Mobile Cloud Access Security Broker [CASB]


Mobile CASB, is Controlling a Cloud Application Enough?

Having a hybrid cloud solution is common with small and large businesses. If your business has an on-premises network but utilizes cloud infrastructure for some of its services, you have a hybrid cloud network. Any data that leaves your network is vulnerable to attackers. Any data that is sent to your network is also vulnerable. With mobile applications, this is where a Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) becomes invaluable to protect data that passes to the internal and cloud infrastructure.

When Do You Need a CASB?

CASBs are often used when the business offers API services that work with both the cloud product and the internal network. An application programming interface (API) is widely used for businesses to bring in subscription revenue and promote their brand across several markets.

A good example of a popular API is Salesforce. Their API is more popular than their web-based application, and its API is what makes Salesforce a part of several business applications. Salesforce is a large example, but many smaller businesses also offer their products as an integration component for other developers.

The API offers backend processing services that input and output data. It can run in the cloud or on your private servers, but if it’s on your private network it should be in a less secure perimeter network called the DMZ (demilitarized zone). Programmers connect to your API server and send data for you to process. The server has its own security in place, but what happens when you have a hybrid solution and you pass data between your private network and the cloud? You need more security to ensure that the data is protected as it is exposed to the public network. This is when you can implement a CASB to add a layer of security between your API, the cloud, and your customers.

A CASB is different from other security devices because it allows the owner to integrate the private network access controls and authentication services into the proxy service. When it comes to security, it’s much easier to centralize control of your security systems rather than keep scattered controls across several locations. For instance, if you disable an employee’s access to the private network, you might forget to make the same changes on the cloud network. This leaves your application security vulnerable to simple human error when employees forget to disable accounts on various corporate networks.

Mobility and the Cloud

A need for better cloud security increased in the past decade due to the surge in mobile devices and bring your own device (BYOD) strategies. BYOD strategies give your organization several advantages. Users can freely use their own smartphones and tablets on the network. These devices are then used when away from the office, which increases productivity.

The downside of BYOD is the security risks. Allowing people to connect their own device to your corporate network leaves it open to insider threats. The traditional way to combat this security problem was to install MDM software on the device, which gave the network administrators control over devices. For instance, if a device was stolen or lost, the administrator could send a command to the background application to wipe the device of its data. This avoids data theft from the hardware.

A CASB is an alternative to these traditional software components installed on the device. You don’t need any software running on the device. Instead, all traffic is routed through proxies. Traffic through these proxies is analyzed and reviewed for malware detection. It also allows the network administrator to implement password authentication, or single-sign-on providers can be used. With SSO, your users only have one login and password and these credentials authenticate for all applications for both internal and cloud resources.

One advantage of working with CASB over MDM is that you can often integrate your current authentication system with the newly installed CASB. This makes much of the transition invisible to your users, so you don’t interrupt productivity during the upgrade procedure. Of course, this is dependent on your own system and rollout procedure, but CASB is notably less difficult for implementation and installation than other solutions. For this reason, CASB is quickly becoming a preference for large IT organizations that are reviewed based on uptime metrics.

Shadow IT Security

Because every organization relies on some kind of technology, IT teams must be able to support numerous different platforms. Departments such as marketing or sales will have their own cloud applications based on their internal requirements. They often roll out these services without the help of IT but IT is still responsible for its security.

This type of production environment is referred to as shadow IT services. Users can create their own cloud environment and store SaaS applications and data. This data can still be very critical, and IT must manage the way this data is stored, transferred and accessed. Data security is more than just access control. You also need monitoring, and CASBs can be integrated to monitor shadow IT environments.

Some advantages to using a CASB include:

  • Place proxy and authentication services between your critical network components and BYOD, which controls and monitors data that flows in and out of your network.
  • Added compliance for organizations subject to various guidelines including HIPAA, SOX, etc.
  • Destroy corporate data remotely on lost or stolen smartphones and tablets
  • Auditing ability for security investigations
  • Secure cloud applications with credential services provided by your internal network or SSO providers
  • No software installation required on BYOD devices

Complete Cloud Security for Mobile

Traditionally, IT teams used proxies to block sections of the web either through IP addresses or a database of blacklisted sites. The web is too large for such services, and CASB is used instead to protect data across mobile and the web. In addition, mobile data is sometimes sent insecurely across the cloud leaving your data exposed.

CASBs offer encryption, data monitoring, and threat detection for your BYOD users without forcing your users to install any added software. Your data is tunneled through proxies that are used to transfer within your corporate network services. Without the right authentication, users are blocked from interacting with private data. They are also blocked from accessing blacklisted web services, which indirectly protects your network from malware.

You can also incorporate API services instead to make calls to the network using background processes. Most organizations work with API services due to the limited amount of infrastructure that must be installed and purchased. If affordability and budget concerns are your priority, then API CASB services are likely the better option.

Before you choose a vendor for a CASB, research the provider’s ability to discover new and existing cloud services. This will provide the data protection and web access needed with mobile users. You should also evaluate any governing guidelines you must follow for auditing and data storage such as HIPAA and SOX regulations.

CASB services are complex and usually harder to research. We can help you find a solid CASB vendor and ensure your organization is fully secure and properly configured. If you don’t already have good security in place for BYOD, it’s time to put a good strategy in place.

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