What are cloud Access Security Brokers? The Complete Guide

CASB maintains a link between the cloud service providers and the users to ensure optimal security. Explore the dynamics of CASB in this article.

Imagine a broker between the user and the cloud. They address most of the gaps in maintenance and security between the user of the software and the cloud in which the software resides. A Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) does exactly this. A CASB is defined as cloud-based software and/or hardware that acts as a mediator between cloud service providers and end-users. 

Used to deal with risks and security issues that extend through SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS, CASB also helps extend the reach of maintenance and security policies from existing on-premise architecture to cloud-based architecture. This helps organizations create better policies, specifically for cloud usage. 

What is CASB?

The development of CASB inside the cloud infrastructure helps developers address security risks through increase visibility into the cloud. This particularly applies to SaaS or Shadow IT.

As seen with SaaS, the analytics demonstrated by the CASB is a real shocker to many IT project managers. They discovered the depth to which cloud usage within their enterprise application penetrated their daily usage. According to the 2019 McAfee Cloud Adoption and Risk Report, an average of 1935 cloud-based services were being utilized by the business as opposed to 30 according to the everyday IT professional.

While Shadow IT threats loomed large over every SaaS and PaaS organization, CASB wasn’t adopted just for this use case. A lot of new-age organizations began moving their data from traditional data centers to cloud environments. This required the large-scale adoption of CSPM along with CASB, which enabled the protected movement of data (restricting access to sharing and editing things) as well as encrypting the content of data, which was deemed the most essential. 

While the abilities of cloud to mount a strong defense against threats increased with the increasing adoption of the latest technologies, the malware world was seeing a shift as well. Phishing and scamming became more pervasive and better targeted. The smallest of the security loopholes were massively exploited. A solid and common example was to make an Amazon S3 bucket public, which can reveal sensitive data to the consumers at large, leaving them wide open to all kinds of security attacks and threats. 

The adoption of CASB is much needed than ever before. According to Gartner, by 2022, 60% of large enterprises will use CASBs, which is triple the number in 2018.”

What CASBs provide

The features of CASBs are quite unique when compared to other security protocols for cloud-based environments. They are different from traditional firewall protocols for web and app-based platforms. They may offer:

  • Risk assessment and governance over the cloud
  • Prevention of data loss
  • Control and collaboration over cloud-based activities
  • Preventions of threat-based risks in User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA)
  • Configuration auditing
  • Detection of malware
  • Data encryption
  • SSO and IAM integration
  • Key management
  • Contextual access control

How does a CASB work: Four Pillars of CASB

Visibility

A large organization may have many players accessing and viewing the data inside a cloud system for various uses. When the usage of the cloud is done beyond the purview of IT, the enterprise data within its strongholds are no longer contained by the company’s governance and policies, particularly risk and compliance. 

To deal with this change, a cloud security broker is installed, which provides a detailed visibility into various analytics such as app usage, user information, and the time used by the person to access the services inside the cloud. The analysis also provides an assessment of risk for each cloud service that has been in use, which helps enterprise IT professionals make the right call whether to provide access or block a feature within the app.

Using the CASB, modular access can be provided to the various facets of the app, and data can be targeted based on the individual’s location, device, and primary job functions.

Compliance

With the large-scale adoption of the cloud, companies are driving out their data into typical cloud-driven architectures. This requires them to maintain responsibility when it comes to matters of compliance with various regulatory bodies and the governing protocols over privacy and safety while using the enterprise application. 

Specialists known as Cloud Access Security Brokers can help maintain protocols within the cloud as per the regulations. Some of the compliance regulations can include HIPAA, ISO 27001, PCI DSS, and more. A CASB can provide answers to compliance and protocols and provide a meaningful direction to the security team that would focus on solving these issues inside the cloud.

Data Security

The adoption of cloud-based infrastructure has removed many barriers that prevent efficient collaboration from a distance. The cost to protect data while keeping its movement seamless is pretty high for organizations that aim to keep it protected and confidential based on various agreements and compliances. DLP solutions are designed to help on-premise movement, but it is the application of the CASB that helps in extending it into cloud services and cloud context. 

