Security Posture Management for Data, Cloud, and Apps

Security Posture Management for Data, Cloud, and Apps

A company’s security posture is its current state of cyber security readiness. It may encompass the security policies, tools, and platforms for its data, cloud infrastructure, and applications. Security posture management is a continuous endeavor to ensure that all aspects of the enterprise are always secure.

Enterprises today have thousands of digital assets in their business operations. Each or any of them could be susceptible to cyber-attacks and all other kinds of cyber risks.

In addition, continuous innovations in enterprise technology keep adding to the risk surface. Companies must keep a clear asset inventory to create the base for risk identification and solutions.

There is another very important requirement here.

All compliances for enterprise security need a strong SPM platform to be present. Scoring for the CIS, HIPAA, and PCI also needs the updated data on security posture assessment.

In addition, there is also an increasing amount of complexity that security teams have to deal with. Even though there are tools, the final skills are human.

They must manage vulnerability, test for gaps, predict attacks using AI tools, and zero trust security controls. They also need to identify and access management, to name a few cyber risk-awareness activities.

In the unfortunate case of an incident, they also have to deal with incident response, recovery, compliance, reporting. Sometimes, penalties and data privacy violations result from these attacks.

This is by no means an exhaustive list! There are infinite combinations of where the attacks can come from.

Security posture management enables InfoSec teams to put a structure to this chaos! This activity helps them break down the risks and responses into actively resolving them.

Here are the aspects that are covered in security posture management.:

  • Identification of the current security posture (assets that are actively engaged in the enterprise)
  • Assessment of the effectiveness of the posture – identify vulnerabilities and gaps
  • Improving the security posture– identifying tools and policies to make things better.

Let us see each of them in a little more detail:

  • The current security posture: 

This measures the InfoSec team’s level of visibility in the existing tools, technologies, and platforms. So, it will be a list of all the processes and controls in the system to protect the company from cyber risk.

Moreover, it will also be clear how easily the teams can have information on their work, their weakness and strengths, and the issues they might face.

  • Assessment of the effectiveness of the posture 

Once there is complete transparency, the security posture is also about ascertaining the company’s ability to fight or recover from cyber security outages. The posture is about recording the first response steps and their effectiveness in case of an incident.

  • Improving the security posture

Recent security tool innovations include assessing what parts can be automated and what parts are already automated.

There will also be an assessment of what other tools and technologies will add value to the existing security posture of an enterprise. This may include newer technologies like AI, ML, or IoT devices.

Also read: Essential Cloud Security Best Practices

Basics Processes of SPM

Though it’s a regular and continuous process, some clear activities encompass the process of SPM:

  1. Making an inventory of all assets: this will include everything on-premise, on the cloud, mobile, hardware, third-party assets, applications, databases, networks- anything that could be vulnerable or at risk.

These would be assessed through the scale of business loss in the event of an attack. How much loss will occur if this perimeter is breached? That’s the value of that asset.

  1. Map the attack surface, identifying the points that may allow threat vector entry. These will be a detailed map of points that may create risks and vulnerabilities.
  2. Assessment of the effectiveness of existing security controls- like firewalls, endpoint security, intrusion detection systems, or access control tools. It could be anything from mail passwords of employees to access control for only a handful of team members.
  3. Identifying attack vendors and risks: based on market inputs or research. AI tools could help identify where attacks would happen. It will clarify whether they will be malware or ransomware, man-in-the-middle attacks, compromised credentials, or phishing. This will also include assessing all upgrades and latches- to avoid risks of unsecured assets.
  4. In addition to being compliant, enterprises also need a practical list of real-time vulnerabilities and instant solutions for the regular cyber risks they face.
  5. Monitoring tools for risks such as ‘unpatched software, password issues, misconfigurations, encryption issues, phishing, web and ransomware, denial of service attacks and many others is the mainstay of your security posture”.
  6. Making a clear case of RoI for investment is security posture management platforms. The board and the leaders always need to know if there are any unidentified vulnerabilities in the organization.

A deep and clear understanding of all these risks, encompasses security posture management. In addition, assessing their ability to stay secure or fight the attacks is a big part of SPM tools.

Strengthening Security Posture Management

A strong SPM platform needs some tools to keep it resilient.

