Cloud Security Explainers:
What is Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM)?
Cloud security posture management (CSPM) solutions help mitigate and minimize cloud security breaches. CSPM tools can automatically assess an IaaS or PaaS environment against cloud security best practices and verify that all cloud configurations follow compliance standards, such as CIS, GCP, and Azure benchmarks as well as NIST, PCI, and HIPAA frameworks. The goal of CSPM solutions is to help remediate cloud configuration and security issues, mainly through automatic detection and remediation.
The Need for Cloud Security Posture Management
Here are several challenges that CSPM helps solve:
Misunderstanding the shared responsibility model of the cloud
Cloud providers are not entirely responsible for security — they are only responsible for securing the cloud infrastructure back end. Organizations migrating to the cloud must take measures to secure their assets in the cloud, from secure authentication and encryption to event logging. These security measures help prevent data breaches and other security incidents.
Public cloud misconfigurations
Cloud users must configure their cloud environment appropriately to secure their data and applications. However, not all cloud users know how to properly set up federated identity, secured logging, store passwords securely, etc. Public cloud infrastructure, for example, is programmable through application programming interfaces (APIs), and misconfigurations in API operations can put organizations at risk of leaks or breaches.
Cloud permissions misconfigurations
Misconfigurations are often caused by the mismanagement of several connected resources, such as Kubernetes, containers, and serverless functions. Typically, this occurs due to a lack of visibility of data and communication flows across the cloud and between cloud resources. This prevents organizations from applying the least-privilege principle when assigning permissions to resources. This applies for to service accounts and user accounts.
The importance of CSPM
Threat actors exploit cloud misconfigurations often, and as more businesses migrate to the cloud, more breaches occur. CSPM solutions keep track of cloud assets and containers, then continuously and automatically check for cloud misconfigurations that may lead to data leaks and breaches. This type of automated detection helps mitigate risks on an ongoing basis.
Related content: Read our explainer to Cloud Security Threats.
How Does CSPM Work?
CSPM provides the visibility to detect cloud threats and risks and can help remediate those issues. The goal of CSPM is to help automatically protect cloud environments. CSPM solutions can detect many cloud issues, including insufficient encryption, improper encryption keys management, and other account permissions issues and misconfigurations. Here is how it works:
Visibility into all cloud assets and configurations
CSPM solutions establish a single source of truth across the entire cloud ecosystem, providing automated discovery of assets and any misconfigurations, as well as activity around metadata, security, and networking. CSPM centralizes the management of security policies across all cloud assets, including projects, accounts, virtual networks, and regions.
Eliminate and remediate cloud security risks
CSPM solutions assess cloud application configurations by comparing them against industry and organization benchmarks. This enables quick identification as well as remediation of any issue that may leave your cloud resources exposed, such as unauthorized modifications, misconfigurations, and open ports. This can reduce the likelihood of costly misconfigurations.
Additionally, CSPM solutions monitor data storage locations, verify that the appropriate permission levels are in place, and ensure that database instances responsible for encryption, high availability, and backups are enabled.
Targeted threat identification and management
This approach provides proactive detection of potential threats. CSPM solutions continuously monitor cloud environments and apply real-time threat detection. This helps detect suspected malicious activity as well as unauthorized access events. By focusing on the areas that threat actors are most likely to attack, CSPM solutions help achieve several objectives:
- Reduce risk by identifying over-permissive policies
- Prioritize vulnerabilities according to severity and cloud environments
- Mitigate risk through ongoing monitoring
- Address compliance needs for maintaining security controls for cloud environments
Reduce overhead and remove complexity and friction in multi-cloud environments
CSPM solutions provide a cloud-native posture management solution allowing organizations to centralize visibility and control across all cloud assets. It offers security and DevOps teams centralized visibility across multi-cloud environments. This enables teams to prevent compromised assets from propagating across the network, software builds, and application life cycles.
CSPM can also integrate with your existing security information and event management (SIEM) solution, which offers additional insights and extended visibility into misconfigurations and policy violations. Finally, the integration of CSPM with DevOps toolsets can help ensure quicker response and remediation.
CSPM vs CWPP vs CASB
Here is how CSPM differs from the two other main types of cloud security solutions.
Cloud Workload Protection Platforms (CWPPs)
CWPPs unify cloud workload protection across several providers, helping protect all types of workloads in any location. CWPPs provide several capabilities, including anti-malware, vulnerability management, and application security adapted especially to satisfy modern infrastructure requirements.
CSPM solutions are designed especially for assessing the entire cloud ecosystem, not just workloads. Additionally, CSPM solutions provide automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and guided remediation. This ensures that organizations are not only alerted of the issue, but also get instructions on how to remediate.
Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASBs)
CASBs provide security enforcement points that are placed between cloud service providers and their customers’ networks — some even have mirror proxy capability for unmanaged endpoints. CASBs ensure that cloud traffic complies with industry and company policies before allowing it to access the network or cloud resources. Notable CASB features include firewalls, malware detection, data loss prevention, and authentication.
