In 2022, around 90 percent of enterprises worldwide are using the cloud, particularly the multi-cloud setup. Cloud adoption will inevitably become the norm. This entails significant changes in cybersecurity since cloud storage and cloud-based applications present new sets of security challenges. Traditional security methods are no longer effective in mitigating risks given the dynamic nature of cloud-based operations.
Cyber threats are rapidly evolving and finding new vulnerabilities in cloud systems, but the field of cybersecurity is stepping up correspondingly. One of the most notable improvements in cybersecurity is automation, which enables continuous security validation. It is becoming a regular component of modern security posture management. But how important is it? Can cybersecurity systems capably address present-day threats without automating?
Why automation is crucial
It would be inaccurate to say that it is impossible to secure IT systems manually. However, the manual process of testing security controls and sorting and responding to all security alerts is going to take a massive hoard of security analysts. This would be extremely costly, especially with the persistent problem of cybersecurity skills shortage.
Manually keeping track of everything in a multi-cloud setup is a gargantuan task. Even if organizations manage to fill all positions in their cybersecurity team, there is also the problem of human error. Human security analysts can never perfectly ensure that everything is properly configured and vulnerabilities are promptly patched up. The major Capital One breach in 2019, for example, was attributed to an application firewall misconfiguration.
Security posture management greatly benefits automation not only to ensure effective threat detection and response but also to rationalize cybersecurity costs. Average cybersecurity spending is estimated to be over 20 per cent of the entire budget of an organization. It is safe to say that no organization would be willing to spend all of its IT budgets or double its IT budget to hire more cybersecurity professionals to perform security information and event management (SIEM) and security validation manually.
Automation is unlikely to make human cybersecurity experts irrelevant, let alone replace them. What it does is provide massive leverage in keeping up with the overwhelming volume of attacks that rapidly evolve in response to the changes that happen in cloud environments. It addresses the extremely difficult-to-eliminate human propensity to commit errors every once in a while. Long lists of repetitive tasks can eventually tire out even the keenest of employees, so it helps to turn to automation and rely on machine learning to handle alerts and incidents that do not require complex decision-making.
Misconfiguration: A serious threat
It is worth spotlighting the seriousness of misconfiguration in threatening enterprise cybersecurity. As mentioned, the Capital One breach was traced to a misconfiguration problem. That’s a Fortune 500 company with vast resources to allocate for cybersecurity, but it still fell prey to a cyber attack because of a “small” misconfiguration. This human error problem cannot be downplayed, because it can lead to disastrous consequences that do not only involve pecuniary losses but also reputational damage.
According to Verizon’s Data Breach Report, around 70 per cent of IT errors are caused by or related to misconfiguration. These misconfigurations can be caused by programming errors, publishing errors, and misdeliveries. Verizon pinpoints system engineers—especially the so-called “DevOps 24/7 super engineers”—as key figures in the emergence of configuration problems. For this, Verizon recommends enhanced security awareness and skills training, more attention to the secure configuration of enterprise assets and software, and better access control management.
However, cybersecurity teams cannot expect developers to completely eradicate the misconfiguration problem. Even with organizations adopting the “shift left” trend, security analysts still have to go through the process of discovering and fixing misconfigurations. Fortunately, it is now possible to automatically detect many kinds of security flaws including misconfigurations.
Cloud Security Posture Management on the rise
Cloud security posture management or CSPM is defined in many ways, but most definitions, especially from providers of CSPM solutions, usually include at least one of these two important words: automatic and continuous. It is a segment of IT security that focuses on the automatic identification and remediation of risks across cloud infrastructures. It involves the continuous monitoring of the cloud infrastructure to ensure that security gaps are promptly spotted and addressed. It also entails automated compliance monitoring.
CSPM emphasizes the need to keep up with the dynamic nature of the cloud. It is designed to reduce risks across different cloud environments, from software-as-a-service (SaaS) to infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), which are often neglected because of the limited cybersecurity resources of organizations. CSPM makes it possible to quickly apply cloud security best practices amid the complexity of cloud environments. It provides tools that enable asset inventory, network interconnection, and data access pathway visualization.
Additionally, CSPM is capable of mapping risks according to compliance standards and best practices such as those set by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Center for Internet Security (CIS), and SOC2. Some providers also offer CSPM solutions that integrate the MITRE ATT&CK framework, which provides a comprehensive global knowledge base of adversary tactics and techniques derived from real-world observations.
CSPM significantly makes it easier for cybersecurity teams to address threats. Its ability to automate threat discovery as well as remediate the risks or vulnerabilities found allows cybersecurity experts to focus on more important tasks to establish a generally more formidable security posture.
Keeping up with the cloud’s dynamic nature
Proper configuration is a major challenge when it comes to working in and with the cloud. The cloud environment is dynamic. It keeps changing as organizations move data, applications, and workloads. As such, cloud security can be likened to a moving target. There are many variables that change over time and no fixed configuration can work for organizations all of the time.
Hiring more cybersecurity team members to keep up with all the changes and implement the necessary configuration fixes is not a viable solution. For one, it is not easy to hire the right security professionals now because of the ongoing skills shortage. Also, even if there are enough hands to recruit, the cost of doing so would be astounding. Hiring more people means acquiring more equipment and spending on additional overhead.
Hence, automation is a must. Current cybersecurity technology already has effective ways to automate the discovery and remediation of many kinds of threats in cloud environments. It helps create a systematic way of dealing with the challenges of proper cloud configuration as it makes the monitoring of changes and implementation of proper configuration more efficient. Moreover, it eases the confusion on roles and responsibility assignments.