The Ultimate CAASM Guide

What is CAASM?

The past 2 years have seen a significant digital transformation, with the huge increase in hybrid working and adoption of cloud services, this results in a massive growth in every company’s attack surface. This is especially true in light of notable recent increases in ransomware attacks, data breaches, and major IT outages, and highlights the growing need for companies to address security across all digitized assets, as well as unmanaged ones. Unfortunately, the rate at which these assets continue to grow makes it harder than ever to understand the full risk landscape or the complete implications of breaches as they happen.

Identified by Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Network Security as an emerging technology to help companies address vulnerability without reducing asset visibility, CAASM (cyber asset attack surface management) paves a road for increased and responsive security in light of this, and is already championed by many frontrunning companies. As well as establishing a secure baseline for security using visibility into entire modern ecosystems, CAASM, when delivered through a well-placed cyber asset attack surface management platform, makes it possible to set clear security baselines across entire teams, regardless of even remote working setups.

In this 2022 ultimate guide for CAASM, we consider why this emerging technology matters so much to modern-day asset security, and how exactly companies can ensure implementations that avoid the incidents which can too quickly escalate out of control in modern security landscapes.

What is CAASM?

According to Gartner, CAASM is defined as “an emerging technology focusing on enabling security teams to solve persistent asset visibility and vulnerability challenges.”

The first element Noetic needed to solve is defining what we meant by visibility.  The term asset has been around for years, and brings with it the perception of a device – physical, virtual, mobile, etc. However, to provide context to the security organization, visibility needs to be more than just their devices.  There are loads of entities within your environment which you need to have an awareness of in order to have full stack visibility.

Furthermore, these entities all relate to, and have relationships with, each other.   An understanding of these relationships are vital to providing context to the business and help an organization make smarter, more effective decisions.  It will also help an organization identify toxic combinations of entities (eg users, applications, vulnerabilities) to identify high risk areas, and prioritize remediation.

Tailored towards the disruptions and distances inherent in modern workloads, CAASM solutions that are designed in mind of highly-adaptive cloud processes are effectively evolutions of security predecessors like cloud security posture management (CSPM). Yet, unlike CSPM and the like, CAASM unifies the entire cyber asset universe in one accessible platform where true security visibility and understanding can happen, and improvements can be enacted.

Complete visibility across all assets, even within distributed teams, especially simplifies security access and understanding across company lines. The ability to quickly and seamlessly reference internal and external data sets also makes it possible to determine the full scope of vulnerabilities as they’re identified, leading to accelerated incident responses that significantly reduce the timeframes of the manual collection processes that CAASM aims to replace.

How Does CAASM Work?

CAASM is effectively a modern, fast approach to complete security visibility– but that doesn’t explain how it works in application. To understand that, we need to delve a little deeper into this emerging technology’s functionality and inner workings.

Luckily, you don’t need a degree in computer science to understand how CAASM operates – you simply need to understand that CAASM platforms replace manual processes using API integrations that collect information from multiple data sources and existing tools. CAASM tools are able to run  queries against this consolidated data to identify and highlight vulnerabilities and coverage gaps that, previously, could have taken days or weeks to recognize.

Well-implemented and overseen cyber asset attack surface management tools will utilize standards-based APIs to provide the best possible security outcomes and processes, and will typically operate around priorities that include:

  • Agentless connectors across cloud and on-premises assets
  • Full-visibility dashboards and security alerts
  • Automated fixes according to security baselines

Why is CAASM Worth the Investment?

Recent Gartner reports that continually champion the value of CAASM is a testament in itself to the worth that this solution provides for modern security. That said, with many companies still very much focused solely on detection and response mode, more justification may be necessary before investments in CAASM are made.

Luckily, a deep dive into the justifications of CAASM investment offers some undeniable incentives. The simple reality is that our world has changed, and cyber security landscapes must change with it. In fact, with 65% of customers now losing company trust after a data breach, and with average security setbacks currently costing companies record highs of around $8.64 million, there’s a strong argument that doubling down on security solutions with modern challenges in mind is the only way to secure future profits.

