What Is Application Security Posture Management (ASPM)?

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Cycode Team

Intro to Application Security Posture Management (ASPM)

Given the pace of digital transformation and the complexity of modern applications, the way developers build and deliver software has changed. Software is now shipped at blistering speed, with releases weekly, daily…even hourly.

At the same time, traditional approaches to application security are proving ineffective and AppSec risk is at an all-time high. Just look at the breaches JumpCloud, AT&T, Tesla, and T-Mobile all experienced in the last 12 months. 

There’s also tool sprawl, regulatory and compliance mandates, and all the challenges that come with shift left. It’s chaos. AppSec Chaos, more specifically.

This is precisely why organizations need a new AppSec solution, one that enables seamless collaboration between security teams and developers and ensures end-to-end security from code to cloud. Application Security Posture Management (ASPM) has recently been introduced as a new category to do just that.

Keep reading to discover what ASPM is, why it’s important, and how to evaluate ASPM solutions.

What Is ASPM?

Application Security Posture Management is an AppSec platform that continuously manages the security of modern applications to improve overall risk posture. ASPM delivers visibility, detection, correlation, prioritization, and remediation of security vulnerabilities and detects threats across the entire software development lifecycle (SDLC).

Because ASPM has saved organizations from AppSec chaos, it’s only right that we share its origin story.

ASPM’s roots go back to 2016 when Gartner first defined Application Vulnerability Correlation (AVC) as a market segment. AVC was an application security workflow and process management tool that streamlined SDLC vulnerability remediation. 

Within a year, AVC evolved into Application Security Testing Orchestration (ASTO), which provided a management layer between development, operations, and security systems. Then, in 2019, ASTO technology was replaced by Application Security Orchestration and Correlation (ASOC) platforms. The goal of ASOC was to ease software vulnerability testing by automating workflows and remediation. 

Finally, in 2023, Gartner introduced the ASPM market segment as a means to manage and automate the entire application security ecosystem from a dedicated platform.

Now that you understand how AVC evolved into ASPM, let’s take a closer look at how ASPM works.

How Does ASPM Work?

ASPM platforms deliver code-to-cloud coverage by ingesting data from multiple sources like application security testing (AST) tools, repo data, and more. This data is then analyzed to identify the most critical risks to the business. 

By providing consolidated application security findings on one platform, ASPM acts as a command center for security tooling, enabling relevant teams to control and enforce security policies. The result? DevSecOps teams get a comprehensive view of security and risk across their entire organization and a place to manage and remediate individual findings…all in one place. 

What Are the Key Capabilities of ASPM?

To deliver ASPM, solutions need to provide a number of key ASPM functionalities, including the following:

  • Code-to-Cloud Visibility: Continuous monitoring of code, tooling, processes, and data from operational environments such as cloud platforms, containers, and physical infrastructure
  • Vulnerability Scanning: Scanning for known vulnerabilities using both native and third-party tools, such as secrets scanning, SCA, and SAST
  • Prioritization and Risk Management: Prioritizing issues based on severity and risk score
  • Remediation and Mitigation: Suggesting code changes, configuration adjustments, or the application of security patches
  • Compliance: Delivering evidence to comply with various security standards and regulations such as SSDF, SLSA, SOC 2, and ISO 27001
  • Reporting and Analytics: Generating reports and analytics to show the security posture of applications over time

Complete vs. Incomplete 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. 

Why Is ASPM Important?

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

As Gartner rightly explained, all of this “complicates efforts to assess, measure, prioritize, and respond to application risks.”

To truly understand the challenges application security teams are facing and why ASPM is important, we undertook an independent, vendor agnostic survey of 500 security professionals and released The State of ASPM 2024 report.

Here’s what we found:

  • 61% of DevSecOps professionals and 78% of CISOs believe the attack surface is unmanageable
  • The average AppSec team uses 49 tools
  • 4 out of 5 respondents find managing multiple security tools challenging
  • 72% say their software supply chain is a blind spot
  • 81% believe developer teams experience too much vulnerability noise and alert fatigue
  • 88% of CISOs think their developer teams aren’t remediating all vulnerabilities 
  • 90% say the relationship between security and developers needs to improve

What Are the Benefits of ASPM?

