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What Is Cybersecurity Mesh Architecture (CSMA)?

Feb 28, 2023

Feb 28, 2023

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Learn about the key components & benefits of Cybersecurity Mesh Architecture (CSMA). Enhance security and stay ahead of the game with this comprehensive guide.

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Josh Mayfield
VP Product Marketing
What Is Cybersecurity Mesh Architecture (CSMA)?
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What Is Cybersecurity Mesh Architecture (CSMA)?

Today’s distributed organizations need a comprehensive, innovative approach to cloud security that minimizes gaps and effectively integrates different security tools. Hybrid work is now the norm, rather than the exception to the rule. This offers businesses more flexibility and agility but also poses unique risks to the enterprise perimeter.

Enter cybersecurity mesh architecture, a framework first coined and identified as an emerging trend by Gartner. Learn more about cybersecurity mesh architecture and how it can improve your organization’s security posture.

What’s Not Working in SaaS Security? Why Is a Different Approach Needed?

Software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers offer innovative, cloud-based tools. They’re a great option for many organizations that want to stay nimble and efficient, especially because they eliminate the extra work of managing and maintaining on-premise hardware. But SaaS applications present unique security issues, such as: 

  • Data breach: When you upload your data to a cloud-based application, you’re counting on the provider’s security measures to protect private company information.
  • Application access: SaaS applications may be accessed by individuals outside your company, or former employees or contractors may retain access after they’ve left the organization.
  • Unsecured access: Cloud-based applications are useful because employees can use them from any internet-connected device. However, this poses a security risk when an end user is on an unsecured network at a coffee shop, airport, or other offsite location.

With users and data located outside the enterprise, securing and defending your SaaS perimeter is critical.

Definition and Explanation of Cybersecurity Mesh Architecture

Cybersecurity mesh architecture (CSMA) isn’t a single tool or program you can purchase. So what is cybersecurity mesh? Think of CSMA as a set of organizing principles used to create an effective security framework. A traditional network security model uses a combination of different tools and programs. But without a unified framework, you could have known or unknown exposures to cyber attacks.

CSMA attempts to address the complexity and potential gaps in most cybersecurity strategies by advocating a model where different security product silos work together as one, cohesive ecosystem. The logic is that hackers do not think one dimensionally, so security architectures must also break from that framework. Rather than thinking of identity, endpoint, network, and other functional areas as individual attack vectors, the CSMA views the products as working together in an ecosystem.  

Gartner does point out that CSMA requires many integrations and encourages security vendors to provide application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow for more seamless integrations of various tools. 

The ultimate goal is to have full visibility and control across your security framework while eliminating any gaps or potential exposures.

There are four main components to the CSMA framework, as outlined by Gartner:

  • Consolidated dashboards: CSMA uses one central dashboard to monitor and manage all your company’s resources and incidents.
  • Consolidated policy management: With CSMA, you have a strong, central security policy that you enforce across different tools to ensure you don’t have any gaps and maintain compliance.
  • Security analytics and intelligence: Consolidated management also means that IT teams can collect a wealth of data and use analytics to inform risk assessment and mitigation practices.
  • Identity fabric: CSMA takes an identity-based security approach, emphasizing the importance of identity as a control point in a world where data is everywhere and accessed from anywhere.

Benefits of Implementing a Cybersecurity Mesh Architecture

Using CSMA offers many advantages, including:

  • Enhanced security: The CSMA approach makes your organization more agile. Regardless of scale, all endpoints and locations can be monitored from a central dashboard.
  • Increased compliance: By applying a central policy to the unique configurations of different security tools, this approach helps IT teams identify and resolve compliance issues.
  • Better collaboration: CSMA improves cooperation across multiple security teams and programs efforts and solutions across an enterprise.
  • Scalability: A CSMA framework can evolve as an organization grows and its security needs change, whether that means hiring new employees, opening another office, or taking on new SaaS applications.
  • Cost savings: CSMA helps you eliminate unnecessary security tools while reducing long-term costs associated with cybercrime attacks.

With this approach, risk assessment and prioritization are tailored to the enterprise, and identity access is consistent and controlled across all applications.

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Design and Implementation

Shifting to a CSMA framework doesn’t mean you have to eliminate all your existing tools and services. And because few organizations can consolidate to a single vendor, you’ll still need a mix of tools.

Instead, work to identify attack surfaces and potential risks where you may need more integrated protections. You can design and build out your CSMA layers using a mix of open standards, APIs, and ad hoc integrations. In vetting and selecting new services, prioritize vendors who embrace mesh architecture and are willing to make their tools integrate better into a custom framework.

AI and machine learning can support implementation and refine your strategy over time. CSMA can combine the data from multiple security tools to analyze risks more effectively and trigger automatic responses to potential attacks.

Cybersecurity Mesh Architecture Real-World Examples

The CSMA is already being successfully implemented in different industries, including media, financial services, and software providers. For companies who regularly work with different partners and vendors, a CSMA approach can identify SaaS access sprawl and secure all accounts when a project or engagement ends. Similarly, CSMA can automate the SaaS offboarding process so that unauthorized users never retain dangling access to applications.

Future of Cybersecurity Mesh Architecture

As the CSMA framework becomes more of an industry standard, more organizations are expected to implement its model. The cybersecurity industry will be further encouraged to embrace an integrated, collaborative approach to their solutions and design products with CSMA in mind. Hackers don’t think in silos, so security strategies cannot be siloed either. 

The goal is to eliminate siloed security tools and lean on products and solutions that work together so you can build a composable, comprehensive security architecture. As a leader in the technology space, Gartner’s recommendation will continue to inform the industry, and IT thought leadership.

Conclusion: Learn More from Grip

If you’re considering implementing cybersecurity mesh architecture at your organization, Grip is here to help. Our innovative SaaS Security Control Plane (SSCP) offers complete visibility and access control, even for shadow SaaS. With support for 20,000+ SaaS apps, Grip can simplify operational complexity while mitigating risk across the SaaS layer. For more information, schedule a free SaaS security risk assessment or request a demo today.

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