Details You Need to Know About the Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB)

Cloud access security brokers (CASBs) are security application points placed between cloud service providers and customers. They ensure that traffic complies with policies before allowing it to access the network. Firewalls, malware detection, authentication, and data loss prevention are standard features of CASBs.

A CASB is a piece of cloud-hosted software or on-premises software or hardware that acts as a go-between for users and cloud service providers. The ability of a CASB to address security gaps extends across SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS environments.

See Also: Cloud Security Checklist

A CASB allows your organization to extend the reach of security policies from on-premises infrastructure to the cloud and create new policies for the cloud-specific context, in addition to providing visibility.

Today, CASBs have become a vital part of corporate security, enabling businesses to use the cloud securely while protecting sensitive corporate data.

CASB is a policy enforcement hub that consolidates multiple types of security policy enforcement for any device, such as unmanaged smartphones, IoT devices, or personal laptops.

What is Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB)?

A cloud access security broker (CASB) is a security checkpoint between cloud network users and cloud-based applications that manage and enforce all data security policies and practices, including authentication, authorization, alerts, and encryption. CASBs increase an organization’s visibility into who accesses its data and use it at endpoints.

See Also: Cloud Application Security Guide with Best Practices

A CASB protects your cloud environment through a combination of prevention, monitoring, and mitigation techniques. In addition to examining user activity, CASB can warn administrators of potentially malicious activity. It can likewise prevent the installation of malware or other threats and detect potential compliance violations. CASB may also examine the organization’s firewall or proxy logs to understand cloud application usage better and identify anomalous behavior.

Due to the proliferation of cloud-based services and the growing popularity of BYOD policies, implementing a CASB solution is highly beneficial to your overall security. These two trends, when combined, have greatly expanded the data landscape, making it more difficult for businesses to control network usage and protect corporate data. Because CASBs access personal devices, it’s also essential that the solution adheres to modern privacy standards and only examines corporate data.

Many CASB security features are unique compared to those offered by other security controls such as web application firewalls and secure gateways and may include the following:

  • Cloud governance and risk assessment
  • Data loss prevention
  • Control over native features of cloud services such as collaboration and sharing
  • Threat prevention, often user and asset behavior analytics
  • Configuration control
  • Malware detection
  • Data encryption and key management
  • SSO and IAM integration
  • Contextual access control

What Does a Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) Do?

CASB’s primary purpose is to protect your organization’s sensitive data from theft, loss, or leakage. CASBs fill a security gap created by the migration to the cloud and the explosion of endpoints.

The essential functions of a CASB include:

  • Data management
    • Manage your company’s cloud usage with granular visibility and various controls based on user identity, service, application, activity, location, or endpoint.
    • Allows you to automate the management of data policy violations by performing actions such as blocking, overriding, warning, encryption, or quarantining.
    • Provide a summary of actions taken in response to policy violations to the IT team.
  • Data security
    • Help you protect and prevent data from being stolen, lost, or leaked in all cloud services and applications by encryption, tokenization, or other techniques.
    • Data loss prevention (DLP) tools and processes can be built using CASB.
    • You can proactively monitor the cloud security environment for policy violations.
    • You can integrate CASB within the broader security strategy and security architecture.
  • Threat protection
    • It helps you gain complete visibility and control over all corporate data across all cloud services.
    • Allows you to identify and isolate cloud-based threats, including malware and ransomware.
    • CASB enables you to use artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and other intelligent automation tools to detect anomalous behavior and threats like ransomware and malware.
    • You can continually evolve CASB to respond to the ever-changing threat landscape and provide ongoing threat protection.
    • You can alert the cloud security team of any active threats or abnormal activity.

What Are the Key Components and Principles of CASB (Cloud Access Security Broker)?

CASBs are based on four fundamental principles: visibility, compliance, cloud security, and protection:

1. Visibility

The move to the cloud has made it exponentially more challenging to maintain visibility into where and how their data is used in any number of cloud environments and applications. If you cannot see this data, you cannot ensure that the use complies with your data policies.

Large businesses can have any number of employees accessing many applications in many different cloud environments. When cloud usage is beyond IT’s view, corporate data is no longer tied to its governance, risk, or compliance policies. The CASB solution you will use to protect users, confidential data, and intellectual property provides comprehensive visibility into cloud application usage.

