CSPM Definition

Many organizations rely on public cloud infrastructure to run their organizations. But if too much of an organization’s cloud environment is misconfigured or mismanaged, the result can lead to costly and damaging data breaches.

That’s where cloud security posture management (CSPM) can help. CSPM is a critical component in cloud security, designed to safeguard cloud environments from potential threats. At its core, CSPM focuses on identifying and addressing security risks, misconfigurations, and compliance violations in cloud environments.

 

 

CSPM tools provide organizations with visibility into their cloud infrastructure, enabling them to continuously monitor and manage the security posture of their cloud resources. It alerts IT teams of misconfigurations and reveals vulnerabilities that attackers could exploit.

Cloud platforms are generally very secure. But IT teams may misjudge potential threats. Some may simply neglect to properly configure their cloud-based resources. Faulty configurations have caused some of the biggest cloud data breaches to date.

CSPM ensures that cloud resources are:

  • Audited
  • Organized
  • Properly configured
  • Maintained
  • Secured
  • Compliant with laws and legal guidelines

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How Does CSPM Work?

CSPM keeps tabs on any misconfigurations or inappropriate settings that could put your organization in danger of security issues. Here’s an overview of how CSPM works:

  • Visibility: CSPM tools provide a comprehensive view of an organization’s cloud resources, including virtual machines, storage, networks, and applications across multiple cloud platforms and services.
  • Continuous monitoring: CSPM solutions are tailored to continuously monitor cloud environments for misconfigurations, security risks, and compliance violations, enabling organizations to detect and address issues in real-time.
  • Automated remediation: Today’s advancements in CSPM allow organizations to automatically identify and remediate misconfigurations and compliance violations, reducing the risk of security incidents and helping them maintain a secure and compliant cloud environment.
  • Policy enforcement: CSPM allows organizations to define and enforce security policies based on industry standards, best practices, and regulatory requirements, ensuring their cloud resources are configured securely and consistently.
  • Compliance management: CSPM tools help organizations meet compliance requirements by providing automated compliance assessments, reporting, and remediation capabilities.
  • Integration with existing tools: CSPM solutions can integrate with existing security tools and workflows, enabling organizations to streamline their security operations and improve their overall security posture.

The role of CSPM is more than just a one-time solution. Real-time surveillance of your cloud atmosphere is available through CSPM solutions, so your team can be prepped for any upcoming risks. In a world where businesses rely on complex multi-cloud architectures, CSPM is the unsung hero of cybersecurity. It ensures your cloud environment remains safe and protected so teams can focus on more important business matters.

Why Is CSPM Important?

In today’s digital landscape, most businesses rely heavily on the cloud. CSPM tools provide a bird’s-eye view of cloud environments to spot vulnerabilities and misconfigurations that could lead to cyber disasters. Without CSPM, it’s like leaving your front door wide open for hackers to waltz right in.

According to Gartner, by 2025, 99% of cloud security failures will be the customer’s fault. That’s why a solid CSPM solution is a must-have for any cloud-dependent business.

  • Maintaining Compliance: With GDPR and HIPAA breathing down your neck, CSPM keeps you on the right side of the law.
  • Reducing Attack Surface: CSPM scans your cloud infrastructure, catching cybersecurity risks before they become vulnerabilities.
  • Minimizing Data Breaches: CSPM tools continuously monitor for misconfigurations and compliance violations. Based on a Gartner study, CSPM can reduce cloud-based security incidents due to misconfigurations by 80%.
  • Simplifying Security Operations: CSPM makes managing multiple clouds a breeze, giving you a unified view of all your assets.
  • Scalability: CSPM tools can scale to meet the needs of growing organizations, supporting large and complex cloud environments.

Having a solid CSPM strategy is like having a powerful defense mechanism on your side. It defends against threats, aligns you with best practices, and boosts your overall cybersecurity posture.

Key Benefits of CSPM

The importance of cloud security posture management (CSPM) cannot be overstated. It plays a crucial role in protecting complex cloud environments and ensuring that sensitive data stored on the cloud is secure from malicious activity.

Pinpoint Misconfigured Network Connectivity

CSPM tools are designed to identify misconfigurations within your network connectivity in real-time. These could include improperly configured security groups or AWS. By identifying these issues early, you can prevent unauthorized access to your cloud resources, which could lead to data breaches or leaks.