A complete ASPM approach allows organizations to select and connect the scanners that are right for them; ruthlessly prioritize vulnerabilities based on business risk, exploitability, and severity; and improve the management and remediation of alerts. 

As a result, security teams and developers experience the following benefits:

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 context into risk. This offers better visibility and helps security teams reduce the noise generated by scanners and duplicate alerts. Of course, tool consolidation also reduces costs by eliminating the license fees of the many point solutions it replaces and by freeing up personnel from managing 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 practice, but it’s an imperfect practice that creates tension between security teams and developers. ASPM reduces security-developer friction by letting developers fix vulnerabilities in the environments they work in every day. 

By providing seamless, developer-friendly workflows, ASPM platforms help make security a team sport.

ASPM vs. AST, CNAP, and CSPM

ASPM vs. AST

Application security testing (AST) tools are designed to scan applications and pinpoint security vulnerabilities. This involves various scanning techniques such as Static Application Scanning Analysis (SAST), Software Composition Analysis (SCA), Dynamic Analysis (DAST), Infrastructure as Code scanning, and others. Naturally, these scans produce numerous, disconnected findings, including false positives and duplicates.

Complete ASPM platforms, on the other hand, address the limitations of application security tools by holistically analyzing findings across scanning methodologies, and distilling them into the most critical 1%.

This makes it possible for developers to focus their remediation time on true positives that will have the biggest impact on risk. It also provides security teams visibility and controls to enforce security policies.

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 focus and scope, functionality, and integration capabilities.

CNAPP is specialized for 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.

They 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, focus on assessing and managing the overall security posture of applications, offering a holistic view of vulnerabilities across diverse environments. They integrate with various security tools and address security throughout the application lifecycle. 

ASPM vs. CSPM

The primary focus of ASPM is to secure applications throughout their entire SDLC and help organizations identify, prioritize, and remediate security risks from code to cloud. Complete 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.

Compare this to CSPM, where the primary focus is to secure cloud infrastructure. This includes Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Software as a Service (Saas), and Platform as a Service (PaaS). CSPM also scans for common misconfigurations and compliance violations.

Its objective is to protect cloud infrastructure and resources as well as prevent misconfigurations to create a secure cloud-based infrastructure into which applications can be safely deployed.

How to Evaluate ASPM Solutions 

There’s no doubt that ASPM can help organizations unify findings across security tools, ensure clear visibility of application risk, and drive efficiency in the prioritization and remediation of threats.

Because it’s a new category, security teams may be unsure what criteria to consider when evaluating solutions, and how to measure the success of new ASPM programs.

We’re here to help! 

Choosing the Right Solution

Consider these 10 key questions before implementing a new tool:

  1. Does it integrate with the tools (scanners, ticketing systems, CI/CD tools) I use today? Does it have the flexibility to integrate with future tools?
  2. Does it offer a suite of native application security tools (SCA, SAST, Secrets Scanning, CI/CD tools, IaC scanning, etc.)
  3. Does it provide visibility, prioritization, and remediation and support custom policies and workflows?
  4. How sophisticated are its automation and orchestration capabilities?
  5. How accurate is the platform in identifying false positives and false negatives?
  6. Is the user interface simple and intuitive?
  7. Will it simplify the developer experience and minimize tech debt?
  8. Does it satisfy my governance and reporting needs?
  9. Will it help clarify asset ownership and improve 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 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 leader in Application Security Posture Management. 

Our complete ASPM platform delivers the rigorous visibility, prioritization, and remediation that security and development teams so desperately need. 

Here’s what sets us apart:

  • Cycode lets you use our own scanners or bring your own third-party scanner.
  • Cycode covers AppSec, Pipeline Security and Application Risk.
  • 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 really draws the balance with security and development teams to bring them together.
  • Thanks to our world-class research team, we deliver proactive security notifications within the platform that provide updates on zero-day attacks, and offer pre-built policies to make sure MTTR on those zero day attacks are drastically reduced.

Book a demo now to see the platform in action.