What is Cloud Security Posture Management?

Definition

The integration of public cloud infrastructure is not uncommon for organizations, but misconfigurations are common and lead to severe data breaches. Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) oversees cloud resources to alert administrators of misconfigurations and possible vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers. Cloud platforms are generally very secure, but administrators who underestimate threats and ignore proper configurations have been the reason for many of the biggest cloud data breaches. CSPM is the strategy and software used to ensure that cloud resources are audited, organized, properly configured, maintained, secured, and follow compliance standards.

Identity, Security, and Compliance

Businesses that need to follow regulatory standards must choose a cloud solution that adheres to guidelines or face hefty fines for violations. This can often be a question mark for administrators unfamiliar with the way cloud hosts operate. Compliance can be achieved while off-boarding IT resources to a cloud infrastructure given proper configuration and the right tools to control identity management, security of stored data, auditing, and monitoring.

Identity management is at the very core of compliance and data security, offering access controls configured to allow users to retrieve data. In addition to giving users permissions, the organization must audit and monitor access requests. This requirement is often a part of any compliance standard, and most cloud providers have these solutions that can be integrated directly with internal identity management.

Audit controls identify who requested access, but monitoring is also a part of compliance. Monitoring solutions identify suspicious access requests that could indicate that the network is compromised. It could also notify administrators that access controls are misconfigured.

Most cloud providers indicate that their infrastructure follows compliance regulations. It’s the responsibility of the business to find a compliant cloud provider before they transfer data. Many of the IT requirements laid out by compliance regulations involve CSPM strategies that protect data and monitor for a compromise.

Monitoring and Analytics

An on-premise internal network should have monitoring and analytics, but public cloud infrastructure has a bigger attack surface, and the possibility of misconfigurations are much higher. This means more attention should be paid to monitoring tools and analytics that help administrators better understand the way infrastructure is used and the access requests made to each resource.

Any large, well-known cloud provider has advanced monitoring tools that even include artificial intelligence to detect suspicious traffic patterns. If an administrator misconfigures access to a specific digital resource, monitoring tools can uncover the issue. For instance, suppose a resource has only a few users assigned access. If multiple access requests happen during off-peak hours, monitoring tools will detect unusual behavior and alert administrators.

Monitoring and analytics work together to educate administrators on the way cloud resources are used. Analytic reports display peak hours of use, bandwidth usage, what resources are used and not used, and which resources cost the organization the most money to continue using.

Inventory and Classification

Large enterprise networks can have thousands of devices across several geolocations. Inventory management informs businesses of the network infrastructure and whether or not the devices are updated and approved. Inventory auditing and classification of infrastructure give administrators a full overview of attached network devices and their importance.

Classification of components is essential because it enables IT staff to identify their importance, which informs how to prioritize cybersecurity features and recovery should a group of them fail. For instance, the main production database server is probably more critical and should be recovered more quickly after a disaster than a backup reporting server.

Cost Management and Resource Organization

For larger organizations, resource usage can get out of control if it isn’t organized. If IT retires a server, the server can be deprovisioned in the cloud, saving the company money on IT resources. If an organization only has a few assets, it’s easier to keep track of where budget money is allocated. When it’s hundreds of cloud resources provisioned across different departments, assets are forgotten and cost the organization potentially thousands in wasted infrastructure.

Oftentimes, resources are not only forgotten, but they are also left unmaintained, which is a crucial mistake for cybersecurity. This could lead to unforeseen cybersecurity vulnerabilities from unpatched systems and deprecated software. These unmaintained resources should be organized in a way that keeps them from becoming the source of a critical corporate compromise.

CSPM works to organize resources better so that no infrastructure goes unpatched, whether it’s router firmware or an operating system update on a critical server. This could be in the form of tools that perform asset tracking management or strategies that help IT staff audit resources. Cloud providers have reporting features that make it easier to track assets so that they are not forgotten and unmaintained.

Misconfiguration Detection

Misconfiguration detection is probably the most important component of CSPM. Gartner estimates that 90% of organizations that fail to configure cloud resources properly will expose sensitive data to the public, and 99% of data breaches will be the fault of the cloud customer due to misconfigurations. Since cloud computing became a popular option for corporations, some of the biggest data breaches have been cloud storage misconfigurations on Amazon Web Services (AWS).

IT staff who set up cloud resources also need a strategy for the way they are maintained, configured, and provisioned. CSPM provides guidelines on the way resources should be secured and monitored. Compliance standards also give administrators guidelines to secure cloud resources, but CSPM offers monitoring services that detect if any resources are misconfigured and could disclose sensitive data before attackers find the data.

Searching for a CSPM Solution

Knowing these categories is essential in a CSPM solution, it can be difficult for organizations to find the right application that can fully support corporate resources. Most organizations need a solution that can scale as they provision additional cloud resources even if the corporation is small when they first set up their cloud provider account.

The following list can help organizations find the right solution:

  • Strategies and solutions should be easy to set up and integrate into existing cloud resources. Solutions and strategies should be flexible enough to fit into currently provisioned resources without sacrificing performance or security, including any future resources that will be added.
  • Applications can be updated across all cloud assets. It’s the responsibility of the cloud provider’s customer to ensure that applications are updated regularly. The cloud provider maintains the hardware, but any customer-installed software must be updated. Some organizations choose to work with a Managed Service Provider (MSP) to keep up with updates and patches.
  • Scalability is critical for growing organizations. If a CSPM solution is customized for a few resources without the ability to scale across all infrastructure, it can lead to disorganization and lost assets. Cloud providers segment resources by geolocation, so solutions must also scale across the globe.
  • Understand that cloud security must support resources on the internet and differs from local on-premise support. On a local network, internal resources are generally cut off from the public internet. With cloud resources, they are inherently available to the public internet unless configured differently. Cloud resources must consistently be monitored for misconfigurations.

Configurations are the responsibility of corporate administrators. Administrators must understand that proper configuration is not the cloud provider's responsibility. An MSP can help properly configure all cloud resources, including monitoring applications, to help administrators detect issues.