Cloud Security Posture Management: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How It Works

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The cloud provides greater efficiency and speed-to-market, which explains its rapid adoption by organizations all over the world. While the rise in cloud operations allows organizations of all sizes to operate in a way that’s more cost-effective and flexible, opening your data, assets, and networks to the internet creates additional risk — particularly around misconfiguration and compliance.

Cloud adoption has, historically, outpaced cloud security. However, that tide is beginning to turn. In a survey conducted by Arctic Wolf, 53% of organizations stated that they currently have plans to add or update their cloud security technology within the upcoming calendar year – a 31% increase from what respondents reported a year prior. But cloud risk still looms large, with our own threat detection data revealing that 92% of organizations have an active cloud security gap within their infrastructure. And over 40% of those organizations we surveyed stated that cloud security gaps were their primary area of worry.

As organizations work to utilize the cloud more effectively and efficiently, they must also focus on securing it. A leading solution to this problem is cloud security posture management (CSPM).

What Is Cloud Security Posture Management?

CSPM solutions are one of the newer sectors of cybersecurity and seek to automate the identification and remediation of risks across cloud infrastructures, including infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and software as a service (SaaS). These solutions also offer continuous monitoring of the cloud environment to identify security gaps.

According to Gartner®, “The core of CSPM applies common frameworks, regulatory requirements and enterprise policies to proactively and reactively discover and assess risk/trust of cloud services configuration and security settings. If an issue is identified, remediation options (automated or human-driven) are provided.”

One key advantage of CSPM solutions is that they offer flexible coverage that can be applied to many different cloud environment configurations, such as multi-cloud or hybrid cloud. CSPMs often don’t lock out other security tools already in use, so your security budgets won’t take unnecessary losses. For example, Arctic Wolf’s CSPM solution can integrate directly with AWS infrastructure and provide 24-hour monitoring. The solution keeps track of cloud assets, constantly updating their statuses to track potential security breaches and assess the risk of possible threats.

As this is a purpose-built security service, a CSPM has access to a large catalog of infrastructure as a service (IaaS) configurations to compare against the client’s infrastructure.


Cloud security is a rapidly growing field, and there is often confusion around offerings, with providers making the waters even murkier by revising definitions to custom-fit their solutions. Here, then, are simplified and clarified definitions of major cloud solutions to help you separate the useful ones from those that don’t fit your environment or tech stack.

Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM)
These solutions protect against misconfigurations of cloud resources, as well as vulnerabilities within the IaaS and cloud infrastructure. The main objective of a CSPM tool is to detect and prevent misconfigurations, improper security settings, and noncompliance with regulations and internal standards. A CSPM solution can not only send out alerts and notifications about potential issues to a security team, but it can also provide guidance for how to address any security gaps that are identified.

Cloud Workload Protection Platforms (CWAPP)
These solutions protect cloud workloads and are best for hybrid environments that span on-premises, multiple public infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) clouds, private cloud, and virtual machines.

Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management (CIEM)
A CIEM solution is designed to focus on identity risks in a cloud environment and manage the user access of cloud infrastructure. CIEM works best when paired with CSPM, as many CSPM solutions don‘t typically focus on identity.

Cloud Workload Protection Platform (CWPP)
The main objective of a CWPP is to provide continuous monitoring and removal of potential security threats to cloud workloads. A CWPP provides protection from any location while also providing suggestions of security precautions and fixes

Benefits of cloud security posture management (CSPM) as listed in the bullet points.

How Does CSPM Work?

CSPM solutions operate by comparing the cloud environment against a set of known security risks to identify misconfigurations and vulnerabilities. While some CSPM solutions are rules-based, operating in accordance with defined rules, others utilize machine learning, adjusting the comparisons and interpretations as technologies and user behavior changes.