The fusion of CASB security and DLP solutions helps the IT department in verifying the sensitive content that parses through the cloud. This applies to any data moving within the cloud and cloud to cloud as well. Security features such as collaboration control, data loss prevention and access control, management of information rights, tokenizations, and encryptions can be deployed to prevent any data leaks and security malfeasances. 

Threat Protection

Mistakes in the IT domain can lead to tons of losses. Whether it’s through negligence or malicious intent, employees and third-party users can leak credentials exposing sensitive data from cloud services. To help target such anomalies, CASBs can help provide a comprehensive view of patterns across various use-cases. These can help in providing comparisons. 

With the integration of AI and ML into the User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA), CASBs can detect threats and remedy them as soon as there is an attempt made at stealing data to gain improper access. Adaptive access control, dynamic and static analysis of malware, threat intelligence, and prioritizing the analysis of malware are some of the many capabilities adopted by CASBs to protect the services from incoming threats.

Will a CASB provide comprehensive cloud security? 

Gartner, in its latest report, expounds on the Cloud Access Security Broker is a core unit of the enterprise cloud security systems. It also mentions the adoption of CASB as one of the many overall security strategies to secure using cloud storage within an organization. 

Comprehensive protection can involve the usage of CASBs in deploying Secure Web Gateways (SWGs), which help in securing internet usage and provide solutions that prevent data loss. This helps protect IP rights and sensitive data spanning across the entire organization and the network.

How Can I deploy a CASB?

Simplicity and ease of deployment are two of the functions of Cloud Access Security Broker technology. Some of the things to be considered before deployment are

Deployment location

A CASB can be deployed either on-premise or within the architecture of a cloud. SaaS versions, which are highly popular, adopt CASB technologies the most.

Deployment Model

Inherently, there are three CASB deployment models to be considered. They are API-Control, Reverse Proxy, and Forward Proxy.

  • API Control helps in providing visibility into the threats plaguing the cloud and the data stored within it. It helps in quick deployment and offers ample coverage.
  • Reverse Proxy is ideal for technology that is outside the control of the network security.
  • Forward Proxy helps in collaboration with endpoint protection and VPN technology for offshore clients.

Gartner proposes an ideal scenario for businesses to consider CASB products in the cloud architecture that offer options to cover all access points to the cloud. The flexibility helps in businesses expanding their cloud protection and scaling issues as well. 

Considerations for CASBs

Some of the considerations for CASBs are given below:

  1. Is this the right fit? Enterprises should identify their needs for CASBs before specifically crafting a solution that addresses their goals and needs. Companies should perform POCs and analyze the data that results from the surveys using cybersecurity tools. These in-depth reference calls with similar organizations can help them craft the right CASB solutions for them.
  2. Scalability as per your needs. The threats faced by clouds can grow with the growth of the cloud infrastructure. Partnering with the CASB vendors that tailor to your needs, the cloud compliance and security policies can be maintained and up-to-date with the ability to have access to newer features and options.
  3. Protection for IaaS. Large enterprise environments such as IaaS,’ must be protected against threats as well with the establishment of CASBs not only catering to their configurations but also defending the customers through threat protection, DLP control, and activity monitoring.

Integrating a CASB with Cloudlytics

Cloudlytics can help offer a comprehensive Cloud Access Security Broker for your needs. Cloud audits, free trials, and more can help you garner an accurate idea for your business needs and cloud usage. 

These metrics can help you tailor a custom cloud solution for you that will fit well into your overall security strategy and cloud infrastructure. Integrating CASBs with SSOs (Single Sign-On) and IAM (Identity and Access Management) applications can be done sooner than later to leverage the applications of CASBs. Test-driving your CASB can be provided, and the role of your CASB can be determined during the trial and evaluation period as well.

Click here to get a free demo AND a free audit of your cloud security too!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Abhijeet Chinchole

Abhijeet Chinchole

Abhijeet Chinchole is Chief Technology Officer at Cloudlytics. Over the years, Abhijeet has helped numerous global businesses transition to the cloud by helping them with strategy and implementation. He is also an expert on cloud migration, cloud security, and building modern SaaS applications. When not working, he likes to drive and don the hat of a creative tinkerer.

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