. Have a great day, everyone.

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