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DSPM vs. CSPM vs. SSPM: Bridging Data Security Gap

Published June 27, 2024

Securing sensitive data has become a critical concern for businesses of all sizes. The issues stem from the widespread adoption of multi-cloud and SaaS environments as data moves to different geographies, databases, data lakes, and software or applications. The complexities grow even further with the increasing number of global regulations and the emergence of GenAI.

For years, organizations have tried adopting, implementing, and maximizing Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) and SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM) solutions to improve their cyber defenses. While the solutions have been effective in safeguarding the environments, they occasionally fail to prevent data breach incidents. Now, the question arises, “What is that critical piece missing in their cybersecurity puzzle?”

The answer: the lack of visibility of sensitive data in their multi-cloud, public cloud, and SaaS environments. As data traverses just about anywhere across corporate environments at a petabyte scale, organizations have no way of knowing where their sensitive data is located, how it is accessed, and how it is transformed over time.

The key to bridging the data security gap and delivering a holistic and enhanced security posture is the Data Security Posture Management solution- a data-first approach to safeguarding sensitive data everywhere.

This blog discusses the difference between DSPM, CSPM, and SSPM and how DSPM complements these technologies to bolster cybersecurity.

Exploring CSPM (Cloud Security Posture Management)

Security posture demonstrates an organization’s resilience to cyber threats. It helps organizations to understand their cybersecurity strength, their ability to identify and mitigate risks, their readiness to identify, prevent, and respond to security threats, and their adherence to security best practices and standards.

In the context of cloud infrastructure,

Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) consists of offerings that continuously manage IaaS and PaaS security posture through prevention, detection and response to cloud infrastructure risks,” as defined by Gartner.

CSPM solutions follow a set of best practices or security standards, such as NIST, PCI DSS, and CIS, among others. These solutions provide a framework of policies and controls outlined by those standards. CSPM automatically executes those controls to scan the cloud infrastructures, such as IaaS and PaaS environments, for configuration issues (misconfiguration), including but not limited to unrestricted ports, exposed sensitive storage buckets, or insufficient authentication mechanisms. By continuously scanning the cloud environment, CSPM solutions identify such issues and address them proactively to prevent disastrous outcomes like a vulnerability breach, reputational harm, or compliance problems.

Key Capabilities of CSPM

CSPM is based on a broad range of capabilities. However, the following are the most common set of capabilities that dominantly exist in most CSPM offerings.

  • Built-in compliance intelligence: CSPM solutions offer a framework that is aligned with configuration best practices and security or compliance standards, such as NIST or CIS.
  • Cloud asset discovery: Security teams leverage CSPM solutions to get complete visibility of their entire cloud environment through a powerful cloud asset discovery engine.
  • Configuration settings: CSPM enables organizations to identify risks (misconfigured settings) mapped to the best practices in their cloud resources, such as exposed storage buckets, unencrypted storage volumes, etc.
  • Remediation: CSPM further allows security teams to establish controls to rectify erroneous configurations. Teams can either automate the remediation process via the CSPM solution or provide manual remediation steps for complex configurations.
  • Continuous monitoring: Cloud infrastructures are dynamic as more cloud applications or resources are added to the environment over time. Hence, organizations can set CSPM solutions to continuously monitor the environment for existing and newly found misconfigurations and send alerts for immediate remediation.

Unveiling SSPM (SaaS Security Posture Management)

While CSPM focuses on protecting PaaS and IaaS, SSPM focuses on reinforcing the security posture of SaaS applications hosted on cloud platforms.

SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM) helps businesses that primarily operate in Software-as-a-Service environments. As organizations rely on SaaS applications, such as Slack, Office 365, and Salesforce, identifying vulnerabilities and risks in these applications has become increasingly crucial. Here, SSPM plays a vital role in protecting SaaS applications by continuously detecting misconfigurations, excessive access permissions, unnecessary stale APIs and accounts, and compliance risks. SSPM eliminates these critical security gaps through automated workflows and controls that are mapped with SaaS security best practices.

Key Capabilities of SSPM

Following are some of the primary capabilities every SSPM solution typically provides:

  • Application discovery: The solution provides the capability of integrating seamlessly with a diverse SaaS ecosystem, enabling efficient discovery of a wide range of applications.
  • Security configuration: SSPM runs continuous checks according to industry standards and frameworks, such as NIST and SOC 2. Using these relevant controls, SSPM detects insecure or misconfigurations in SaaS applications across the ecosystem.
  • Permission settings: SSPM solutions may assist in detecting users who are allowed to access applications, giving insights into their roles and level of permissions.
  • Compliance management: SSPM tools enable security teams to identify security and privacy risks, enabling teams to remediate them to prevent compliance violations.
  • Remediation: Teams can respond to security threats via the remediation workflows provided by SSPM tools. This speeds up organizations’ ability to eliminate risks before they could lead to disasters.

Decoding DSPM (Data Security Posture Management)

Gartner defines Data Security Posture Management as a process that helps organizations get

“visibility as to where sensitive data is, who has access to that data, how it has been used, and what the security posture of the data store or application is.”