The rise of phishing attacks seen at the start of the pandemic when outdated security processes were applied to a newly remote workforce especially highlighted the need for security change, while individually lax security approaches more generally left vulnerabilities open. Furthermore, security blindspots made it harder than ever for teams to gain a complete understanding of where these risks lay, with questions left unanswered with regards to:

  • Numbers of known and unknown cyber assets company-wide
  • Vulnerable accounts at any given time
  • The prevalence of suspicious codes or pull requests

Companies have learned the hard way that they can’t secure what they can’t see. Hence, the complete visibility and contextual foundations offered by CAASM across even these distributed focuses is not only helpful, but is increasingly essential for offering necessary protections company-wide.

What are the benefits to investing in a CAASM solution?

Why CAASM? Benefits of Cyber Asset Attack Surface Management

The benefits of CAASM are tenfold and immediate. Security leaders looking to maximize security spending and outcomes can especially benefit from investing in CAASM early, thus ensuring scalable security functions throughout developments. Existing companies just now adapting to WFH arrangements can also benefit from CAASM, which will most commonly highlight a range of pressing security plus points, the most obvious of which we’ll discuss here.

Complete Consolidation

By considering a company’s security assets in full across both assets in the cloud and on-premises, CAASM consolidates the entire security landscape into a package that can be easily visualized, understood, and acted upon across leadership teams and departments. Well-chosen CAASM tools like Noetic are particularly valuable as they consider each company’s unique definitions of what an ‘ asset’ entails, thus catering to a range of operational entities including data stores, code repos, security controls, and vulnerability findings. The ingestion of data across these components and priorities can then see CAASM tools significantly reducing the time taken on often less-effective cyber security management, as well as minimizing the otherwise convoluted toolsets necessary to make that possible.

Cross-functional Value

Security that sits in a silo or focuses too much on cross-departmental categorizations has always been at an increased risk of gaps and vulnerabilities with great scope to go unnoticed. These risk factors have only increased as distributed teams increasingly work within smaller circles. Unfortunately, it’s these communication barriers that have most commonly enabled the actions of threat actors to become catastrophic in recent years, without necessarily offering a solution to the problem.

By instead working to unify teams using shared security and compliance goals within clear and cross-departmental security baselines, CAASM provides a far more viable path to a cross-functional value that performs better now even than it did when everyone was in the office together. The ability to better prove the value of CAASM investments and adjustments across departments can especially increase the productivity of this solution, encouraging even distributed teams to work towards internal and external security priorities that expand well outside of departmental divides.

Contextualized Improvements

Visibility across security functions is as fundamental to CAASM as it always has been to any other security focus, bringing us back to the simple realization that we arrived at earlier – you can’t protect what you can’t see.

That said, as Gartner’s definition of CAASM proves, this is a solution that goes far beyond simple visibility to instead provide the tools that teams need to solve issues as they’re identified. In other words, CAASM is invaluable because it both enhances modern visibility better than its security predecessors, and focuses on providing context that leads to actionable improvements and risk reductions.

Graph-based models like those provided in the Noetic platform are especially invaluable for this purpose as they make it possible to easily correlate and analyze data from multiple sources, thus enabling the tracking, monitoring, and analyzing of intra-asset relationships. This immediacy of context can highlight everything from configuration changes to blast radius and beyond, making it far easier to provide the continuous and real-time improvements on which complete modern security increasingly rests.

Continuous Security Practices

As well as costing companies in time that they simply can’t afford to waste any longer, manual cyber security processes are rife with human errors. In fact, mistakes here are so prevalent that they’re thought to lead to as many as 95% of all breaches. Those are high stakes, and they’re most often facilitated by the fact that individuals leading security initiatives typically have their own ideas of what success here should look like.

As well as increasing the risks of unidentified mistakes, ineffective security practices that are only made worse by now-outdated legacy security programs most commonly based around periodic testing that allows these inconsistencies to go unnoticed.

