What is Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB)?

What is Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB)

Organizations need to keep tabs on what’s being uploaded to cloud apps, including both sanctioned and unsanctioned services such as Shadow IT. Cloud Application Security Brokers (CASBs) provide visibility into all cloud usage, providing data control capabilities that help secure cloud apps while mitigating risk.

CASBs can be deployed in proxy mode to monitor cloud application use without installing agents on managed endpoints, while firewall mode enables complete protection from potential security risks. Both on-premises and cloud solutions may be offered.

Definition of Cloud Access Security Broker CASB

A cloud access security broker (CASB) is an on-premises or in the cloud security platform designed to enforce enterprise security policies when employees access managed and unmanaged cloud applications. They give visibility into usage patterns of cloud apps while alerting security professionals of suspicious activities; and may be configured to automatically quarantine suspect data that leaves corporate networks.

With today’s increasingly mobile workforce, having a comprehensive CASB solution in place has never been more crucial. Employees may bypass IT architecture to use cloud services that aren’t managed or controlled by their organization, potentially placing sensitive data at risk. A CASB can assist organizations by securely enabling sanctioned and unsanctioned cloud applications while mitigating risks through four pillars of security:

Threat Protection – CASB solutions with strong threat protection features typically include malware prevention, which detects and blocks any potentially malicious software from entering an organization’s network and executing commands on it. They can also perform dynamic analysis of user behavior to detect anomalous patterns and detect threats that bypass firewall and proxy protections.

What are the Four Pillars of CASBs?

A cloud access security broker’s core capabilities include full visibility into cloud usage, threat protection and compliance management. This technology enables organizations to meet stringent regulatory requirements like SOC 2, HIPAA or GDPR when it comes to cloud data stored or transmitted for processing in or through the cloud.

Visibility into cloud usage is critical to enterprises, especially when employees access cloud applications deemed unapproved or inappropriate without IT’s knowledge or consent (known as shadow IT ) without IT’s approval, such as via shadow IT applications with security flaws that allow access to sensitive information without authorization. CASBs detect and protect against these types of threats via auto-discovery software that identifies high risk apps and users.

CASBs also enforce data in transit using technologies like logging, alerting, credential mapping and single sign-on (SSO), device posture profiling, malware detection, encryption and tokenization to ensure data is safe from unauthorized access or leaks/theft. Lastly, these solutions offer compliance management through automated remediation, policy creation/enforcement capabilities as well as reporting features – similar to traditional network firewalls/endpoint security solutions.

1. Visibility

Security administrators must ensure their cloud environments provide maximum protection when companies transition their infrastructure into the cloud to take advantage of remote working benefits, so CASBs serve as security policy enforcement points that serve both on-premises and cloud services to combine and enforce enterprise security policies as applications are accessed, providing deep visibility into cloud applications that could expose sensitive data or pose breach risks and providing protection from malware, threats and compliance violations.

Visibility is increasingly essential as more cloud services and connected devices proliferate within organizations, sharing more data between themselves. Without visibility, administrators would find it challenging to enforce access control rules effectively to prevent shadow IT, data breaches and regulatory noncompliance. A cloud access security broker (CASB) solution can detect data uploaded into unapproved locations automatically alerting administrators while also integrating with authentication systems to require increased authentication as users attempt to gain access sensitive assets or conduct high-risk activities.

2. Compliance

Compliance is a core component of enterprise security, as it ensures all data and systems are safeguarded. Compliance becomes even more essential as cloud apps and bring-your-own-device policies proliferate across organizations. Compliance Assessment System Based Boards (CASBs) help enterprises meet compliance standards by guaranteeing all information stored or accessed via cloud applications is safe.

CASB solutions perform several additional functions that boost an organization’s security capabilities, such as identifying all cloud applications used within an organization and reviewing user activity to identify risky behavior; alerting administrators when devices may have been infected with malware; and so forth.

CASBs also help organizations manage their security posture by helping them comply with various regulations and industry standards such as GDPR, HIPAA and PCI-DSS. They do this by automatically reporting activity, detecting possible compliance violations and implementing policies to help prevent data loss. CASBs may be included as part of an architecture known as Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), which integrates networking and security functions to flexible secure hybrid work environments.

3. Data Security

Protect data at rest and in motion — regardless of where it goes or from whom. Establish access controls based on the least privilege principle or data-centric security policies to limit privileges and keep sensitive information within your network.

Everyday business activities such as sending a file via personal email or cloud solutions expose your organization to cyber attacks such as account compromise and ransomware attacks. Protect your data using encryption, tokenization and upload prevention solutions in order to guard against these dangers and avoid loss for your organization.

CASBs offer advanced threat protection to reduce risk, enabling you to deploy and enforce consistent security policies across all cloud apps – sanctioned or unsupported – via deployment and enforcement. A multimode CASB such as Zscaler Zero Trust Exchange architecture brings together multiple security capabilities into one flexible platform for reduced IT complexity and secure connectivity. Learn how you can leverage a combination of CASB and SD-WAN in hyper-decentralized, hybrid work environments.

