What Is Application Security Posture Management (ASPM)?

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What Is Application Security Posture Management (ASPM)?

Application Security Posture Management (ASPM) is an AppSec platform that continuously assesses, manages, and enhances the security of today’s modern applications to improve the overall risk posture of an organization. ASPM provides visibility, detection, correlation, prioritization, and remediation of security vulnerabilities and defects across the entire software development lifecycle (SDLC). Code to cloud coverage is achieved by ingesting data from multiple sources – like application security testing (AST) tools, repo data, and more – then analyzing these findings to identify the most critical risks to the business. 

ASPM platforms act as a management and orchestration layer for security tooling, so that you can enable controls and enforce security policies. By providing consolidated application security findings on one platform, ASPM delivers a comprehensive view of security and risk across an entire organization while also ​​facilitating the management and remediation of individual findings.

ASPM delivers a number of key functionalities, including:

  • Code to Cloud Visibility: ASPM provides a complete view of your SDLC, including your code, tooling, processes, and data from operational environments such as cloud platforms, containers, and physical infrastructure. ASPM continuously monitors and identifies vulnerabilities, tool misconfigurations, and other potential weaknesses. 
  • Vulnerability Scanning: ASPM tools regularly scan applications for known security issues. This involves using a wide range of native and third-party testing tools, such as secrets scanning, SCA, and SAST.
  • Prioritization and Risk Management: ASPM allows organizations to prioritize and manage security risks associated with their applications. This helps security teams to make informed decisions about which vulnerabilities need to be addressed first based on their potential impact on the organization.
  • Remediation and Mitigation: Once vulnerabilities are identified, ASPM provides guidance on how to remediate or mitigate them. This can involve suggesting code changes, configuration adjustments, or the application of security patches.
  • Compliance Reporting: ASPM solutions help organizations with compliance reporting to maintain security policies, standards, and regulations such as SSDF, SOC 2, and ISO 27001.
  • Reporting and Analytics: ASPM tools generate reports and analytics that help organizations understand the security posture of their applications over time. These reports can be used to track progress, demonstrate compliance, and make informed decisions.

ASPM platforms assess and enhance the security of an organization’s applications while reducing AppSec chaos. It is essential for protecting organizations against cyber threats that target the application layer.

Why Is Application Security Posture Management (ASPM) Important?

Overall, Application Security Posture Management (ASPM) solutions help organizations proactively manage the security of their applications, reduce the attack surface, decrease MTTR, and enhance security posture. They represent the next evolution of application security and play a crucial role in modern cybersecurity. Applications are often the primary target of cyberattacks, and their security is of paramount importance to protect sensitive data and ensure business continuity.

Other key benefits of ASPM include:

  • Tool Consolidation: ASPM allows you to replace existing AST tools with one complete solution. Not only does this save significant costs on licensing fees, but it frees up personnel from monitoring multiple tools so they can focus on higher value work.
  • Reducing the Noise: Because ASPM consolidates and correlates alerts, it is easier to see the big picture when it comes to threats. ASPM solutions reduce alert fatigue by simplifying alerting by deduplicating and filtering violations so that you can stay business-impact driven. 
  • Increasing Security-Developer Collaboration: In order to innovate at the speed of DevOps, security needs to be a team sport. Security and development teams must work together to deliver secure software fast, without placing undue burden on development teams. This is what we call controlled shift left. ASPM achieves this through seamless integrations and developer workflows so that engineers can follow secure development best practices within their native environments without slowing down innovation.

Applications have become increasingly complex. The pace of software development has increased, and the thread landscape is ever-evolving and expanding. 

In Cyode’s The State of ASPM 2024 report, 80% of application security professionals stated that managing multiple security point solutions was challenging. That’s not a surprise when you realize that the average AppSec team uses 49 tools. Furthermore, 81% of those surveyed said that developer teams experience too much vulnerability noise and alert fatigue. ASPM’s promise of tool consolidation, and higher signal to noise ratio, and focus on security-developer collaboration will help solve these pain points.

Core Components of a Complete ASPM Platform

To be considered complete, an ASPM platform must include several components. It should cover pipeline security, application security, and posture management. Complete ASPMs should also provide you with native scanners, while allowing you the flexibility to use any third-party scanners. An ASPM that does not provide any native scanners or has limited coverage is considered incomplete or standalone.

