Cloud Security Posture Management is defined by Gartner as “a continuous process of cloud security improvement and adaptation to reduce the likelihood of a successful attack.” Today’s Cloud Security Posture Management tools have use cases within DevOps Integrations, compliance management, risk assessment, incident response, incident visualization, etc. These tools help organizations assess risk, limit misconfigurations and ensure that their existing cloud environments align with best practices within the field of cloud security.

What is Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM)?

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.

cloud security posture management

How does CSPM work?

Broadly speaking, CSPM protects you in three ways:

  • Provides visibility into your cloud assets and configurations. Enterprise CSPM discovers misconfigurations, changes in policy or metadata, and more, and helps you manage all these policies through a centralized console.
  • Manages and remediates misconfigurations. By comparing your cloud configurations against industry standards and other pre-built rules, CSPM reduces human error which can increase your risk of costly breaches.
  • Discovers new potential threats. CSPM monitors your cloud environments in real-time for inappropriate access and anomalies that may indicate malicious activity.

Why is Cloud Security Posture Management necessary?

CSPM tools empower companies to identify and remediate risks through security assessments and automated compliance monitoring. After moving to the cloud, many organizations mistakenly assume their cloud hosting provider is entirely responsible for security. This mistaken belief leads to data breaches and other security mishaps.

Cloud security breaches are commonplace today, with most breaches as a result or errors involving cloud misconfigurations. Cloud providers are responsible for securing the infrastructure cloud stack. However, users are responsible for configuring the cloud and securing applications and data.

CSPM solutions automatically and continuously check for misconfigurations that can lead to data breaches and leaks. This automated detection allows organizations to make necessary changes on a continuous, ongoing basis.

What are the key capabilities of CSPM?

Continuous assessment

Cloud security posture management isn’t just a one-time process. The key component of CSPM is the continuous detection and assessment of your cloud posture to weed out any misconfigurations within your infrastructure.

Automated remediation

CSPM saves time, money, and resources by providing automated and guided remediation over minor and common misconfiguration issues. This way analysts can spend more time handling complex security issues.

Asset classification

CSPM identifies assets that live within your cloud infrastructures and classifies how they are currently configured. This allows security teams to set up configurations that make sense for their work needs, assets, data, users, and devices.

Maintain compliance standards

There is a whole litany of compliance standards that companies must adhere to, including HIPAA, PCI DSS, GDPR, and many others. CSPM helps security administrators maintain compliance when handling user data when operating in the cloud by providing predefined compliance templates to easily adhere to major regulations.

cloud security posture management

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.

Conclusion

It’s never been more difficult for IT professionals to protect critical assets within the cloud. Today’s enterprise environments are large, complex, and difficult to manage. New cloud services and resources are integrated with great frequency, making the task of managing risk even more demanding. Additionally, the evolving mandates of cloud security often fall outside the competency level of existing IT staff.

To meet these cloud security challenges, enterprises can deploy CPSM tools to help identify errors that would have otherwise gone overlooked. By assessing existing cloud environments against best practices in a continuous and automated fashion, organizations can greatly reduce the risk of misconfigurations and other errors that place their most critical assets at risk.