Although cloud computing has revolutionised a company’s ability to share data, to account for an increasingly mobile and distributed workforce, cloud environments also complicate its ability to secure sensitive data.
The exponentially increasing volume of data – and datasets being frequently duplicated across multiple cloud-based platforms, applications, and services – mean that most cloud security solutions struggle to keep up with the rapid migration of data to the cloud. Data security posture management (DSPM) has emerged as a solution to the challenges of securing sensitive data in cloud environments.
Let’s explore the concept of data security posture management and 7 ways in which it helps secure sensitive data in cloud environments.
What is DSPM and why is it important for data security?
Data security posture management (DSPM) refers to tools and methodologies for identifying, assessing, remedying, and monitoring data-related risk in cloud environments. DSPM is particularly useful for securing multi-cloud infrastructures where data constantly moves between cloud environments with varying security postures.
In contrast to other security platforms, like cloud security posture management (CSPM), which focuses on securing the infrastructure itself, DSPM offers a data-centric approach to cloud security. A DSPM tool assesses the content and context of data to determine its sensitivity and how high a priority security teams should place on its security.
By continuously scanning and classifying its data, your company can accurately determine:
- How much sensitive data is stored
- Where the sensitive data is located within the cloud environment
- How data flows through the organisation
- How data is being used
- Which users can access the data – and whether that access is required and presents a risk
Here are a few key reasons DPSM security is crucial for securing your company’s sensitive, cloud-based data:
- Frequent transfer and replication
Data moves quickly and regularly in cloud environments, often from secure environments to those less secure. Furthermore, it’s frequently replicated, for use in analytical applications or for development and testing purposes, for example – with little consideration given to the security risk posed by the copy. With DSPM, the dataset’s security posture travels with it, so it’s not just dependent on the environment in which it’s stored.
- Modern development practices
Development technologies, like microservices and VMs, contain their own data stores featuring overlapping data. Plus, a considerable advantage of these workloads is that they’re highly scalable, so dev teams can launch new application instances easily – further
duplicating data. DPSM solutions make it easier to identify and classify the data in new workloads and do so automatically through continuous monitoring.
- Access control isn’t enough
Handling user permissions better, through cloud identity and access management (IAM), isn’t sufficient, because it’s impossible to monitor data movement and usage after permissions have been granted. With the sheer volume amount of data being transferred and duplicated, it’s guaranteed that sensitive data will be stored insecurely – and with no one aware of its existence.
- EDR isn’t enough
Endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions are also insufficient for securing data in a cloud environment. This is because cloud hacks don’t target conventional endpoints like workstations and servers, as they instead hone in on internal endpoints, such as cloud-based services. DPSM provides the required data-centric approach that better accounts for the dissolution of the conventional network perimeter in multi-cloud environments.
Your companies must ensure that how they handle and store data complies with all data privacy standards and regulations relevant to their industry. DSPM tools enable security teams to automate the classification of all your company’s cloud data and map it to the appropriate compliance benchmarks.
How can DSPM security be integrated with other security solutions?
Although other cloud security tools, like cloud security posture management (CSPM) and cloud access security brokers (CASBs), cover some aspects of data security, none does so as comprehensively as a DSPM solution. A DSPM is unique in its ability to identify and classify data across SaaS, PaaS, and all IaaS storage types (databases, block storage, and file storage). Subsequently, it integrates well with other cloud security solutions as it complements their functionality.
How does data security posture management work?
DSPM security tools improve the data security posture of cloud environments through the following process:
DSPM detects and catalogues every cloud-based data asset, continuously scanning the ecosystem for sensitive data. As well as identifying all data, this maps how data flows between services, how it’s stored and processed, and, subsequently, provides the basis for prioritisation and policy enforcement.
The DSPM tool conducts a data security risk assessment and classifies data as sensitive according to its content and context as determined during the identification stage, thereby highlighting security and compliance risks.
Though a lot of data may be classified as sensitive, some data poses a far greater security and/or compliance than others – and warrants a more urgent response. By determining which data presents the most risk, security teams can prioritise implementing policies and controls and manage their cloud data security posture more effectively.
