With more businesses embracing cloud services every day, companies around the world are experiencing benefits like flexibility and availability in the way that they work. But there is an area of that is critical to the success of any cloud platform – security.
Cloud services may make it easier for businesses to ensure that the right people have access to the information that they need to work from wherever they are in the world, but this access can also pose a security risk if not delicately managed. And the risk grows with every additional cloud platform that a company uses. This is why businesses need a Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) to effectively manage users and permissions across their cloud solutions.
What is a CASB? Cloud Access Security Broker
A CASB is a piece of software that can be used to manage permissions, monitor activity and protect data that is being stored across your cloud services. When it boils down to it, a CASB lets a business make the most of a wide range of cloud services while still ensuring optimum security, no matter where or how your data is being stored.
One common CASB that many companies don’t even realise that they have access to is Microsoft Advanced Threat Protection. While Microsoft ATP, as it’s often referred to, is a holistic security solution, encompassing email security, training and so much more, it can also act as a cloud access security broker, helping businesses to add an extra layer of security to their cloud solutions.
Who Should Use A CASB?
While there are advantages to using a cloud access security broker in any business, there are a few businesses that will benefit the most from putting a CASB in place.
Companies that are taking advantage of Hybrid IT by maintaining some infrastructure on-premises, while also making use of cloud services, will find a CASB particularly helpful for managing their security. Because a CASB works across multiple platforms, and allows businesses to specify security protocols, it will make the management of users and the files and services that they can access, far easier.
Businesses that are also using a wide range of cloud services, whether they are Platform as a Service (PaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (Iaas) or Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions, will find using a cloud access security broker useful for exactly the same reason. The more platforms you’re using, the more difficult it can be to keep track of who has what access on each of them. Using a single, consolidated piece of software to manage users and permissions across your cloud services will simplify the process, improving your overall cloud security.
How Does A Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) Work?
I’ve given you a CASB definition, but you may have noticed that it doesn’t give too much detail about how CASB security actually works. That’s because the way that a cloud access security broker works will depend on what you want to use it for.
A CASB can be a proxy through which traffic to and from your business is filtered, restricting the sites that can be visited, which in turn reduces the risk of your teams accidentally clicking on a malicious link and downloading malware.
It can encrypt data in transit to cloud services from devices on your network, making it more difficult for an attacker to intercept files and information.
It can even block certain types of data from being uploaded to your cloud services, reducing the risk that an attacker can upload content with backdoor access onto your servers.
A cloud access security broker also uses auto-discovery to help you manage which cloud solutions are being accessed, by who, and what they’re being used for, allowing businesses to better monitor activity across their cloud platforms, making it easier to detect unauthorised access or apps that are no longer necessary for their operations.
What Are The 4 Pillars Of CASBs?
While CASBs can work in a variety of different ways according to your business’ unique needs, there are four areas that IT professionals separate a cloud access security broker’s protection into. These are known as the four pillars of CASB.
The bigger a business is and the more employees it has, the more cloud services it is likely to use. Each individual employee may be using cloud solutions for their individual purposes. For example, members of your accounts team may be using cloud-based invoicing solutions, while your marketing team uses Adobe’s creative cloud, and your management team is using Microsoft’s cloud-based analytics services like PowerBI, Delve and Viva Insights.
When your teams are working from home, either full or part-time, the scenario only becomes more complicated, as there are personal cloud services that need to be accounted for as well.
Knowing which cloud platforms are being used, who is using them, and what purpose they serve, can help your business to consolidate it’s cloud services, or to restrict the data that is being uploaded to personal cloud apps. This visibility of cloud solutions is the first step in protecting your teams, their devices, and your data.
With regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU and the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) in South Africa, businesses need to be exceedingly careful about the ways that data is acquired, processed, stored and removed. When you’re using multiple cloud solutions, it can be difficult to keep track and ensure that the data on each platform is meeting compliance regulations. But because a CASB is cross-platform, aiding in the management of data across every cloud solution that you use, it makes data compliance and audit readiness easier to maintain.
3. Data Security
Cyberthreats are increasing on a daily basis, and making sure that your data is protected against them is critical to your business success. Every platform that you use adds to the risk that your company faces when it comes to attacks. But this risk can be minimised when using a security broker, since it can act as a proxy for your data to be submitted through, encrypting it while it’s in transit, and reducing the risk of data leakage or a Man in the Middle attack, for example.
Because a CASB also offers user management capabilities and gives you the opportunity to manage permissions across your cloud platforms, it also protects data security once the information is resting on cloud servers by restricting access to it, and alerting you to unauthorised access attempts.
