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What Is Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM)?

Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) Definition

Cloud security posture management (CSPM) is an automated process that enables organizations to protect their cloud infrastructure and mitigate cloud-based threats.

CSPM allows organizations to identify and automatically fix security issues and threats across their cloud infrastructure, including solutions such as Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). It is used for tasks like compliance monitoring, DevOps integration, incident response, and risk assessment and visualization. CSPM can also be used to apply best practices to organizations’ cloud security across their hybrid, multi-cloud, and container infrastructures and environments.

How Does CSPM Work?

CSPM provides organizations with better visibility of their cloud environments and enhances their management and detection of risks and threats. It detects issues such as a lack of encryption, improper management of encryption keys, and additional account permissions. 

CSPM works through the following approaches:

  1. Discovery and visibility: CSPM offers visibility into cloud assets and configurations. It establishes a single source of truth across all cloud environments, which ensures organizations can automatically discover activity around metadata, misconfigurations, networking, and security changes. It also enables the management of security policies across accounts, projects, regions, and virtual networks via a single console.
  2. Misconfiguration management and remediation: An important role that CSPM plays is to eliminate and remediate cloud security risks. It does this by comparing cloud application configurations against industry and organization benchmarks, which enables violations to be quickly identified and remediated. This helps organizations discover issues—such as misconfigurations, open ports, and unauthorized modifications—that could leave cloud resources exposed and ensures developers are less likely to make costly mistakes. CSPM also monitors data storage locations, ascertains that the appropriate permission levels are in place, and ensures that database instances, which are responsible for backups, encryption, and high availability, are all enabled.
  3. Continuous threat detection: CSPM takes a targeted approach to threat identification and management, which enables organizations to proactively detect potential threats. It focuses on the areas that attackers are most likely to target, which reduces the number of alerts, prioritizes vulnerabilities based on the cloud environment, and prevents vulnerable code from reaching the production stage. CSPM also continuously monitors cloud environments for potentially malicious activity and unauthorized access events through real-time threat detection.
  4. DevSecOps integration: CSPM reduces organizations’ overheads and removes the complexity and friction from managing multi-cloud accounts and providers. It provides a cloud native and agentless posture management process that offers centralized control and visibility across all cloud resources. This gives DevOps and security teams a single pane of glass, enabling them to prevent compromised assets from navigating across their application life-cycles. Organizations can also integrate CSPM with their security information and event management (SIEM) tool, which provides additional insight and greater visibility into policy violations and misconfigurations. Furthermore, integrating DevOps toolsets with CSPM ensures quicker remediation and response.
How Does CSPM Work?

Benefits of CSPM

Locating Misconfigured Network Connectivity

CSPM solutions locate misconfigurations within network connectivity that could lead to a data breach or leak. They do this by comparing cloud networks against organizational benchmarks and best practices, which enables them to immediately spot any errors. These include benchmarks in the market, such as the Center for Internet Security (CIS) Benchmarks. Using these benchmarks as a basis, CSPM can identify misconfigurations in the infrastructure, then alert security teams to the problem and provide a recommended solution.

Assessing Data Risk

CSPM enables organizations to detect potential data risks that could be caused by human error or do not get spotted by their cloud vendor. This could include vulnerabilities caused by developers hurriedly launching a new application or virtual machines that could leave the organization’s network exposed. CSPM proactively identifies and mitigates these data risks in cloud environments.

Detecting Exceedingly Liberal Account Permissions

CSPMs use organizations’ security policies and best practices to continuously monitor for events that see account privileges breached or overstepped. Therefore, if a user accesses a resource that is not permitted in their department or job role, then it will be immediately detected and prevented.

Continuous Monitoring of the Cloud Environment

CSPMs continuously assess and monitor cloud environments to ensure organizations are adhering to their compliance policies. It immediately spots any deviation from these policies, which ensures the error or risk can be automatically corrected and remediated.

Automatically Remedy the Misconfigurations in Some Cases

CSPM solutions send reports and recommended solutions to fix a detected misconfiguration. However, in some cases, they can automatically remedy the misconfiguration, which ensures that any potential vulnerability is immediately patched and the risk of exploitation is removed.

Compliance with Common Standards for Best Practices Such as HIPAA, SOC2, and PIC

CSPM solutions approach the task of identifying cloud security misconfigurations by using a set of benchmarks and best practices. This is ideal for helping organizations comply with increasingly stringent data and privacy regulations, such as the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), System and Organization Controls 2 (SOC2), and the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Regulation.

Reasons To Use CSPM

CSPM enables organizations to identify misconfigurations in their cloud environments. This alone is crucial, given that analyst house Gartner found that 95% of security breaches are caused by misconfigurations and cost nearly $5 trillion in damages between 2018 and 2019.

The cloud has become a vital resource for organizations of all sizes to connect networks, be more efficient, provide dynamic working environments, and enable employees to collaborate wherever they are. This makes cloud environments powerful but difficult to secure from a wide range of threats and cyberattacks. 

As a result, traditional approaches to security are no longer effective for cloud environments. That is because there is no longer a perimeter to protect, they cannot provide the required scale or speed, and they do not offer the level of visibility that organizations need into what is happening on their networks.

On top of this, cloud security can become expensive when it comes to managing the entire cloud infrastructure, which involves containers, Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC), microservices, and serverless functions. These new technologies are being developed faster than enterprises are able to hire skilled security professionals with a sufficient level of expertise and experience. Failing to manage these technologies effectively increases the risk of misconfigurations, which could leave cloud environments open to costly vulnerabilities.

CSPM solutions enable organizations to address these issues by providing enhanced visibility into their entire environment. This is crucial to managing complex, fluidly evolving infrastructures that contain thousands of accounts, networks, and devices, as well as understanding who is accessing what resources and when. Without this insight, vulnerabilities could go undetected for days, weeks, and even years and could only be discovered in the event of a data breach.

CSPM provides continuous monitoring of cloud-based risks, which is vital to detecting and responding to potential threats and attacks and predicting where the next vulnerability may occur.

Improve Cloud Security by Adding CSPM to DevSecOps Processes

CSPM should be a priority for more than just security teams. DevSecOps should also add it to their processes, so security can be an integral element of the software development lifecycle.

For example, an infrastructure as code (IaC) deployment can be vulnerable to misconfigurations. Therefore, by incorporating CSPM into the DevSecOps process while building an IaC solution, DevSecOps teams can use CSPM to check for configurations that could pose issues.

Differences Between CSPM, CASB, and CWPP

While CSPM involves a more general set of tools used to secure cloud environments, CASB and CWPP offer more specific tools aimed at addressing certain needs of security teams.

For example, CASBs are ideal for giving you visibility into how end-users are using SaaS applications, such as Office 365 or Salesforce. CASBs also give you the ability to implement security controls and policies.

In the discussion of CWPP vs CSPM and CASBs, here's what it boils down to: CWPPs are different from CASBs and CSPMs in that their primary function is to control and visualize the workloads of cloud-based systems, such as virtual machines. CWPPs also enable you to apply antivirus protection to cloud infrastructures, as well as perform network segmentation.

Global Market Forecast of CSPM

A market research report published by MarketsandMarkets describes a bright future for CSPM. It’s expected to sprout at a compound annual growth rate of 14.4% between 2020 and 2026. This is most likely due to a dependency on cloud-based  infrastructures because they enable businesses with the agility and scalability they need to remain competitive.

By using CSPMs, an organization can take advantage of the flexibility the company gets from cloud environments without sacrificing security.

3 Key Considerations While Choosing CSPM Provider

Three important considerations when thinking about which CSPM provider you want to choose include whether you can use their solution to track changes to your cloud-based tools, whether they work with the major cloud service providers, and how well they perform when it comes to providing real-time alerts.

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Best Practices of CSPM

There are several best practices that organizations need to follow when implementing CSPM. 

Quantify Risk and Prioritize Security Violations

Security staff can easily become overwhelmed by the huge number of violation alerts across the corporate infrastructure. To avoid this, organizations must quantify the level of risk and only prioritize the most critical security violations. High-priority focuses typically include any violations that affect critical cloud assets.

Consider Cloud-specific Benchmarks

A good best practice is for organizations to monitor their cloud’s security posture based on the cloud-specific benchmarks from CIS. These benchmarks offer more than 100 guidelines around configuration policies aimed at safeguarding systems against the evolving modern cyber landscape. Following these benchmarks is crucial to maintaining security procedures and policies that fit the dynamic nature of cloud infrastructure.

Place Security Checks in Dev Channels

The nature of the cloud means that applications are continuously using and accessing new resources, which makes it difficult to enforce security policies and procedures and quickly discover vulnerabilities. This can leave organizations open to attack from cyber criminals who are constantly on the lookout for gaps in cloud applications and software. Organizations need to implement misconfiguration checks within their dev channels to ensure violations are discovered immediately. They also need to embed remediation steps within the deployment pipeline, which will ensure misconfigurations are corrected upon being discovered.

Learn more about Cloud Data Protection: Secure what you store in the cloud.

How Fortinet Can Help

The Fortinet FortiWeb web application firewall (WAF) protects organizations’ critical web applications from known and unknown vulnerabilities. It evolves in time with organizations’ attack surface to ensure they are constantly protected whenever they deploy or update new features and expose web application programming interfaces (APIs).  

Fortinet cloud security offers advanced features and a multi-layered approach that provides automatic robust protection to web applications and APIs. FortiWeb uses machine learning to identify anomalous behavior, distinguish between malicious and benign threats, and block malicious activity. It can be deployed to protect business applications wherever they are hosted, from hardware appliances and virtual machines to containers in data centers, cloud environments, and SaaS solutions. 

Discover more Fortinet CSPM use cases such as securing Microsoft 365.