Importance of Cloud Security Posture Management

Importance of Cloud Security Posture Management
Organizations are exponentially adopting cloud computing to leverage the cloud benefits like – agility and cost savings. However, what comes with the territory is a whole lot of security risks and vulnerabilities. And eventually, organizations start struggling to meet their security and compliance standards. We are aware that the responsibility of the operations in cloud infrastructure is shared between cloud service providers and enterprises. However, the core responsibility of securing sensitive and confidential data still lies with the enterprise. 

Even a small instance of misconfiguration can lead to data breach risks and the organization may have to face dire consequences. These include – huge penalties, loss of brand credibility, lawsuits, and much more.

So, how can you combat these misconfigurations and missed configurations? 

To answer that, let's understand the role of CSPM and why it must be an integral part of an organization’s cloud strategy. 

What is Cloud Security Posture Management
Why do misconfigurations occur in a cloud computing environment
Why is Cloud Security Posture Management important for organizations
How does Cloud Security Posture Management work
Cloud Security Posture Management – A cloud security booster
Achieving a misconfiguration-free cloud environment through Cloud Security Posture Management

What is Cloud Security Posture Management

Cloud Security and Compliance FrameworkCloud security posture management is a segment of the IT security tools targeted at securing the cloud environment. It automatically identifies and rectifies misconfiguration issues, thus, mitigating compliance risk in an enterprise cloud environment. It also plays a key role in managing cloud computing data security preventing security issues in cloud computing. 

Now the question is – why do misconfigurations occur? What can be the possible reasons for the anomalies in the cloud? Let's find out. 

Why do misconfigurations occur in a cloud computing environment

Here are a few reasons:

  • Cloud applications and APIs lay the foundation for cloud infrastructure which helps in its proper functioning and seamless operations. Developers use codes to make necessary upgrades in the cloud infrastructure. While updating the cloud infrastructure, misconfigurations may occur. 
  • Cloud ‘sprawl’ is another reason for the possible misconfigurations. When many services from multiple cloud providers run simultaneously, it becomes cumbersome for the cloud to manage them. This results in cloud mismanagement, and is referred to as ‘cloud sprawl’. 

The emergence of new technologies such as Kubernetes, containers, serverless Lambda functions, etc. lead to a rise in the number of resources as compared to traditional on-premises servers. Thus, elevating the complexity of the cloud and leading to misconfigurations. 

  • The scope of public cloud infrastructure is incredibly wide. It can house tens of thousands of resources, accounts, and networks. However, it can become a concern for IT teams if it mistakenly creates or updates the wrong resource. Tampering with any wrong resource may result in misconfiguration errors. 
  • While setting up a cloud environment, the configuration of storage systems can be a critical concern irrelevant of which cloud platform you’re working with. 

For example, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is accessible to all users around the globe despite the default setting of “authenticated users”. Thus, giving the false impression that it can be used by only those users who have explicit permissions. This is a major security flaw that relates to misconfigurations. 

Cloud Security Posture Management can identify similar issues and provide recommendations to correct them. 

To put it in perspective – the lack of visibility and uniformity is the primary reason behind all the above-mentioned misconfigurations. The organizations likely have little or no idea about how many cloud resources are running in the cloud and how they are configured. 

In this event, several vital resources or services remain unattended for an indefinite period. Hence, some serious misconfigurations may end up being unidentified and increase the probability of potential attacks. CSPM helps to eliminate these risks. 

Let us now look at the significance of Cloud Security Posture Management in detail.

Why is Cloud Security Posture Management important for organizations

Cloud Managed Services Overcome Security Challenges ImageAny cloud security strategy is incomplete without its core foundation i.e. cloud security posture management. It provides momentum to the cloud security strategy by allowing it to handle any degree of cloud workload. CSPM also can respond to any kind of cloud security threat. 

