What Is Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM)?

5 mins to read

The rapid scalability of the cloud alongside improving cost efficiency, global accessibility, and unbeatable performance are just some benefits that have fueled its rapid adoption. However, cloud security remains front and center when it comes to challenges organizations must overcome when moving from on-site resources to a completely new model of infrastructure. Cloud Security Posture Management, or CSPM, is a collective group of cloud security tools and technologies that help reduce the risks associated with adopting the cloud for organizations of all sizes, but especially for large enterprises that may find many gaps in their complex databases. Here’s what you need to know about CSPM and how it can benefit your business.

What Is CSPM and Who Needs It?

The concept of being “cloud-native” remains in its infancy, but it’s becoming increasingly popular for companies who wish to enjoy all the aforementioned benefits of cloud technology, like improved speed, agility, performance and reduced costs. With that said, cloud is far from a risk-free solution, and for security in particular, navigating this new realm can be daunting.

Misconfiguration and vulnerabilities, for example, can open an organization’s cloud infrastructure up to cyberattacks. Furthermore, the Shared Responsibility Model explicitly states that your users, applications and data are your organization’s responsibility to secure. That’s why the tools of Cloud Security Posture Management can be a major asset for discovering issues, exceeding compliance standards and building cloud defenses. 

To put it simply, CSPM assists organizations in discovering vulnerabilities, misconfigurations and other issues that can lead to weaknesses in cloud security. It also gives organizations the tools they need to patch problems before a cyberattacker can take advantage of them. 

The Benefits of CSPM Tools

Aside from helping organizations discover vulnerabilities, CSPM offers a handful of advantages to businesses who are moving to or expanding on the cloud, like:

Risk Assessment: Using CSPM tools, your organization can assess just how secure your networks are in advance of issues and gain visibility into areas of concern, like policies that give users too many permissions. 

Continuous Monitoring: Since the CSPM toolset runs continuously, rather than being a sort of one-time setup analysis, they offer continuous monitoring of the cloud environment, helping to flag policy violations and other concerns in real-time.

Compliance Assistance: Being compliant with many regulations requires you to set up cloud monitoring, including HIPAA laws. CSPM can also help your organization stay ahead of internal governance requirements, like ISO 27001. 

Recommendations: Beyond identifying problems, many CSPM tools will give you insights and recommendations to help you take action and fix issues, without the need to bring in more tools and vendors. 

As you can see, the right CSPM tool suite can prove extremely beneficial for your company–not just as you move to the cloud, but as you maintain and expand upon your cloud infrastructure in the future.

Misconfiguration Errors in the Cloud

Misconfiguring cloud infrastructure differs from traditional misconfigurations, where we often expect the result to be a non-working product. In the cloud, misconfiguration can happen in many forms, and your cloud environment will probably be entirely usable. Rather, misconfigurations refer to oversights in security and network protocols that can put your organization at a greater risk of data breaches and exploitations. Here are some common examples of misconfiguration in the cloud. 

Storage Setup

If you’re setting up a cloud environment, properly configuring storage should be a top concern no matter which platform you’re working with. 

For example, if you’re using Azure, the default setting gives access from anywhere, which is a major security flaw if left as-is. On Amazon Web Services (AWS), many users assume that “authenticated users” means those with explicit permissions, but it actually includes all AWS users, anywhere around the globe. 

These examples should showcase how easy it is to make an incorrect assumption or skim over a setting that looks okay when taken at face value. To avoid misconfigurations, it’s important that you understand the terminology of the platform you’re using and the established best practices, but CSPM tools can also help you identify these common errors and avoid them.

Credential and Key Management

In the cloud, credentials represent more than administrative passwords. You’ll deal with many credentials when setting up a cloud environment, including API keys and encryption keys. Some of the common errors associated with credentials configuration include failure to use server-side encryption for secret keys or not rotating keys like you’re supposed to (i.e., every 90 days).

In many cases, cloud providers offer management systems for credentials, but avoiding vulnerabilities in this area requires an organization to both use these systems and to ensure they’re following all best practices associated with key management, passwords and other security fundamentals.

Identity and Access Management (IAM)

Identify and Access Management, or IAM, is a fundamental part of cloud configuration, but one of the most overlooked aspects of security—especially for organizations who migrate from legacy systems. As such, CSPM tools are programmed to look for a myriad of mistakes that are often made when setting up permissive access to hosts, containers, applications, and other resources in the cloud.

Most times, organizations have migrated to cloud hosts and left legacy ports and protocols enabled, but often without reason. FTP and Telnet, for instance, can open a big backdoor for hackers and put your cloud environment at risk, which is why a second set of eyes—like that of a CSPM tool—can be a lifesaver in a cloud setup.

In a more general sense, organizations often fail to consider password best practices, multi-factor authentication, role-based access and the principle of least privilege (POLP). Not only can CSPM tools remind you of these settings, but they can make recommendations for utilizing them in a manner that’s actionable and appropriate.

Best Practices in Cloud Security Posture Management

Cloud technology, and security tools associated with it, have come a long way in the last decade. Traditionally, CSPM centered on compliance, whereas today’s tools go deeper into cloud infrastructure to offer organizations more than benchmarks, but a holistic view. These tools seek to be proactive by identifying vulnerabilities and making recommendations for handling them. Still, some tools have come farther than others. 

When picking a CSPM tool, here are three primary aspects to consider:

Leverage The Power of Automation

Manually handling CSPM is simply impossible, especially for large organizations. Cloud environments are dynamic, and that’s one thing that makes them so powerful, but that requires dynamic tools. The power of automation is the only way to handle the agility and endlessly scalability of cloud infrastructure in a secure manner, so seek a CSPM tool that can bring new assets and proactive risk discovery and mitigation to your organization. 

Seek Out Continuous Monitoring & Visibility

A holistic view of your “cloud sprawl” is incredibly valuable, and achieving that transparency is a crucial step in having a secure cloud environment. Aside from being able to see all of your assets, CSPM tools that introduce visibility will show you how these assets interact, highlighting paths and dependencies and any vulnerabilities that attackers may find in them. 

Look for Context Instead of Clutter

The noise that comes along with many of the traditional cloud security tools distracts from what’s important, including alerts that need to be addressed in a timely manner. The right CSPM might give you a dozen alerts, but they’ll be weighted accordingly and each one will have a clear path for remedying them so that you can take action instead of becoming overwhelmed.

Introduce CSPM Tools to Your Cloud Infrastructure

Is your organization looking to secure its cloud infrastructure and make use of proactive scanning and management? The right CSPM tool can provide your organization with all the tools and support it needs to scale securely, the key is making an informed decision.

Ready to see for yourself how CSPM can support your cloud environment? Start now!