Cyber-attacks have never stopped becoming more sophisticated and aggressive, so cybersecurity has to evolve ceaselessly in response. Security firms continue to innovate the solutions they offer to address new forms of attacks and the unwanted but not unexpected changes in the cyber threat landscape.
As security firms improve their cybersecurity products and services, many come up with innovations or new packages designed for the new challenges enterprises face. However, while many of these innovations provide real benefits, some turn out to be mere gimmicks or worldplay to attract attention. The shift to the cloud, in particular, stimulates the sprouting of many deceptive security products.
For this, it is worth examining the idea of cloud security posture management (CSPM), a relatively new market segment in the IT security field. Does it actually provide real-world benefits? What makes it different from conventional cybersecurity systems for enterprises?
Cloud security posture management
Cloud security posture management refers to the automated identification and remediation of threats encountered across the cloud infrastructure. It covers the Platform as a Service (PaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), as well as Software as a Service (SaaS) models. CSPM is useful in visualizing risks, security assessments, ensuring appropriate incident response, compliance monitoring, and DevOps integration. It also enables the uniform application of the best security practices for cloud, hybrid, and multi-cloud environments, including those that employ containerization.
Security providers may offer CSPM as an extended security posture management solution to differentiate it from conventional cyber defenses. This higher level of protection comes with advanced features to make it faster and easier to discover cloud and infrastructure vulnerabilities including misconfigurations, poor cyber and IT hygiene, and weaknesses that allow bad actors to penetrate with their attacks.
Sarah Kent, Cybersecurity and Digital Technology Senior Director for MorganFranklin Consulting, agrees that cloud security is becoming increasingly important. In a tech talk series hosted by a global cybersecurity provider, she explained how the rise of multi-cloud and hybrid environments are creating added complexities that require correspondingly sophisticated solutions. “The bottom line is that the complexities of multi-cloud translate into more complexity with security,” Kent said.
Cloud-targeted security enhancement
CSPM provides features and functions that are specifically designed to address threats and risks in cloud environments. It offers suitable tools for the mitigation of attack surface risks as well as the reduction of risks attributable to the lack of IT and cyber hygiene. It is also possible to quantify specific security defects and vulnerabilities to have a more solid representation of risks and a better grasp of the situation to prioritize responses and resource allocations better.
Cloud security posture management ensures that there is a dependable system of threat discovery and visibility. It provides a unified way of monitoring and addressing risks especially in settings that involve multiple clouds and highly complex deployment, configuration, networking, and change activity tracking requirements. CSPM helps ensure excellent misconfiguration management and remediation. It also facilitates the continuous detection of malicious and unauthorized access and activities.
Moreover, CSPM supports DevSecOps integration, resulting in greater efficiency especially when it comes to addressing the complexities and friction encountered in multi-cloud scenarios. Good CSPM solutions are designed to be easily integrated with SIEMs to enable the streamlining of security visibility and the generation of useful insights and contexts when it comes to evaluating configuration issues and potential policy violations.
Cloud security posture management solutions may include Continuous Automated Red Teaming (CART) to facilitate the efficient identification and mitigation of risks. They may also provide breach and attack simulation (BAS) to maximize the benefits derived from security controls. Additionally, they can come with advanced purple teaming to scale expertise when it comes to adversarial activities. They are also likely to integrate the MITRE ATT&CK framework to take advantage of the most recent threat intelligence and knowledge on adversarial tactics and techniques.
Some may say that these are mostly similar to what conventional enterprise cybersecurity solutions have. This observation makes sense, but CSPM does have differences from conventional cybersecurity for enterprises. These distinguishing features are baked into the underlying mechanisms of security controls and protocols with a nod to the following factors:
- The lack of perimeters in the cloud – Unlike on-prem models, cloud environments are not secured by perimeters. It can be easier for cybercriminals to find their way into cloud systems, especially if they are not properly configured and secured from the inside. The security features of CSPM are designed to make up for the absence of perimeters
- The scalability challenge – Securing multi-cloud systems can be very difficult especially when an organization is expanding or undergoing changes. Cloud security posture management allows enterprises to be more flexible as they scale up or down.
- The visibility concern – The cloud infrastructure is not centralized, which is a bane for security visibility. CSPM addresses this challenge by providing a unified and coherent system for monitoring security events and risks on the cloud.
Differentiating CSPM from other cloud security solutions
Cloud security posture management also has its differences from other cloud security solutions, the following in particular: Cloud Workload Protection Platform (CWPP), Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB), and Cloud Infrastructure Security Posture Assessment (CISPA).
As the name suggests, CWPP focuses on workload protection. It provides a unified approach to defending workloads across different cloud providers using cybersecurity technologies such as malware protection, vulnerability management, and app security. CSPM is different as it provides protection on a general level, securing the entire cloud environment using more sophisticated tools including automation, guided remediation, and artificial intelligence.
Just like CWPPs, CASBs are security solutions designed for a narrower purpose. They serve as security enforcement points installed between the cloud service provider and its customers. Their main function is the regulation of traffic, seeing to it that security policies are complied with before any access is allowed. CASBs may come with firewalls, malware detectors, data loss prevention functions, and authentication mechanisms. Again, CSPM has a broader scope of protection compared to CASBs. Not only does it detect threats in traffic, but it also conducts continuous security compliance monitoring across the entire cloud environment.
On the other hand, CISPA can be considered an antecedent of CSPM. It is regarded as the older version of cloud security posture management back when it was limited to reporting functions. CISPA focused on generating reports reflecting the effectiveness of a security management automation solution in addressing misconfigurations.
Cloud security posture management has similarities with conventional enterprise cybersecurity solutions. Its difference from conventional enterprise cybersecurity solutions may not be that obvious especially with the similar terms and security technologies employed. However, specialized cloud-targeted protection does exist.
For enterprises that are considering CSPM solutions, it would be necessary to carefully evaluate their options. Many security providers offer cloud-centric protection but only in name. Many are unable to deliver the appropriate and efficient protection that enterprises need for their multi-cloud infrastructure. It is crucial to examine the track record of CSPM providers to ascertain that their solutions work—reliably and efficiently.