Key capabilities of a CSPM solution include:

  • 24×7 monitoring across cloud services
  • Continuous mapping of configurations to security framework
  • Rapid alerts around any suspicious activity
  • Real-time detection of misconfigurations

It could be argued that the last element listed above — the real-time detection of misconfigurations — is the most crucial element of a robust CSPM solution, as cloud misconfigurations are central to cloud risk. In fact, Gartner estimates that, “through 2025, 99% of cloud security failures will be the customer’s fault” through errors like configuration mistakes.

Cloud Misconfigurations, Explained

Misconfigurations — meaning errors, glitches, gaps, or using security groups default settings — pose serious risks to data stored in the cloud.

Cloud security posture management products require continuous monitoring, reconfiguration, and remediation to be effective. The trouble is most IT departments are not equipped to handle the influx of alerts from yet another source of security telemetry. Furthermore, thousands of controls are typically required to secure a single cloud platform, and these controls often evolve rapidly as cloud providers add new features or functionality, as new attack vectors are discovered, and as providers alter existing platform rules, policies, or configuration frameworks. Since the cloud is an active area of development and because attackers continue to develop new exploits, the correct configuration is a moving target.

Common cloud misconfigurations include:

  • Unrestricted inbound and outbound ports
  • Failure to properly manage the Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP)
  • Poor identity management and access controls
  • Improper API management and documentation

Because cloud environments are complex, vast, and can be versatile depending on an organization’s business needs, monitoring for misconfigurations can be difficult to do manually, which is why the automation of CSPM solutions are critical for cloud security.

Why is CSPM Important?

According to the IBM Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023, 82% of breaches involved data stored in the cloud, and an organization’s migration to the cloud increased the mean cost of a data breach by $218,362. Why are cloud breaches so prevalent and costly? Maybe the easiest way to explain is to describe what the cloud is not.

With physical, in-house servers, an organization’s most critical data is protected by walls — both literal and digital ones. With on-premises security there is centralization in visibility, limited operations, and most importantly, a perimeter that can be protected. The cloud lacks all those components. Data stored in the cloud is uniquely vulnerable to extraction, as it is designed to be accessed remotely, and swiftly and efficiently transferred to users over
the internet.

Visibility is a crucial component here, because if you’re a large enterprise with thousands of instances and accounts, keeping track of every action in a complex environment is almost impossible without serious automation and technological help.

Threat actors take advantage of the fact that most organizations don’t have the broad visibility necessary to take inventory of their cloud systems or discover cybersecurity risks in their cloud infrastructure environments.

With a proper CSPM solution, organizations are alerted to data leaks as soon as they occur. Even better, misconfigurations can be detected before a breach, and organizations can patch security gaps proactively. CSPM, then, acts as both a proactive tool and a reactive one, working to mitigate current cyber threats and prevent future ones.

Benefits of Employing CSPM

Both intentional and unintentional risks can be reduced by using CSPM. While hackers are working to take advantage of the cloud, organizations can accidentally create risk through lack of monitoring, visibility, or configuration.

Benefits include:

  • Increased visibility across multi-cloud environments
  • The ability to monitor the entire cloud environment 24×7
  • A reduction in alert fatigue or potential false positives
  • Threat hunting and cyber risk reduction

How Arctic Wolf Can Help

Organizations often face policy complexity, configuration overload, and a cloud skills gap. As more organizations move to the cloud — and as more threat actors set their sights on cloud environments — organizations need a cloud solution that combines the latest technology with human expertise to help reduce risk, ensure compliance, and protect data in the cloud.

Arctic Wolf® Cloud Security Posture Management simplifies cloud environments, identifies cloud resources at risk, provides guidance to organizations on hardening their posture to reduce cyber risk for organizations.

Learn how to protect cloud-enabled organizations with CSPM. Get insights into how to select a cloud security solution that’s right for your environment with our Cloud Security Buyer’s Guide. Then discover how cloud configurations can improve security in our on-demand webinar.

Picture of Sule Tatar

Sule Tatar

Sule Tatar is a Senior Product Marketing Manager at Arctic Wolf, where she does research on security trends and brings groundbreaking cybersecurity products and services to market. She has extensive experience in the B2B cybersecurity space and holds a bachelor's degree in computer engineering and an MBA.
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