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Published on 04/11/2024
Last updated on 06/18/2024

How to continually evaluate your security posture


If your enterprise operates in the cloud, you’re well aware that the cybersecurity threats to your applications are constantly evolving. Your security posture is never static. What was robust and reliable today may be significantly weaker tomorrow as a result of cloud environment changes, security policy modifications, or emerging threats. Businesses must regularly reassess their security posture.

But getting a clear grasp of your security posture, which is crucial for safeguarding your operations and assets, can be complex and overwhelming—even with the right tools.

Understanding your security posture is vital, but manual assessments can be challenging. Automated, continuous, and comprehensive monitoring is essential.

What does it mean to evaluate your security posture?

Evaluating your organization's security posture goes beyond simple surface-level checks. It's an in-depth review of various interconnected components in your systems. These components span across your entire IT ecosystem—from physical hardware to user behavior on your network. Collectively, the results of these reviews define how well your business is protected against cyber threats.

While your security posture includes technical aspects, such as network security and software vulnerabilities (which we’ll cover in more detail below), it also includes procedural and human elements. For example:

  • How well does your organization respond to incidents?
  • What policies are in place for data protection or the use of personal mobile devices to access your organization’s networks?
  • How aware and trained are your employees in recognizing and preventing security threats?

Assessing the state of your security posture

Complete awareness of the current state of your security posture is not just about preventing breaches; it's about having a comprehensive understanding of your defensive capabilities. This knowledge is key to making informed decisions about resource allocation, governance policy, and strategic planning. Your security posture is the key piece in shaping your risk management strategy, and it’s essential for maintaining trust among customers and compliance with regulatory standards.

However, this assessment is far from straightforward. The cybersecurity landscape is dynamic, with complex cloud environments, continually emerging threats, and rapid technological change. Evaluating—and reevaluating—your security posture is a complex puzzle that requires both comprehensive insight and the right tools to pull off effectively.

Key areas to focus on in security posture assessment

To evaluate your security posture, you need a comprehensive review of several key areas. These areas are important for identifying vulnerabilities and ensuring that every aspect of your security infrastructure is up-to-date and adequately hardened. 

Some key areas to monitor and assess include:

  • Network behavior: Detecting traffic patterns that might show signs of unusual or unauthorized activities.
  • Application vulnerabilities: Scanning for vulnerabilities within source code and dependency libraries.
  • User access and behavior: Monitoring for unauthorized access or anomalous patterns of access to data or systems.
  • Compliance with organizational security policies: Detecting cloud configurations that violate either internal or external security standards.
  • API and endpoint risks: Monitoring and safeguarding points of interaction between different systems and software.
  • Software supply chain: Protecting against vulnerabilities that may arise from third-party software, build tools, and container images.

Monitoring these critical aspects is your first step in security posture assessment. However, it’s equally important to stay informed about the emerging threat landscape. As cyber threats evolve, understanding new attack types—such as ransomware and advanced persistent threats (APTs)—is imperative. With this information, you can adapt your defense strategies to face the latest security challenges.

Maintaining a pulse on the threat landscape includes keeping up with Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs). By staying updated on CVEs, you can proactively address vulnerabilities, thwarting potential exploits before they occur. A proactive stance is crucial as threat actors constantly seek new weaknesses.

The challenges of manual security posture assessments

We’ve looked briefly at the areas you need to cover in a security posture assessment. However, attempting to do this manually in modern cloud environments is fraught with challenges. The complexity and scale of distributed cloud-native applications make it a near-impossible task. 

Challenges may include the following:

  • Scale: The sheer size and scope of enterprise networks and systems can be overwhelming to monitor manually.
  • Ephemeral nature of resources: In cloud-native environments, resources can be transient, making them difficult to track consistently.
  • Data overload: The volume of data generated by today’s systems is immense, making it difficult to sift through and identify relevant security information.
  • Locality of assets: With the use of repositories and packages, assets are often scattered, complicating the security oversight.
  • Constant evolution: Cloud environments are always changing, with new updates, configurations, and deployments happening continuously.
  • Base image evaluations: Regular evaluation of base container images for vulnerabilities is crucial, but difficult or often overlooked when performed manually.
  • Sophisticated cyber threats: Modern cyber threats are complex and often designed to evade traditional detection methods. Human analysis alone will likely miss subtle patterns.

Addressing these challenges requires a strategic blend of advanced tools and methodologies. The foundation of this approach is automated, continuous monitoring to keep pace with the vast scale and dynamic nature of modern IT infrastructures. This automation should be augmented by AI/ML-supported threat intelligence that can sift through large datasets and identify patterns—patterns undetectable by human analysts—indicative of potential security threats. Additionally, maintaining a real-time inflow of data regarding new and evolving threats is crucial for staying ahead of potential vulnerabilities and attack vectors.

In practical terms, this means embedding security assessments seamlessly into every stage of the IT process. Some examples of measures to take include the following:

  • Changes committed in the pipeline should undergo immediate security evaluations.
  • Any modifications in APIs—whether in implementation, configuration, or external access—should trigger a security review.
  • Repositories should be under constant surveillance for vulnerabilities.
  • Regular network checks on APIs are essential to detect unauthorized changes or signs of intrusion.
  • Monitor for any policy changes—both internally within an organization's security framework and externally in response to evolving regulatory standards—to validate that systems adhere to those policies.

Seeking an automated solution that consolidates your tools

Even evaluating your security posture the first time may seem like a daunting task. How can you expect to do this continually? By envisioning the ideal solution, some key features emerge.

The solution needs to be comprehensive, encompassing a range of capabilities to address the complexity of the cloud and modern cyber threats. Automation is at the forefront of this solution, ensuring continuous monitoring and response without the need for constant manual intervention. Continuous monitoring should include compliance checks to ensure adherence to evolving industry standards and regulations.

Integrating the latest threat data is crucial, allowing the security solution to cross-check the present system state against information on emerging threats and vulnerabilities. Configuration management is vital to prevent misconfigurations which could put your systems at risk of attack. Equally important is vulnerability management, ensuring software supply chain security by checking applications, dependencies, and tools against CVE databases.

Finally, a critical component of this ideal solution is attack path analysis, which leverages AI/ML and contextual information across your entire cloud environment to determine and prioritize security risks that require mitigating action.

Scanning the list of ideal capabilities above, you might come away thinking that you’ll need an arsenal of a dozen or more cybersecurity tools. Granted, the common challenge for enterprises implementing these capabilities is the risk of tool sprawl and creating operational silos. Therefore, the ideal solution should be a single, unified platform that consolidates all these capabilities, streamlining management and avoiding the complexity of juggling multiple tools. 

This is where the concept of a cloud-native application protection platform (CNAPP) comes into play. A CNAPP integrates all the necessary functionalities for comprehensive cybersecurity in the cloud, addressing the major pain points we’ve touched on above. Through automation and continuous monitoring, the CNAPP enables enterprises to evaluate their security posture not just periodically, but constantly. 

CNAPP for a holistic approach to managing security posture  

The ever-changing nature of cyber threats makes it imperative for businesses to have a comprehensive understanding of their security posture—in real time, and at all times. Traditional manual monitoring methods have become insufficient in the face of sophisticated, evolving threats.  

The ideal solution is a holistic approach that combines automation, continuous monitoring, and advanced threat intelligence. By integrating various security functions into a single platform, the CNAPP simplifies and strengthens the approach to cybersecurity, keeping businesses agile and well-protected against emerging threats. 

To learn more about how enterprises are using Panoptica, the CNAPP solution from Outshift, to strengthen their security posture, sign up for free or contact us today. 

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