Cloud security posture management (CSPM) 101

Cloud security posture management is the balance of your ability to assess, monitor, and manage all of your assets in the cloud. Learn more here.

Orani Amroussi | April 25, 2024

Cloud services help small companies scale and allow enterprise-level organizations to tap into previously unavailable resources. Companies used to have to bear the expense of setting up their entire network on-premises, and growth was directly correlated with their budget for equipment and hiring the IT staff needed to oversee operations. Growth was also limited by the physical space available. As cloud services advance, businesses can tap into more powerful processing to run applications, limitless storage capacity, and services provided at packaged costs by cloud hosts. However, with these new capabilities come new ways for data to be intercepted or corrupted by cyber attacks. Here, we’ll discuss the importance of a robust cloud security posture management solution to demonstrate the power of a centralized platform for managing your company’s cyber risks.

What is cloud security posture management (CSPM)?

Cloud security posture management refers to an organization’s level of security and ability to protect assets that reside in the cloud or are transferred to and from cloud systems. This security posture is about how adequately an organization can predict, visualize, and respond to potential threats. 

Management involves utilizing the right tools to assess, prioritize, monitor, mitigate, and remediate potential cyber security threats.


Why is CSPM important?

Because of the dynamic nature of the cloud, new advances are occurring all the time. New processors outpace the old, and new security patches are needed for hundreds of applications, each with newly discovered risks and potential threats. 

With the ability to scale dramatically over the physical limitations companies used to face, it’s even more critical to be able to monitor the growing attack surface that accompanies business growth.


Key elements of cloud security posture management

CSPM is essential throughout your business lifecycle. Each element of your organization’s CSPM involves one of three main components: people, technology, and processes.


People represent a potential vector of risk, so every individual in an organization needs to be properly trained to steer clear of social cyber attacks, to avoid introducing any outside data into a secure environment, and to log in and out of network systems securely.


Your CSPM platform centralizes all of your vulnerability data, consolidating your threat intelligence and visibility all in one location.


Effective CSPM requires establishing intentional procedures, thoroughly assessing vulnerabilities so they can be prioritized, and putting a system in place to properly monitor and manage threats.

These processes help an organization recognize its weaknesses so it can place resources where they are most effective.

Below are several specific processes involved in cloud security posture management.

Risk assessment

You need to be able to thoroughly assess every asset that resides in the cloud and any data that’s transferred to the cloud to understand your potential risks and points of vulnerability.


Understanding your assets allows you to prioritize where the most resources are placed to prevent attacks and be prepared with a fast response.

Visibility and monitoring

Maintaining continuous visibility enables real-time insights into cloud environments, helping security teams promptly identify and respond to threats. Monitoring ensures any abnormal activities are detected, minimizing the window of exposure to potential risks. 

Automation can assist in continuous monitoring, detecting anomalies as they occur, and keeping your organization aware of any threats.

Compliance enforcement

There are regulatory standards for every industry to adhere to. Good CPSM processes can help ensure how you manage your assets in the cloud aligns with your industry’s requirements.

Watch: Prioritize and mitigate cloud vulnerability risk with attack path modeling >>


Common cloud security challenges

Cloud environments are complex, with features and capabilities that evolve regularly. Below are some common challenges involved in monitoring and securing cloud systems.

Protecting data at rest and in transit

While protecting data is integral to all forms of cyber security, it can become particularly challenging with so many intricate connections involved in cloud computing, both at rest and during data backup and transfer. 

Data at rest may be stored on-location and redundantly in the cloud, making constant monitoring necessary across a wide vector.

Transit data must be protected from interception, tracking, tampering, and other malicious attacks. This is often a shared effort between your security team and security provided by cloud hosting, which means two fronts to ensure all efforts are synchronized and all tools are regularly patched and up-to-date.

Sharing security responsibility

Cloud services usually come with contracts outlining where responsibility is shared or guaranteed between the user and service provider. In all cases, it’s crucial to maintain ownership of data stored or processed on cloud servers, including everything that passes to and from your organization.

Maintaining visibility and control

Even with state-of-the-art security and network integrity, the cloud always has the potential for outages, wider security breaches, or organized cyber attacks that can leave your data vulnerable. Even when shared security is well covered, a lost connection or misconfiguration can impair your ability to continuously monitor and protect your data.


cloud security posture management CSPM


9 best practices for implementing CSPM

Successfully executing CSPM requires strong systems consistent with general security posture management best practices. However, with the unique challenges and scenarios the cloud presents, there are specific considerations worth keeping in mind when it comes to CSPM.

1. Assessing your cloud security posture regularly

With cloud systems, it’s vital to assess potential risks and vulnerabilities regularly. The cloud is a dynamic space with redundant processes, network backups, and a distributed architecture. Data may reside on multiple networks across multiple locations and countries. 