By creating a far more continuous approach to security and compliance even outside of annual assessments, CAASM is thus much more suited to ever-evolving cloud-native security landscapes that rely on accurate handling, and company-wide understanding to ensure complete and easily-accessible security solutions.

Automated security enforcements

With IBM stating that automation provides the single biggest cost mitigation when it comes to security breaches, manual processes here have not only proven ineffective for modern, distributed workforces but are far more likely to lead to long-winded and even catastrophically expensive recovery periods.

Even outside of profitability, security risks and vulnerabilities that adapt as quickly as our workplaces rely on far quicker solutions than manual processes can offer, and even real-time improvements that adjust to cover entirely new security landscapes in moments.

These are both benefits that automated CAASM tools like Noetic offer in spades, with the potential for even seven-figure savings should breaches happen, and with the benefit of automated security actions that significantly reduce the risks of unexpected events. All while freeing teams to focus on increasingly complex working setups that are better able to operate without the impending risk of downtime that they might always face otherwise.

CAASM Use Cases

With a list of benefits that any company could stand to enjoy, the implementation of CAASM tools might seem like an obvious next-step for security standards, but with this way of doing things also changing the face of security handling and management as we know it, many companies may be at a loss as to where CAASM can most pressingly prove itself useful.

That’s why, in addition to considering the benefits of CAASM at a high level, companies who are seriously contemplating this path to security should also increase their chances of success by informing themselves of the most common use cases of CAASM’s true value, including:

Cyber asset management

By consolidating a company’s cyber security assets in their entirety (whatever those look like), CAASM is proving invaluable for cyber asset management as a whole, making it possible to both improve cyber security hygiene in the moment and provide much-needed contextual insights with regards to the cyber relationship between assets and interactions that can accelerate response times and results.

Incident response

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a security solution, CAASM is also invaluable when it comes to incident responses and how companies handle vulnerabilities. Perhaps less obviously, the context and automation on which CAASM tools like Noetic rest means that companies can significantly accelerate response times, identify risks in real-time and even pinpoint the blast radius inherent in vulnerabilities identified. Incident Response(IR) analysts can query the CAASM tool for much-needed context when investigating a suspected incident.

Compliance

By automating testing and evidence collection for common control frameworks such as  CIS, NIST CSF or ISO 27001, CAASM is invaluable from a compliance standpoint. The ability to reduce human errors or oversights that can lead to compliance compromises is especially crucial when positioned alongside clear compliance guidelines and expectations according to industry responsibilities. This also shifts compliance from a ‘point in time’ audit to a continuous process, greatly improving the value to cybersecurity.

Cloud security

CAASM tools that were designed in mind of modern security challenges are also proving their use when it comes to gaining an understanding of every element of cloud security, be that across your AWS, Azure Cloud asset inventory, or beyond. This is especially true as CAASM provides the ability to monitor otherwise unchecked cloud landscapes in mind of significant risks including control drift or other individual setbacks, and can ensure utmost secure protections across even difficult-to-handle networks.

How Does CAASM Compare to its Predecessors?

It may already be clear that the “hype” around CAASM is warranted… However, in true CAASM style, you can’t make a clear and informed decision regarding investment here without first comparing the emerging tech to its security predecessors. After all, this is the context on which true understanding and profitability rest, and it’s something that we’re going to help you get to the bottom with a simple comparison chart as follows:

Solutions: Explanation Similarities Differences Outcomes
CAASM vs CSPM Cloud security posture management (CSPM) is perhaps CAASM’s closest comparison in that it was designed to address misconfiguration and compliance risk in the cloud. Unfortunately, standard checks that lack depth or flexibility have increasingly left CSPM security behind in recent years. Both designed for cloud security. CSPM lacks depth that CAASM provides through adaptable and customizable solutions. Despite being ultimately intended for the same cloud-based purposes, CAASM is a significantly more advanced and adaptable approach to cloud-based security management that addresses current challenges in the moment.
CAASM vs EASM Clear comparisons can also be drawn between CAASM and external attack surface management (EASM), which is most often used in the identification of external assets and networks. However, a scope that’s limited to external-only considerations has long proven problematic, especially as internal business landscapes grow ever-more complicated. Both used for asset assessment and monitoring. EASM is only focused on external assets and networks. Modern success is dependent on considering external security assets alongside internal concerns. By providing this benefit, CAASM is far better poised for comprehensive and effective security solutions.
CAASM vs other technologies CAASM rests on complete visibility of internal and external processes, data sets, and security assets in general. Considering that these things are increasingly scattered across various tools and technologies (including Spreadsheets, CMDB, etc.), CAASM tools must therefore find ways to work within existing tool sets to complement company processes, rather than work against them. N/A N/A The right CAASM tool with complete multi-tool compatibility is fundamental for ensuring viable outcomes. Clearly drawn graphs that  compare these other technologies and their uses are especially essential for highlighting what works from a security standpoint, what doesn’t, and where improvements can be made.

