Gartner first defined the term Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) in 2011, when most IT applications were hosted in the data center and few companies trusted the cloud. Most online services were primarily aimed at the consumer. At the time, CASB products were designed to provide visibility for so-called Shadow IT and limit employee access to unauthorized cloud services.
Today, organizations have embraced the cloud, replacing many of their datacenter applications with Software as a Service (SaaS) or moving much of their IT into infrastructure (IaaS) providers like Amazon or Azure. Instead of limiting access, CASBs have evolved to protect cloud-hosted data and provide enterprise-class security controls so that organizations can incorporate SaaS and IaaS into their existing security architecture.
CASBs provide four primary security services: Visibility, Data Security, Threat Protection, and Compliance. When comparing CASB solutions you should first make sure that they meet your needs in each of these categories.
A CASB identifies all the cloud services (both sanctioned and unsanctioned) used by an organization’s employees. Originally, this only included the services they would use directly from their computer or mobile device, often called “Shadow IT“. Today, it is possible for an employee to connect an unsanctioned SaaS directly to a an approved SaaS via API. This “Shadow SaaS” requires more advanced visibility tools.
Shadow IT Monitoring: Your CASB must connect to your cloud to monitor all outbound traffic for unapproved SaaS applications and capture real-time web activity. Since nearly all SaaS applications send your users email notifications, your CASB should also scan every inbox for rogue SaaS communication to identify unapproved accounts on an approved cloud services.
Shadow SaaS Monitoring: Your CASB must connect to your approved SaaS and IaaS providers to monitor third-party SaaS applications that users might connect to their account. It should identify both the service as well as the level of access the user has provided.
Risk Reporting: A CASB should assess the risk level for each Shadow IT/Shadow SaaS connection, including the level of access each service might request (i.e. read-only access to a calendar might be appropriate, read-write access to email might not.) This allows you to make informed decisions and prioritize the applications that need immediate attention.
Event Monitoring: Your CASB should provide information about real-time and historical events in all of your organization’s SaaS applications. If you do not know how the applications are being used, you can not properly control them or properly assess the threats facing your organization.
A CASB enforces data-centric security policies by offering granular access controls or encryption. It incorporates role-based policy tools, data classification and loss prevention technologies to monitor user activity and audit, block or limit access. Once, these were stand-alone systems. Today it is vital that they are integrated into the organization’s data policy architecture.
Data Classification: Your CASB should identify personally identifiable information (PII) and other confidential text within every file, email or message. Taking this further, it should be capable of applying policies to control how that sensitive information can be shared.
Data-Centric Access Management: Your CASB should allow you to manage file permissions based upon the user’s role and the type of data the file contains using cloud-aware enforcement options that work within the context of the cloud service.
Policy-based Encryption: Your CASB should be able to encrypt sensitive information across all your cloud services to ensure data security, even after files leave the cloud.
A CASB protects cloud services from unwanted users or applications. This might include real time malware detection, file sandboxing or behavior analytics and anomaly detection. New threats require new protections, so the list should include anti-phishing, account-takeover detection and predictive (A.I.) malware technologies.
Anti-phishing Protection: Phishing attacks are the #1 source of data breaches every year, but few CASBs offer phishing protection for cloud-based email. For a technology that is protecting your cloud environment, anti-phishing is a must. It has been proven over and over again that your email provider is not a viable solution to the phishing problem.
Account Takeover Protection: Your CASB should monitor every user event (not just logins) to identify anomalous behavior, permission violations, or configuration changes that indicated a compromised account.
URL Filtering: Your CASB should check every email, file, and chat messages for malicious links.
Real Time Malware Detection: Your CASB should scan every email and file for active code and malicious content before it reaches the inbox.
Advanced Threat Sandboxing: Your CASB should test suspicious files in an emulation environment to detect and stop zero-day threats.
Regulated organizations require auditing and reporting tools to demonstrate data compliance and a CASB should provide all the necessary auditing and reporting tools. More advanced solutions offer policy controls and remediation workflows that enforce regulatory compliance in real time for every industry, from GDPR and SOX to PCI and HIPAA..
SIEM Integration: Your CASB should collect and correlate user, file and configuration events from each cloud application installed in your organization’s environment and make them visible through your organization’s existing reporting infrastructure.
Auditing: Your CASB should have access to historical event data for retrospective compliance auditing as well as real-time reporting.
Enforcement: Your CASB should be able to move and encrypt files, change permissions, filter messages or use any number of cloud-native tools to ensure compliance through automated policies.
Email Security from Your CASB
As you may have noticed, across all the CASB criteria, email security is a major component. Can this really be that important? After all, so few CASBs include email security.
No matter the motivation, email continues to be the most common vector for enterprise breaches. Phishing and pretexting represented 98% of social incidents and 93% of breaches last year. Protection for the cloud must include protection for cloud-based email. Without cloud-based email security, a CASB is not truly providing full cloud security and is just acting as a simple Shadow IT tool.
While a solution doesn’t need to have every feature mentioned in this blog post in order to sell themselves as a CASB, they are the criteria that separate the CASBs that are complete security solutions from those that will need to be paired with additional security tools. If you want a CASB to act as your full security suite protecting your organization from cloud-borne threats then this will serve as a useful checklist.