Assessment is not just about remaining current with evaluation and prioritization but is also about continuously tracking where the data has been.

2. Establishing your own security baseline

Even though your cloud host is likely responsible for securing your data stored and processed on its systems, you need to establish your own foundational standards and methods for protecting your data.

3. Scanning and identifying security gaps

With cloud systems, the attack surface is greater than that of a less redundant, on-premises network. Due to the dynamic nature of these systems, monitoring data and continuously seeking out potential vulnerabilities requires the most current scanning tools that are up-to-date on known threats.

4. Classifying and prioritizing your data

A thorough assessment doesn’t complete the picture of your cloud security posture. You have to define the boundaries for protecting your data based on the most logical resources you have at your disposal. 

Protecting every point of entry down to the smallest detail is expensive and requires resources most organizations cannot afford. If they can, expenditures must be balanced with the value those resources represent.

Classifying and prioritizing your data allows you to align your security plan with the threat levels you face from different attacks and the likelihood they’ll occur.

5. Monitoring assets continuously

Continuous monitoring helps ensure real-time visibility of your assets and any threats that need to be addressed. The better your visibility, the faster you can respond to a threat.

6. Maintaining compliance

Regulatory standards are strict and specific to each industry. You need to know and adhere to the compliance expectations for your organization and any cloud hosting involved in storing, processing, and securing your assets in the cloud.

7. Mitigating your risks

Having a solid security posture helps reduce the likelihood of an unexpected attack while freeing you to proactively prepare a swift, effective response for when a breach occurs.

8. Remediating incidents

With proper mitigation measures in place, if there is an incident, you are prepared with adequate procedures to identify and isolate a cyber attack, contain the damage, and restore affected systems. This may include patching data and setting up unique measures to protect your networks from similar future events.

9. Implementing role-based access control (RBAC)

Your workforce is an essential part of your cyber security strategy. They represent a potential point of entry for attacks, such as scenarios where an individual can gain access to systems or data that aren’t necessary for their job.

Role-based access control is a form of user access control (UAC) that only provides permissions for cloud-based systems based on what each individual needs to perform their job. This ensures access to critical data is only available based on user needs. If an employee leaves your organization, their privileges need to be revoked entirely.

RBAC is not just about setting permissions but also about your awareness and visibility of access. You need to see all administrative data on who logs in, at what times, and whether there are any alerts about password attempts or other unusual activity.


The future of cloud security posture management

Cloud-based platforms will continue to be a means by which businesses expand their operations. Smaller companies are always looking for ways to scale quickly with as little risk and cost as possible, and utilizing the cloud for network capacity, storage, and processing power is a logical solution.

Enterprises likewise see all these benefits and form customized agreements with hosts over the shared responsibility and ownership of security. Productivity software and communications platforms, e-commerce, and virtually every service stand to benefit from software as a service (SaaS) platforms running via the cloud.

This means more and more of the cyber security attack surface will reside in the cloud, and with that come the challenges of protecting the flow of data off-premises.

AI and machine learning will grow in their role of automating cyber security protections like monitoring, recognizing the patterns inherent in potential threats, reacting quickly during mitigation and remediation, and generating more in-depth reports and audits.

Unfortunately, these technologies also help cyber criminals scale their efforts, so vigilance will be key to keeping operations safe.

For now and in the future, robust security tools are central to your operations. As the cloud environment changes and adapts, so must your tools.

On-demand: Enforcing Cyber Hygiene Across Applications, Endpoints and Clouds >>


Recommended CSPM tools

Necessary CSPM tools generally include:

  • Security information and event management (SIEM)
  • Web application firewalls (WAFs)
  • Intrusion detection systems (IDS)
  • Intrusion prevention systems (IPS)

Vulcan Cyber has put together a few lists of essential tools for the most prominent cloud providers:

  • GCP tools: This resource recommends five GCP security tools that offer centralized visibility, multi-layer protection, and monitoring for your GCP cloud services.
  • Azure tools: This list breaks down five tools for Azure you should be aware of. These tools will help you centralize your Azure cloud security and provide firewall protection, scoring, assessment, alerts, and more.
  • AWS tools: In this list of cloud security posture management tools, you can learn about the best tools to use with your AWS cloud system. This includes the AWS Web Application Firewall and Amazon GuardDuty as well as integrations with CloudFront, AWS Lambda, CloudWatch Events, and more.


Selecting the right CSPM solution

Selecting the right CSPM solution is crucial for robust cloud security. Vulcan understands the comprehensive cloud security posture management tools your organization needs for mitigating risk and assessing, prioritizing, and monitoring your assets across your entire network.

Vulcan Cyber offers the industry’s only truly free risk aggregation and prioritization tool. For your complete CSPM needs, demo our platform and discover how to own and own your cloud risk management strategy across your entire organization.