20 min read
by The Outshift Team
Published on 01/24/2024
Last updated on 02/05/2024
Published on 01/24/2024
Last updated on 02/05/2024
As cyber threats grow—in both complexity and frequency—the cybersecurity field responds by continuing to develop increasingly sophisticated and powerful cybersecurity tools. You can choose from several security tools purposely designed for nearly every aspect of the cybersecurity landscape.
Many enterprises—well-intentioned ones striving to safeguard their operations—reflexively implement new cybersecurity measures, adopting tool after tool after tool. The result is widespread tool sprawl.
At first glance, access to more tools may seem beneficial, but tool sprawl often forces engineers to navigate a maze of disparate tools to address a single security alert or rectify an issue highlighted by the security team. Counterintuitive as it may seem, more security tools can be bad for your security.
In this article, we’ll look at the broader impacts of tool sprawl. Ultimately, we’ll explore how tool consolidation—not proliferation—can effectively reduce cybersecurity risks.
Tangled with too many tools
On day one, a security team starts with a straightforward cybersecurity tool kit—just a few tools that get the job done. But with time, the team incorporates new tools to counter emerging challenges. The tool kit gradually evolves into a complex array of resources. Without intending to, the team heads toward tool sprawl.
In this section, we’ll examine the factors contributing to cybersecurity tool sprawl.
Rapid technological advancements
With technological innovations—such as the widespread adoption of cloud-native technologies and evolving APIs—attack surfaces change in shape and size, and the nature of online security practices evolve. To account for an increasing attack surface, teams need to monitor and assess the many components of cloud-native infrastructure. Naturally, they adopt multiple tools to meet this need.
For example, a team may begin deploying its applications on a Kubernetes architecture. To make sure the various Kubernetes configurations are secure, a team member adopts a tool that validates security policies within Kubernetes clusters. However, as the team moves to a multi-cloud, managed Kubernetes solution, a different team member adopts another security tool to validate access policies for cloud resources.
In this scenario, the team continues to adapt by using new or different technologies. But rather than evaluating which security tools may no longer be necessary or overlap in functionality, the result is the successive addition of new security tools.
Reactive security measures
You can’t always predict which security threats will get you. As threats rise to the surface, engineering teams react reflexively. How might they react to counter the new threat? With a new tool. For example, consider what would happen when engineers experience a sudden surge in ransomware attacks targeting their network infrastructure. Wouldn’t they hastily push for the adoption of a specialized anti-ransomware tool? That seems like the most sensible course of action.
Imagine taking this reactive approach every time a threat appears. Before long, you’ll manage an arsenal of disparate, single-purpose tools. Instead of strategically enhancing security, you’re creating potential interoperability challenges and increasing the overall complexity of your security infrastructure.
This phenomenon is particularly acute in teams without strong collaboration or communication. One team member may adopt a tool in reaction to discovering publicly exposed API credentials, while another team member—with little to no consultation with the rest of the team—adopts an entirely different tool in reaction to an identity configuration threat. It’s likely that a single tool could have addressed both threats. Yet, the team builds up a set of disparate and overlapping tools.
The lack of integrated solutions
What’s better than three tools that each do one thing? One tool that does all three things. Think Swiss Army knife. But in the world of cybersecurity, few companies have the security expertise and scale to produce an all-in-one platform that integrates all of the security tools and solutions you need. It’s much easier to build one tool that does one thing.
And so, security teams simply adopt dozens of “do one thing” tools out of necessity. Meanwhile, the cost of licensing and integrating different tools rises quickly, and these costs are seldom matched by the return value.
Truly effective and wholly integrated cybersecurity solutions are few and far between. Mistakenly believing they have no other recourse many organizations simply swallow the hard pill of tool sprawl.
Feeling the Friction of Tool Sprawl
When a security team builds its approach on having a diverse toolset, it will encounter considerable challenges. Soon, it will realize that this approach is not sustainable. Let’s look at why.
- The infrastructure becomes too complex. Each tool has distinct configurations, update schedules, and operational requirements. And remember—this isn’t even your core business product or service. These are just your security tools! Yet, managing this grossly convoluted infrastructure is a nightmare.
- Redundancies are wasteful. As tools are often acquired independently, one or more tools become largely redundant. This overlap wastes resources that could be better allocated elsewhere.
- Each new tool has a learning curve. Every tool in your cybersecurity tool kit requires time and training to be used properly.
- Silos are an efficiency killer. With each tool operating in its own silo, information sharing between tools is nonexistent. Correlating security information is an incredibly inefficient process.
- Constant context switching is a burden. Each tool has its own UI, dashboards, alerts, and data. When investigating an incident, engineers bounce back and forth between multiple tools, and the mental burden of this context-switching will take its toll—on productivity and morale.
- Threat detection and rapid response are impeded. With alert fatigue, security data that are cumbersome to correlate, and the mental drain of context switching, security teams will be slow to detect and respond to threats. Tool sprawl makes threat prioritization and remediation a tough challenge.
CNAPP: Your Cybersecurity Swiss Army Knife
Managing multiple security tools and suffering under the resulting tool sprawl is a challenge, but one that most organizations begrudgingly accept because they think they have no other choice. However, there is another way.
Modern organizations working in the cloud need a security tool for cloud security posture management (CSPM). CSPM continuously monitors all of its cloud configurations for security and compliance risks. When it comes to monitoring permissions and activities—across all of an enterprise's cloud resources by all its users and entities—organizations depend on cloud infrastructure entitlement management (CIEM). The need for runtime workload protection is met by a cloud workload protection platform (CWPP).
At first glance, listing out the needs and subsequent tools above might seem like taking another step toward tool sprawl. However, today's enterprises are beginning to adopt the cloud-native application protection platform (CNAPP), which consolidates and brings together all of these tools into a single platform. This type of approach brings all the cloud security capabilities needed, but without the array of disparate tools.
By using infrastructure as code (IaC) and continuous governance to protect deployments to the cloud, CNAPPs address the complex needs of contemporary cloud-native technologies. Without the CNAPP, teams struggle to gain an extensive view of their cloud infrastructure to identify and quantify risks. However, the CNAPP dashboard combines your security features and tools into a single management space for clear visibility.
The CNAPP integrates threat detection, reports, and scans related to your cloud environment. Security and engineering teams can manage the coordination of multiple platforms, clouds, and tools, facilitating faster collaboration to identify and remediate security issues.
The CNAPP’s ability to readily adapt to evolving threats and business needs is a significant advantage for organizations that adopt it.
It’s Time To Consolidate: Rethinking Your Cybersecurity Tools
Tool sprawl is more common than you think. As technology advancements and new cyber threats emerge, security teams react reflexively to the ever-changing landscape by adding more and more security tools to the stack. Before long, they struggle to manage an extensive set of disparate and siloed tools.
With tool sprawl comes complex infrastructure management, redundant capabilities, operational inefficiencies, impeded threat detection and response, and, quite possibly, a security team that is burned out.
Instead of adopting more tools, modern cybersecurity requires an organized and unified approach that brings increased visibility and control. The solution to cybersecurity tool sprawl is the CNAPP, a unified platform that consolidates the tools you need into a single solution, reducing complexity and enabling efficient cloud security operations.
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