When navigating the complexities of the public cloud, it’s easy to get lost in the endless acronyms, industry jargon, and vendor-specific terms. From K8s to IaC to Shift Left, it can be helpful to have a map to navigate the nuances of this emerging segment of the market.

That’s why a few cloud security experts here at Rapid7 created a list of terms that cover the basics — the key terms and concepts that help you continue your journey into cloud security and DevSecOps with clarity and confidence. Here are the most important entries in your cloud security glossary.


Application Program Interface (API): A set of functions and procedures allowing for the creation of applications that can access the features or data of an operating system, application, or other service.

  • The InsightCloudSec API can be used to create insights and bots, modify compliance packs, and perform other functions outside of the InsightCloudSec user interface.

Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM): CSPM solutions continuously manage cloud security risk. They detect, log, report, and provide automation to address common issues. These can range from cloud service configurations to security settings and are typically related to governance, compliance, and security for cloud resources.

Cloud Service Provider (CSP): A third-party company that offers a cloud-based platform, infrastructure, application, or storage services. The most popular CSPs are AWS, Azure, Alibaba, and GCP.

Cloud Workload Protection Program (CWPP): CWPPs help organizations protect their capabilities or workloads (applications, resources, etc.) running in a cloud instance.

Container Security: A container represents a software application and may contain all necessary code, run-time, system tools, and libraries needed to run the application. Container hosts can be packed with risk, so properly securing them means maintaining visibility into vulnerabilities associated with their components and layers.

Entitlements: Entitlements, or permissions entitlements, give domain users control over basic users' and organization admins' permissions to access certain parts of a tool.

Identity Access Management (IAM): A framework of policies and technologies for ensuring the right users have the appropriate access to technology resources. It’s also known as Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management (CIEM), which provides identity and access governance controls with the goal of reducing excessive cloud infrastructure entitlements and streamlining least-privileged access (LPA) protocols across dynamic, distributed cloud environments.

Infrastructure: With respect to cloud computing, infrastructure refers to an enterprise's entire cloud-based or local collection of resources and services. This term is used synonymously with “cloud footprint.”

Infrastructure as Code (IaC): The process of managing and provisioning computer data centers through machine-readable definition files, rather than physical hardware configuration or interactive configuration tools. With IaC, configuration files contain your infrastructure specifications, making it easier to edit and distribute configurations.

Kubernetes: A portable, extensible open-source platform for deploying, managing, and orchestrating containerized workloads and services at scale.

Least-Privileged Access (LPA): A security and access control concept that gives users the minimum necessary permissions based on the functions required for their particular roles.

Shared Responsibility Model: A framework in cloud computing that defines who is responsible for the security and compliance of each component of the cloud architecture. With on-premise data centers, the responsibility is solely on your organization to manage and maintain security for the entire technology stack, from the physical hardware to the applications and data. Because public cloud computing purposefully abstracts layers of that tech stack, this model acts as an agreement between the CSP and their customer as to who takes on the responsibility of managing and maintaining proper hygiene and security within the cloud infrastructure.

Shift Left: A concept that refers to building security into an earlier stage of the development cycle. Traditionally, security checks occurred at the end of the cycle. By shifting left, organizations can ensure their applications are more secure from the start — and at a much lower cost.

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