What is Cloud Access Security Broker?

Meeba Gracy

Meeba Gracy

Jun 24, 2024

What is Cloud Access Security Broker?

Managing the features and resources of cloud computing is a unique challenge by itself and can get quite complicated. While technological advancement is happening, companies should take it upon themselves to learn the most up-to-date cloud patterns and be able to efficiently and safely use cloud computing.

Companies store sensitive data and run critical applications in the cloud. So, they need comprehensive security measures in place. Simply relying on a few protection tools isn’t sufficient to address the diverse security challenges posed by cloud environments. 

This is where the Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) steps in. CASB represents a class of security solutions that were particularly developed for the protection of cloud applications hosted on the internet. It becomes a doorkeeper in a way that grants visibility into cloud usage, satisfies security policies, and, therefore, defends against any threats.

In this article, we take a closer look at Cloud Access Security Brokers, its use cases, and what makes it invaluable in today’s age of rapid cloud adoption.

What is a Cloud Access Security Broker?

A CASB (Cloud Access Security Broker) is a software that acts as a mediator between cloud service users and cloud applications. It works on-premises or in the cloud and keeps track of all activity happening on the cloud, ensuring security regulations are followed to the T. 

For example, CASBs help you see cloud apps’ use, spotting any misuse or common patterns. This means you can track who’s doing what in the cloud and take action if needed.

They can show you who’s accessing what, when, and how frequently. This visibility allows you to spot any anomalies or suspicious activities, such as unauthorized access or unusual data transfers. 

CASBs help companies understand where their data is stored across different SaaS apps and track how it is accessed and processed on the cloud, company servers, or mobile devices.

It’s important to know that CASBs differ from the firewalls companies use to watch over their networks. While firewalls are good for filtering traffic, CASBs go deeper. They can spot suspicious user activity and give companies better control over who gets access to cloud services. 

Unlike firewalls, CASBs give a detailed look into cloud environments and allow companies to control cloud usage down to the smallest detail.

4 Pillars of CASB

The 4 Pillars of CASB, as identified by the leading analyst firm Gartner, are Visibility, Compliance, Data Security, and Threat Protection.

Let’s see what these pillars entail:

Visibility

Visibility is definitely an important factor for business owners to consider, as they need to know who’s accessing company data. However, many cloud service providers don’t offer strong audit or logging features, limiting businesses’ cloud visibility.

For example, the CASB solution gives you a clear view of how cloud apps are being used, including details about users, devices, and locations. It also analyzes cloud services to assess the risks they pose. 

This helps security professionals make informed decisions about whether to allow or block access to specific apps, ensuring the safety of users, confidential data, and intellectual property.

Compliance

Compliance is a major reason why companies turn to CASB. CASB helps with data residency issues by encrypting data stored in the cloud and keeping it safe from breaches. It also gives companies control to ensure data stored outside the organization meets regulatory requirements. 

For example, with compliance in place and relevant access controls, you can give limited access to a certain employee while another employee can get higher access to the data.

Data Security

Data security is another aspect where CASB solutions fill gaps in your enterprise security. They enhance data security by offering features like permission management, identifying outdated data, and taking action to secure it.

With CASB, you can monitor user activity and spot any suspicious actions by tracking who is trying to access your cloud-stored data and generate detailed reports for your security team to identify potential risks.

For example, restricting access to Microsoft Office 365 from remote locations reduces the risk of unauthorized access to sensitive data.

Threat Protection

Threat protection is an important need for all businesses today, big or small, due to the increasing risk of malware and attacks. 

To thwart this, CASBs use User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA), a machine learning technology, to monitor and analyze user and customer behavior. This helps identify risky activities and quickly address cyberattacks, such as unauthorized attempts to access or steal corporate data. 

For example, CASB helps prevent an employee from stealing confidential information from your system.

How does CASB work?

CASB behaves like a filter, a proxy, and a firewall by providing protection between users and the cloud system. It can pinpoint cloud applications without authorization or shadow IT and track the data, giving it away to other people.

Forward Proxy

Instead of an agent, this type of proxy provides real-time Data Loss Prevention (DLP) control for both authorized and unauthorized applications in managed devices. It cannot retrieve data that has been stored previously. You can achieve this via a forward proxy with PAC files, DNS URL redirects, or agents.

Reverse Proxy

This proxy is responsible for routing traffic sent from both managed and unmanaged devices. It is capable of real-time DLP but only for allowed apps.

Use cases of CASB

CASB has emerged as a key player in today’s scenario and a number of use cases exist for how CASB ensures security and compliance. 

Let’s understand some of CASB’s practical use cases to see how it can help your business protect its data, manage access, and comply with regulations.

1. Detect and alert user login anomalies

Detecting and alerting on user login anomalies involves monitoring login activities to identify any unusual behavior that could indicate a security threat. 