4. Threat Protection
While data security is certainly one of the priorities that your company needs to address when it comes to threats to your business, it is not the only one. And it’s not the only threat that a CASB helps to guard against either.
By restricting the websites that your teams can visit, you can curb the threat of phishing mails substantially, since your CASB will act as a firewall, stopping malicious links from being opened. This, in turn, will reduce the risk of malware being installed, credentials becoming compromised, and attackers gaining access to your cloud solutions without your knowledge, improving your cyber security services overall.
Even if an attacker does gain access to your systems, because cloud access security brokers allow for real-time monitoring and threat detection, you’ll be alerted to any unusual activity or attempts to access information that should be restricted. This will give you the opportunity to curb an attack before any real or lasting damage can be done.
What Are The Benefits Of CASBs?
While the four pillars provide a good deal of insight into the benefits of using the software, there are other benefits of CASBs for your business as well:
1. Have a Cyber Security Strategy
As your business invests in a variety of different cloud platforms to meet your unique needs, so the costs associated with cloud services increases. But it can be difficult to gain real insight into the adoption of these new platforms, and to have a good understanding of what purpose each of them serves. By providing a high-level view of your cloud services and monitoring the access and activity on them, using a cloud access security broker means your business can prioritise the platforms that are adding the most value, helping you in turn to better manage your overall spend and budget.
On top of this, with the increased threat protection that a CASB offers, the risk of falling victim to a costly attack is significantly reduced. There is less chance that you will fall victim to a ransomware attack, since you’ll be alerted to suspicious activity before all of your data can become compromised or encrypted. And you’ll also be less likely to experience other types of cyberattacks that bring all of your systems and operations offline, since no one platform will be less protected than any other, acting as a vulnerable access point.
2. Improve Business Cyber Hygiene
You take steps every day to ensure your personal hygiene, but are you taking the right steps to protect your business?
There are simple changes that you can make, checks that you can run, ways of maintaining your network and data security, and having a CASB in place will help you to make these checks and balances part of your everyday processes.
If you’d like to learn more about what is cyber hygiene and why it’s essential for businesses, check out our blog. And if you’re looking for a checklist that will help you to put cyber hygiene measures in place, either as an individual, or as a company, we’ve put together a Personal Cyber Hygiene Checklist and a Business Cyber Hygiene Checklist over on our resources page.
3. Increase Productivity
You want to give your teams the access that they need to work without a hitch from wherever they might be in the world. And a cloud access security broker helps you do exactly that, while still keeping your data protected from outside threats. This on its own increases productivity, as your humans are able to work effectively from their home or from your office, without having to go through the rigmarole of requesting permission to access the files that they need to do their jobs.
On top of that, however, because cloud access security brokers aid in preventing attacks that will bring your operations to a halt, productivity as a whole ends up being boosted. With no threat of downtime thanks to security issues, and without having to worry about the security of the cloud services that they’re using, your teams will find themselves with more time to focus on the work that they do.
4. Enhance Efficiency
Productivity and efficiency go hand-in-hand, and a CASB works to boost both. When it comes to efficiency – getting things done in the best possible way with the least amount of time wasted – having software that shows you which cloud services are helping your teams, and how they are being used, can see your business investing in the right cloud solutions to enhance efficiency throughout your business.
5. Modernize Your Workplace
Because a cloud access security broker can bridge the gap between on-premises and cloud solutions, it can also help you to adopt new ways of working that will suit your business best. Not every business is well equipped to have their teams working from home day in and day out, but hybrid work environments allow businesses to take advantage of the best of both worlds. You can benefit from the increased productivity and efficiency that work-from-home environments encourage, while still boosting connectedness and company culture through in-office days.
Having CASB software is a huge help in ensuring that no matter where your teams are working from, whether they’re accessing on-premises infrastructure or cloud services, they are still able to access the data that they need securely, and you can rest assured that your business is protected, and that you’re providing the best work environment for your teams.
How Can Solid Systems Help?
At Solid Systems, we’re all about adopting cloud technologies in the right ways to ensure your business’ security, and to keep your teams productive and happy.
For the past 20 years, we have been offering IT consulting and Managed IT Services to businesses as an IT company in Cape Town, Johannesburg and abroad. And over those two decades, we’ve learned the value of solutions that simplify working processes, that help businesses to build up company culture, that see them grow, and that ultimately see them making more money. Cloud access security brokers are just one of those solutions. And if you’re ready to find out more about which cloud solutions are right for your business, and the impact that a CASB can have for your productivity, get in touch with us today. Our IT pros are more than happy to help you step into the future with confidence.