November 18, 2021

White Paper
5 min

What Are CSPM Tools and How Can They Secure Cloud Services?

Understand cloud security posture management tools and their role in securing cloud data.

Mike Mullen

The cloud has been instrumental in supporting remote and hybrid work environments, improving end-user connectivity, easing the workloads of IT teams and much more. The worldwide availability and on-demand services the cloud offers are fundamental for organizations across industries; however, without proper security measures, user and data safety can be overlooked. 

Cloud security posture management (CSPM) tools can help organizations get the most out of their cloud experience and support continued innovation. Seeing a cloud environment from a security perspective may not always be top of mind. For example, simple misconfigurations can leave data unprotected. The longer these gaps go unnoticed, the more susceptible to threats a cloud environment becomes.

CSPM tools work to centralize visibility, helping IT teams keep cloud environments secure. Learn more about CSPM and how these tools support organizations, keep data secure and enhance the cloud experience.

95%

The percentage of IT professionals who believe CSPM is an important solution

Source: OpsCompass, “2021 State of Cloud Security Posture Management Report” (PDF), June 2021

What Is Cloud Security Posture Management?

CSPM solutions help organizations solve potential liabilities related to visibility, configuration, compliance and ongoing management of the cloud environment. Without question, these challenges are exacerbated by a lack of experienced cybersecurity professionals in general and by a dearth of cloud security experts in particular. Research from the Cloud Security Alliance shows that staffing-related issues (a lack of cloud expertise and insufficient staff to manage cloud environments) are among the top concerns about cloud adoption. 

CSPM technology addresses these issues by supporting adherence to security best practices and regulatory requirements, facilitating inventory management, and providing log and alert capabilities. These and other functions explain why CSPM is among the top three recommended technologies in Gartner’s “Hype Cycle for Cloud Security, 2020,” together with secure access service edge and cloud access security brokers.

As an agentless solution based on Software as a Service, CSPM tools make calls via an application programming interface to examine how cloud services are configured in comparison with cloud security best practices. In doing so, they essentially provide governance, risk management and compliance (GRC) capabilities for cloud environments. 

Establishment of a GRC foundation is important in any case, but particularly because cloud environments can be opaque. All too often, organizations lack critical knowledge about the cloud environments they are using and the assets stored therein. Research has shown, for instance, that organizations use an average of 1,935 unique cloud services — but most organizations estimate that they use approximately 30. 

Organizations that have deployed CSPM tools have discovered:

  • Data in the cloud that is not encrypted, but should be
  • Data in the cloud that is publicly accessible, but should not be
  • Activity in the cloud that is not being logged or monitored appropriately
  • User/identity configurations that do not follow security best practices

In addition to visibility, CSPM tools deliver:

  • Configuration management: Public cloud providers continuously adapt and evolve their environments, which means that default configurations and other critical settings also change. CSPM tools assess environments against target compliance or security rules and alert IT staff or automatically make the necessary fixes. Proactive identification and elimination of improper configuration is a must, because it reduces one of the largest sources of cloud risk.
  • Alerting, monitoring and notification: Threat intelligence is a broad umbrella, encompassing data related to threats and vulnerabilities, as well as bad actors, exploits, malware and indicators of suspicious activity or compromised systems. The concept is certainly not new, but it has taken on renewed importance in relation to the cloud. As organizations establish a cloud-specific threat intelligence program, CSPM solutions can serve as a foundational component. Better intelligence makes it possible to resolve security events faster and more effectively, while providing insights to further enhance strategy.
  • Multicloud support: There are many reasons why multicloud has become the norm, but its benefits come with an added layer of complexity. When multiple cloud services communicate with each other, the landscape becomes even more difficult to parse. CSPM restores control and oversight to cloud ecosystems that can quickly feel unmanageable if they are not subject to proper controls. 
  • Continuous compliance: Many organizations must comply with regulatory requirements, such as HIPAA or the General Data Protection Regulation, that apply highly specific requirements to cloud security. CSPM tools assess compliance against specific sets of rules and best practices. Equally important, organizations can choose to have CSPM tools automatically make corrections to maintain compliance, even as circumstances shift within the requirements or the cloud environment.

The CSPM market has grown relatively quickly, making it easier for organizations to find the capabilities and features that best complement their environments or advance specific objectives. Some tools assess multiple platforms and specific types of platforms, while others look at containers. 

Individual CSPM solutions may include these features:

  • Enhanced visibility into cloud costs
  • Cost optimization capabilities 
  • Emphasis on seamless compliance and governance
  • Network visualizations that depict trust relationships and guide remediations
  • Threat remediation capabilities, including integrated cross-team capabilities 
  • Compatibility with other cloud security tools 
  • Robust customization of rules and reports, allowing for more granular control and analysis 

Story by Mike Mullen, a senior field solution architect for CDW’s Secure Cloud team. He is a knowledgeable cybersecurity professional focused on assisting companies as they develop security strategies for their public cloud and hybrid cloud environments. Mullen’s experience with businesses ranging from fledgling startups to expanding global corporations affords him a distinctive viewpoint for determining how security can advance business operations to achieve goals.

45%

The percentage of IT professionals who use a dedicated CSPM solution to manage their configurations

Source: OpsCompass, “2021 State of Cloud Security Posture Management Report” (PDF), June 2021

To learn how cloud security posture management solutions can support IT teams and secure data, read the white paper “As Cloud Adoption Accelerates, Security Must Keep Pace” from CDW.

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