  1. Automation is at the top of the list. AI tools can also help in a much more accurate security poster assessment for better management. Automating the inventory for security assets will keep the process agile, accurate, and intuitive. It will also eliminate human errors and oversights, which could cost the company its reputation and financial losses.
  2. The governance process needs to be clearly defined- the risk ownership and hierarchy of ownership have to be clear. Owners of assets have to ensure their securityworthiness by assessing and repairing or replacing vulnerable assets.
  3. Target SLAs and metrics of vulnerability need to be clearly defined, too. Infosec teams can use actionable dashboards and reports to stay updated with the data, taking action wherever required.
  4. Set process metrics for automatic assessments of vulnerabilities- using AI tools. Even smaller vectors like passwords or patches should be a part of this process. Alarms should be in place for unpatched software, phishing, misconfigurations, and password issues.

Enterprise cyber security’s complex and variable nature should be constantly analyzed for vulnerabilities. This will help organizations identify risks and patch them before the damage occurs. With the rapid development of security threats into business threats, a robust SPM strategy is critical to keep the enterprise infrastructure secure.

SPM platforms and tools exist for all major components of an enterprise IT infrastructure. We shall study three of them here- about:

  • Data SPM – DPSM, 
  • Cloud SPM- CPSM, and
  • Application SPM- ASPM  

What is Data Security Posture Management- DSPM 

IBM defines DSPM as: ‘Data security posture management (DSPM) is a cybersecurity technology that identifies sensitive data across multiple cloud environments and services, assessing its vulnerability to security threats and risk of regulatory non-compliance.’

This platforms asses, provide insights into the risk faced by an enterprise’s data. It also structures the repair of the vulnerability point and provides automation tools to deliver the right response to the threat.

DSPM inverts the protection model for cyber security by considering data first. Instead of assessing and securing IT infrastructure components, this approach considers the security status of data first.

DSPM is explained by Gartner in its Hype Cycle for Data Security, 2023, as ‘DSPM analyzes data maps and data flows to assess who has access to data to determine the data security posture and exposure to privacy and security risks. DSPM forms the basis of a data risk assessment (DRA) and evaluation of the implementation of data security governance (DSG) policies.’

DSPM provides insight and automation that enable security teams to quickly address data security and compliance issues and prevent their recurrence. It usually supports other security tools and platforms to secure data before any other element.

Why is DSPM Important for Enterprise 

The widespread and increasing adoption of the cloud and AI and ML tools has led to higher data requirements.

Access control to data or zero trust access has been working to date. However, as more data is used by complementing tools, InfoSec teams are increasingly working to keep the data secure.

Almost every touchpoint for data access is a vulnerability for the entire database. This also includes integration points with other tools- like Application Programming Interfaces (API) or IoT devices.

While there are security tools for data in all infrastructures, they have yet to be able to keep up with this rapid evolution and adoption of newer platforms.

Data faces various risks today, a primary risk being shadow data. This is the backed-up or copied data not monitored or managed by the same security teams controlling the company’s SPM platforms.

There are huge risks attached to this data, and even a single misconfiguration can lay it bare to unauthorized access.

While DevOps can be one reason for generating this data, AI or ML modeling could also contribute to it. Multi-cloud and hybrid-cloud environments can also spread the risk.

The IBM Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023 states that,

'82% of data breaches involved data stored in cloud environments, and 39% of breached data is stored across multiple computing environments including private cloud, public cloud, hybrid cloud, and on-premises

How DSPM works

DSPM solutions are typically automated solutions, and their job is to:

  1. Locate the enterprise’s sensitive data
  2. Assess its security posture,
  3. Align the remedies for these risks with the organization’s security goals and compliance requirements.
  4. Implement tools and other strategies for monitoring the risk to that data

To do these activities, DSPM solutions consist of these key components:

  • Data discovery and Classification: continuous scanning for sensitive or vulnerable data assets. Then, it categorizes these data assets based on their sensitivity to security outages and based on compliances.
  • Risk assessment and prioritization: DSPM looks for misconfiguration, over-permissioning of data access and data flow and leakage issues, and security policies and compliances
  • Remediation and prevention: using AI, ML, and automation tools to keep the data secure.

These aim to protect future data exposure and save its risks.

Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM)  

Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) is a set of tools and practices designed to ensure the security and compliance of cloud resources and workloads.

CSPM tools assist organizations in identifying and correcting cloud security misconfigurations, monitoring compliance with security policies, and ensuring a strong security posture in cloud environments.

CSPM allows for monitoring, which can be accomplished through automation; queries are run regularly (the frequency is determined by the CSPM tool), and features can allow for automatic alerting to security administrators, who can resolve the issue as soon as it arises.

