What is ASPM?
As organizations build, deliver, and maintain complex software applications, the need for a comprehensive and proactive approach to application security has become increasingly important. Against this backdrop, application security posture management (ASPM) has emerged as a critical practice.
ASPM is the practice of making applications secure and resilient to significantly reduce business risk. The goal of ASPM is to maintain a continuous and comprehensive risk posture of an application architecture running in production, including all its services, libraries, APIs, dependencies, attack surfaces, and sensitive data flows.
As cyber threats become more sophisticated, applications often serve as attractive targets for attackers seeking to exploit vulnerabilities and gain unauthorized access to sensitive data. ASPM empowers organizations to safeguard against these risks by enabling teams to rapidly identify and prioritize the top business-critical risks that exist in applications at any point in time. By implementing a robust ASPM solution, organizations can detect and remediate security issues early in the development process. This not only helps protect valuable data but enhances the overall trustworthiness of applications.
In short, ASPM should answer questions like:
- What applications do we have, and where are they located?
- What are the top business-critical risks in production right now?
- How many microservices and APIs could be exploited in production?
- What sensitive data is exposed by applications in production?
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ASPM use cases
There are many real-world scenarios where ASPM plays a crucial role in helping organizations fortify their application security. Let’s explore the primary use cases.
Application inventory and visibility
Configuration management databases (CMDBs) are an important way for IT teams, operations teams, and more to track the components of a given infrastructure, network, system, etc. For modern microservice-based applications that change frequently, it is much more difficult to maintain such an inventory. ASPM provides a software bill of materials (SBOM) that itemizes every microservice along with relevant information about which business applications it is linked to, which person or team owns it, and where it is deployed. This accurate and up-to-date inventory is the foundation for understanding and effectively protecting applications at scale.
In addition to delivering a comprehensive SBOM, an ASPM enhances application visibility, serving as the linchpin for robust and scalable application management. This real-time insight not only aids developers, architects, and IT operations teams in eliminating dependence on outdated documents and diagrams but also makes it easy to understand what’s in the applications. This dynamic visibility is also critical for application architects to gain a clear and accurate view of the application’s structure. Likewise, the in-depth visibility empowers teams to efficiently conduct security reviews and execute threat modeling exercises.
Vulnerability triage and prioritization
As applications grow in complexity and change frequently, a constant commitment to robust application security measures becomes imperative to thwart potential threats and safeguard against data breaches. Employing ASPM solutions enables organizations to systematically identify, prioritize, and mitigate the highest-risk vulnerabilities.
ASPM helps organizations identify the top risks by ingesting security findings from other application and cloud security tools and calculating the potential impact of a risk based on its severity, exploitability, and criticality. With a clearly defined list of priorities, security teams can work efficiently with developers to fix the top application security issues, enabling a robust defense against cyber threats.
APIs are the building blocks of modern software, but many organizations don’t know what they’re dealing with when it comes to the APIs they create and consume. It’s important to understand what functions APIs are performing and their underlying protocols, map the direction of communication (upstream or downstream), and identify any encryption, authorization, or misconfigurations that could lead to an attack or compromise.
ASPM tools help eliminate this security blind spot by identifying all APIs, detailing where they reside, and providing visibility into all downstream dependencies and attack surfaces.
Application misconfiguration management
An application misconfiguration occurs when an application or the environment in which it is deployed is configured in a way that allows illegitimate access or creates vulnerabilities. As a result, these misconfigurations can leave systems and data vulnerable to cyberattacks or accidental exposure. ASPM solutions detect application misconfigurations in code and ensure that applications are deployed securely in production.
ASPM tools are invaluable for helping organizations enforce application security controls at scale with automated rules and policies. This approach streamlines manual processes like security checklists and reviews.
Application data privacy and protection
Microservice-based applications have more databases than monolithic applications. Often, organizations don’t have visibility into which databases contain sensitive data and how data flows through their applications, which introduces compliance risk with data privacy regulations like the GDPR and CCPA.
ASPM plays a crucial role in safeguarding application data privacy by pinpointing databases housing personally identifiable information (PII), protected health information (PHI), payment information, or other critical information. By assessing vulnerabilities and threats in proximity to sensitive data, an ASPM solution enhances application data privacy. Additionally, ASPM solutions help organizations maintain compliance with the GDPR, HIPAA, and CCPA by applying standardized policies to ensure adherence and provide support for compliance audits.
Detecting, prioritizing, and fixing architectural changes with efficiency and precision is essential for any business. If application components or dependencies change and introduce a mission-critical application crash, it can result in unplanned downtime. In addition to inconveniencing customers, the downtime can be costly. ASPM helps organizations mitigate these risks by providing essential insight into application architecture.
ASPM provides detailed, up-to-date architectural maps of applications with granular visibility of all services, APIs, libraries, dependencies, and data flows. With this knowledge, teams can understand application dependencies and rapidly perform impact analyses of outages relating to cloud regions or application services. Equally significant, enterprise architects can more effectively design, build, and maintain secure, scalable, and flexible application architectures.