Pipeline Security

Development pipelines are a significant blindspot in AppSec. Securing them is essential as it helps safeguard your applications and sensitive data. Considering the number of high profile breaches that have resulted from exposed secrets or compromised developer accounts, pipeline security should be considered a fundamental part of your application security strategy.

Pipeline security should cover the following:

  • Secrets Scanning: Find and fix all secrets across the SDLC. Prevent new secrets in code with developer friendly workflows.
  • CI/CD Security: Manage CI/CD security policies like least privilege as well as the governance of source control across all your DevOps tools.
  • Code Leaks: Minimize the risk of code leakage, alert on suspicious behavior, and identify actual leaks of your proprietary code to help you contain them quickly.

Application Security

For many companies, your application is the lifeblood of your organization. Protecting it is essential to your business. Organizations must ensure that they are delivering innovative and secure software to their customers. To do otherwise is to risk financial losses, reputation damage, and legal consequences.

Complete ASPM solutions should provide a range of native AppSec scanners that can replace existing legacy tooling. At a minimum, ASPM should cover the following: 

  • Software Composition Analysis (SCA): Modern codebases are 80-90% open source libraries, where new vulnerabilities can be publicly disclosed at any time. SCA helps you find and fix vulnerable dependencies in your open source and third-party components.
  • Static Application Security Testing (SAST): Eliminating custom code vulnerabilities should be done as early in development as possible. SAST prevents problems that could make your application vulnerable to attacks.
  • IaC Security: Given the ephemeral nature of cloud infrastructure, organizations need to prevent cloud misconfigurations and apply security standards to Kubernetes, Terraform, CloudFormation, and more.
  • Container Scanning: Scan your containers for vulnerabilities or weaknesses that could be exploited by hackers. Find potential threats before they can be exploited.

Application Risk

For an ASPM solution to be truly effective, it must be both open and flexible. This means providing native scanners as well as allowing for third-party integrations for those organizations that want to keep their existing scanning tools. 

Some organizations may not want to take on the time and effort associated with implementing a new scanner. If an organization has a scanner that has been fine-tuned to meet their needs, they shouldn’t be forced to adopt a new tool. ASPM platforms need to be able to combine data from both native scanners and third-party scanners to accommodate organizations’ needs. At the same time, ASPM solutions must provide native scanners to facilitate tool consolidation or  to fill in any gaps in scanning that an organization might have.

What Are the Benefits of ASPM?

A complete ASPM allows organizations to select and connect the scanners that are right for them. It also helps organizations prioritize vulnerabilities based on business risk, exploitability, and severity. Finally, ASPM improves the management and remediation of alerts. Security and developer teams benefit in a number of ways.

Correlation and Orchestration

The true power of an ASPM platform is its ability to provide context for each vulnerability. By contextualizing vulnerabilities, ASPM helps organizations garner deep insights into both individual defects and overall risk posture. 

Correlation and orchestration are important in eliminating false positives. They allow you to understand when multiple alerts relate to one root cause. This, in turn, minimizes alert fatigue, eliminates blindspots, and improves prioritization and remediation.

Tool Consolidation

By centralizing all security tooling and data across the SDLC into one platform, organizations can eliminate silos and context switching, remove blind spots, and gain better context into risk. This increased visibility and context helps security teams reduce the noise generated by deduplicating alerts. Tool consolidation also reduces costs by eliminating point solution license fees and by freeing up the personnel who manage those tools. 

The efficiency gained by using a complete ASPM platform makes it feel as if the ratio of security to developers has decreased to 1:20 without needing to expand AppSec staff.

End-to-End Security

Because prioritization, risk management, remediation, and mitigation are all core functionalities of ASPM platforms, organizations are able to reduce noise by up to 90% and protect their entire SDLC from the most critical 1% of vulnerabilities. 

This, of course, helps organizations innovate securely, meet regulatory and compliance requirements, and prevent costly data breaches.