CSPMs provide continuous compliance monitoring, alongside configuration drift prevention and security operations center (SOC) investigations. CSPMs also create a policy that defines a desired state for the cloud infrastructure and then ensure that any network activity complies with the policy.
3 Best Practices for CSPM
Prioritize Issues Based on Risk
Do not start remediating issues as soon as you discover each one. The order in which you uncover issues does not necessarily match the level of risk each issue presents. Instead of wasting time on minor issues, concentrate on risk levels in a manner that allows you to focus your efforts on major issues that have the largest potential to harm the application — and thus, your business.
When prioritizing issues, focus on vulnerabilities that critically impact applications and workloads or issues that may expose data and assets publicly. Apply this prioritization system to all efforts, including vulnerability management, monitoring, and detection. Once high-priority risks are mitigated, you can start handling lesser risks.
Use Benchmarks for Automated Compliance
Make sure to implement CSPM solutions and practices that enable automated benchmarking and auditing of resources. This should include service discovery features that enable new benchmarking components, including private or customizable benchmarks your team creates, to discover assets in the environment.
The majority of cloud providers release benchmarks designed to help you evaluate cloud configurations. Strive to use vendor-specific guides alongside third-party and universal benchmarks.
Implement Security Checks Throughout the Development Pipeline
DevOps pipelines should incorporate security checks into the workflow. The speed of development and product release in DevOps pipelines can quickly result in an overwhelming amount of vulnerabilities. You can prevent this by incorporating automated vulnerability and policy checks across the entire pipeline. It’s a good practice to establish a central repository for deployment automation, and will help your CSPM run at peak efficiency.
Continuously evaluating security and posture management can help avoid misconfigurations even before software reaches the testing or production stages. It can also help you easily incorporate corrective measures in future releases when issues make it into production.
Related content: Read our explainer to Cloud Security Best Practices.
How Do SIEM and XDR Support CSPM?
Security information and event management (SIEM) solutions that integrate with CSPM can provide a centralized view of all assets and current security risk. The goal of the integration is to enable easier and quicker identification and remediation of misconfigured cloud assets as well as other cloud vulnerabilities.
CSPM tools can also benefit from integrating with DevOps or SecOps tooling and facilitate successful adoption of new cloud security archetypes. These teams can greatly benefit from a view into a SIEM dashboard that provides real-time reporting into the entire environment.
While SIEM provides the overview, extended detection and response (XDR) products fill in the gaps by providing active defense capabilities, including:
- Activating defensive measures in response to incidents – XDR can interact with other security tools to retrieve data about incidents and activate defenses.
- Providing a unified view of assets – including data drawn from multiple security layers, provided by SIEM, XDR, and CSPM.
- Querying and manipulating in-depth data – using security tools like cloud system entitlements as well as endpoint configuration data.
- Providing a central data lake – lets you store all raw event data from integrated security systems and all data aggregated from your SIEM.
- Machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) – improve alert quality and can merge data in new ways that create more complete attack stories.
Cloud Security with Exabeam
Even if an all-cloud initiative is not in motion, it’s likely your organization will be moving operations into the cloud in the near future. Before taking this step, it’s critical to assess how you will go about securing cloud operations by understanding related security and compliance issues. Fortunately, a modern security information and event management (SIEM), or extended detection and response (XDR) solution will let your analysts address enterprise cloud security with advanced monitoring, behavioral analytics and automation.
A modern approach automatically collects alert data from across multiple clouds, detects deviations in normal user and entity activity using behavioral analytics, and helps analysts quickly respond to attacks on cloud applications and infrastructure. A modern SIEM or XDR can help you combat increasingly targeted and complex attacks and insider threats by augmenting other cloud security solutions like Identity and Access Management (IAM), Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB), and Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) solutions to better detect, investigate and respond to cloud-based attacks, all while minimizing false positives.
As cloud-delivered offerings, Exabeam Fusion SIEM and XDR address cloud security in multiple ways to ensure the protection of sensitive data, applications and infrastructure. As the leader in Next-Gen SIEM and XDR Exabeam dramatically improves SOC productivity, allowing teams to detect, investigate, and respond to cyberattacks in 51 percent less time. Here are a few of the ways Exabeam supports Cloud Security:
- Collects alert data by direct ingestion from dozens of cloud security tools and popular cloud-based services across multiple enterprise clouds, in addition to hundreds of other products
- Speed time to detect and investigate events by mapping all activity to timelines and threat patterns
- Provides machine-built timelines to improve analyst productivity by automating incident investigation
- Includes response playbooks using pre-built connectors and hundreds of actions to contain and mitigate threats on premises or in the cloud
- Offers pre-built compliance packages (Exabeam Fusion SIEM)
- Supports detection and investigation with mappings to MITRE ATT&CK and the Exabeam Threat Intelligence Service, a daily updated stream of indicators of compromise (IoCs) such as malicious IP addresses and domains
- Augments other cloud security solutions like IAM and CASB to better detect, investigate and respond to cloud-based attacks while minimizing the detection of false positives