What is a Cloud Access Security Broker and How Does it Protect Your Data?

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Monday, May 31, 2021

If you’re struggling to maintain security and visibility in an increasingly hybrid environment, a cloud access security broker could be the solution.

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What is a Cloud Access Security Broker and How Does it Protect Your Data?
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Cloud access security brokers (CASBs) have become a key part of the security landscape. They provide support for visibility, compliance, data security and threat protection, while providing multiple-layers of protection.

Understanding cloud access security brokers

In today’s cloud security landscape, most enterprises now operate a mix of on-premises and cloud services, supporting the need to scale and deliver key applications to internal teams and partners. Along with firewalls, VPNs and load balancers, CASBs play a key role in the chain, managing authentication and encryption across your cloud and on-premise services. Research from The State of Cloud Security in 2021 shows that one in two senior IT professionals are using a CASB.

The key benefit of CASB is visibility into the security of your data. Gone are the days of all staff working on internally-housed computers physically wired to secure and firewalled networks. In the cloud era, people work remotely on a growing range of devices and networks, creating security risks and access challenges.

A common example is users bypassing existing IT security tools by creating documents or data sources in a cloud service and directly sharing them with other workers. CASB inspects all data and its use across the business and devices, helping identify risks and enabling senior decision-makers to update policies to protect data and improve operations.

Before the existence of CASB, IT security teams were wary of letting users access any data on non-authorized devices. But in the era of BYOD and remote work, CASB provides insight into what files are being accessed by whom, and whether they’re working on corporate or personal devices, and what they do with those files.

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The four pillars of CASB

A CASB application delivers four key benefits to a business.

1. Visibility

A cloud access security broker provides comprehensive visibility into who’s accessing what across various cloud environments. It supports large enterprises struggling with huge volumes of data view exactly what’s going on with data and usage, especially in the cloud where it can be hard to track using traditional IT.

2. Compliance

As more enterprises outsource their systems and data storage to the cloud, it’s vital that you comply with different regulations. CASBs support compliance and ensures regulations enshrined in the GDPR, HIPAA, PCI DSS and others are enforced. It can highlight risk areas and demonstrate compliance to regulators and allow breaches to be reported.

3. Data security

Cloud computing encourages greater collaboration and improves the productivity of data workers, but it’s easy for users and businesses to think that data security is someone else’s problem. CASB enshrines data security within the business, regardless of how much data is used in the cloud, helping to protect sensitive and confidential information.

4. Threat protection

With a growing volume and range of malicious threats to every business, CASB provides threat protection. It can highlight unusual usage patterns in real-time, while detecting and blocking malware and other threats from cloud and external services.

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How cloud access security brokers work

As with most security tools, modern CASB solutions show the areas of greatest risk to a business. It creates a summary of the issues that IT and the security team face, highlighting suspicious behavior and bad actors, allowing a rapid response to protect the business against cloud security risks.

Current CASB tools deliver this information by monitoring the access of data and files, enacting and monitoring the company’s security data security policies and looking out for violations. The broker part of the title relates to CASB’s role as an intermediary, sitting between users and SaaS, PaaS or IaaS applications and services.

The CASB enforces and consolidates multiple types of security policy, such as remote access control, acceptable use and information security. It applies them to all files and services that the business provides, tracking their use across corporate or personal devices.

Modern CASB services provide operators with several key advantages, along with real-time insights into data use and file security. They support cloud and IT governance efforts, prevent data loss, provide tactical and strategic information for risk assessments, and ensure that devices and applications are correctly configured.

The technical features of a CASB include encryption to protect company data. Primarily through vendor-provided encryption, but bring your own and gateway encryption offer alternatives. They guarantee data security through remote access and act as part of the compliance chain for critical or sensitive data.

Also supporting CASB is tokenization, particularly when it comes to financial data such as credit card or personal identity details for customers or citizens using government systems. Tokens secure identifiable data at source and help meet regulatory legislation on data protection. They’re often used alongside encryption to ensure safety, as the other features of the CASB prevent misuse.

Preventing the rise of “shadow IT”

One of the main pros of investing in a cloud access security broker is that it helps defend the business against the growing threat of shadow IT – where teams or departments create their own non-approved IT services.

Typical examples include the use of innovative tools like AI analytics, chatbots and other services. Not only do they create data governance risks, but can build data siloes or split valid data sources into unwanted and insecure multiple versions.

By monitoring data and service use, CASBs can identify any growing risk of shadow IT and report it to the IT security team for resolution. Some CASBs can provide risk scores of services used, ensuring the business can check the quality and validity of a shadow IT service, perhaps enabling it to be brought out of the shadows and into formal adoption, while banning those with low security standards or those housed in countries with lax or suspicious data laws.

Acquiring and deploying CASB

Most security vendors offer a CASB solution along with their usual enterprise or SMB offerings like firewalls and malware tools. They can be installed on-premises or in the cloud and configured to support existing services and security policies.

As businesses grow, the need for live security protection needs to be highlighted from the bottom down, with CIOs and CISOs promoting the use of the latest strategies and technologies to protect data and ensure workers follow best practices.

With so many CASB vendors and products to choose from, CIOs and CISOs must carefully decide which core features are essential to the needs of the business. Learn more here.

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