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cloud security posture management (CSPM)

What is cloud security posture management ?

Cloud security posture management (CSPM) is a market segment for IT security tools designed to identify misconfiguration issues and compliance risks in the cloud. CSPM helps continuously monitor cloud infrastructure for gaps in security policy enforcement.

Gartner coined the term and described CSPM as a category of security products that help automate security and provide compliance assurance in the cloud. CSPM tools examine and compare a cloud environment against a defined set of best practices and known security risks. Some CSPM tools alert customers when there is a need to remediate a security risk, while other more sophisticated CSPM tools use robotic process automation to remediate issues automatically.

CSPM is used by organizations that have adopted a cloud-first strategy and want to extend their security best practices to hybrid cloud and multi-cloud environments. While CSPM is often associated with IaaS, the technology can also be used to minimize configuration mistakes and reduce compliance risks in SaaS and PaaS environments.

Key capabilities of CSPM

Most enterprise cloud security posture management tools include the ability to do the following:

  • Detect and automatically remediate cloud misconfigurations.
  • Maintain an inventory of best practices for different cloud configurations and services.
  • Map current configuration statuses to a security control framework or regulatory standard.
  • Work with IaaS, SaaS and PaaS in containerized, hybrid cloud and multi-cloud environments.
  • Monitor storage buckets, encryption and account permissions for misconfigurations and compliance risks.

Why CSPM is important

CSPM tools play an important role in securing a cloud environment by reducing the possibility of data breaches.

According to Gartner, cloud misconfigurations often lead to data breaches. Using a CSPM tool can reduce cloud-based security incidents due to misconfigurations by 80%.

How CSPM works

Cloud security posture management tools are designed to detect and remediate issues caused by cloud misconfigurations. A specific CSPM tool might only be able to use defined best practices according to a specific cloud environment or service, however. It is therefore important to know what tools can be used in each specific environment. For example, some tools can only detect misconfigurations in an AWS or Azure environment.

Some CSPM tools can automatically remediate issues by combining real-time continuous monitoring with automation features that can detect and correct issues, such as improper account permissions. Continuous compliance can also be configured according to several standards, including HIPAA.

CSPM tools can be used in tandem with a cloud access security broker (CASB). CASB is a software tool or service that safeguards the flow of data between on-premises IT infrastructure and a cloud provider's infrastructure.

Additional benefits of enterprise CSPM

Alongside monitoring for compliance, CSPM tools can also make risk visualization, incident response and DevOps integration easier by providing greater visibility across multiple cloud partners. Additional benefits of implementing CSPM in the enterprise include the following:

  • Continuously monitoring cloud environments in real time for threat detection.
  • Assessing data risk in real time.
  • Detecting policy violations across multiple cloud providers.
  • Automating provisioning.
  • Detecting and automatically remediating issues.

Why cloud misconfigurations occur

Misconfigurations are often caused by customer mismanagement of multiple connected resources. Cloud-based services have a lot of moving pieces to keep track of and manage. Cloud misconfigurations are easy to do, especially with API-driven approaches to integration.

Many times, a misconfiguration is created due to a lack of visibility. If an organization lacks an understanding of which resources interact with one another, a misconfiguration of cloud resources becomes more likely.

A common misconfiguration is accidentally granting public access to storage buckets or containers within the cloud that are assigned individually to storage classes. When access to storage buckets is left open, the buckets are vulnerable to attack.

This was last updated in April 2024

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