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Application Security Posture Management

With applications becoming increasingly complex, software development accelerating and attack surfaces expanding, securing applications is no small feat. For developers and security teams, it is becoming increasingly difficult to ensure the delivery of secure software at speed. Application Security Posture Management (ASPM) addresses the challenge by providing an integrated, continuous, and proactive approach to managing and enhancing the security of modern applications.

What is Application Security Posture Management?

ASPM is a comprehensive framework for securing applications by continuously analyzing, managing, and improving their security posture throughout the entire software development life cycle (SDLC). ASPM is designed to provide organizations with a holistic view of their application security by leveraging the testing tools already in use, enabling them to better understand, manage, and mitigate security risks and vulnerabilities.

Why is ASPM Important?

Most organizations, if not all, develop applications to operate and grow their business. However, the software development landscape has changed and traditional application security (AppSec) methods are no longer suitable. The adoption of agile methodologies and DevOps practices has accelerated the pace of software development and deployment. Moreover, the increasing complexity of modern software environments, often involving cloud-based architectures, microservices, and third-party integrations, has led to a proliferation of siloed testing tools. For security teams, managing the influx of findings from many separate data sources while keeping up with the pace of release cadences has become a near impossible task.

The need for an effective solution is underscored by the heightened risks organizations face in their application environments. This is due to the increasing sophistication of cyber threats and rising number of security vulnerabilities being discovered. And, with mounting emphasis on regulatory compliance, organizations face increased pressure to ensure that security policies are consistently enforced across all applications, or otherwise withstand hefty fines.

ASPM provides a unified view by integrating the findings of a variety of application security testing tools into one singular platform. This enables organizations to proactively manage their application security posture​​​​, reducing the likelihood of security breaches and enhancing the overall security of their software assets. ASPM’s proactive approach is essential in today’s rapidly evolving threat landscape, where new vulnerabilities and attack vectors constantly emerge, and the cost of security incidents can be significant.

Benefits of ASPM

ASPM solutions offer several benefits, including:

  • Elimination of silos

ASPM offers a single, consolidated view of security-related information across different parts of the SDLC. By integrating with tools used by development, application security, and operations teams, ASPM consolidates the data they generate to facilitate a comprehensive understanding of an application’s overall security posture, which is crucial for effective risk management​​.

  • Accelerated remediation

ASPM involves integrating with workflow tools, such as trouble ticketing systems, and providing guidance on fixes. It also performs vulnerability correlation and groups data related to application components for a complete representation​​.

  • Security policy enforcement

ASPM enables the enforcement of application security policies that are unique to individual applications or groups of applications. It can help identify security issues requiring remediation early in the SDLC and, via DevSecOps and CI/CD tooling integrations, block deployment or take actions as deemed appropriate when risks exceed policy.

  • Regulatory compliance

With ASPM, organizations are better equipped to comply with regulatory standards throughout the SDLC. This includes integrating security checks into the development and deployment processes and ensuring that applications meet the required security baselines before they are deployed.

  • Software supply chain security

Organizations can enforce software supply chain security measures with ASPM. ASPM products gather the necessary information about an application to facilitate a Software Bill of Materials (SBOM). In doing so, ASPM offers risk insights across open-source dependencies and third-party software, enhancing the integrity of supply chain security controls. 

Choosing an ASPM Tool

Selecting a full-feature ASPM product is critical if you want to apply the ASPM framework and get the most out of it. To aid in the selection process, you’ll need to consider key features and functionalities when evaluating ASPM products.

The following is a list of essential criteria to guide your search for an ASPM tool:

Coverage and testing orchestration

ASPM tools should integrate with a broad range of AppSec testing tools across all phases of the SDLC, including the planning, coding, testing, deployment, operating, and maintenance phases. ASPM products should integrate with tools like Static Application Security Testing (SAST), Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST), Software Composition Analysis (SCA), and operational environments like cloud platforms and container security solutions, controlling their operation based on organizational policies​​. Additionally, such integration enables the correlation of security data from multiple sources, offering a comprehensive view of security issues and insights into the overall status of complete applications. This broader scope allows organizations to manage application risks more effectively and proactively.

Prioritization and triage

A high quality ASPM tool will enhance visibility into the security risks associated with individual applications and their constituent components. By analyzing data from different application components, ASPM tools should help identify the root causes of vulnerabilities, triage security findings and prioritize them based on risk factors and business impact. This automation enhances efficiency by allowing practitioners to address issues that yield the greatest return on overall risk reduction first.

