CSPM 101: How Does Cloud Security Posture Management Work?

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Wednesday, June 2, 2021

With global cloud adoption soaring, more and more businesses are turning to CSPM to help manage the configuration of increasingly complex cloud environments.

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CSPM 101: How Does Cloud Security Posture Management Work?
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In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen an increase in the popularity of hybrid and multi-cloud environments, supercharging an existing trend as a result of the need to connect on-premise, remote and hybrid teams. This shift has brought with it a new array of security issues, compliance concerns and vulnerabilities as traditional security solutions have quickly proven obsolete. CISOs need visibility across the entire cloud environment to effectively manage configuration and governance.

As business reliance on the cloud increases, cloud security posture management (CSPM) is one of the latest methods used to ensure that the risks cloud adoption brings are addressed by enterprises. CSPM upgrades compliance to the cloud era, managing the configuration of increasingly complex hybrid and public cloud environments.

In a traditional IT environment, misconfiguring a network gateway, firewall or server could place the entire business at risk of attack. However, there were usually a limited number of devices making it easy to regularly check and ensure security compliance.

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In the cloud era, huge numbers of instances and services mean there are many configurations in use within and beyond the firewall. To ensure compliance and avoid vulnerabilities from misconfigurations, CSPM is fast becoming a staple of IT security teams, and rising up the CISO agenda as they look to ensure business operations remain secure with more functions moving to hybrid cloud and multi-cloud environments. Indeed, research shows over three-quarters (76.5%) of IT leaders are using cloud security posture management solutions to secure their business.

The benefits of cloud security posture management

The benefits of the cloud empower companies to grow at scale. In doing so, the number of cloud network connections and services grows at an alarming rate, leaving traditional security solutions unable to cope with the volume. Cloud governance is a key issue for business and IT leaders, with CISOs charged with ensuring compliance across regulatory areas to protect business and customer data.

CSPM identifies misconfiguration issues in the cloud

CSPM protects the business by identifying misconfiguration issues, such as settings in application or service control panels, and tracing compliance risks. Without running checks, cloud misconfigurations will inevitably risk data breaches and leaks. Companies also need to prove compliance with the varying cloud, data and regulatory schemes, with CSPM supporting compliance claims. And if a regulatory breach does occur, it can be dealt with faster than previous methods, limiting the financial and reputational damage.

It protects sensitive data and prevents breaches

As more businesses migrate to the cloud, CSPM plays a vital role in ensuring data security. Cloud security posture management can be configured in an hour or less, reducing the launch time as many come provided with a series of common, pre-configured policies and rules that cover most use cases and regulatory standards.

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Why should businesses use CSPM?

Many businesses adopt cloud tools across departments without the centralized planning of on-premises systems. They also create digital risks that on-premises security tools struggle to protect. There’s no hard perimeter to defend. Changes happen faster than IT can handle and as cloud services grow, centralization becomes a problem.

These issues created the gap for CSPM to rise and gather wide adoption as part of an overall cloud solution to project a company’s posture and defend it against the growing risk from many cloud applications.

Adopting a CSPM provides a relatively low-cost solution that supports business growth as teams start to use new and developing cloud services like containers, serverless functions among traditional cloud services for productivity.

How does CSPM work?

Cloud security posture management solutions support businesses by identifying cloud assets and data across multiple clouds that they use, securing a cloud environment. This can include any shadow IT creations that the leadership and core IT team might not know about.

Having identified the assets, CSPM will identify any misconfiguration in the settings, creating a report that allows security teams to fix the issue and improve the company’s cloud posture. Fixes can be applied automatically, but given the critical nature, they should be checked or performed manually, fixing security and compliance issues.

Having solved any outstanding issues, most CSPM tools will continue to monitor the cloud environment in real-time, noting any fresh changes that may create business issues and identify further weaknesses across the cloud posture. This could include internal and external malicious changes, or someone making updates that they shouldn’t be doing, no matter how good their intentions.

Cloud security should work in harmony

The complexities of cloud security mean that most enterprises will be using a range of tools to defend the cloud and its data. For example, while cloud security posture management can monitor the evolving nature of cloud deployments and changing policies or rules, cloud access security brokers (CASB) provide security enforcement between end users and the cloud service providers. Next-generation firewalls secure off-network connections and scale across ports and services to protect traffic.

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If you already use cloud infrastructure security posture assessment (CISPA), then be aware that these are early versions of CSPM tools and often lack the automation and intelligence of modern CSPMs. Companies in regulated industries, such as finance and healthcare, will also need to adopt a Cloud Workload Protection Platform (CWPP) to prove compliance throughout the application chain and within operating systems.

As demand for cloud applications grow, businesses will find themselves with larger cloud footprints to defend. Adopting the right tools will save time and cost, reducing reliance on legacy applications that aren’t designed for the cloud, while supporting companies as they grow.

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