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CSPM: How it Works and 11 Ways to Evaluate CSPM Solutions

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What Is Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM)?

Cloud native applications are increasingly adopted by organizations looking to get the most out of the cloud, including agility, cost savings, and performance. However, the cloud introduced new risks, including misconfiguration and vulnerabilities that can expose applications to cyber attacks.

Cloud providers use a shared responsibility model, in which the cloud provider protects infrastructure, while cloud customers are responsible for protecting workloads, users, applications, and data. Cloud security posture management (CSPM) solutions can help organizations do their part of the shared responsibility equation. CSPM can help detect misconfigurations and vulnerabilities, and remediate them to prevent exposure to attack.

In practical terms, CSPM enables organizations to uncover security issues and policy violations, fix and patch cloud services before cyberattacks occur. It can be used for applications running in any cloud deployment model—Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS). Note that a specialized security solution has evolved for SaaS applications, known as SaaS security posture management (SSPM).

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Reducing SaaS Applications Risk

  • What are the key risks surrounding SaaS application
  • How to minimize the security risks associated with SaaS applications and vendors
  • How SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM) can help reduce SaaS risk

Why Is CSPM Important?

CSPM platforms provide the visibility needed to monitor cloud environments that are constantly changing. It helps identify gaps between your actual security posture and stated security policies. CSPM platforms aim to reduce the amount and scope of cloud security incidents occurring due to misconfigurations.

A CSPM platform can help you monitor policy violations across multiple cloud environments. You can use prebuilt compliance libraries listing common best practices and standards, such as PCI DSS, HIPAA, NIST 800-53, SOC 2, and CIS Foundations Benchmarks. Some CSPM platforms also offer automated capabilities for remediating misconfigurations.

Here are common policy violations CSPM platforms typically address:

  • Lack of encryption—CSPM platforms can identify data storage, databases, and application traffic not protected by encryption. Monitoring this violation can help ensure sensitive data remains protected.
  • Improper encryption key management—CSPM platforms can help ensure your encryption keys are properly managed. For example, the platform can let you know if the system is not rotating keys regularly.
  • Permissions violations—you can define thresholds for permissions, and the CSPM platform can alert you when it detects accounts with too many permissions.
  • Authentication—you can define which critical system accounts require multi-factor authentication, and the CSPM platform will alert you if any of these systems operate without this mechanism.
  • Misconfigured network connectivity—CSPM platforms can alert you when a network connectivity component is misconfigured. For example, it can identify resources accessible directly from the Internet or data stores exposed directly to the public Internet.

You can leverage these CSPM capabilities to identify and remediate cloud risks during development phases as well as for production environments.

Some of the more severe security issues in cloud environments are found in SaaS applications. Read more in our guide to SaaS security

The CSPM Process

Each CSPM solution implements a different process. However, the majority include the following basic steps:

1. Define CSPM requirements

The first step involves defining the security risks you want to identify and manage. CSPM platforms usually offer various pre-configured rules to detect common security misconfigurations. However, you may need to add custom definitions for your workloads and the security rules required to achieve compliance.

2. Continuously scan cloud environments

CSPM platforms use predefined rules to scan your cloud environments continuously and analyze configurations to detect risks. Once an existing configuration file changes or a new one is introduced, the platform parses it to detect risks.

3. Assess risk severity

Once the CSPM platform detects a risk, it assesses its severity and prioritizes it. This functionality aims to help you effectively handle risks.

4. Remediate risks

Remediating risks is the last step in the CSPM process. It involves updating the configuration that triggered these risks. Usually, IT engineers or administrators handle this task. However, some CSPM platforms offer automated risk remediation for specific risks.

11 Considerations for Evaluating CSPM Vendors

Most cloud providers offer compliance management and threat detection tools and services that only work with vendor-specific infrastructure. These offerings are less useful for hybrid or multi-cloud infrastructure because they cannot provide the end-to-end control and visibility you need to manage your overall cloud security posture.

For this reason, you should use a CSPM platform that integrates well with your cloud native tools and aggregates the outputs from different products in a centralized, single source of truth for assessing your security posture.

When selecting a cloud security posture management tool, evaluate the vendors based on whether they provide the following capabilities:

  1. Granular, real-time visibility—view all the information about your infrastructure and assets collected in real time, aggregated from different monitoring streams, and displayed via a centralized platform. This information provides audit trail and data flow insights.
  2. Remediation capabilities—providing guidance and best practices about configuration errors directly within the CSPM application, preferably enabling one click remediation.
  3. Context-based visualizations—view enriched information about all the resources connected to the network, covering their context and the relationships between them and automatically classifying high-risk resources. Visually track user actions and traffic flows to maintain situation awareness and enable more effective detection, investigation, and reparation of misconfigurations.
  4. Continuous asset discovery—automate the real-time discovery of assets across all environments, providing visibility into high-risk assets that process or store sensitive data.
  5. IaC impact evaluation—assess how infrastructure-as-code repositories affect your security posture to prevent deployed instances propagating IaC template vulnerabilities.
  6. Compliance support—ensure up-to-date support for various regulatory frameworks like GDPR, HIPAA, SOX, and PCI. Implement CIS controls and benchmarks to maintain compliance.
  7. Continuous compliance—incorporate compliance into the highly iterative CI/CD pipeline to keep up with your fast timelines and the elastic infrastructure of your public cloud products.
  8. Frequent, comprehensive scanning—manage your cloud native security posture with near real-time scanning of all assets across different environments.
  9. Real-time security alerts—proactively protect your network with detected breach and policy violation alerts. Timely alerts are crucial for preventing and mitigating threats and enabling the automatic remediation of misconfiguration issues.
  10. Flexibility—adjust the CSPM according to your organization’s specific needs or integrate with your existing architectures, processes, and policies. Create rules easily using simple, expressive code.
  11. Dynamic governance interpretation—translate policy requirements into simple, easily executed rules that you can automate consistently throughout your infrastructure while minimizing errors.
  12. Audit preparedness—ensure you are always ready for an audit with customizable, easy-to-understand reports.

Cynet SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM)

SSPM ensures that SaaS applications are properly configured to protect them from compromise. Cynet provides a leading SSPM solution that continuously monitors SaaS applications to identify gaps between stated security policies and actual security posture, letting you automatically find and fix security risks in SaaS assets, and automatically prioritize risks and misconfigurations by severity.

Cynet SSPM provides:

  • Automatic discovery and tracking of SaaS risks – tracks security posture across all SaaS platforms, prioritized by risk category, tracked over time directly from the Cynet dashboard.
  • Automatic analysis and fix in one click – drills down to provide details and insights about every identified risk, recommends remediation actions, and applies them automatically.
  • Compliance support—automatically compares configuration settings with regulatory frameworks like GDPR, HIPAA, SOX, and PCI and provides the specific settings recommended for each framework.

Contact us to learn more about Cynet SSPM

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