Cloud security posture management explained

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What is cloud security posture management?

Cloud security posture management (CSPM) helps companies automatically detect and mitigate security and compliance risks across cloud infrastructure, including hybrid, multi-cloud, or container environments. These risks include security threats, misconfigurations, misuse of services, and compliance violations related to cloud services. Effective CSPM solutions involve security assessment, incident response, compliance monitoring, and integration with DevOps workflows to improve overall cloud security.

Why is CSPM Important?

When many companies move to the cloud, they assume the cloud provider – whether it’s Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure or any other – is completely responsible for cloud security. However, every cloud breach we're aware of was caused by cloud misconfigurations that can be blamed on cloud customers not cloud providers.

Through CSPM, organizations can identify and mitigate security and compliance risks using automated checks. Cloud users are able to detect potential misconfigurations that can lead to data breaches. Over half of respondents of our State of Cloud Native Application Security survey suffered from a misconfiguration or known vulnerabilities incident, a clear sign that a CSPM solution is critical for comprehensive cloud security.

What causes misconfigurations in cloud security?

A cloud misconfiguration is a failure to implement proper controls for applications, containers, infrastructure, and other software components. These misconfiguration issues often occur when organizations do not have full visibility into their entire infrastructure and the way containers, Kubernetes, and cloud services interact with each other. In some cases, organizations also use the default security settings or credentials, which aren’t always adequate from a security standpoint.

The shared responsibility model

As mentioned before, cloud providers aren’t solely responsible for security. Instead, there’s a shared responsibility between the cloud provider and the organization using public cloud services.

This shared responsibility model varies depending on the type of infrastructure the organization uses. The organization is entirely responsible for the security of on-premise infrastructure, but they have less responsibility for cloud infrastructure:

  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): The cloud provider manages the physical hardware, infrastructure, network, and storage.

  • Platform as a Service (PaaS): Along with the infrastructure, the cloud provider also manages the operating system, environment, and anything else that’s needed to run applications.

  • Software as a Service (SaaS): The cloud provider manages the infrastructure, platform, and software itself.

Although the cloud provider has increasing responsibilities when moving from IaaS to SaaS, the organization is still responsible for securing the way users interact with the cloud through proper configurations.

CSPM Use Cases

A CSPM is a cybersecurity tool with multiple use cases, including threat detection, incident response, compliance, and securing infrastructure.

Threat Detection

A CSPM can proactively detect threats across multiple cloud environments. Continuous threat detection gives organizations centralized visibility into misconfigurations and suspicious activity so they can assess and minimize risk exposure.

Incident Response

Another key capability of a CSPM solution is detecting indicators of compromise such as an attacker changing IAM assumed roles or turning off encryption, as well as alerting the organization to misconfiguration vulnerabilities. Through incident response capabilities, organizations can centrally view and mitigate any threats that are detected quickly and efficiently.


CSPMs can also provide continuous compliance monitoring and reporting for HIPAA, SOC2, and other regulations. This helps organizations avoid compliance violations when using public cloud services and enforce internal security policies.

Securing infrastructure

When it comes to securing infrastructure, a CSPM can detect misconfigurations within configuration files. This helps organizations understand how various cloud services interact with each other and prevents organizations from deploying applications into insecure cloud environments.

CSPM and DevSecOps

As infrastructure as code (IaC) continues to grow in popularity for building and managing cloud infrastructure, developers are taking on more of the responsibility of cloud environments. As a result, there needs to be a shared ownership for cloud and infrastructure security between the development, DevOps, and security teams.

This DevSecOps approach integrates security into the entire software development lifecycle (SDLC), including automated IaC deployments. Because cloud infrastructure is provisioned and managed using configuration files, IaC deployments are susceptible to misconfiguration. CSPM can monitor IaC deployments to detect vulnerable configurations and help development teams remediate these security issues.

Policy as Code (PaC) is another tool that can be used in conjunction with a CSPM solution as part of a DevSecOps approach. PaC is designed to check other code and running environments for unwanted conditions or insecure configurations. PaC can power security automation and empower all cloud stakeholders to operate securely without any ambiguity or disagreement on what the rules are and how they should be applied at any stage of the software development life cycle (SDLC).

CSPM solutions can be used with a cloud native applications security platform to improve security for the applications themselves and the cloud-first environments they run on. With Snyk’s recent acquisition of Fugue, organizations will be able to obtain additional context into the impact of cloud misconfigurations, making it easier for development teams to remediate them. We've integrated many of Fugue's features into the Snyk IaC product, with more to follow.


Why do we need CSPM?

Most organizations have cloud security processes in place to detect intentional breaches from outside attackers and internal actors, but there are also unintentional security risks. Cloud misconfigurations – such as using the default settings or improper access controls – can still leave organizations vulnerable. Cloud security posture management (CSPM) automatically detects misconfigurations across the cloud infrastructure, from containers and Kubernetes to multi-cloud environments.

What is the difference between CSPM and CASB?

A cloud access security broker (CASB) enforces security policies when organizations are using cloud resources. The CASB solution acts as a firewall, ensuring that users interact with the cloud in a way that’s compliant with company policy. In contrast, a cloud security posture management (CSPM) solution ensures cloud resources are configured securely by automatically detecting potential misconfigurations.

What is the difference between CSPM and CWPP?

A cloud workload protection platform (CWPP) is a security solution that protects workloads within legacy data centers, private clouds, and public cloud environments. Cloud security posture management (CSPM) revolves around cloud environments, whereas CWPP protects workloads wherever they’re deployed. However, both cybersecurity tools are focused on protecting sensitive data in the cloud.

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