Seamless Collaboration Between Security Teams and Developers

Shift left is a widespread but imperfect practice. It creates tension between security teams and developers. ASPM reduces this friction by giving developers the tools to fix vulnerabilities in the environments they work in every day. By providing seamless, developer-friendly workflows, ASPM promotes collaboration, making security a team sport.

Developer Workflows

An application security tool is worthless if developers refuse to use it. ASPM solutions are no different. For an organization to realize the full value from ASPM and promote secure coding best practices, the platform must provide developer-friendly workflows. These workflows should include such things as IDE integrations, CLI, PR scanning, and integrations with issue trackers like Jira. To shift security left in a controlled manner, you need to meet developers where they live and breathe each day. Eliminating context switching is key to developer adoption.

Platform Comparison: Complete ASPM vs. Standalone ASPM vs. AST vs. CSPM vs. CNAPP

Complete Application Security Posture Management (ASPM) Platform Standalone ASPM or Vulnerability Aggregators Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) Application Security Testing (AST)
Definition  A Complete ASPM will have their own native scanning capabilities from code to cloud i.e. Secrets, SAST, SCA, CI/CD, etc., and also the ability to bring your own third party security tools into the platform similar to Cycode’s ConnectorX capabilities. Standalone ASPMs or vulnerability aggregators will offer the ingestion of vulnerabilities from multiple security tool without having its own native scanning capabilities or the ability to prioritise and remediate vulnerabilities.  Monitor and secure cloud environments only (not code) for risks, vulnerabilities and misconfiguration   The set of tools that scan your proprietary code or open source code for vulnerabilities
Visibility & Coverage  Code to Cloud Scanning with all Native Scanners with ability to connect to 3rd party security tools & developer tools providing visibility, prioritization and remediation No native scanning capabilities from code to cloud. Only third party security connections.  Cloud and container security scanning coverage.  Code specific scanners 
Focus Area  Code to Cloud Security, and coverage across the entire software supply chain Only Application Security  Only Cloud Security  Application Security Testing
Examples Native scanners across Secrets, SCA, Secrets, CI/CD, Code Leaks, IaC, Container, and more.  3rd party security tools Cloud security configuration SAST, SCA

Complete ASPM vs. Incomplete ASPM (aka Standalone ASPM)

While many companies claim to have an ASPM platform, they don’t deliver many of the required core functionalities. So what’s the difference between complete ASPM solutions and incomplete solutions? 

A complete ASPM platform is one that has a comprehensive suite of native application security scanning tools. This includes:

Complete ASPM platforms also offer flexibility, allowing organizations to easily select and connect the third-party tools that are right for their unique ecosystem and requirements. 

Unlike complete solutions, Incomplete ASPM solutions rarely have scanning capabilities. Instead, they’re only able to ingest vulnerability data from third-party scanners. If they do have scanning capabilities, they’re extremely limited, lacking one or more core AST tools listed above. For example, they may scan for secrets in code, but lack SAST scanning, SCA for open source components, or the ability to detect CI/CD tool configurations. 

All of this means that organizations that rely on incomplete ASPM solutions are dependent on the vendor to provide the correct integrations, as is the case with point solutions.

 

ASPM vs. AST

Application security testing (AST) tools are a subset of ASPM. They are designed to scan code to pinpoint security vulnerabilities. Static Application Scanning Analysis (SAST), Software Composition Analysis (SCA), Dynamic Analysis (DAST), and Infrastructure as Code (IaC) fall under this category. Though these point solutions provide valuable vulnerability data, they generally lack the sophisticated context provided by a complete ASPM platform.

Complete ASPM, on the other hand, consolidates the findings of these point solutions to give you a broad picture of organizational risk. ASPM analyzes findings from these scanning tools, then prioritizes them to identify the most critical 1% that actually impacts your company.

With the increased context delivered by ASPM, developers are able to focus their remediation efforts on true positives that have the biggest impact on risk. ASPM also provides security teams visibility and controls to enforce security policies.

ASPM vs. CSPM

Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) secures cloud infrastructure. This includes Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Software as a Service (Saas), and Platform as a Service (PaaS). CSPM scans for common misconfigurations and compliance violations to create a secure cloud-based infrastructure in which applications can be safely deployed.