4. Threat Protection

With malware, ransomware and phishing attacks threatening cloud infrastructures and their data in motion, it is crucial that CASBs possess threat protection capabilities. They can detect misconfigurations that expose cloud applications to potential attack surfaces and notify security administrators so they can be corrected; furthermore they can block unauthorized devices and applications from accessing sensitive corporate data through the cloud, prevent data loss by encrypting data at rest or transit and detect suspicious behavior which might indicate an attempted breach attempt.

A cloud access security broker (CASB) can also protect your organization against costly data breaches by giving visibility into all the cloud services your users are accessing – both sanctioned and unsanctioned. Leveraging dynamic analytics with strong, dynamic governance capabilities based on identity, service activity or application allows your team to quickly spot risky behavior such as sharing sensitive data without authorization with unintended recipients and take immediate corrective actions as quickly as possible.

Why do I need a CASB?

IT departments find it increasingly challenging to track data due to the proliferation of cloud applications and bring-your-own device policies, making CASBs invaluable tools for finding data in the cloud and protecting it against threats such as ransomware. No matter if your organization needs HIPAA/HITECH compliance or PCI/PCIe security certification or is subject to regulations set by FFIEC/FINRA; CASBs ensure compliance even when data is located there or headed there.

CASBs also give businesses visibility into shadow IT activities. Employees who bypass the IT approval process may use unsanctioned software and devices to gain access to company data – such as when salespeople install Calendly or accountants upload spreadsheets directly into Dropbox accounts for personal use – CASBs reveal these activities so IT can take appropriate actions against these shadow activities.

CASBs can also be integrated with other security tools to bolster protection, such as network gateway firewalls (NGFW) or SIEM solutions to enforce policies and neutralise threats, or with cloud data loss prevention (DLP) tools to enforce both inline and out-of-band DLP for data in motion and rest.

How does a CASB work?

A cloud application security and management (CASB) solution offers visibility across an entire enterprise network for cloud app usage, enabling IT teams to identify apps accessing sensitive information while security teams classify, disconnect and manage them with policies based on identity, service activity activity app data.

Security tools available within a CASB include risk-based authentication that transcends simple yes or no answers in order to vet user logins, as well as encryption features for both data at rest and transit to protect against ransomware and other forms of malware. Deployed either as an inline proxy or API integration which scans SaaS apps for misconfigurations and potential threats, depending on its deployment model.

Every CASB solution will offer its own set of unique features and functionalities, but the easiest way to assess a vendor is through use cases. When creating use cases for vendors and selecting solutions that best meet business requirements, organizations can ensure they choose one that will help meet security objectives while meeting regulatory compliance standards.

How Do I Deploy a Cloud Access Security Broker?

CASBs are security tools designed to monitor cloud environments and enforce policies as users access applications in the cloud. According to Gartner, CASBs are “on-premise or cloud-based software that serves as an intermediary between users and clouds and the enterprise security policies, to combine and enforce them when accessing services.”

Cloud applications have created serious security challenges for organizations. While their use enables companies to be more agile, collaborative, and cost-effective than ever before, it also presents gaps that must be filled – particularly unsanctioned or shadow IT that stores or shares sensitive data outside the company’s line of sight. CASBs exist specifically to address this challenge by making sure all cloud usage falls under company security policies irrespective of who uses it or its intended usage.

How Can I Deploy a CASB? 

A CASB can be deployed in various ways depending on your organization’s infrastructure and needs, from inline as a reverse proxy, through forward proxy mode or agentless way without installing agents on endpoint devices. Forward proxies intercept traffic between managed endpoints to cloud services for functions such as identity mapping/SSO, data loss prevention (DLP), device posture profiling, log analysis alerting malware detection policy control; while reverse proxies perform similar functions but tend to work more effectively for unmanaged endpoints due to not needing agents on endpoint devices.

CASBs may also be implemented using API mode, using cloud services’ application programming interfaces (APIs) to inspect data at rest and apply policy controls. While this approach is less invasive than using an inline solution directly, its capabilities typically fall short when it comes to features like malware detection.

In-line CASB solutions give visibility into activities across your entire cloud infrastructure – both sanctioned and unsanctioned apps, networks and systems, on premises or remotely located users alike. They can quickly detect unauthorized or suspicious activity as well as detect sensitive data at risk of leaving or arriving to any sanctioned cloud services or shadow IT. Their DLP can quickly scan through large volumes of real-time data while contextualization reduces detection surface area while shuttle suspected violations back to on-premise systems for further analysis or mitigation measures.

CASBs provide organizations that want to ensure compliance with critical security standards with an excellent solution, whether that means healthcare providers for HIPAA/HITECH/PCI regulations, retail businesses concerned about PCI requirements or financial services firms needing to abide by FFIEC/FINRA rules. Furthermore, these solutions can assist with forensics and compliance reporting while simultaneously improving an organization’s overall security program with malware prevention, ransomware protection and threat intelligence integrations.

Sam is an experienced information security specialist who works with enterprises to mature and improve their enterprise security programs. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter.