What Is Continuous Security Monitoring (CSM)?

5 mins to read

In an age of prolific data breaches and ransomware attacks, cybercrime remains a top business threat, with instances increasing 15% year over year. In fact, cybercrime will cost global companies roughly $10.5 trillion annually by 2025 — up from $3 trillion in 2015.

Security risks are rapidly evolving. As a result, they’re forcing organizations around the world to modernize their defense strategies. And one trend that companies in the cloud are embracing is continuous security monitoring (CSM).

Read on to learn more about how CSM works and how continuous monitoring is playing a central role securing your cloud.

What is continuous security monitoring (CSM)?

CSM is a security approach that involves automating a significant portion of security management. This includes vulnerability detection, monitoring cloud configurations, identities and their entitlements, and data security.

A robust CSM strategy should augment and enhance your detection and remediation capabilities — and provide historical and real time security, monitoring, and reporting across all environments and accounts.

CSM can help overworked and understaffed security teams by reducing manual labor and extending their capabilities. This allows teams to do more with less and be more effective in thwarting dangerous and sophisticated attacks.

Why do businesses need continuous security monitoring?

Businesses today are under constant threat of attack or exploit of basic cloud misconfigurations across an ever-expanding threat surface.

In light of this, companies have little choice but to modernize their defenses, transition away from manual security audits, and build a defense strategy around CSM. Organizations that resist real time monitoring and automation will allow threats to slip between intermittent audits.

With all this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the main reasons businesses need CSM.

Discover Security Risks

CSM provides real-time visibility across your entire cloud environment. With full visibility, security teams can more easily detect, respond to, and eliminate person and non-person threats like excessive permissions, cloud control misconfigurations and unnecessary permissions to sensitive data. In other words, CSM delivers critical insights, like indicators of exploit, that teams can leverage to remediate timely issues.

Ensure Compliance 

Companies today face an ever-growing list of compliance protocols. For example, U.S.-based organizations need to consider state-level regulations like the California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) and the Colorado Privacy Act, and companies that do business in the EU need to heed the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). In addition, there are industry-specific regulations like HIPAA in healthcare and PCI-DSS for companies that process credit cards. The list goes on. CSM helps detect when your cloud has drifted out of compliance, allowing you to avoid penalties and fines. 

Non-Stop Protection

For CSM to be effective, it needs to operate 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. Just as the name implies, continuous security monitoring should take place around the clock, including non-working hours, weekends, and holidays. This is a perfect example of technology offering a new scale of protection in a way manual labor could not.

What types of security risks can continuous monitoring identify? 

CSM provides broad coverage and risk management across a range of categories while protecting businesses from a variety of emerging threats. In this section, we’ll examine what some of those threats are.

Excessive Permissions

Person and non-person identities — like functions and service roles — can start with minimal privileges and quietly gather more over time. When this happens, these identities become sitting ducks, or the perfect target to compromise and allow for other risks like privilege escalation.

If the right identity with unnecessary privileges is compromised by a bad-actor, that criminal can essentially do whatever they want in your environment. A CSM solution helps keep a tight watch on identity effective permissions and alerts you when certain identities move away from least privilege.

Toxic Combinations

A toxic combination arises when the sum of an identity’s permissions enables it to perform actions that are far greater than the intended purpose. A classic example of this is a new user within an organization; they start at a company, are provisioned with a rigid set of permissions, and over time, they are granted more permissions with the sum of those permissions being far more than they require to do their job. It can be difficult to detect toxic combinations, especially in large organizations with thousands of identities. This is where the right solution with CSM steps in to make you aware.

Workload Vulnerabilities

Criminals are always looking for vulnerabilities to exploit. In the cloud, a frequent target are workloads, like running an EC2 instance or an Azure VM. Once again, continuous security monitoring helps here, too, and is actually critical. Workloads run briefly because of the speed and scale the cloud has provided. You need continuous monitoring to ensure no matter how briefly your workload is spun up, that vulnerabilities are detected to prevent bad-actors from gaining an entryway into your environment.

Compromised Credentials

Sharing credentials, having weak passwords or more nefarious tactics can often lead to credential compromise. When this happens, unauthorized users can gain access to private resources or act upon the privileges they have in the environment. CSM would help detect this unusual identity behavior and alert you of anomalous actions or access. This might be what helps you stop a breach before it happens.

Data Breach

Businesses often struggle to track data across multiple cloud environments. Without real-time visibility into data movement, it can be easy to lose track of data or miss a data leak. With continuous security monitoring, and the right solution in place, you can actually track all data movement and detect if it’s moved somewhere it shouldn’t be.

How to implement continuous security monitoring 

The best way to implement continuous cybersecurity monitoring is to invest in a cloud security platform that can view and analyze all of your cloud environments from a single pane of glass. As you begin your search for one integrated solution, here are some must-have capabilities:

Inventory Identities

The platform should inventory all person and non-person identities, and continue to do so to ensure that list is updated in real-time. Inventorying identities sheds light on potential risks like dormant identities or an over-permissioned identity. This is a foundational step allowing your business to work towards least privilege and stay there with continuous monitoring.

Lock Down Crown Jewel Data

Whether your data is stored in an S3 bucket, Azure Blob, or Google Cloud Storage, you want to know what your data is, how it relates to business continuity, who can access it, and if they’re accessing it – in other words, classify it. Having an around the clock idea of where your data is and who can access it will ensure you don’t let your most valuable resource fall into the wrong hands.

Automate Remediation

Automate where you can to make sure action is taken swiftly if issues are detected. This includes things like intelligent workflows, which communicate security alerts directly to the team responsible. Additionally, automating remediation to intervene when manual efforts aren’t possible or timely enough. This can expedite resolution and allow security teams to focus on other priorities.

Misconfiguration Detection

Many businesses have flagrant controls or default settings in their cloud that put them at serious risk. Having a solution in place with CSM capabilities can help catch misconfigurations like a lack of encryption of sensitive data, or public-facing data. This is possible through setting a secure baseline or policy in your environment and monitoring against it to detect deviations.

Achieve continuous security monitoring with Sonrai Dig

Sonrai leverages continuous monitoring across its platform, touching upon the many solutions included in Dig. Whether you need identity entitlement management, data protection, cloud security posture management or workload security, Dig provides continuous protection around the clock.

To see Sonrai Dig in action, try a free demo today.