Cloud discovery analysis assesses the risk of each cloud service in use, allowing enterprise security professionals to decide whether to allow access or block the application. This data is also helpful in shaping more granular controls, such as granting different levels of access to apps and data based on a person’s device, location, and job function.

Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) helps improve visibility into cloud services, applications, and endpoints accessing your data. It also controls access levels that vary by user ID, location, job function, or device. For example, CASB can allow specific files to be shared internally with authorized users and prevent the same files from being shared with external parties.

2. Compatibility

While businesses can outsource their entire systems and data storage to the cloud, they take responsibility for compliance with regulations that govern the privacy and security of corporate data. Regardless of the increasing complexity of a cloud-based business model, organizations must continue to comply with a slew of government and industry regulations governing privacy and the responsible use of corporate data.

A properly designed and structured CASB helps simplify the regulatory environment by automating reporting activity and detecting potential violations with relevant regulations such as HIPAA, GDPR, and PCI DSS. In addition, a CASB solution can identify areas of highest risk for compliance and provide direction on what the security team should focus on to resolve them.

3. Cloud Data Security

Protecting sensitive data has become more complex as businesses shift to a more remote and distributed workforce and rely more on cloud-based infrastructure. Also, the increasing sophistication of hackers and digital enemies emphasizes their ability to prevent attacks.

The adoption of the cloud has removed many of the barriers that hinder effective remote collaboration. But while the seamless movement of data can be beneficial, it can also come at a considerable cost for businesses interested in protecting sensitive and confidential information.

Traditional data protection solutions are designed to protect on-premises data, but they must be adapted and extended to include cloud services. While on-premises DLP solutions are intended to protect data, they frequently do not extend to cloud services and lack cloud context.

When CASB is combined with advanced DLP, IT can see when sensitive content travels to or from the cloud, within the cloud, and to the cloud. As a result, corporate data leaks can be reduced by implementing security features like data loss prevention, access control, information rights management, encryption, and tokenization.

Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) enhances the impact of your organization’s existing DLP by allowing the same principles that you use in your traditional infrastructure to be applied to in motion, at rest, and data in use in the cloud.

4. Threat Protection

The growing complexity of cyber-attacks raises the possibility of data theft or leakage. In the meantime, the relatively complex nature of cloud architecture increases the possibility of human error. For example, misconfigured S3 folders or unsafe accounts that leave ports public or the use of an application programming interface (API) can turn typical cloud workloads into open targets that can be easily discovered with a simple web browser.

Likewise, employees and third parties with stolen credentials can leak or steal sensitive data from cloud services through negligence or malicious intent. CASBs can compile a comprehensive view of standard usage patterns and use it as a basis for comparison to detect abnormal user behavior.

CASBs can detect and remediate threats when someone tries to steal data or gains inappropriate access using machine learning-based user and asset behavior analytics technology. In addition, to protect against threats from cloud services, CASB can use capabilities such as adaptive access control, static and dynamic malware analysis, priority analysis, and threat intelligence to block malware.

Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) helps your organization improve data visibility in the cloud through various detection, monitoring, and prevention tools. For example, CASB can enable the information security team to scan and remediate threats on internal and external networks in real-time. CASB also allows detection and blocking unauthorized user access to cloud services and data.

How CASB (Cloud Access Security Broker) Works

The cloud access security broker’s job is to provide visibility and control over data and threats in the cloud in order to meet enterprise security requirements.

This safeguarding is accomplished in three steps:

  • Discovery: The CASB solution employs auto-discovery to generate a list of all third-party cloud services and use them.
  • Classification: When the full scope of cloud use is revealed, the CASB determines what the application is, what type of data is contained within the application, and how it is shared, determining the level of risk associated with each.
  • Remediation: Once the risk of each application is recognized, the CASB can use this information to set user access policies that meet the organization’s data and security needs and automatically take action when a breach occurs.

CASBs also provide additional layers of security via anti-malware and data encryption.

Why Should You Use a Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB)?

The advantage of cloud computing is also its disadvantage because users can access cloud environments from anywhere with an internet connection, just as cybercriminals can access them.

See Also: Best Practices for Cloud Security

As previously on-premises services continue to migrate to the cloud, it is essential to maintain visibility and control in these environments to meet compliance requirements, protect your organization from attacks, and allow your employees to use cloud services securely.