All things considered,  CAASM is a clear winner for the inclusivity and responsive approach to modern security that all companies need. That said, CAASM tools that sit outside of existing technology setups can prevent the true correlations and simplification necessary. As such, as well as choosing to implement CAASM in the first place, companies increasingly face pressure to choose the right platform or tool to ensure complete security alignment and oversight that don’t require entire process overhauls beforehand.

How Can You Ensure CAASM Success?

How Can You Ensure CAASM Success?

After all, no implementation is created equal. This holds especially true when it comes to how well CAASM integrates with current processes (and thus offers visibility), as well as how willingly your team members embrace this new security focus.

Prior to implementing any CAASM solution, it’s critical to address the following questions:

  • How can I ensure I’m selecting the right tool for my business?
  • How will I overcome any potential obstacles to implementation?
  • How can I  ensure smooth implementation?

Let’s dive into the best practices we’ve discovered in helping organizations deploy a CAASM solution.

How to Choose the Best CAASM Platform

The success of any CAASM implementation rests on selecting the right tool for your needs and those of your company. Admittedly, the majority of CAASM tools provide undeniable benefits, including improved  visibility, data correlations, and cloud-based security focuses. Still, it stands to reason that some platforms can perform better than others for ensuring the benefits we’ve already mentioned, and ultimately securing your business processes overall.

Effective CAASM solutions will go above and beyond to align with internal security focuses that grow as your company does. This is something that we particularly help our clients to achieve here at Noetic through a range of must-have capabilities that you’re going to want to look for in your CAASM platform of choice, including –

  • Full-stack visibility: While all CAASM solutions should work to provide visibility into all assets, Noetic ensures full-stack visibility coverage across both your cloud and on-premises solutions. This level of oversight is crucial for ensuring a CAASM tool that acts on the best possible knowledge of your security landscapes in their entirety, leaving no stone unturned, and no risk unaccounted for.
  • Contextual Visualization: We’ve touched on the benefits that graph databases can provide with CAASM throughout this article, but it’s worth readdressing these here considering that this isn’t a capability offered by every CAASM tool on the market. Noetic’s graph database makes it far easier to identify the cyber relationships between assets and gain the insights necessary to get you asking all of the right questions with the right context.
  • Powerful automation: Automation may be a crucial element of successful CAASM, but again, it’s not a guarantee in every available tool. However, by providing a comprehensive workflow and automation engine to correct security controls and remediations, tools like Noetic are far better poised to ensure real-time security adjustments that always remain one step ahead of arising risks.
  • Third-party integrations: As we touched on above, the ability to integrate with existing security, DevOps and IT management tools is key to how effective a CAASM tool can ultimately be for security. With this in mind, tools that support a standardized approach to  third-party integrations across existing security and IT management tools using common API frameworks make a huge difference to the true ease of CAASM.
  • Rapid time-to-value: Fast-moving security landscapes no longer leave time for long-winded switchovers to security integrations that will inevitably be outdated before they land. Instead, the right CAASM tool right now relies on immediate time-to-value, as we provide here at Noetic using agent-less connectors into existing tools for actionable insights that can lead to improvements in moments.

