An effective cloud security posture begins with these three steps

Public cloud adoption continues to surge, with roughly 83% of all enterprise workloads expected to be in the cloud by the end of the year. The added flexibility and lower costs of cloud computing make it a no-brainer for most organizations.

effective cloud security posture

Yet while cloud adoption has transformed the way applications are built and managed, it has also precipitated a radical rethink of how to approach security. What has historically worked on-premises is no longer relevant when dealing with public cloud or hybrid environments.

So, how does one modernize and develop an effective cloud security posture management (CSPM) strategy? Let’s take a closer look at some best practices you can adopt to efficiently manage this transition.

Don’t use static tools and practices in dynamic environments

On-premises security and compliance auditing procedures simply won’t work effectively in a dynamic cloud environment. Instead, you need procedures designed to accommodate the dynamic nature of cloud objects and the rules put in place by the cloud provider. Things simply change much too quickly in the public cloud for routine scanning or other point-in-time snapshot solutions to be a useful standalone security and compliance measure.

Instead, implement CSPM tools that offer the power of continuous, automated monitoring and test your security posture against cloud-specific benchmarks. One example of this approach is a breach and attack simulation (BAS) platform. These advanced tools launch non-stop simulated attacks against security environments and provide prioritized remediation guidance.

Unlike point-in-time scanning or manual pen testing, a BAS platform works continuously to uncover security gaps along with a variety of other key CSPM uses. By harnessing the power of automated continuous protection, these tools are ideally suited for the task of maintaining security in highly dynamic environments.

Rank and remediate

Alert fatigue is a dangerous phenomenon in many fields, and cybersecurity is no exception. Studies have shown that – particularly in information security or healthcare settings – alert fatigue can overload staff, increasing the odds that they miss truly significant events because they are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information coming at them.

Ideally, organizations need to minimize false positives and quickly identify critical risks and violations, i.e., those that jeopardize “crown jewel” assets by exposing data or allowing unauthorized access.

This raises an important question: How do IT staff slice through the fog and effectively prioritize the most urgent risks?

One option is to work with an outside expert to design a plan (as part of a cloud security posture assessment) for creating and enabling mission-critical security checks and policies. A second option is the incorporation of new technology (such as the aforementioned BAS platforms) to make the process of identifying, ranking and remediating threats simpler through continuous automation. By implementing both, it becomes possible to minimize the risk of critical threats being missed or mis-ranked.

More emphasis on security checks in development pipelines

We mentioned above how the dynamic nature of public clouds can render a security scan almost instantly irrelevant. Trying to stay current with outdated tools and approaches is more than a guaranteed losing battle – it’s also a massive waste of time and resources.

So how does one enforce security in such an ephemeral environment? It’s no small challenge, but it can be done without extreme commitments of time and money and never-ending games of “catch up.”

One simple fix is to define misconfiguration checks as a pipeline, allowing for violations to be rooted out once deployment pipelines are in force. Misconfigurations can therefore be quickly and easily rectified by embedding remediation into the pipeline. Feedback can be collected and analyzed to spot violation trends and adapt policies as needed.

Effective cloud security posture: The takeaway

The adoption of public cloud computing has been inexorable, and in a post-COVID-19 world, it will accelerate exponentially. Organizations are eager for a competitive edge by reaping the benefits of cloud computing at scale.

The mandate to migrate quickly needs to be balanced with an equal effort to maintain a strong security posture. In many cases, the ability to operate safely in the cloud has not kept pace with the speed by which adoption has occurred. One need only look at the countless examples of simple (and highly preventable) server misconfigurations causing massive amounts of financial and reputational harm. The fact that this often happens to the most deeply resourced enterprises with access to top drawer security talent should give organizations even greater pause.

To maintain a more robust cloud security posture, it’s necessary to update existing, on premises-centric policies and frameworks and align them with the new and fast-evolving circumstances of cloud and hybrid environments.

In that same vein, it also makes sense to deploy newer cloud security posture management tools, such as BAS, that are especially well-suited to this particular task. The dynamism of cloud environments is one of the core challenges defenders must face; tools that offer automated and continuous protection are part of the answer to surmounting this challenge. Without continuous monitoring, it is simply impossible to manage risk in an ephemeral landscape.

By combining a new approach with a better selection of tools to help implement that approach, today’s enterprises can manage risk more effectively – and develop the kind of resilient cloud security posture management that helps prevent the nightmare of critical asset exposure.

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