What is Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM)
CSPM is a set of strategies and tools that organizations can use to manage and orchestrate security in their cloud resources and services. It enables you to address a variety of security responsibilities, including compliance assessment, DevOps integrations, operational monitoring, incident detection and response, and visualization of vulnerabilities and risks.
CSPM is the evolution of another strategy known as Cloud Infrastructure Security Posture Assessment (CISPA). Over time, CISPA strategies and tools shifted to focus less on reporting and more on management and maintenance through automation. With this transition, the name also changed.
Ideally, CSPM solutions provide all of the tools necessary to manage your cloud security. This includes tooling for threat detection, logging, and reporting. It also includes tooling that helps you automate security configurations and maintain the settings required to ensure secure governance and compliance.
CSPM: The Cure for Cloud Misconfiguration Risk
Some of the biggest security risks in cloud services come from misconfiguration. Storage buckets are left accessible via public IP address, end-users are allowed to access administrative settings, and data is transferred unencrypted.
When implemented carefully, CSPM can help organizations catch and correct the various misconfigurations that can occur. These solutions help IT teams create uniformity during configuration and can help address the following security risks:
Infrastructure as code is an architecture that is used by many organizations. Particularly those using DevOps methodologies. When done correctly, it enables teams to manage and orchestrate infrastructure with the same tools and ease as deploying an application.
The problem comes when the ability to modify infrastructure isn’t securely restricted. Unlike development processes where most or all parties can submit code for testing and approval, infrastructure management should be strictly and centrally controlled. CSPM platforms can help ensure that permissions are accurate and help you track changes to infrastructure.
Cloud security differs from on-premises security
The amount of control that IT teams have over security in the cloud is not the same as on-premises. Often, this can be a good thing since teams are responsible for securing fewer components. In practice, however, this can create issues.
Only being responsible for part of your security can lead to items being overlooked. Additionally, the methods that teams may use in-house to apply blanket security may not be applicable to cloud resources. To apply security effectively, teams need to be able to clearly see what assets exist, what current protections are in place, and which protections are configurable.
CSPM provides visibility into configurations and security tooling. Also, because it is designed for cloud management, it incorporates tooling needed for managing shared security responsibility and can highlight areas that are often missed.
Cloud scalability and flexibility
Cloud services are great when it comes to scaling resources and deploying containerized services. These services enable you to scale specific parts of applications, connect a variety of services as needed, and quickly start up or take down assets.
If not carefully controlled, however, these modifications can be performed too easily. If you aren’t careful, you can be left with orphaned instances, environments, and services. These can create both a security and a performance risk. Maintaining visibility over all assets, both active and inactive can help you control these risks. Likewise, setting firm, universal controls over when resources can be deployed, by whom, and for how long they last is key.
CSPM automation can help you ensure that all resources are deployed with secure configurations from the start. These tools can also facilitate the scheduled removal of resources and backup data before removal to protect against accidental data loss.
Cloud Security Posture Management Best Practices
When implementing CSPM it’s not enough to simply adopt tools and hope for the best. Setting up the associated tools and processes takes time and you will likely need to refine your settings and template as you go. The following best practices can help with these refinements
Automate compliance and align with cloud standards
Managing compliance in the cloud requires a dynamic approach that on-premise compliance does not. For many organizations, cloud resources are frequently created and destroyed. Data is duplicated across multiple regions and traffic may shift to meet demands. All of these movements require more frequent and extensive auditing than static on-prem resources.
To ensure that you are meeting compliance in an ever-changing cloud environment, you should consider the following:
Apply continuous monitoring of resources and settings based on cloud-specific benchmarks, such as those defined by the Center for Internet Security (CIS)
Automate audit schedules and centralize reporting of results for easy review
Verify how cloud providers do or do not meet compliance and supplement as needed
Prioritize security violations by quantifying risk
As you implement tooling it is a good idea to set alert thresholds low at first. This can help you ensure that any issues are being brought to your attention and are resolved. However, if you aren’t careful, this can quickly lead to an overwhelming number of alerts that security teams begin to ignore.
To ensure alerts remain functional, you need to refine which alerts are delivered and how those alerts are prioritized. During this refinement, try to apply the following strategies:
Set up a system of prioritization for alerts to ensure that high-risk alerts are attended to first. These priority alerts should include exposure of critical data, changes in security configurations, and loss of service.
Configure automated responses to alerts whenever possible. For example, blocking traffic while an event is investigated or restricting credentials when a user logs in from a foreign IP.
CSPM can be a powerful tool for cloud-based operations, as well as complex environments that combine multicloud, multivendor, and hybrid components. However, CSPM should be carefully implemented. This is especially crucial for mutable infrastructure and DevOps pipelines, which are inherently complex. What you want to do is assess your situation, create policies that meet your needs, and then find the solution that complies with your term. Ideally, your tooling stack should work for you, rather than the other way around.