How a Cloud Security Broker Reduces the Risks of SaaS Applications


Data exposure from SaaS and cloud applications is a growing risk factor facing enterprises today. Depending on how far along your company is in its digital transformation, multi-cloud environments and cloud applications are likely used for critical business operations.

There are good reasons to switch to SaaS applications, such as their simplicity, reduced administration and lower costs. Since the advent of cloud computing, applications such as Microsoft Office, Salesforce and Box™ have become indispensable to modern businesses.

As with most changes, there are tradeoffs and trade-offs that need to be evaluated when considering SaaS applications, including the lack of cloud visibility and the security risks that come with it. These are further complicated by new threats, such as the rise of shadow IT and unauthorized applicationswhich were not as prevalent in the on-premises security infrastructure.

As part of a multi-faceted SASE solution, a Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) can help reduce the risks of using SaaS applications, while gaining the benefits of a improved data control. CASB provides protection for users and critical data through unified enforcement of security policies across multi-cloud applications.

What is CASB?

CASB is a cloud-specific security solution used to monitor cloud infrastructure, identify potential threats from high-risk applications, detect unusual behavior and ransomware, and take corrective action to enable more critical data control.

With many different specific functions between vendors to solve problems in different ways, the key element of each CASB is that it acts as an intermediary between users and cloud service providers. The broker strives to restore the visibility and control lost when resources are moved offsite.

As a one-stop enforcement hub, consolidating multiple layers of security policy and applying them universally to every user and resource that connects to the cloud, CASB becomes a critical capability for any organization. Using this array of features, including data identification and identity management, CASB enforces administrator-defined security policies to secure organization data and reduce the risk of spillage or loss.


Countering Shadow IT

Using unauthorized software poses a serious risk. This brings the issue of shadow computing back to center stage – once a somewhat manageable problem has now become a difficult challenge for administrators to manage in order to secure business without slowing it down.

CASB provides granular visibility into user access, activity, and data. The implicit policy enforcement provided by the online nature of the capability covers all devices connecting to cloud resources, including unmanaged smartphones and personal laptops. By securing these connections, CASB provides the administrator with a complete view of the cloud applications in use and their usage pattern, without creating friction that can hinder productivity.

Securing Cloud Account Compromise

One of the essential components of any business network is the account and identity management system. Where an on-premises Active Directory service would previously have provided this capability, with separate applications often using another independent system, cloud-provided identity is now a preferred choice.

This cloud-hosted identity enables features like federated access and single sign-on, which greatly simplifies enterprise account management. However, now that this critical system is more widely used, the risks associated with it are increasing.

Even the most popular and trusted apps contain multiple vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit to breach the corporate network and steal critical or sensitive data. To prevent this, companies need to streamline their security efforts and monitor user behavior to both protect their employees and improve data control.

A CASB can monitor abnormal usage in your environment, keeping tabs on suspicious activity to respond to breaches faster and minimize their damage. As an online tool, CASB can actively reduce the risk of a breach by identifying abnormal app usage, account misuse, or data usage anomalies. For example, these and other factors can provide indications of potential incidents and CASB can thwart them before they begin by simply locking the account to remove access.

Close security gaps for third-party services

While cloud service providers take every measure to secure the data you store on their services, under the shared responsibility model it is your organization’s responsibility to protect the network and users. Given the ever-increasing attack surface, password changes and multi-factor authentication might no longer be enough.

Deploying a CASB restores control of your organization, allowing you to enforce policies for users and data by broadly applying security policies tailored to your specific needs.

The role of CASB in the SASE architecture

The SASE architecture provides a cohesive security solution by combining the capabilities of two distinct domains: network and security.

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