Unlike CSPM and SSPM, where the solutions' core focus is on cloud resources and SaaS applications, respectively, DSPM focuses on the data regardless of where it sits in the environment. The solution helps establish policies and controls to secure data in the public clouds. Overall, the solution enables organizations to get answers to the following critical questions:

  • What sensitive data exists in the environment, and where is it located?
  • What users and roles have access to the data and their level of permissions?
  • What is the lineage of the data and its transformation over time?
  • What misconfigurations exist in the cloud, and how to identify and fix them?

Key Capabilities of DSPM

A typical DSPM solution may deliver the following core capabilities:

  • Data asset discovery: DSPM discovers a wide range of data assets in the environment, including native and shadow or dark data assets.
  • Data classification: Delivering utmost precision, DSPM helps detect and classify sensitive data that exist in structured and unstructured formats across public clouds.
  • Data Lineage: The solution leverages lineage capabilities to provide rich insights into the transformation of data across its lifecycle, i.e., how it is being accessed and how it is being used.
  • Configuration standards: DSPM runs automated checks mapped with the best practices to ensure a robust security posture. These checks may include enabling encryption, setting up strong passwords, or configuring firewalls, to name a few.
  • Access insights and controls: Organizations can leverage the rich insights from DSPM's access intelligence capability to understand which users or roles have access to sensitive data. Using these insights, security teams can set up a robust least-privilege access model.
  • Compliance: DSPM helps link metadata with relevant regulations and standards to simplify and meet compliance.
  • Risk assessment: Security teams can seamlessly identify risks and misconfigurations across the environment that are associated with sensitive data exposure.
  • Continuous monitoring: As new assets are added to the environment carrying new sensitive data, DSPM helps prioritize those assets with sensitive data and mitigate risks with the powerful capability of continuous monitoring.

How DSPM Complements CSPM & SSPM

CSPM is an efficient solution that identifies and configures security vulnerabilities in the cloud while enforcing security best practices. However, it is a cloud infrastructure-centric tool. Hence, it treats all cloud resources alike without being able to prioritize assets with sensitive and high-risk data. This tends to lead to false positives and alert fatigue.

For example, a CSPM in a fintech company detects two misconfigurations in its environment. First, it detects an unencrypted customer database, and second a publicly accessible development server. While the first vulnerability requires immediate attention as it involves protecting the sensitive data of customers, the second is a low-priority risk since the server is used internally for testing purposes. However, the CSPM solution treats both misconfigurations with equal priority, creating a flood of notifications. Such situations result in overwhelming security teams, creating alert fatigue and causing delays, which could lead to data breaches or compliance risks.

Similar to CSPM, SaaS security posture management tools don’t always prioritize applications based on sensitive data but on risks associated with applications. For example, an SSPM tool may assign the same priority to a misconfiguration in an application that handles customer support tickets as it does to a critical risk in an application that processes financial transactions. Such skewed prioritization puts organizations at serious security, privacy, and compliance risks.

Conversely, Data Security Posture Management (DSPM) deals with the management and security of data within public cloud environments. DSPM gives comprehensive insights into data, such as its type, geographies, sensitivity, lineage, quality, and access usage over time. By leveraging these insights, security teams can optimize their data security posture across environments, such as preventing unauthorized access, masking data for secure data sharing, or complying with privacy regulations, especially cross-border transfers, to prevent compliance risks.

A robust DSPM solution complements both the CSPM and SSPM solutions, enabling security teams to prioritize vulnerabilities in cloud resources and SaaS applications based on the sensitive data within those assets. Consequently, security teams can reduce false positives and unnecessary time delays.

How Securiti Can Help

Securiti’s Data Command Center, with the integration of Data Security Posture Management, bolsters organizations’ security posture by securing their data everywhere. The solution provides the best of DSPM capabilities by offering contextual insights around data at rest and in motion. It helps establish robust access governance policies and controls, map data movements across systems and applications, prioritize misconfigurations based on sensitive data, and track data transformation across its lifecycle.

However, the Data Command Center goes beyond the traditional DSPM, which is limited to public clouds. Based on a unified framework, the solution helps protect data across public clouds, private clouds, data clouds, and SaaS environments.

Notably, Securiti has been rated #1 by GigaOm Radar and Gartner’s Customer Choice reports for its state-of-the-art DSPM solution.

Request a demo to see Securiti’s Data Command Center™ in action.

Frequently Asked Questions about DSPM vs. CSPM vs. SSPM:

Data Security Posture Management (DSPM) is a solution that prioritizes the detection and protection of sensitive data based on its classification context. CSPM and SSPM are less effective at protecting sensitive data as they primarily protect cloud infrastructure and SaaS applications without data classification context.

CSPM provides a framework mapped to industry best practices and standards, such as NIST and CIS. The solution runs automated checks to scan the environments for misconfigurations and sends alerts to respective stakeholders for remediation.

Organizations that deal with data but don’t have a complete picture or understanding of it require DSPM. The solution helps determine where sensitive data is in the environment, who has access to it, and how it is used.

Organizations that rely on SaaS rather than hybrid multi-cloud infrastructures may gain increased value from SSPM and vice versa.

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