Workflow automation

The speed of remediation is fundamental to efficient and effective risk reduction. ASPM products should integrate with workflow tools, such as trouble ticketing systems, to automate the opening and routing of tickets to developers and provide actionable feedback and guidance on how to fix identified vulnerabilities. This automation helps to streamline the remediation process, ensuring that security issues are addressed promptly and effectively.

Continuous risk management

ASPM tools should act as an end-to-end management and orchestration layer for security tools, enabling the enforcement of security policies and facilitating the management and remediation of security findings​​. These tools should continuously manage application risks through detection, correlation, and prioritization of security issues from development to deployment. This includes identifying and assessing vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and other security risks that may arise at different stages of the SDLC.

Monitoring and reporting

To better manage risks, ASPM tools should include reporting that provides visibility into the security posture of applications. This helps monitor for security and compliance gaps, allowing for more informed decision making and serving as valuable documentation for future audits. Moreover, reports aid security teams and stakeholders in understanding where the remediation process stands relative to objectives. This enables greater remediation tracking and SLA compliance.

ASPM in the Modern Tech Stack

ASPM and AST

Application security testing (AST) involves testing, analyzing, and reporting the security of an application as it moves throughout the SDLC  from development to deployment and maintenance. There are several categories of AST tools, including (SAST), dynamic application security testing (DAST), software composition analysis (SCA), mobile application security testing (MAST), interactive application security testing (IAST), and runtime application self-protection.

Although having these testing tools is imperative to establishing and maintaining a solid application security posture, these tools generate massive, disjointed, and unsorted datasets that may include duplicates and false positives after every scan. A comprehensive ASPM tool will integrate with and ingest findings from these various AST tools and organize them into a cohesive, centralized indicator of security posture.

ASPM and ASOC

Application security orchestration and correlation (ASOC) tools harness automated workflows to streamline application security testing, correlate findings across testing tools, and prioritize vulnerability management and incident response activities. By centralizing and simplifying data across application security testing tools, ASOC puts the most relevant vulnerability findings at the forefront so security teams can make informed, timely decisions about vulnerability response.

ASPM, born out of ASOC’s centralized visibility capabilities, is Gartner’s next generation approach to manage and scale application security by implementing end-to-end, continuous risk-based approaches to the analysis, prioritization, and remediation of application vulnerabilities and incident response.

ASPM and CSPM

Cloud security posture management (CSPM) helps you manage risk in the underlying cloud infrastructure by integrating with your cloud service provider (CSP) to continuously analyze security issues, configurations, and compliance over time. It centralizes, logs, and alerts to facilitate quick reactions to misconfigurations.

As its name suggests, ASPM focuses on applications and leverages various application security testing tools to monitor application security across the SDLC for issues like code vulnerabilities, third-party dependencies, or API risks. While ASPM secures the applications themselves, CSPM is concerned with the risks in the underlying cloud infrastructure.

ASPM and CNAPP

Cloud native application protection platforms (CNAPP) provide observability and protection throughout the SDLC for cloud-native applications. ASPM, on the other hand, is less cloud-centric and more application focused and delivers end to end visibility from that perspective. Together, they provide a complete view of risk across all applications in the environment with the capability to prioritize and secure vulnerable items like applications, network policies, databases, containers, third parties, and more.

ASPM with Seemplicity

Continuous visibility and monitoring for security issues is at the core of ASPM, and the Seemplicity remediation operations (RemOps) platform gives you the ability to act on those security issues with vigilance. RemOps technology harnesses the visibility provided by application security testing tools and mobilizes the right teams with the data and context they need to remediate security issues and eliminate, reduce, or accept risk findings. Because Seemplicity covers multiple domains across applications, cloud, and infrastructure, it helps application security teams keep application security posture intact and optimized.

Seemplicity delivers ASPM capabilities by:

  • Optimizing existing application security testing output by normalizing, aggregating, and de-duplicating, findings into one consumable view
  • Eliminating application security testing silos by centralizing findings and cyber asset context, ensuring finding status is consistent throughout all workflow management and ticketing systems 
  • Segmenting the backlog into manageable, up-to-date workloads with Seemplicity remediation queues that feed directly into native work management systems and automatically backfill to maximize productivity
  • Giving intelligent data-driven suggestions and no-code automation, allowing for efficient remediation assignment and execution so application security posture stays intact
  • Minimizing compliance drift by creating consolidated, up-to-date reporting and SLA tracking for teams to understand application security posture at a glance 

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