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Security Defined Cybersecurity Encyclopedia What is CSPM? Cloud Security Posture Management

Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM)

4 min read

What is Security Posture Management?

Security posture is a reference to the cybersecurity strength of an organization, which includes an assessment of its ability to detect and respond to security threats. Logically, this means that security posture management deals with the oversight and control of an organization’s detection and response to threats by means of security posture management software.

A security posture includes an array of tools and strategies used to guard networks, devices, users, and data from all kinds of threats, including:

  • Compromised/stolen credentials
  • Breaches
  • Data loss
  • Network performance attacks
  • Misconfiguration/Configuration drift
  • Malware
  • Spyware
  • Ransomware
  • And many others

The better an organization is at minimizing its risk profile, responding to potential threats, and adhering to security compliance standards, the more robust the security posture is.


What is Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM)?

Now that we understand what security posture is, Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) refers to a suite of security tools and practices meant to identify and correct misconfiguration issues between organizations and the cloud. More specifically, services like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and other Cloud Service Provider (CSP) Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) cloud environments.

This is different from SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM) which deals with the configurations of SaaS applications, rather than the infrastructure and platform services that CSPM covers.

CSPM definition

Why do you need CSPM?

The use of cloud services is on the rise as more businesses move their businesses away from on-premise data storage and web hosting in favor of cloud-based infrastructure. The security risks associated with misconfiguration are numerous. In fact, 48% of misconfigurations in the cloud lead to the exposure of sensitive data. This puts your data, your users, your devices, and your systems all at risk of intentional and unintentional breaches.

Even if you configure your cloud infrastructure correctly, over time they can drift away (either intentionally or unintentionally) from their original setups. This is known as “misconfiguration drift” which happens when users reconfigure permissions or other settings in order to make exceptions for specific work needs, such as moving data from one place to another. The problem is that these changes leave other assets exposed, even if unintentionally. Eventually, these changes add up, leading to an unsecure cloud posture that leaves assets and systems open to those who would otherwise not have access to them.

Blog: Addressing Configuration Errors with CSPM and SSPM


How does Cloud Security Posture Management work?

Cloud security posture management uses security policies, monitoring capabilities, and automated and guided remediation tools in order to enforce established configurations and log any issues with those configurations. This includes user access, data storage rules, application use, and settings changes.

Cloud Security Posture Management - Inline CASB

As you can see in the diagram above, the user accesses the IaaS platform, which is governed by the settings and rules enforced by the CSPM. Any data moved between the IaaS to a SaaS application runs through a cloud access security broker (CASB) in order to ensure compliance with data handling standards. Once the data reaches the SaaS applications, the rules and standards set by the SaaS security posture management (SSPM) take over.


What are the key capabilities of CSPM?

1. Continuous assessment
Cloud security posture management isn’t just a one-time process. The key component of CSPM is the continuous detection and assessment of your cloud posture to weed out any misconfigurations within your infrastructure.

2. Automated remediation
CSPM saves time, money, and resources by providing automated and guided remediation over minor and common misconfiguration issues. This way analysts are able to spend more time handling complex security issues.

3. Asset classification
CSPM identifies assets that live within your cloud infrastructures and classifies how they are currently configured. This allows security teams to set up configurations that make sense for their work needs, assets, data, users, and devices.

4. Maintain compliance standards
There are a whole litany of compliance standards that companies must adhere to, including HIPAA, PCI DSS, GDPR, and many others. CSPM helps security administrators maintain compliance when handling user data when operating in the cloud by providing predefined compliance templates to easily adhere to major regulations.


What is the difference between CSPM and SSPM?

SaaS security posture management (SSPM) also deals in evaluating cloud security posture. The only difference between CSPM and SSPM is the scope of evaluation. CSPM evaluates the security posture of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) platforms, while SSPM evaluates posture as the smaller Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) application level.

Other than the scope of the evaluation, the capabilities and benefits of the platforms are nearly identical.


What is the difference between CSPM and CASB?

Perhaps this isn’t the right way to look at this. CASB and CSPM aren’t interchangeable within a cloud security infrastructure. Instead, a cloud access security broker (CASB) works hand-in-hand with CSPM in order to enforce security policies within the cloud. More specifically, a CASB acts as the policy enforcement point between different cloud services and the users accessing them.

CSPM supplements these enforcement capabilities of the CASB by continuously monitoring, evaluating, and remediating configuration issues between users and IaaS platforms. Using both services enables administrators to maintain their security policies on all levels of their cloud infrastructure and prevent configuration drift.

Blog: Correctly Configure Your Cloud Settings: It’s More Than Just Settings
Webinar: Optimized Security for Multi-Cloud IaaS Environments



Optimized Security for Multi-Cloud IaaS Environments

Optimized Security for Multi-Cloud IaaS Environments

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Continuous security assessment for AWS

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