According to the Cloud Security Position Management Market Size report by Marketsandmarkets,

The cloud security posture management market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.3% between 2022 and 2027, rising from USD 4.2 billion in 2022 to USD 8.6 billion

CSPM can continuously and automatically look for misconfigurations leading to data leaks and breaches. CSPM tools continuously manage cloud security risks and ensure cloud compliance, allowing enterprises to make any necessary changes.

CSPM solutions use best practices and compliance (PCI, SOC2, etc.) templates to detect drifts and insecure configurations in cloud infrastructure’s compute, storage, and network domains. These tools can detect insecure configurations and, if necessary, remediate them.

Also read: Cloud Native Security Challenges and Solutions

How CSPM Works

The Cloud security posture management tools look to enforce configurations that are securely established for the cloud. They may use several ways to do that, but the result is a better security stance.

They identify, analyze, and remediate any security vulnerabilities in the cloud.

CSPM tools apply monitoring capabilities to adhere to security policies. They use automated and guided remediation tools to identify any issues those configurations might have.

The risks could be identified in user access, data storage rules, or applications in the cloud. Any changes in the suitable settings could also create security risks for the cloud.

How do the CSPM tools do this exercise? Here’s how:

  • They first enable a comprehensive view of the entire cloud infrastructure that the company uses. This enables complete visibility of processes and systems on the cloud.
  • Most enterprise cloud operations consist of SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS configurations. Transparency can identify where the trouble is. Consistent visibility and enforcement of security policies are necessary for multi-cloud environments.
  • The CSPM tools can also identify where the cloud operations are not compliant and work to remediate that.
  • They recommend actionable activities to remediate suspicious activities that are risky for the enterprise processes in the cloud.
  • They also look for misconfigured resources, improper settings, or unsecured activity across the infrastructure. These issues could expose the data to threats or create system vulnerabilities.
  • With a clear focus on staying security compliant, CSPM tools can identify points of non-adherence to regulations and remediate them immediately.

As applications on the cloud grow increasingly dynamic, security needs to keep up. The erstwhile Cloud workload protection tools now need to work with the CSPM tools to keep the cloud secure for enterprises.

Application Security Posture Management (ASPM)  

Most applications have security as one of the processes in the DevOps. However, if there is an off-chance that some security vulnerability is missed, ASPM tools can work to close the gaps.

ASPM tools maintain an inventory of all the application data in the organization. They work to keep the entire application development lifecycle secure. It works to collect, analyze, and remedy security issues across the software life cycle.

Their clear objective is to identify vulnerabilities in each application. Then, they need to enforce policies to secure these risk points. They also drive testing and patching of these applications and their risk points if needed.

What does ASPM Cover

ASPM assesses the security fitness of different types of applications in an enterprise. It then creates strategies to mitigate these risks and prevent these vulnerabilities in the future.

ASPM has all kinds of applications. It includes all enterprise applications that run processes and data. We have already discussed data and cloud-based applications. It also works on:

Mobile application security posture: focusing on the security posture of mobile applications on various platforms. It will assess the securityworthiness of all enterprise mobile devices and apps and suggest ways to mitigate the issues if any are found. The security testing would be from the perspective of a malicious attacker, so no gaps are left out. The strategy is to deploy a combination of static, dynamic, and penetration testing to identify vulnerabilities.

Web Application Security Posture: This ensures the security of the company’s digital presence.

These tools combine security controls embedded into the web development applications to eliminate malware risks. The web application may contain some defects or gaps that could become serious vulnerabilities.

So, assessing these issues and applying solutions to stop this risk is crucial. Implementing security tests like DAST, SAST, pen testing, and runtime application testing (RASP) ensure that vulnerabilities overlooked during development or implementation are handled.


Security Posture Management (SPM) solutions significantly benefit organizations looking to improve their cloud, data, and application security posture. Businesses using SPM can effectively lower risks, improve compliance, and ensure their enterprise environments’ security.

Giving companies a full picture of their cloud infrastructure helps them find and monitor security risks, incorrect configurations, and holes.

Centralized visibility allows businesses to have more control over their cloud resources. This can also ensure they follow best security practices and lowers the attack surface.

Similarly, data security is crucial today in light of strict data compliance. Also, data leaks can destroy a business, so a data SPM solution is the best bet for fighting that risk.

Applications are the backbone of any digital enterprise, whether on the cloud or on-premise. Regular assessment of their security-worthiness and resolving any issues discovered are critical to the cyber security of all operations in the organization.

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