Outside of these more tool-specific plus points, choosing the right CAASM platform is also dependent on considering pressing performance questions, including:

  • What do security assets look like for you?
  • How far-reaching are your cloud vs in-house capabilities?
  • What ultimate security outcomes would you like to see?
  • How large is your team?

Ideally, a CAASM platform should offer the benefits mentioned, as well as an adaptable approach to security that accounts for precise company needs and growth trajectories in the long run.

How to Overcome Potential Obstacles to Implementation

Its increasing maturity, importance, and recognition from trusted resources like Gartner means that CAASM is inevitably set to become a crucial element of secure company practices in a cloud-based business world. That said, it would be naive to assume that there are no obstacles to face when it comes to implementation. The most common obstacles currently facing CAASM success and the most worth finding easy paths around especially include –

Large asset stores

There is a potential that ill-thought CAASM deployments could prove cost-prohibitive to large companies dealing with asset numbers  that stretch into the millions, especially as already sizable standard machine  inventories make way for yet-more cloud instances, etc. Inventorying at this scale can be difficult, costly, and time-consuming even within CAASM capabilities, and requires tools that offer customizable data aggregation that can easily accommodate for, and consolidate, even large asset numbers like these.

Unmanaged devices

Unmanaged devices that are now commonplace in the new hybrid landscape can as there are non known to existing IT management or security tools, and thus not considered within the so-called comprehensive reach of CAASM in general. It’s therefore only by installing tools that provide full-stack visibility to identify even unmanaged devices and their activities that companies can truly gain the oversight necessary to set CAASM apart from its predecessors.

General employee resistance

CAASM’s real value comes from the company-wide security oversights that it provides, but a general resistance to employing new tools isn’t unusual among teams already dealing with an excess number of security tools, and can altogether unravel the security comprehension that CAASM promises. Companies must therefore carefully choose a CAASM platform that centers around a single viewpoint for all applications and APIs, thus streamlining complex toolsets with immediate results, and providing provable benefits for even team members who are reluctant to embrace the change.

In large part, none of these setbacks are surprising considering how new of a concept CAASM ultimately is, and as awareness/capabilities here continue to evolve, problems like these will undeniably begin to solve themselves. However, with early investment into CAASM tools now touted as key to cloud-native success, ‘waiting around’ isn’t an option that any company can afford. Instead, it’s vital to account for these potential obstacles and make sure to seek a CAASM platform like Noetic that addresses them specifically using a proactive security approach that improves continuously.

How to Ensure Smooth CAASM Implementation

Regardless of the CAASM route you choose to follow, the success you stand to see here, and the speed with which you stand to see it is dependent on the smoothest possible CAASM implementations. This is especially true considering that, as discussed, employee resistance isn’t an unusual obstacle to these security solutions. You therefore need to simplify this process to get everyone on board. Specific focuses that you’ll want to prioritize for smooth implementation, and thus immediate CAASM results, especially include –

  • Agentless installation
  • Unified visibility in real-time
  • Leveraging existing investments
  • Rapid time-to-value

These are all benefits that you can enjoy when you get in touch with our team here at Noetic, highlighting that once again, CAASM’s success when it comes to implementations that get everyone on board is dependent on high-quality CAASM platforms that cater to your needs at all times in real-time, not just when it’s convenient.

Noetic Cyber CAASM

CAASM Covers All Of Your Cloud-Based Security Basics

Security landscapes have changed so quickly over recent years that it can feel like a marathon just to catch up. With this being the case, staying one step ahead of security processes that continue to evolve can feel impossible. By taking the weight of even cloud-based security solutions off your shoulders, CAASM platforms are fast becoming staples of secure success in the future. Noetic is proud to be at the forefront of that change.

Our continually evolving CAASM platform offers the benefits that have already earnt CAASM recognition from Gartner among other authorities, including full-stack visibility, powerful automation, and the ability to continuously maintain security postures. These priorities, displayed in convenient one-source, graph-based dashboards, make it easier than ever for everyone to understand where security stands, where risks lie, and what actions need to be taken at any given time. This is the future of security done well, and you can start enjoying these benefits and many more across even distributed workforces by simply requesting your very own demo today.