Understanding ASPM & its contribution to cybersecurity

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Wendy Rodriguez

What is Application Security Posture Management (ASPM)?

Imagine you’re the manager of a building and you’re responsible for its security, your main goal is to ensure the building is well-protected from any potential threats. To achieve this, you need to constantly monitor and assess the building’s security posture. This might involve checking how strong the structure is, the effectiveness of the entrances, evaluating the reliability of the guards, and revising any potential vulnerabilities like weak spots in the defense system. Likewise, in the cyber world, organizations need to keep tabs on their application security posture management (ASPM), which is intended to continuously supervise and assess the security of their applications to ensure they are resistant to potential cyber threats.

How does ASPM work?

ASPM is an approach to application security that focuses on continuously monitoring and improving the security of applications throughout their software development lifecycle (SDLC). It involves a set of practices, tools, and processes that identify, assess, and remediate menacing vulnerabilities in applications. By adopting ASPM, organizations can ensure the integrity of their applications while safeguarding against potential threats and attacks. This is a more holistic approach to application security than traditional methods, which tend to focus on security testing at centralized points in the SDLC. Opposed to that, ASPM works by taking a continuous approach to monitoring applications, checking for vulnerabilities in them from the moment their first lines of code are created until well after their deployment.

Where does ASPM fit in cybersecurity?

Taking its bases from application security orchestration and correlation (ASOC), which is another approach that makes it easier to manage and automate application security processes, ASPM tools have been evolving for a decade and now offer a wider range of functionality, covering both the development and operational aspects of application security.

This approach is fairly new, and it’s expected that many more companies will start using it in the future in order to find and fix security problems within their applications. A recent study by Gartner estimated that by 2026, more than 40% of companies creating their own software applications will start using ASPM.

Because ASPM focuses on risk exposure in the whole SDLC and is complemented by testing tools used throughout the CI/CD pipeline, it brings an added value to posture management and infrastructure testing.

How does ASPM fit into the SDLC?

The software development lifecycle is more than planning, development and deployment, and ASPM can make a difference if used properly and throughout it. In the initial stages of software development, ASPM can help with risk assessment in code, dependencies and components, as well as establishing requirements to be met dictated by security standards. As development progresses, ASPM can continue to monitor and evaluate the security posture, ensuring best coding practices are followed and potential vulnerabilities are pinpointed. During deployment, ASPM can provide continuous monitoring and catch possible issues like unauthorized entry points or third-party vulnerabilities, enabling proactive threat detection.

ASPM provides real-time security posture information that allows developers to improve on it over time, it reports on the biggest risks and on which assets need to be monitored the most, and it provides a clear picture through the SDLC.

What benefits does ASPM have?

ASPM can be implemented by organizations of all sizes. However, it is particularly important for organizations that develop or use critical applications. Some of the benefits this approach can provide are:

  • Collecting data, which can include configuration and code-level information, as well as metadata. Said information can help organizations make better decisions when assessing or remediating a vulnerability.

  • Identifying, prioritizing, and remediating security issues in applications efficiently, especially when the information can be visualized in an all-in-one platform.

  • Reducing the risk of data breaches and other security incidents by mapping out the data flow between the company’s applications.

  • Meeting industry compliance standards such as PCI DSS, HIPAA, ISO 27001, GDPR and more.

  • Improving their overall security posture.

What relation does ASPM have to AppSec?

ASPM is an evolved approach to application security (AppSec), which seeks to ensure that applications are secure throughout the SDLC. However, traditional AppSec checks applications for security problems at different stages of development using a diverse set of tools and techniques, often not connected to each other. This method usually leads to separate long lists of findings, including false positives, duplicates, or unimportant results. ASPM, on the other hand, involves a variety of activities (like vulnerability scanning, penetration testing, and secure code review) but offers a single, consolidated view of security-related data, which helps get rid of individual silos. This approach has the ability to orchestrate security tools across the life cycle of an application and correlate data connected to application components, evolving from a mere vulnerability management tool to a managing and scaling risk-based AppSec solution. Overall, ASPM is an essential methodology of AppSec, helping organizations to proactively manage their application security posture and protect against a wide range of threats and vulnerabilities.

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Implementing tools to keep up with ASPM

ASPM can be implemented using a variety of tools and techniques. The most common include:

  • Security scanners: These tools can scan applications for known vulnerabilities.