CSPM lays the foundation for a strong cloud security posture by creating a robust and secure configuration within the cloud environment. Thus, making it challenging for intruders to breach the system. It forms a cornerstone for overall cloud operation capacity and acts as a protective shield against potential threats.

Let us check out the key features showcasing the significance of cloud security posture management.

  • The dynamism of cloud operations:  The cloud is dynamic as it performs myriad operations including connections and disconnections from outer networks in a particular course of time.  

Due to the dynamic nature of the cloud, ensuring security means identifying needles in a haystack and fixing them. CSPM has the capability of performing security operations in sync with the increase in the dynamism of clouds.

Also, with the emergence of new technologies, it is challenging for organizations to find experts in the domain.

  • Sustained and automatic monitoring of cloud misconfigurations: Identification and remediation of misconfigurations in an organization are usually done by human engineers where IT personnel individually analyze and rectify each risk manually.  This problem can be addressed by automation. 

Cloud security posture management automates the monitoring of cloud configurations and provides a sustained mechanism that allows IT teams to traverse the entire process of cloud configuration automatically. This reduces the time and effort spent by humans.

  • A holistic view of cloud security: Resources, applications, and data are scattered virtually across the cloud environment. Here, a lack of visibility in the overall cloud infrastructure becomes an obstacle that interrupts the cloud operations leading to unidentified misconfigurations. 

Cloud security posture management automatically scans misconfigurations and provides a centralized visibility platform across multiple clouds. It also recognizes, evaluates, and manages threats across multiple cloud resources from a single location. Thus, eliminating the hassle of assessing individual cloud resources separately.

  • Risk prioritization mechanism: Prioritizing risk factors based on their severity is a major aspect of cloud security posture management. It provides an advanced set of tools that identifies security risks and sorts them in order of severity.

Risk prioritization evaluates the frequency of security risk occurrence. The motive behind risk prioritization is to form a base for allocating resources. 

For Example, let us consider two different cases of the Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service) bucket which is a public cloud storage resource.

  • Case 1: AWS grants public access to the S3 bucket over the internet which can lead to significant data leaks. Here CSPM considers this a high priority risk. 
  • Case 2: AWS does not grant public access via the internet but multiple users with access privileges can access it.  CSPM considers this as a low priority risk, as in this case, data leak probability over the internet is negligible.

Cloud Security Obtain a Comprehensive Security Posture ImageHence, we can conclude that case 2 with low priority risk should still be investigated by the IT team, but is not as serious as case 1; where the data is exposed over the internet. Risks are investigated based on their priority.

  • Consistent compliance surveillance: Initially when organizations switch to the cloud, they are under a false impression that security management is the core responsibility of cloud service providers only. This misconception results in the ignorance of critical security configuration thereby giving a chance to the intruders for backdoor entry.

Cloud security posture management ensures that the organizations abide by all the compliance laws and standards. It also checks whether your cloud security posture is in sync with the compliance framework and notifies the IT team about the risk of non-adherence to the compliance standards.

  • Robust cloud security governance: The Cloud data security policies and compliances could be a bit overwhelming for businesses to adhere to. This calls for a robust solution that can facilitate comprehensive visibility and compliance across all the mandatory touchpoints. The only solution to this dilemma is Cloud Security Governance.

For example, the development teams in organizations often lack the skills and expertise to manage the data security policies and standards in the absence of robust cloud security governance. 

In a day, several security requests and alerts are received by the development team from multiple clouds. This demands a robust security posture across the entire development life cycle. 

Cloud security posture management helps build this mechanism without the need for deep expertise in each environment. It also helps in integrating the overall security posture across multiple clouds, once it is defined with the latest compliance policies and standards. 

  • Real-time Threat Detection: CSPM follows the targeted threat identification and management approach to detect and combat the potential threats entering the multi-cloud environment. It focuses on the very areas that are prone to exploitation. 

Cloud security posture management is also responsible for continuously scanning the entire cloud architecture for any suspicious or malicious activity. This includes unauthorized access to any of the cloud resources. It also uncovers the hidden threats through real-time threat detection. 