For businesses migrating to a cloud-based model, security is a top concern. As a result, organizations must create and develop a comprehensive cloud security solution to protect themselves against an ever-expanding array of threats and highly sophisticated attacks in the cloud infrastructure.

Traditional security strategies must be updated to address cloud-related threats. However, it is essential to remember that cloud networks follow the “shared responsibility model.” The shared responsibility model means that most of the underlying infrastructure is secured by the cloud services provider. However, the user is responsible for everything from the operating system to the applications and data.

However, the shared responsibility model can be misunderstood and assume that the CSP fully protects cloud workloads. This can cause users to unknowingly run workloads in an unprotected public cloud, allowing enemies to target the operating system and applications to gain access.

Even securely configured systems can become an obvious target as they are vulnerable to zero-day exploits.

CASBs help provides much deeper visibility into how data is used in the cloud environment, including cloud applications, cloud services, and cloud users. In addition, CASBs are designed to help you protect against the security challenges and vulnerabilities in a cloud environment.

For example, CASB can reduce the risk of Shadow IT or the risk of applications and infrastructure being managed and used without your knowledge. With the transition to an agile DevOps software model, many organizations are concerned about shadow IT. In this model, developers typically create workloads using their accounts.

These unauthorized entities threaten your environment as they are often not properly secured and are accessible via default passwords and configurations that can be easily compromised. A CASB provides visibility into situations such as shadow IT and can provide automated recommendations on how you can respond to such issues.

What are the General Uses of CASBs?

Thanks to the security policies we have made on CASB, users will access cloud applications within the procedures we have set while accessing cloud applications from any network or platform.

In this way, we strengthen the security level of our applications on cloud computing infrastructure systems, increase our cyber security level to high levels, and prevent an attack or loss that can be made against company information or users.

CASB continuously performs the necessary controls and monitoring during access to the applications in the cloud computing infrastructure. Thanks to these controls, any anomalies and movements detected while accessing the applications on the cloud computing infrastructure are prevented, and security is ensured.

Managed Usage

Known for their efficiency in discovering shadow IT behaviors, CASBs are also more knowledgeable about enterprise security. A CASB can manage your organization’s cloud usage with granular visibility and control. CASBs allow you to manage usage-based on identity, service, activity, application, and data, rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach by blocking services.

You can also define policies based on service category or risk and select policy enforcement actions such as blocking, warning, bypassing, encryption, quarantine, and forwarding. Finally, you can use these examples to alert your IT team of any action taken against any policy in place for internal monitoring.

Secure Data

With CASB, you can protect sensitive data and prevent data loss across all cloud services in your environment, not just the services you approve. You can take advantage of advanced DLP features to discover and protect sensitive data in certified cloud services, with or without permission, whether users are accessing it on-premises or remotely, on a mobile device, or from a web browser. You can also combat data loss with encryption, tokenization, or upload prevention.

Threat Protection

With CASB, you can protect against cloud-based threats such as malware and ransomware. Start with complete visibility into all cloud services, including those using SSL encrypted connections. Then, use anomaly detection and check intelligence sources such as which of your users have compromised their accounts.

You can also combine static and dynamic anti-malware detections and machine learning to detect ransomware. Finally, you can keep the rest of your security infrastructure unified through out-of-the-box integrations and workflows.

How to Deploy CASB?

Simplicity is a key selling point of cloud access security broker technology. However, besides ease of use, one of the most significant advantages of CASB is the ease of deployment. Some points to consider when deploying a CASB are as follows:

  • Deployment Location: A CASB can be deployed on-premises or in the cloud. However, most CASB distributions are SaaS-based.
  • Deployment Model: There are three different CASB distribution models to consider: API-Control, Reverse Proxy, and Forward Proxy:
    • API Control: The cloud computing system you use works directly with the CASB system. It offers faster deployment, comprehensive coverage, and visibility into data and threats in the cloud.
    • Reverse Proxy: Cloud computing systems automatically direct connection requests to the CASB system, allowing verification and access over CASB. Ideal for devices that are generally outside the scope of network security.
    • Forward Proxy: The installation management passes the client traffic through the CASB system with the help of an agent installed on the computer. It is frequently used in conjunction with VPN clients or endpoint security.

Proxy deployments are frequently used to enforce inline real-time controls and meet data residency requirements.

It is recommended that you consider CASB products, which offer various architecture options to cover all cloud access scenarios for your organization. In addition, the flexibility of a multimodal CASB lets you expand cloud security as your business needs continue to evolve.