Evaluate Data Risk

The ability to evaluate data risk is another significant benefit of CSPM. Cloud services often house critical business information—any compromise could lead to severe repercussions for businesses. A robust CSPM solution helps organizations identify potential risks and vulnerabilities within their cloud infrastructure, thereby safeguarding their sensitive data.

Identify Account Permissions

In many instances, users are granted more permissions than necessary, posing significant security risks if left unchecked. With CSPM solutions, such overly liberal account permissions can be detected promptly and rectified before they become an issue.

Continuous Monitoring of the Cloud Environment

The dynamic nature of cloud environments makes them powerful but also challenging when maintaining optimal security posture. Continuous monitoring through CSPM offers insights into configuration changes or user behavior patterns indicating a potential threat. This proactive approach enables IT teams and cybersecurity professionals to respond swiftly should there be signs of suspicious activities.

Automate Misconfiguration Remediation

Beyond detecting problems, some advanced CSPMs provide automatic remediation capabilities for common configuration errors across SaaS applications and container environments. This feature significantly reduces time-to-fix while enhancing overall system integrity. For instance, offering unified cloud workload protection ensures seamless detection and resolution without disrupting business operations. This automation improves efficiency and minimizes human error associated with manual corrections.

Compliance with Common Standards

Besides mitigating threats, compliance monitoring is integral to most enterprises’ cyber defense strategies. A well-rounded CSPM tool assists companies in adhering to regulatory standards like GDPR, HIPAA, etc., thus reducing legal complications and penalties associated with non-compliance. This capability has added significance given the increasing scrutiny of how organizations handle customer data, especially those operating in cross-border markets.

Implementing effective CSPM proves beneficial beyond technical aspects as it builds trust among stakeholders, including customers, partners, and investors alike. For instance, companies using AWS have specific guidelines to follow regarding using and storing personal information; failing to comply may result in heavy fines. Therefore, investing in quality CSPM software is vital to securing a company’s future success and growth amidst the evolving digital landscape.

Reasons Organizations Use CSPM

Organizations of all sizes and industries that use cloud environments can benefit from CSPM solutions. Such tools can help organizations improve their cloud security posture, reduce the risk of data breaches, and maintain compliance with various regulations and industry standards. In brief, here are some characteristics of organizations that can benefit from CSPM:

  • Critical workloads: Organizations that have critical workloads running in the cloud, such as financial institutions or healthcare providers, depend on CSPM to ensure that their cloud environments are secure and compliant.
  • Highly regulated industries: Organizations in highly regulated industries, such as finance, healthcare, or government, rely on CSPM solutions to help them meet compliance requirements and maintain a secure cloud environment.
  • Multiple cloud services accounts: Organizations that use multiple cloud platforms and services can benefit from CSPM solutions to gain visibility and control over their entire cloud infrastructure.
  • Limited security resources: Organizations with limited security resources rely on CSPM solutions that automate identifying and remedying security risks and compliance violations, reducing the manual effort required to maintain a secure and compliant cloud environment.

Identity, Security, and Compliance

Regulated businesses need to follow industry rules and meet compliance standards. That means they must choose a cloud solution that adheres to such guidelines. Not doing so can lead to hefty fines or violations.

Off-boarding IT resources to a cloud infrastructure can be done in a compliant manner. Doing so requires proper configuration. Beyond that, the cloud platform must integrate with the proper identity management, data security, auditing, and monitoring tools. This may be challenging for IT and security teams unfamiliar with how cloud hosts work.

At the very core of compliance and data security is identity management. This staple is critical to giving users the necessary access to do their jobs without putting data at risk. Beyond managing access, the organization must audit and monitor data activity, a requirement of every modern compliance standard. Most cloud providers have tools that integrate directly with the identity management controls organizations already use.

Audit controls can reveal who requested access. But watching what those users do is also a part of compliance. Monitoring tools can spot risky access requests that are often signs of network and account compromise. They can also notify administrators that access controls are poorly configured.

Most cloud providers say that their offerings are compliant. But it’s the organization’s responsibility to ensure this is the case before they transfer data. Many IT requirements imposed by compliance regulations involve CSPM strategies to protect data and monitor for compromise.

