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What is CSPM (Cloud Security Posture Management)?

by Chris Brook on Wednesday July 15, 2020

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Modern businesses are moving their data to the cloud, and for good reason. But as cloud platform services see an increase in use, there has been an explosion in the number of unmanaged risks in the mission-critical digital industry. This is where Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) comes into play.

What is Cloud Security Posture Management?

There have been many high-profile breaches that raised corporate interest in an emerging technology called CSPM, or Cloud Security Posture Management. In simple terms, it cleans the cloud environment and alerts the company about issues and possible risks.

Let’s consider the example of a former employee of Amazon Web Services (AWS) who stole data from millions of credit applications by exploiting a misconfigured Web Application Firewall (WAF). In another example, a Walmart jewelry partner exposed the data of millions of customers. Evidently, there’s a need for better cloud data protection.

CSPM is a relatively new term in the world of security capabilities. In the last few years, CSPM has become popular as more organizations have adopted a cloud-first methodology. CSPM allows them to monitor the risk and fix some security issues automatically. There are no overhead configuration costs, and users benefit scalable deployment and security insights.

How CSPM Works

As the cloud space increases, it becomes important to track and protect sensitive data against misconfigurations.

Since the cloud environment has been expanding over many areas, organizations can use CSPM to consolidate any possible misconfigurations and create a transparent platform for information relay. When they use CSPM, they can comply with frameworks such as HIPAA, SOC2, and CIS v1.1. This strengthens the clients’ confidence in your business and cloud security.

Software tools like Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASB) are increasingly used in conjunction with CSPM. A CASB safeguards the flow of data between in-house IT architecture and cloud environments and extends an organization’s security policies beyond its in-house infrastructure.

CSPM can detect issues like lack of encryption, improper encryption key management, extra account permissions, and others.  According to a report by Gartner, a majority of successful attacks on cloud services result from misconfiguration, and CSPM can mitigate these risks.

Benefits of CSPM

There are numberous benefits of CSPM, including:

  • Finding misconfigured network connectivity
  • Assessing data risk and detecting exceedingly liberal account permissions
  • Continuous monitoring of the cloud environment to detect any policy violations
  • Ability to automatically remedy the misconfigurations in some cases
  • Compliance with common standards for best practices such as HIPAA, SOC2, and PIC

Reasons to Use CSPM

If your organization uses cloud services, you’ll need a way to prevent data leakage. While most businesses think their data is safe with cloud vendors, some human errors can leave vulnerabilities even in the most robust and secure cloud networks. For example, when developers are under DevOps deadline pressures, they might hurriedly launch new virtual machines that can leave the network exposed. CSPM will help you proactively identify and mitigate cloud security risks.

The approach to CSPM has evolved in the last few years. It went from a misconfiguration reporting tool to something that can automatically fix issues. It can identify access, check for compliance with policies, and detect and mitigate risks.

CSPM can also integrate security procedures with DevOps processes. This makes things easier for the IT team as they address issues that can range from cloud security settings to service configurations. Businesses that have multi-cloud platforms can benefit from CSPM’s interoperability between risk monitoring and automatic remediation.

CSPM Best Practices

Here are some important best practices to follow when leveraging CSPM.

Consider the cloud-specific benchmarks.

Monitor your cloud’s security posture using cloud-specific benchmarks established by the Center for Internet Security (CIS). Ensure that your security procedures are designed keeping the dynamic nature of the cloud.

Quantify the risk and prioritize security violations.

Your information security staff might feel overwhelmed by the number of violation alerts. It’s best to quantify the risk and prioritize the most critical violations. The violations that affect your critical cloud assets should be given high priority.

Place security checks in Dev channels.

When your applications constantly use new resources, it becomes difficult to enforce security in the cloud. This is especially true for dynamic applications, and if you find security gaps too late, it can be expensive for the organization.

Misconfiguration checks should be defined as a pipeline so when the deployment pipelines are executed, you can immediately start finding possible violations. Also, remediation steps should be embedded in the re-deployment pipeline so misconfigurations can be corrected as soon as they are found.

The unique nature of the cloud requires a new security concept that can address the distributed and dynamic cloud infrastructure. CSPM automatically examines the cloud environment against security violations and best practices to find issues and gives steps to remedy them. And in some cases, it automatically fixes the issues to bolster your security, reducing the demands on your IT security team.

Tags: Cloud Security, Data Protection

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Chris Brook

Chris Brook is the editor of Data Insider. He is a technology journalist with a decade of experience writing about information security, hackers, and privacy. Chris has attended many infosec conferences and has interviewed hackers and security researchers. Prior to joining Digital Guardian he helped launch Threatpost, an independent news site which is a leading source of information about IT and business security for hundreds of thousands of professionals worldwide.