The CASB, as mentioned above, commissioning methods vary by manufacturer and product. The connection types described above can be used differently by differentiating the manufacturer. When purchasing a CASB system, you should compare each manufacturer’s product.

Some manufacturers may require an agent, while others may not. Although the products are flexible, choosing a product specific to the institution’s structure helps you not spend much administrative effort.

What are the Differences Between CASB, CSPM, and CWPP?

Cloud workload protection platforms are frequently used to compare the core elements of cloud security posture management (CSPM) (CWPP). CSPM focuses on cloud API security, preventing misconfigurations and integrating them into the CI/CD pipeline.

See Also: An In-Depth Look at Cloud Workload Protection Platforms (CWPP)

CWPP plays another vital role that focuses on cloud container runtime protection and ongoing vulnerability management. However, both CSPM and CWPP are intended to protect sensitive data stored in the cloud.

See Also: What is Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM)

While CWPP and CSPM work to secure data, a CASB works to improve endpoint visibility, such as who accesses data and how it is used.

See Also: What is Runtime Application Self Protection (RASP)

CASB, CSPM, and CWPP are the fundamental triad of cloud data security and cloud access. Therefore, it is recommended that you implement all three security methods to optimize your cloud security infrastructure.

How to Select a CASB (Cloud Access Security Broker)?

For organizations looking to adopt a CASB, it is essential to view this solution as a single tool within a broader cybersecurity strategy. Therefore, you should evaluate the CASB vendor’s ability to integrate with your organization’s existing security infrastructure, such as DLP, security information and event management (SIEM), firewall, and secure web gateways.

Before choosing a cloud access security broker, you should identify your CASB use cases and look for the solution that best fits your particular goal. Then, to ensure the best fit, you should perform detailed POCs, compile research from cybersecurity analysts, or conduct in-depth reference searches with other companies of similar size and similar needs.

As cloud adoption grows, so will the threat landscape. By choosing the right CASB solution and vendor, you can access new capabilities faster while keeping your cloud compliance and security policies up to date.

Protecting SaaS is essential, but IaaS environments must be covered for comprehensive enterprise security. If you need this capability, the CASB solution you choose should protect activity and configurations in IaaS through threat protection, activity monitoring, and DLP controls.

It would be best if you also considered the following factors:

  • Review the CASB solution for specific use cases. Every organization’s cloud security needs are unique. Therefore, organizations should determine which use cases they prioritize when considering a CASB vendor. Then you should evaluate the sellers on these issues. This assessment will help you choose a CASB reseller with the expertise to meet your specific needs.
  • Evaluate the CASB vendor environment. Leveraging media coverage and analyst reports identify organizations with a strong track record of preventing breaches and resolving security incidents quickly and effectively. As previously stated, it will be critical to identify vendors who can provide the organization’s specific use cases. In addition, consider the limitations of potential solutions if the company is evaluating multiple use cases.
  • Give it a shot. Many CASB vendors allow customers to test a critical application before full deployment. This step ensures that the CASB solution is compatible with the organization’s existing cloud infrastructure and can be supported using existing company resources.
  • Critical CASB functions. During the trial and evaluation period, you should also determine the CASB’s role in authentication, authorization, alerts, and encryption. For example, the IT team will determine when and how detailed, risk-based authentication will be implemented and whether CASB will provide this functionality. The team may also need to determine whether the CASB solution will integrate with existing identity-as-a-service (IDaaS) or single sign-on (SSO) tools.
  • Perform regular inspections. The threat landscape can change rapidly. Therefore, it is essential to conduct regular audits with your CASB vendor, once deployed, to ensure that the organization and its data are adequately protected.
Surkay Baykara
Surkay Baykarahttps://www.pcidssguide.com
A passionate Senior Information Security Consultant working at Cyberwise. Over the past 15+ years my professional career has included several positions beginning as a developer and IT administrator, working my way up to a senior Technical Performance Consultant before joining Biznet back in 2015. I had several different roles at Cyberwise, including Penetration Tester and PCI DSS QSA. In my job as a QSA, I found my passion and worked closely with the Audit and Compliance team. I've been working inside InfoSec for over 15 years, coming from a highly technical background. I have earned several certifications during my professional career including; CEH, CISA, CISSP, and PCI QSA.

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