Monitoring and Analytics

Any on-premises internal network should have monitoring and analytics. But public cloud infrastructure has an even bigger attack surface, leading to a higher chance of misconfigurations. That’s why organizations must pay more attention to monitoring tools and analytics. These tools can help IT and security teams better understand how infrastructure is used and the access requests made to each resource.

Most big-name cloud providers offer advanced monitoring tools. Many even include artificial intelligence (AI) to detect suspicious traffic patterns. If an IT team misconfigures access to a digital resource, monitoring tools can uncover the issue.

Suppose a resource assigns access to only a few users. If numerous access requests suddenly occur during off-peak hours, monitoring tools can detect this behavior and alert IT or the security team.

Monitoring and analytics work together to inform IT teams how cloud resources are used. Analytic reports display:

  • Peak hours of use.
  • Bandwidth usage.
  • What resources are used and not used.
  • Which resources cost the organization the most money to continue using.

Inventory and Classification

Large enterprise networks can have thousands of devices across several geographies. Inventory management tools map out the network infrastructure and identify updated and approved connected devices. Inventory auditing and infrastructure classification provide IT and security teams with a complete overview. They can see attached network devices as well as their importance.

Classifying components is also essential. This step enables IT staff to prioritize what to protect—or recover should something go wrong. For instance, the central production database server is probably more critical than a backup reporting server.

Cost Management and Resource Organization

Resource usage can get out of control for larger organizations if it isn’t well-tracked and managed. If IT retires a server, it can be deprovisioned in the cloud, saving the company money on IT resources.

If an organization only has a few assets, keeping track of where budget money is allocated is easy. But when hundreds of cloud resources are provisioned across different departments, old assets may be forgotten and neglected.

These “zombie” resources can cost upwards of thousands of dollars in wasted infrastructure. Worse, they can create cybersecurity issues from unpatched systems and deprecated software. These 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 asset-tracking management tools or strategies that help IT staff audit resources. Cloud providers have reporting features that make tracking assets easier so they are not forgotten and unmaintained.

Differences Between CSPM, CASB, and CWPP

CSPM (Cloud Security Posture Management), CASB (Cloud Access Security Broker), and CWPP (Cloud Workload Protection Platform) are all cloud security solutions that address different aspects of cloud security. Here are the key differences between CSPM, CASB, and CWPP:

CSPM (Cloud Security Posture Management)

  • Focuses on identifying misconfigurations and compliance violations in cloud infrastructure.
  • Provides continuous monitoring of cloud environments to detect and remediate security risks and compliance violations.
  • Helps organizations maintain a secure and compliant cloud environment by automating security and compliance processes.
  • CSPM solutions are designed to protect workloads from the outside by assessing secure configurations and compliance risks in the cloud.

 

CASB (Cloud Access Security Broker)

  • Focuses on securing cloud services by enforcing security policies and providing visibility into cloud usage.
  • Acts as a security gateway between an organization’s on-premises infrastructure and cloud services.
  • Provides visibility into cloud usage and enforces security policies to ensure users’ actions are compliant and authorized.
  • Helps organizations maintain control over their cloud services and reduce the risk of data breaches.

 

CWPP (Cloud Workload Protection Platform)

  • Focuses on protecting workloads running in the cloud, such as servers, virtual machines, containers, and serverless functions.
  • Scans cloud infrastructure for improperly configured security settings or environments that violate corporate security policies or regulatory compliance requirements.
  • Helps organizations identify vulnerabilities earlier in the CI/CD process and provides faster detection of exploits and active threats.
  • CWPP solutions are designed to protect workloads from the inside by securing the operating system, applications, and data.

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 these data breaches will be the fault of the cloud customer due to poorly managed or configured resources. Since the rise of cloud computing, some of the most significant data breaches have been cloud storage misconfigurations on Amazon Web Services (AWS).