  • Tracing misconfigured connection: This feature of CSPM helps to identify the weak spots or misconfigurations within the network that could encourage data breaches or data leaks. It then alerts the security teams about the issues and makes suitable recommendations to rectify the same. 
  • Detecting unauthorized account activity: Cloud security posture management continuously creates logs of unusual activity associated with user account permissions. This mechanism leverages security policies and strategies to compare the account operation events that occur at a particular point in time. If any suspicious activity is discovered in the cloud environment, it is immediately logged and the needful action is taken to isolate it and hurl it out in no time.

 Now that we have a good idea about the importance of cloud security posture management, it is also important to know how it works. CSPM is a four-step process that defines how security risks are identified and addressed. Check it out. 

How does Cloud Security Posture Management work

Chief Information Security Officer Multi cloud security with Identity management ImageThe attributes of cloud security posture management depend upon the CSPM tools adopted by your organization and the specific cloud platform you are using them on. 

In general, the following basic steps of the CSPM process must be taken into consideration: 

  • CSPM requirements specifications: This involves gathering the data related to the security risks that organizations want to identify and eliminate. 
  • Scanning cloud environments: Continuous cloud scanning helps analyze configurations to detect security risks. They can be identified and dragged out by parsing a newly created configuration file whenever it is created. 
  • Risk intensity assessment: After detection of risk, cloud security posture management leverages risk prioritization to evaluate the severity of a risk and assign a priority level. Priority level helps the team categorize the risk and identify which one to address first. 
  • Risk Redressal: CSPM automatically eliminates the risks by correcting the misconfigurations. 

Cloud Security Posture Management – A cloud security booster

By now, it’s evident how critical cloud security is. Even a small misconfiguration or a loophole can invite malevolent actors to break into the system and tamper with the sensitive data. 

Proper monitoring, automation, and the right configuration can resolve critical security issues instantly. Apart from that, cloud security posture management has many other additional advantages. These include- 

  • Identifying unused resources 
  • Setting up synchronization between the security teams 
  • Verifying the authenticity of recently deployed systems 
  • Identifying new technologies that can be implemented into the cloud infrastructure to avoid potential threats. These include – Zero-Trust Framework and Least Privileged Access.
  • The idea is to facilitate seamless access in a zero-trust and least privileged access environment. However, zero-trust works on the ‘never trust’ principle, wherein, even authorized entities have to request access and are granted access post-authentication. Similarly, least privileged access facilitates access to privileged entities. In both cases, CSPM promotes seamless access to both without compromising on the security principles of both frameworks.

One of the major incentives of CSPM is cost-saving. And the saved costs can productively be invested in emerging technologies that can render the cloud infrastructure more secure. 

Achieving a misconfiguration-free cloud environment through Cloud Security Posture Management

Achieve Compliance with Standards ImageFor identifying and remediating misconfigurations in a cloud environment, organizations must embrace cloud security posture management to enhance security standards, and optimize cloud operations. This, in turn, minimizes the overall cloud cost and simplifies user access, thereby, improving the security of the cloud environment. 

You can learn more about cloud security in our next article titled “A Guide to Cloud Security Governance ”

CoreStack is Microsoft Gold Cloud Competency and Co-Sell Ready Partner, Advanced Technology Partner in Amazon Web Services (AWS) Partner Network (APN) abd Google Cloud Build Partner. CoreStack provides a real-time and continuous view of the overall cloud security posture that identifies threats and vulnerabilities. We build robust cloud security infrastructures that act as a protective shield for any organization. The CoreStack cloud security framework is based on the OSCAR model (Operations, Security, Cost, Access Management, and Resource Management). We implement a well-architected cloud security posture management strategy that actualizes best practices across FinOps, SecOps, CloudOpsCoreStack strives to provide a robust CSPM framework that facilitates topmost security and value par excellence to our customers and partners.

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