What is Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM)?
In modern cloud environments, security monitoring and periodic audits won’t suffice for detecting threats before they turn into breaches. Instead, to achieve an environment that is as secure as possible, you need Cloud Security Posture Management, or CSPM. CSPM lays the foundation for minimizing the number of risks that exist within your clouds. CSPM tools help to automate cloud security, keeping cloud environments secure even as they grow larger and more complex.
What is Cloud Security Posture Management?
Cloud Security Posture Management is the process of identifying and remediating security risks that result from mistakes or oversights within cloud configurations.
When you deploy a workload in the cloud, there are a variety of configurations that affect the way it operates. Identity and Access Management (IAM) configurations define who can view, modify, and run cloud workloads. Network settings control which other resources a workload can interact with over the network. Platform-specific configurations, such as environment settings defined inside container images or RBAC policies in Kubernetes, add yet more layers and variables to cloud workload configurations.
With so many different configuration options, it’s easy to make a mistake that weakens the overall security posture of your cloud environment. You might create an IAM policy that allows anyone in your organization to modify a VM instance, or you may inadvertently define network settings that expose sensitive data directly to anyone on the Internet.
How does CSPM work?
Most CSPMs automatically identify configuration data within your cloud, and then evaluate the data to check for settings that are not as secure. Most CSPM tools can do this on a continuous basis, tracking your configurations in real time and validating changes whenever they take place.
CSPM tools make these assessments based on your workload's security requirements. For example, if you need to apply certain privacy protections to secure Personally Identifiable Information (PII), you can deploy CSPM policies designed to detect PII and make sure it complies with your requirements. Most CSPM platforms come with built-in policies, but you can also customize them to suit your organization’s particular needs.
Benefits of Cloud Security Posture Management
CSPM helps you secure cloud workloads more efficiently and at greater scale than you could if you relied on manual or periodic auditing of cloud configurations. With CSPM protections in place for your cloud workloads, you gain:
- Security scalability: CSPM is much more efficient than checking configuration policies manually for security risks. This helps businesses scale by protecting as many resources as they can run in the cloud.
- Consistency: CSPM tools detect security risks consistently, based on policies you define versus having engineers validate configurations manually.
- Real-time threat detection: Most CSPM tools validate configurations continuously and alert you instantly to security risks in your cloud environment.
- Shift-left security: CSPM helps security shift left by detecting risks early and alerting you to threats before they are exploited. If you rely on cloud security monitoring alone, you won’t detect risks until an exploit is underway.
The limitations of CSPM
While CSPM is one key pillar of cloud security, it shouldn’t be the only type of tool in your cloud security arsenal. On its own, CSPM is subject to important limitations. The biggest is that CSPM only detects security risks within cloud environment configurations. It won’t alert you to other types of risks, such as vulnerabilities in application source code.
CSPM is also not a substitute for cloud security monitoring. CSPM helps you get ahead of threats by detecting them before they are exploited, but it won’t alert you to suspicious activity like brute-force password attacks or network port scans that could be signs of an active attack against your cloud environment.
Finally, CSPM tools are only as effective as the policies they use to assess threats, which is why it’s important to tailor CSPM policies to fit your organization’s needs. Every business has different types of applications and data, each warranting different security requirements.
Getting started with CSPM
There are a variety of CSPM tools on the market. To choose the right solution for you, consider:
- Which clouds you need to secure: Some CSPM tools only work with certain clouds, while others are cloud-agnostic.
- Which types of resources you have to secure: Do you need to protect just generic cloud workloads like VMs, or do you also need CSPM tools that can secure Kubernetes, serverless functions, and other complex cloud services?
- How much usability you need: Some CSPM solutions are open source and require significant effort to deploy, while others are streamlined commercial solutions.
- Whether you want a standalone CSPM tool: While some CSPMs run on their own, others are integrated into broader Cloud Native Application Protection Platforms (CNAPPs), which combine the configuration scanning features of CSPMs with other important types of functionality, like cloud workload protection.
An essential ingredient in cloud security
Again, CSPMs on their own won’t keep your cloud totally secure, but you also can’t secure your cloud scalably and efficiently if a CSPM is not part of your cloud security strategy. By allowing you to detect misconfigurations on a continuous basis, CSPMs are essential for getting ahead of risks within complex cloud environments and keeping you protected.
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