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How the cloud access security broker space is evolving

The cloud access security broker space is accelerating at a fast clip, but expert Rob Shapland explains some obstacles for enterprises to consider before selecting a CASB platform.

Though still in its infancy, organizations' rapid adoption of cloud services, especially in the software as a service...

(SaaS) space, is leading to a growing interest in the cloud access security broker sector. The sheer speed at which cloud services are being adopted is making organizations concerned about the amount of data being transmitted and stored outside of their direct control. The type of enterprise data being held in the cloud is also becoming more sensitive, and therefore governance and data protection concerns are increasing. Microsoft's recent acquisition of Adallom Inc. is one of the first moves by a major player into a market that was previously dominated by startups.

The CASB market faces some key challenges as it moves forward, which may well drive whether it remains a standalone product, or if it will be assimilated by established security products.

Cloud access security brokers (CASBs) have emerged due to the inability of traditional security products to adapt to the increasing corporate use of cloud services. IT teams are often in the dark about what cloud services are being used, by whom, and what data is being stored and transmitted. CASB provides answers to these issues by providing visibility of cloud service usage (usually by analyzing firewall and Web proxy logs). CASBs can also provide compliance services by showing what data is being stored in the cloud and where it is being stored. Additionally, CASBs allow data security policies to be applied to cloud services, such as enforcing encryption or data loss prevention, as well as enhanced authentication. Finally, it provides threat detection -- though this should not be relied upon as the only threat detection offering for cloud services -- by analyzing requests to and from the cloud services and looking for suspicious patterns.

CASB integration

The CASB market faces some key challenges as it moves forward, which may drive whether it remains a standalone product or will be assimilated by established security products. The key issue CASB faces is integration with these existing systems, such as next-generation firewalls, network access control and security information and event management products.  A CASB platform is specifically designed to focus on third-party cloud apps and services, not network infrastructure or on-premises applications. Enterprises will be keen not to have to manage an entirely separate system that is dedicated to just third-party cloud apps.

There have been several moves of late besides Microsoft's purchase of Adallom that have brought the CASB model closer to existing information security products. For example, Blue Coat Systems recently acquired two CASBs -- Perspecsys and Elastica -- and has moved to integrate their respective offerings with Blue Coat's Web gateway security products, as well as other offerings. In addition, earlier this year Adallom and Elastica formed partnerships with Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Cisco, respectively, to integrate their CASB platforms with the vendors' traditional security offerings.

CASB limitations

The CASB market also has issues with what cloud services it supports; currently CASB platforms primarily support SaaS, but they are not designed for infrastructure as a service and platform as a service support. Even in the SaaS support area, many CASB players often support only major cloud app providers such as Microsoft Office 365, Google Drive and Salesforce, and this can mean the organization can have a false impression of which cloud services are being used and what data is outside of their internal control. Enterprises should be aware of the limitations of specific cloud platforms, as well as what specific services those platforms provide -- such as encryption, threat detection and analytics.

Given the infancy of the CASB market, it is inevitable that a period of consolidation will take place, where some of the ventures from smaller providers prove to be unsuccessful, or larger companies acquire the more successful smaller companies. Rolling out a CASB platform at this stage may be risky because the provider may not be the best option in one or two years, and the entry of larger security companies into the market may provide an attractive offering that integrates with organizations' existing  security products. It may be that the cloud access security broker market is worth monitoring at the moment, but now may not be the perfect time to invest in CASB platforms.

Next Steps

Find out about Skyhigh Networks' new cloud security patent for CASB platform

Learn more about Blue Coat Systems' acquisition of Elastica

Discover the best ways for enterprises to evaluate cloud access security brokers

This was last published in December 2015

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