Once the data security and compliance risks have been identified, the DSPM solution alerts security teams of the status of the catalogued assets and helps in the implementation of the suggested measures to enhance the data security posture. This includes setting up automated remediation, based on predefined rules, or guided remediation.
Continuously assessing the performance of the implemented remediation strategies, as well as scanning the cloud environment for further data security and compliance risks.
How can organisations evaluate the effectiveness of their DSPM security program?
There are a few signals that can help companies assess the efficacy of their DSPM strategy:
• Decrease in cloud data breaches
• Reduction in time required to detect data risks
• Reduction in time required to contain data breaches
• Decrease in security alerts
• Fewer instances of shadow IT and a corresponding fall in the volume of shadow data
• Increased compliance rates
The benefits of DSPM for cloud security
Let’s explore 7 advantages of DSPM for data security and how it helps makes cloud environments more secure.
1. Greater visibility into your data security posture
DSPM solutions give security teams far greater visibility into the data within an organisation’s cloud infrastructure. This then makes it far easier to manage and improve the data security posture of multi-cloud environments, which encompasses complex layers of SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, and databases. The automated identification and classification capabilities of DPSM tools allow security to catalogue known data, unknown data (i.e., forgotten duplicated data) and shadow data (i.e., data produced by applications previously unknown to IT).
2. Enhanced detection of data risks
An increased visibility of cloud data will result in the enhanced ability to detect and remediate vulnerabilities, because, after all – security teams can’t protect assets of which they’re unaware. DSPM specialises in detecting risks concerning sensitive data – including users with access to said data that could prove a security risk.
3. Immediate response to cyber threats
Through continuous monitoring of your cloud environment, DSPM allows your cyber security personnel to respond quickly to cloud data breaches and deprive malicious actors of the time to move your network with impunity. This is in stark contrast to having little to no visibility over your cloud data security posture – and having no idea that a data breach had occurred.
Additionally, the insights provided by as DSPM tool allows security teams to discover possible attack vectors and implement the appropriate mitigation and remediation measures. This adds to your company’s threat intelligence and develops a more accurate cloud cyber security risk model.
4. Achieving and maintaining compliance with data privacy regulations
DSPM tools evaluate your company’s cloud data against complaint benchmarks related to GDPR, HIPAA and PCI DSS. It will alert security teams to the nature of the misconfiguration causing non-compliance, the asset it affects, the regulation(s) at risk, and the severity of the compliance risk. This allows the appropriate stakeholders to assess the company’s compliance rate and where it falls short.
5. Mitigate supply chain attacks
As well as identifying where sensitive data is located, DSPM determines which users can access it and where this might pose a risk – including external users. Reducing the number of partners, vendors, etc., that have access to your network – especially those with overly-permissive access, decreases the size of your attack surface. By enabling companies to better manage third-party access to sensitive data, DSPM tools leave them less susceptible to supply chain risk.
6. Protect against insider threats
Similarly, by helping security teams tighten access control across their multi-cloud environments, a DSPM solution protects your company against malicious insiders. In automatically classifying data, DSPM helps pinpoint which roles, and specific users, should have access to specific data and assess whether permissions are too broad.
7. Reduce the time required to detect and remediate data breach risks
Because DSPM solutions offer automated scanning and remediation functionality, they reduce the time security personnel spend detecting data risks and applying the appropriate fixes. Additionally, by prioritising sensitive data according to its risk factors, security teams can hone in on implementing policies and controls that will most strengthen their cloud data security posture. Prioritisation also allows them to configure the alerts they receive – thereby avoiding “alert fatigue” – and guaranteeing they immediately act upon the most important threat intelligence.
Improve your cloud data security posture management with RiskXchange
Through our comprehensive attack surface assessment, RiskXchange will help your organisation accurately identify, classify, and prioritise your cloud data assets – and determine their risk factors. We’ll then assist in implementing the policies and control essential to strengthening your cloud data security posture, as well as the continuous monitoring tools to measure their success.
Contact us to schedule your free cyber risk assessment.