  • Penetration testing: This involves manually testing applications for vulnerabilities.

  • Risk assessment: This has to do with identifying and assessing the risks caused by vulnerabilities in applications.

  • Continuous hacking: This all-in-one service mixes automated tools and ethical hacking that help secure every deployment.

  • Compliance monitoring: This involves ensuring that applications comply with industry regulations.

  • Single-pane dashboard: This not only allows better visibility of vulnerabilities but also streamlines the management and remediation processes since each tool and technique can be commanded here as well, their results can be logged, correlated and reviewed coming together in a single unduplicated and accurate report.

How does ASPM stack up?

When comparing ASPM to other security approaches like ASOC, which are two different but related concepts, ASPM comes out on top. While ASOC is a specific approach that focuses on the orchestration and correlation of security data, ASPM offers a broader scope to application security that encompasses the entire software development lifecycle, with a wider range of features like vulnerability and risk management, industry compliance, and manual testing integration, among others. ASPM tools improve on the ASOC idea. In addition to addressing vulnerabilities, ASPM assistS with the supervision and growth of an AppSec program that is centered on risk.

Difference between ASPM and CSPM

ASPM is considered to be a complementary approach to cloud security posture management (CSPM). Let us remember that CSPM is a security model to keep the cloud environment safe by finding and reducing risks. When it comes to their differences, the first one that should be mentioned is the focus. CSPM concentrates on securing the underlying infrastructure of the cloud, while ASPM focuses on securing the applications that run in the cloud. The scope typically covered by CSPM has to do with all the aspects of the cloud infrastructure, including compute, storage, networking, and security, but ASPM can typically focus on the application layer or some aspects of the underlying infrastructure.

The information or output they generate is also a difference. CSPM tools typically produce reports showing security misconfigurations detected in the cloud, and ASPM tools usually generate reports showing security vulnerabilities identified in applications’ code and operations. The benefits the two methods provide also differ. CSPM pinpoints and mitigates the security risks in the cloud, whereas ASPM has a more complete view of the app environment to help manage risks and fix problems efficiently.

These two approaches, while focusing on different aspects, are complementary in the security management landscape. When combined, they help organizations establish a strong security posture by providing a more complete picture of it.

Recommendations for effective ASPM implementation

  • Adopt a risk-based approach: Prioritize vulnerabilities and risks based on their potential impact and likelihood of exploitation. By focusing efforts on the most critical areas, organizations can efficiently allocate resources for remediation.

  • Implement continuous monitoring: Execute a robust system for continuous monitoring of applications and network infrastructure. This ensures that any security issues or performance bottlenecks are promptly detected, mitigated, and resolved, minimizing potential risks.

  • Nurture a culture of security: Promote a culture of security within the organization, emphasizing the importance of application security at all levels. Educate employees about best practices, develop or adopt security policies, and encourage participation in the ASPM process.

  • Leverage on experts: Seek guidance from the cybersecurity experts within the organization to ensure ASPM best practices are followed. But also engage with external resources, such as third-party component assessment, penetration testing, and vulnerability scanning service providers in order to gain insights into potential security issues and receive recommendations for remediation.

  • Stay up-to-date: We recommend you regularly update your ASPM tools and methodologies to adapt to changing cyber threat landscapes. Cybersecurity threats are ever-evolving, so keeping up with the latest approaches is one of the best ways to ensure a well-functioning ASPM practice.

Why you need ASPM today

ASPM is a good approach to consider if you are concerned about the security of your applications. It can not only help to improve your application’s security but also reduce the risks of data breaches and other security threats. It can also provide visibility into the security posture across the entire development lifecycle, adding stages of testing, reporting, prioritizing and fixing security issues to generate safer deployments. The amount of time and resources are cut down because both are used accurately. An ASPM solution provides governance over application security management, which helps ensure that the process is followed consistently and effectively. ASPM solutions should establish boundaries to help make better software decisions from the get-go, which then reduces the number of vulnerabilities introduced early on.

At Fluid Attacks, we continuously provide organizations with consolidated and correlated results. You can contact us to start developing and deploying secure applications, as well as signing up for a 21-day free trial to experience our ASPM solution within the Continuous Hacking service.


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