How Financial Services Firms Can Use Application Security Posture Management (ASPM) to Save Costs and Fill CSPM Coverage Gaps

By Anna Tang
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By Anna Tang, Information Security Officer, Data Theorem

In recent years, financial services organizations have increasingly moved their applications and infrastructure to the cloud to take advantage of its scalability, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness. However, this shift to the cloud has also introduced new security challenges, particularly in the realm of application security. Attackers are constantly looking for ways to exploit vulnerabilities in financial applications to gain access to sensitive data or disrupt business operations. To mitigate these risks, financial firms need to adopt a comprehensive security posture management approach that covers both cloud security posture management (CSPM) and application security posture management (ASPM).

While CSPM solutions focus on monitoring and securing the cloud infrastructure itself, it’s the ASPM solutions that secure the financial applications running on that infrastructure. ASPM is a holistic approach to application security that involves continuous discovery and monitoring, assessment, business logic exploitation, and remediation of applications and their vulnerabilities across the entire software development lifecycle. It helps organizations identify and prioritize security issues, and provides guidance and tools to help them mitigate and remediate vulnerabilities, protecting firms from unauthorized data access, interception, manipulation, regulatory violations, fraud, and disruption of services.

By integrating ASPM into their security posture management strategy, financial organizations can discover APIs in use they may not have known about, identify vulnerabilities in their applications, prioritize remediation efforts, and ultimately reduce their overall security risk. Furthermore, by filling coverage gaps in CSPM, ASPM can help financial firms save money by avoiding costly security breaches, financial losses, compliance issues, reputation damage, and downtime.

To leverage ASPM to save costs and fill coverage gaps found in CSPM, follow these best practices:

  • Discover and prioritize critical applications – One of the biggest challenges for CSPM is discovering and determining which applications and services are most critical to the organization. ASPM can help by discovering all APIs in use, mapping those APIs to specific web and mobile applications, providing visibility into the security posture of all applications, and identifying which ones have the most sensitive data. This information can help financial organizations prioritize their security efforts and allocate resources more effectively.By focusing on the most critical APIs and applications first, organizations can save costs and reduce their overall risk exposure, particularly since they deal with so much sensitive customer information, including financial transactions and account details. They can also ensure that their security efforts are aligned with their business goals and objectives.
  • Automate security testing and compliance checks – Another way that ASPM can save costs and fill coverage gaps is by automating security testing and compliance checks. With the increasing complexity of cloud environments, manual testing and compliance checks can be time-consuming and error-prone. Automating these processes can help financial firms identify vulnerabilities and non-compliant configurations more quickly and accurately, helping to protect their reputation and clients’ private data, and build trust with customers.By automating security testing and compliance checks, organizations can save costs on manual testing and reduce the risk of human error. They can also ensure that their security efforts eliminate regressions as new features are added to cloud-native applications in today’s dynamic environments.
  • Integrate security into the development process – ASPM can also help financial organizations fill coverage gaps by integrating security into the software development process. By incorporating security scans into this process, firms can ensure that security is built into the application from the ground up. This can help reduce the number of vulnerabilities that need to be remediated later.
  • Monitor application behavior in real-time – Another key aspect of ASPM is monitoring application behavior in real-time. This involves using runtime tools that can detect and alert on suspicious activity, such as unauthorized access attempts or data exfiltration. By monitoring application behavior in real-time, financial firms can quickly detect and respond to security incidents, minimizing the potential impact on the business. Machine-learning (ML) based anomaly detection has become more mainstream with addressing these types of API and application-centric attacks in recent years.
  • Use automation to streamline remediation efforts – Remediating vulnerabilities can be a time-consuming and resource-intensive process. However, by using automation tools to streamline the process, financial organizations can reduce the time and effort required to fix vulnerabilities in application code, infrastructure-as-code (IaC), and cloud services. For example, some ASPM solutions can automatically provide Terraform and CloudFormation scripts to auto-remediate application- and API-layer exploits by hardening runtime production configurations. By using these tools to automate the remediation process, organizations can save time and reduce their overall security risk.

Integrate ASPM with CSPM

To get the most out of their security posture management efforts, financial firms should integrate ASPM with CSPM. By doing so, they can fill coverage gaps in CSPM – including API discovery and vulnerability checks – to identify and address vulnerabilities in their applications that cannot be detected by CSPM alone. This integration can also help organizations save costs by avoiding security breaches, compliance issues and fines, and downtime caused by application vulnerabilities. Unlike CSPM, ASPM enables organizations to continuously monitor the security posture of applications and services so they can identify areas for improvement and take action to remediate vulnerabilities and reduce risks.

Overall, ASPM is a powerful tool. By discovering all APIs, identifying and prioritizing critical applications, prioritizing remediation efforts, automating security testing and compliance checks, integrating security into the development process, using risk-based prioritization, and monitoring for continuous improvement and auto-remediation, financial organizations can reduce their overall risk exposure and ensure that their applications and data are secure.

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