By contrast, ASPM secures applications throughout the SDLC. It helps organizations identify, prioritize, and remediate security risks from code to cloud. Complete ASPM platforms monitor and identify security risks in applications in both on-premises and cloud-based environments, and leverage a combination of automation, data correlation, and risk assessment to provide organizations with a comprehensive view of their application security posture.

ASPM vs. CNAPP

ASPM and Cloud Native Application Protection Platform (CNAPP) both play an important role in enhancing the security of modern applications, but they differ in their scope, functionality, and integration capabilities.

CNAPP focuses on cloud-native applications, providing tailored protections for containerized workloads, microservices, and APIs within dynamic cloud environments. This includes features like container image scanning, runtime protection for containers, and API security controls specific to cloud-native architectures.

CNAPPs generally integrate with container orchestration platforms like Kubernetes and cloud services, providing security controls that align with the dynamic nature of cloud-native deployments.

Complete ASPM platforms, on the other hand, assess and manage the overall security posture of applications, delivering a holistic view of vulnerabilities across diverse environments. ASPM integrates with various security tools and address security throughout the application lifecycle. 

How to Evaluate an ASPM Platform

ASPM helps organizations unify findings across security tools, ensures visibility of application risk, and drives efficiency in the prioritization and remediation of threats.

Because ASPM is a new tool, security teams may be unsure how to evaluate new solutions. 

Choosing the Right Solution

When evaluating a complete ASPM platform, consider these 10 questions before purchasing a new tool:

  1. Does it integrate with the tools (AppSec scanners, ticketing systems, CI/CD tools) you currently use? Does it have the flexibility to integrate with future tools?
  2. Does it deliver its own high-quality AppSec scanners for Secrets, SCA, SAST, CI/CD tools, IaC, and more?
  3. Does it provide visibility, prioritization, and remediation of vulnerabilities? Can you easily build custom policies and workflows?
  4. How sophisticated are its automation and orchestration capabilities?
  5. How accurate is the platform in identifying false positives/false negatives and deduplicating alerts?
  6. Is the user interface simple and intuitive? Are reporting dashboards comprehensive, yet easy to use?
  7. Does it integrate with developer workflows to identify defects early in the SDLC?
  8. Does it satisfy governance and compliance requirements?
  9. Does it build collaboration between security teams and developers?
  10. Does it use AI to improve the overall efficacy and accuracy of the tool, for example, fine-tuning results, providing context, or allowing users to build queries using natural language.  

Measuring the Success of Your ASPM Program

The following key performance indicators (KPIs) are helpful when measuring the success of your new ASPM program. You’ll notice that these KPIs look at an organization’s overall security posture, efficiency metrics, as well as the developer experience:

  1. Vulnerability detection rate 
  2. False positive rate
  3. Mean time to remediate
  4. Coverage of application portfolio
  5. Compliance adherence
  6. Number of high-risk vulnerabilities
  7. Incident response time
  8. Cost of remediation
  9. Developer feedback on tool usability 
  10. Incident response collaboration

Want to move the needle on these metrics and more? Innovative, software-first companies like PayPal, Solaris, and Rapyd all have implemented Cycode’s complete ASPM.

Gain Peace of Mind With Cycode’s Complete ASPM

Cycode is the leading Application Security Posture Management (ASPM) platform, providing peace of mind to its customers. Its complete ASPM platform scales and standardizes developer security without slowing down the business, delivering safe code, faster. Cycode replaces existing application security testing tools or integrates with them while providing cyber resiliency through unmatched visibility, risk-driven prioritization and just-in-time remediation of code vulnerabilities at scale. Cycode’s Risk Intelligence Graph (RIG), the brain behind the platform, provides traceability across the entire SDLC through natural language. 

Here’s what sets us apart:

  • Cycode lets you use our own scanners or connects your third-party scanner.
  • Our Risk Intelligence Graph (RIG) provides unmatched visibility, accuracy, prioritization, and traceability across the entire SDLC.
  • Cycode was founded by developers and is the only platform that brings together security and development teams.
  • Our world-class research team delivers security notifications on zero-day threats within the platform.

Want to learn more about Cycode’s complete ASPM platform? Book a demo now to find out how we can help you achieve faster time to value, reduce critical vulnerabilities, and remediate faster.

Originally published: November 2, 2023