Jan 20, 2022
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Protecting Data in the Cloud: A Work in Progress

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Throughout its history, the tech industry has had to deal with constant change, increasingly complex architectures and security challenges. Security is a particularly deep well of concepts to navigate. One offshoot of this is acronym fatigue, a never-ending, ever-changing mishmash of insider terms that are intended to define markets. The advent of cloud has taken this issue to an entirely new level.
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) took off. Cloud access security broker (CASB) is one of the latest buzzword terms to know. Early CASBs started as shadow IT scans, marketed to help reduce risk and meet compliance requirements. Pretty quickly, CASB products were marketed and promoted because of their ability to protect data and control access to heavily used SaaS environments like Office 365, Google Workspace, Box, Salesforce, etc. They did that by applying another acronym, data loss prevention (DLP), to classify and track sensitive data in these environments. It made sense, after all, as protecting valuable confidential data is the primary reason why organizations need security for these systems.
The most popular CASB architecture relies on APIs to perform DLP and access control functions because it is not inline and it doesn’t require agents. CASBs control inline access to SaaS by using proxies. There are two types of proxies, each with their own pros and cons: Forward proxy (FP) and reverse proxy (RP). FP offers more protection but requires agents installed on the endpoint. RP doesn’t require agents but also offers more limited security. Needless to say, most organizations choose the options that do not require agents.
Today, infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) is on the rise and cloud-native application protection platform (CNAPP) is the newest popular security category (and buzz-worthy acronym). CNAPP is an integrated architecture for securing the cloud-native application ecosystem intended to replace both cloud security posture management (CSPM) and cloud workload protection platforms (CWPP), among other systems. Got that? CNAPP today looks a bit like early CASB in that it is focused on scanning, risk analysis of vulnerabilities and misconfigurations and reporting findings in the context of compliance. This is great, but it’s not enough.
What really matters is delivering better security in cloud-native environments. Unfortunately, security is missing the mark. Cloud-based data breaches dominate the news with breaches like that of Twitch and The Telegraph newspaper in October 2021 and Robinhood in November 2021 reporting significant data losses, for example. IDC reported last year that 80% of organizations in the cloud had experienced a data breach within the preceding 18 months.
IaaS security products often talk about protecting data, but they don’t really do that directly. This is because the alphabet soup of acronym products applied to protecting applications and data in IaaS environments are not yet connecting the dots to DLP. Runtime controls to block access or control network traffic require agents (which few people want to deal with) instead of using APIs.
IaaS environments with cloud-native applications that contain valuable data require DLP and runtime controls using agentless methods just as SaaS environments do. The question is, will CNAPPs evolve like CASBs did to add agentless DLP and runtime controls? Or will they be replaced with something else—perhaps another acronym—that will solve this still-unsolved problem?
How is it that in 2021, data is floating around in numerous cloud providers, but it feels like most enterprises, even those with great resources, are largely flying blind? SaaS and CASB gave us a model to follow for IaaS and CNAPP. We know what to do—it’s time to do it.
Mr. Mitthan Meena is a Co-Founder of Microsec.ai and also serves as its Board Member. He co-founded Laxmicoin and also served as its Chief Executive Officer.
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