The benefits of cost reduction, flexibility and ease of use are seeing more and more organizations move their IT infrastructure into the cloud. This is creating an increasing need for tools such as Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) to help organizations validate that they are correctly configuring the security controls of their cloud platforms.
Over time we are seeing cloud infrastructure providers offer increasingly rich functionality. This has created a situation where cloud configuration is becoming increasingly complex. When combined with the proliferation of cloud infrastructure, this complexity is making it easier and easier to misconfigure cloud security controls. Unfortunately, these misconfigurations can be hard to detect, with 99% of cloud security misconfigurations going undetected. As a result, misconfigurations remain the biggest threat to cloud security.
How Misconfiguration compromises cloud security
In a previous post we explored examples of significant breaches which were the result of cloud misconfiguration. The magnitude of these breaches underscores just how significant the need is to prevent misconfiguration of cloud security controls.
To understand the problem a little better, let’s first explore the kinds of misconfigurations that can compromise cloud security:
- Inadequate Access Controls: Overly permissive access permissions can result in unauthorized parties inadvertently being given access to applications or data.
- Unsecured Storage Buckets: Misconfigured cloud storage which are made publicly accessible can expose sensitive data via the Internet.
- Insecure APIs: APIs with weak or improperly implemented authentication can easily be exploited and without rate limiting attackers can launch brute force attacks or overwhelm APIs.
- Network Misconfigurations: Leaving unused ports or services active unnecessarily increases your attack surface.
- Identity and Credential Management: Assigning incorrect roles or permissions to users can lead, often accidentally, to unauthorized actions. Failing to remove unused credentials increases the risk of compromise.
- Logging and Monitoring Issues: Insufficient logging can make it challenging to detect and respond to security incidents.
- Container Security Misconfigurations: Unpatched or vulnerable container images can introduce security risks and failing to properly isolate containers can increase the risk of privilege escalation attacks.
- Misconfigured Authentication: Failing to configure multi-factor authentication increases the risk of unauthorized access via credential theft or brute force attacks on passwords.
When addressing the risk of cloud security misconfiguration, two key aspects need to be considered. Firstly, we need to make sure that appropriate controls are chosen and secondly we need to verify that when controls are implemented, they are configured correctly.
To enhance cloud security, organizations should regularly assess and audit their cloud configurations, follow security best practices, and stay informed about emerging threats and vulnerabilities. Implementing automation and using cloud security tools can also help mitigate the risk of misconfigurations. This is where CSPM comes to your assistance.
How CSPM comes to your aid
The complexity of cloud configuration combined with the number of individuals involved in cloud configuration in many organizations means that automated tooling is essential to validate configurations and enforce policies. This is the task of CSPM.
CSPM continuously monitors and enforces security configurations in cloud environments. It identifies and mitigates misconfigurations, ensuring compliance with security policies and reducing the risk of data breaches by providing real-time insights and automated remediation of potential vulnerabilities.
To understand the role of CSPM a little better, let’s explore some of the specific functions that CSPM addresses:
- Automated Configuration Monitoring: CSPM tools continuously monitor cloud configurations, ensuring that any changes are promptly identified.
- Policy Enforcement and Compliance: After validating configurations against security policies, CSPM tools can enforce policies by automatically remediating configuration and then reporting on compliance.
- Access Control Monitoring: By analyzing IAM roles and permissions, it is possible to identify over-permissive access and recommend or implement necessary adjustments.
- Data Storage Security: After scanning cloud storage buckets for public access and insecure configurations administrators can be alerted of potential risks.
- Network Security Configuration Validation: Firewall and network segmentation rules can be assessed to identify configurations which may expose resources to unnecessary risk.
- Container Security: CSPM tools can analyze container images for vulnerabilities and enforce security policies for image usage.
- Authentication and Identity Management: CSPM tools can verify that multi-factor authentication is enforced for relevant accounts and services.
- DevOps Guardrails: As developers increasingly use technologies such as Infrastructure as Code, CSPM tools can assist to identify insecure configurations before they are pushed into the cloud, helping developers to implement a “DevSecOps” philosophy.
For many organizations, a staged implementation of CSPM may be appropriate. As a first stage, CSPM can be used to detect weaknesses and assess issues with compliance against standards. Based on these findings it may first be appropriate to manually correct configurations and update policies. Once you are confident with your CSPM implementation and the changes it will make to correct misconfigurations, you can move to fully automated remediation.
Looking at the bigger picture
When considering cloud infrastructure security, CSPM should not be looked at in isolation. While CSPM can be seen as being “passive” as a result of its focus on configuration, other technologies are needed to play an active role in protecting your cloud assets. Thus, CSPM needs to be viewed as part of a broader cloud security ecosystem which includes the following technologies:
- Security Service Edge (SSE), which is an umbrella covering technologies such as Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASB) and Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) which secure access for users to business applications in the cloud,
- Web Application Firewalls (WAFs) which secure publicly accessible websites and web applications against attack,
- Encryption of data, both in flight and at rest,
- External Attack Surface Management (EASM), which helps you to understand and manage the externally visible attack surface of your cloud assets, and
- API Security tools which help to protect publicly exposed APIs.
Even with all these tools, you still need the ability to detect attempts to bypass controls, or breaches which result from gaps in them. This is where XDR plays a crucial role in collating the alerting from all of your security tooling and presenting you a single view of all of your alerts, prioritizing the important ones and suppressing the noise. This allows you to find any threats which breach your controls and also see where your controls may have gaps.
Where CSPM focuses on configuration of cloud assets, XDR focuses on activity across your entire technology estate. This means that XDR can also detect lateral movement. For instance, if an attacker gains initial access in your on-premises environment, they may then exploit credentials they have stolen to access your cloud assets, allowing them to bypass even the best security posture. In this kind of situation, XDR complements technologies like CSPM by detecting unusual activity generated by attackers who gain initial access in one environment and then try to move laterally.
The critical focus on posture, which CSPM provides is an element of your security toolset which adapts gradually over time. In contrast to this the detection capabilities provided by XDR need to adapt very rapidly through the use of AI and machine learning to rapidly respond to the changing tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) of threat actors.
To experience how Samurai XDR brings together the alerting from all of your security tooling into a single, prioritized view, start your free trial today.
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