For instance, if a user logs into a cloud service from two different locations simultaneously or within a short period using the same credentials, it may suggest that the account has been compromised. 

In such cases, the CASB system triggers an alert to notify administrators of the suspicious activity, allowing them to take immediate action to investigate and mitigate the potential security breach.

2. Discover all cloud apps and services

Data indicates that Shadow IT accounts for over 60% of cloud services in big companies, bringing in unknown risks. So, we’re pretty sure you don’t want to be on the list too. 

A good CASB helps you determine which cloud apps are frequently used in your organization, whether they’re accessed on or off the corporate network, and whether IT manages them. 

3. Protecting data on unmanaged devices 

Protecting data on unmanaged devices is a critical aspect of data security. Even if your organization doesn’t manage a device, you can still take steps to safeguard your data.

You can set up detailed access controls to restrict users’ actions on unmanaged devices. For example, you might allow read-only access to certain files, preventing users from downloading or editing sensitive documents.

4. Keep sensitive data safe when new employees join

So, let’s say you’ve just hired someone fresh off another job. You’d want to make sure they don’t bring over any confidential files from their old workplace and upload them to your company’s cloud service. That’s where CASBs step in.

CASBs can implement proactive measures to prevent data exfiltration, such as by blocking uploads of flagged files or alerting administrators when such attempts are detected. Also, they can enforce policies that restrict access to certain cloud services or limit the types of data that new employees can upload during their probationary period.

Benefits of CASB

Leveraging a CASB can benefit companies that are looking to track and control cloud service access. Let’s take a look at the benefits in detail:

1. Govern cloud applications

CASBs give organizations a clear picture of their cloud setup. They show who’s using which apps, where they’re accessing them, and what device they use. 

CASBs also assess the risk and trustworthiness of cloud services. They automate access and data permissions, making it easier to manage cloud apps.

2. Hold the reigns on external file-sharing

You can control external file sharing with a feature that blocks personal email accounts. This stops employees from using their personal email to share sensitive customer data. 

Gmail, especially, is free and widely used, so there is a risk of misuse. This block feature in CASB helps prevent data leaks and unauthorized sharing.

3. Identify unsanctioned apps

CASB has a built-in feature that automatically identifies unsanctioned apps employees might be using within the organization. These apps often fly under the radar of IT departments but can pose security risks.

Once identified, CASB doesn’t stop spotting these apps. It assigns a risk score to each one based on various factors, such as data access, user permissions, and security protocols. 

This risk-scoring system gives IT teams valuable insights into the potential threats these unsanctioned apps might pose.

4. Threat prevention

CASBs spot suspicious behavior in cloud apps, like ransomware or strange user actions. They also find risky apps that shouldn’t be there. When a threat is detected, CASBs can quickly fix it, reducing risks for your company.

The Sprinto approach to Cloud Access Security—A better alternative

Ineffective IT management often leads to inconsistencies in cloud security strategies, which can bring about a host of catastrophic consequences and repercussions. 

Enter Sprinto—a leading GRC Software that seamlessly integrates with your existing cloud setup. It doesn’t just identify suspicious cloud activity but helps prevent such incidents. 

Sprinto alerts you when security controls are about to fail and makes recommendations on remediation. Through automated checks and real-time monitoring, Sprinto empowers you to manage security risks proactively, ensuring that your data and applications are always protected.

Interested to learn about how Sprinto can help secure your cloud environment? Reach out to our experts today, and we’ll show you how it’s done.

FAQs

How to implement CASB?

Implementing CASB involves several steps:

  • Take stock of your current setup and create a plan tailored to your organization’s needs
  • Pick a CASB solution that aligns with your requirements and offers your desired features
  • Connect the CASB to your cloud platforms and user directories to ensure seamless operation
  • Configure access controls, data sharing rules, DLP (Data Loss Prevention), and other security policies to safeguard your data
  • Activate real-time monitoring and threat detection features to watch over your environment for any suspicious activity

What problem does CASB solve?

CASB solves and detects unusual behavior across your cloud applications. It identifies and analyzes various high-risk problems that could affect your system and then limits your organization’s risks.

Is CASB necessary? 

Companies must protect sensitive data, control who has access to it, and follow industry regulations when using cloud services. CASB solutions are vital because they fill the security gap between traditional on-premises systems and the cloud, ensuring a seamless and secure transition.

Meeba Gracy

Meeba Gracy

Meeba, an ISC2-certified cybersecurity specialist, passionately decodes and delivers impactful content on compliance and complex digital security matters. Adept at transforming intricate concepts into accessible insights, she’s committed to enlightening readers. Off the clock, she can be found with her nose in the latest thriller novel or exploring new haunts in the city.

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