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Linda Rosencrance
Contributing Writer

How to choose the best cloud security posture management tools

Oct 30, 20238 mins
Cloud SecurityData and Information SecurityRisk Management

With hybrid multicloud environments becoming prevalent across all industries, it pays to invest in the right CSPM tools to minimize risk, protect cloud assets, and manage compliance.

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Credit: meow_meow / Shutterstock

After companies move to the cloud, many are under the impression that their cloud hosting providers are solely responsible for security, a misconception that can lead to data breaches and other security issues.

While the responsibility for securing cloud infrastructure falls to cloud services providers, it's up to customers to configure the cloud and secure their applications and sensitive corporate data.

That’s where cloud security posture management (CSPM) tools can help. These tools continuously and automatically check for misconfigurations that can result in data leaks and data breaches. CSPM tools manage cloud security risks on an ongoing basis and ensure compliance in the cloud so enterprises can continuously make any necessary changes.

"CSPM solutions use best practices and compliance (PCI, SOC2, etc.) templates to identify drifts and insecure configurations in cloud infrastructure (AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform) in the compute, storage, and network areas," says Andras Cser, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. "CSPM tools can alert and optionally remediate the insecure configurations.”

CSPM tools look at workloads to see what’s happening and they provide context, so organizations know which of the vulnerabilities or issues is most important, says Charlie Winckless, senior director analyst at Gartner. “These tools enable companies to prioritize which risks are real, which risks are important, and which risks they may be able to delay fixing a little bit,” he says.

Features of CSPM tools

Organizations evaluating various CSPM tools should ensure that they cover all the cloud platforms they’re using, says Winckless.

"You want to be able to normalize the configuration risks across the major cloud platforms," he says. "Most organizations that are purchasing these tools will probably be multicloud. They’ll be using at least two clouds, maybe more, since the cloud providers themselves do offer some of this functionality built into their platforms."

Philip Bues, cloud security research manager at IDC, says the new reality for most organizations is a hybrid multicloud environment, "so you want something that’s going to be able to give you really deep visibility throughout all the environments and workloads that you have. And that's what the CSPM solution should be able to provide you."

Other features organizations should look for in CSPM tools include:

Comprehensive threat detection: Because threats in multicloud environments are complex, these tools must gather threat intelligence from a number of sources to give companies clear views of their risks.

Integrated data security: Keeping data safe in the cloud requires a multipronged defense that gives companies deep visibility into the state of their data. This includes enabling organizations to monitor how each storage bucket is configured across all their storage services to ensure their data isn’t inadvertently exposed to unauthorized applications or users.

Automated alert remediation: Organizations must ensure that the CSPM tools they select can automate routine security monitoring, audits, and remediations across their cloud environments. This allows security teams to prioritize and remediate the risks that can potentially cause the most damage.

The benefits of CSPM tools

CSPM tools offer a number of benefits that help companies boost security, minimize their risk exposure in cloud environments, and reduce costs. These benefits include:

  • Proactively identifying and addressing risks before cybercriminals can exploit them using real-time visibility and automatic detection of vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and security gaps.
  • Continuously monitor configurations as they relate to industry benchmarks and standards to ensure compliance with best practices and regulations.
  • Automating policy enforcement and remediation, which cuts the time and expense of manually resolving security issues across cloud environments.
  • Integrating DevOps workflows with CSPM processes to embed security throughout the software development lifecycle.

Pitfalls to avoid

There are some pitfalls that companies need to be aware of when it comes to CSPM tools, including:

Not understanding the requirements of CSPM tools: This is one of the biggest mistakes that organizations can make when they’re shifting workloads to the cloud because things that weren’t connected before are now interconnected, says Bues. The best way to implement CSPM tools is to ensure teams receive the proper training and proper awareness for how this solution is supposed to work within the environment. "You don’t want to have the security team with little or no cloud experience or developers with limited security experience trying to manage this new CSPM solution," he says. "You should have the developers and the security team working together because everyone has different needs."

Not opting for a multicloud CSPM tool: Another mistake companies make is selecting tools that offer a one-size-fits-all approach offered by public cloud vendors that don’t offer a unified view across all their cloud environments. Organizations should opt for CSPM tools that provide multicloud monitoring and protection.

Thinking they’re too small/not mature enough: A company that assumes it’s too small or not mature enough to consider security will always put the business at risk as it typically only thinks about security after an issue or breach occurs. However, companies of all sizes should ensure they protect their assets across teams by implementing CSPM tools.

5 leading CSPM tools

There are numerous CSPM tools on the market, so to help you begin your research, we've highlighted the following products based on discussions with analysts and independent research.

Aqua Security Real-Time CSPM: Connects organizations’ cloud accounts so they can identify all their cloud resources running in Amazon Web Services (AWS), Alibaba Cloud, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Microsoft Intune, and Oracle Cloud. Provides a comprehensive view of organizations' real-time cloud security risks, identifying the most critical problems so they can focus on fixing high-priority issues. Uses agentless workload scanning to scan workloads and assess companies’ basic risk postures. Detects cloud risks and catches threats that evade agentless detection, including fileless malware, memory-based attacks, and unknown exploit attempts, such as zero days. Provides context-based insights and recommends remediation actions. Prioritizes the most important security issues. Connects issues detected in the cloud back to development.

Check Point CloudGuard for Cloud Security Posture Management: Automates security, compliance, and governance across multicloud environments and services. Detects misconfigurations, visualizes and assesses companies’ security postures, and enforces compliance frameworks and security best practices. Companies can manage the security and compliance of their public cloud environments across Azure, AWS, GCP, Alibaba Cloud, and Kubernetes. CloudGuard’s network and asset visualization enables companies to detect any compromised workloads, vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, or open ports in real-time. Offers threat intelligence support as a free add-on to CSPM customers. This feature offers insights into account activity through threat research and machine learning.

CrowdStrike Falcon Cloud Security: Provides threat detection, prevention, and remediation and enforces compliance and security posture and compliance across AWS, Azure, and GCP. Provides CSPM features for hybrid and multicloud environments. Enables companies to continuously monitor the compliance posture of all their cloud resources from a single console and dashboard for numerous regulations, including the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), SOC2, and more. Lets companies compare cloud application configurations to organizational and industry benchmarks so they can detect violations and remediate them in real time to ensure their applications are always available.

Palo Alto Networks Prisma Cloud: Safeguards resources across multicloud and hybrid environments. Its features work on AWS, Azure, Alibaba Cloud, Oracle Cloud, and GCP public cloud environments. Provides users with total visibility into their cloud environments, automated responses, and continuous threat detection. Analyzes, normalizes disparate data sources to offer enterprises clarity into risk management. Provides historical and real-time visibility across assets and configurations. Offers companies step-by-step remediation instructions for compliance violations and misconfigurations. Collects audit event logs allowing security administrations to see configuration changes and identify when they occurred.

Tenable Cloud Security: Provides a complete inventory of assets across Azure, GCP, and AWS. Automatically detects and maps organizations’ cloud environments, including workloads, infrastructures, data, and identities. Enables companies to view infrastructure that’s configured incorrectly, as well as associated risks, vulnerabilities, excessive permissions, and network configurations that can expose corporate resources. Allows organizations to automatically remediate misconfigurations, risky privileges, and policy violations. Companies can audit multicloud environments against industry standards, including AWS Well-Architected framework, NIST, PCI-DSS, SOC2, and Center for Internet Security benchmarks for Kubernetes and more. Companies can create their own custom checks.