CSPM tools are designed to automatically detect and remediate a broad spectrum of misconfigurations in cloud environments. The specific misconfigurations that can be remediated depend on the CSPM solution and the cloud services used. However, some common types of misconfigurations that CSPM tools can automatically detect and remediate include:

  • Insecure access controls: Identify and fix overly permissive access controls, such as open security groups or public storage buckets, to ensure that only authorized users and services can access sensitive resources.
  • Non-compliant configurations: Detect and remediate configurations that do not adhere to industry standards and best practices, such as the Center for Internet Security (CIS) benchmarks or the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) guidelines.
  • Unencrypted data: Identify unencrypted data at rest or in transit and enforce encryption policies to protect sensitive information.
  • Unused or underutilized resources: Detect unused or underutilized resources, such as virtual machines or storage volumes, and automatically shut them down or delete them to reduce costs and minimize the attack surface.
  • Weak authentication and authorization: Identify weak authentication mechanisms, such as using default credentials or weak password policies and enforce stronger authentication and authorization policies.
  • Logging and monitoring gaps: Detect gaps in logging and monitoring configurations, such as disabled audit logs or insufficient log retention periods, and automatically enable or adjust these settings to ensure comprehensive visibility and compliance.
  • Network security misconfigurations: Identify and remediate network security misconfigurations, such as open ports or insecure firewall rules, to minimize the risk of unauthorized access or data exfiltration.

It’s important to note that the specific types of misconfigurations that a CSPM tool can automatically remediate depend on the tool’s capabilities and the cloud services being used. Organizations should carefully evaluate the features and capabilities of different CSPM solutions to ensure they can effectively address their unique security and compliance requirements.

IT teams that set up cloud resources also need a strategy for how 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. CSPM offers monitoring services that detect whether any resources are misconfigured—and therefore might expose sensitive data—before attackers find the data.

Searching for a CSPM Solution

Finding CSPM tools that can fully support corporate resources can be tricky. A corporation may be small when it first sets up a cloud provider. But it likely requires a scalable solution as its needs grow.

Here are things to consider when looking for 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. That includes any future resources to be added later.
  • Sufficient coverage across all applicable cloud environments is critical in leveraging effective CSPM. The solution should support your organization’s cloud platforms and services, such as AWS, Azure, GCP, or SaaS applications.
  • Applications can be updated across all cloud assets. While the cloud provider maintains the hardware, organizations are responsible for updating any software they install. Some organizations work with a managed service provider (MSP) to stay current with updates and patches.
  • Scalability is critical for growing organizations. If a CSPM solution is customized for a few resources and can’t scale across all infrastructure, it can lead to IT chaos and lost assets. Cloud providers segment resources by geography, so solutions must also scale globally.
  • Continuous monitoring and automated remediation are key cornerstones to cutting-edge CSPM solutions. An organization should be able to continuously monitor cloud environments and detect misconfigurations and compliance violations in real-time. The CSPM solution should also automatically identify and remediate misconfigurations and compliance violations, thereby minimizing the risk of security incidents.
  • Understand that cloud security must support resources on the internet and differs from local on-premises support. On a local network, internal resources are generally cut off from the public internet. Cloud resources are inherently available to the public internet unless configured otherwise and require constant monitoring for configuration issues.

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.

How Proofpoint Can Help

CSPM is integral to Proofpoint’s Cloud App Security Broker (CASB) solutions. This comprehensive cloud security solution helps organizations protect their data and users across cloud applications. Proofpoint’s CASB solution provides visibility, control, and threat protection for cloud-based applications, ensuring that organizations can safely use cloud services while maintaining compliance and security standards. Key features include:

  • Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM): Monitor and manage their cloud resources’ security posture, identify misconfigurations, and ensure compliance with security policies and best practices.
  • Compromised Account Detection and Automated Response: Detect compromised accounts and respond automatically to mitigate risks and prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data.
  • Protection Against Malicious Files: Scan files uploaded or created within cloud applications for malware and other threats, ensuring that malicious files do not compromise the security of the organization’s data.
  • Data Security and Real-time Data Loss Prevention (DLP): CASB provides data security features, including real-time DLP, to prevent sensitive data from being leaked or exposed through cloud applications. It allows organizations to deploy consistent DLP policies across cloud, email, and endpoint channels.
  • Centralized Alert Management: Manage alerts across multiple channels, including cloud, email, and endpoint, making it easier for IT teams to monitor and respond to security incidents.

Proofpoint’s CASB solution is designed to help organizations safely adopt cloud applications while maintaining a strong security posture and ensuring compliance with relevant laws and regulations.

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