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CSPM vs. SSPM

This post discusses CSPM and SSPM in depth to reveal their respective use cases. You'll also learn how CSPM and SSPM complement each other to strengthen your overall security posture.

Wiz Experts Team
6 minutes read

Cloud security posture management (CSPM) and SaaS security posture management (SSPM) are two techniques for improving the security of your cloud services. While CSPM is about securing resources you operate in your own cloud accounts, SSPM focuses on protecting the third-party SaaS apps you depend on.

This post discusses CSPM and SSPM in depth to reveal their respective use cases. You'll also learn how CSPM and SSPM complement each other to strengthen your overall security posture. Let's dig in.

TL;DR

  • Cloud security posture management (CSPM) encompasses the tools and practices your organization needs to monitor and maintain effective security protection in the cloud. CSPM platforms provide visibility into your security posture across cloud providers like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud, including misconfigurations, known vulnerabilities, and real-time AI-powered anomaly detection.

  • SaaS security posture management (SSPM) provides centralized security automation for the SaaS apps used by your organization. SSPM solutions enable you to find and close security gaps that arise when you use remotely hosted software such as Slack, Microsoft 365, and Google Workspace, where you don't have control over how the app's deployed.

What is CSPM?

CSPM is the process of fully securing your cloud environments and obtaining visibility into how they're protected. Utilizing cloud infrastructure provides operational benefits such as improved flexibility and cost efficiency, but it also creates security risks when cloud accounts are left unsecured or improperly configured. 

Multi-cloud architectures further raise the threat level—it's more likely that inconsistencies and errors will occur when administrators must apply security controls across several independent accounts.

CSPM tools

CSPM solutions address these challenges by providing a unified platform for managing your cloud security. This enables centralized monitoring of risks present in your accounts, in addition to continuous automated enforcement of security policies (e.g., preventing low-privileged users from accessing sensitive assets) and compliance standards. 

CSPM tools also offer real-time alerts when new threats are found, ensuring problems that need manual resolution don't go unnoticed.

CSPM benefits

Utilizing CSPM provides many security benefits to your organization; below are some of the main ones you’ll experience.

Continual visibility into cloud security threats

CSPM provides comprehensive visibility into your security posture across your cloud environments, including public cloud, hybrid cloud, and on-premises edge IT endpoints. Continual coverage means you can make informed decisions about the threats you face from within a single platform destination.

The global CSPM market is forecasted to reach a value of $8.6 billion by 2027 at a compound annual growth rate of 15.3% from 2022.

MarketsandMarkets – CSPM Report

Native support for cloud operations

CSPM solutions are specifically engineered for cloud and cloud-native workloads. They're designed to support modern infrastructure provisioning and app deployment methods, including infrastructure as code (IaC), continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD), and container-driven workflows.

Automated threat remediation

CSPM tools include automated threat analysis, prioritization, and remediation features to rapidly resolve new risks without requiring manual intervention. This helps ensure you're continually protected against emerging threats or newly created issues, such as after a developer inadvertently exposes a resource.

Real-time anomaly detection

AI-driven behavioral analysis is a key component of CSPM. Comparing current activity to historical data enables real-time detection of anomalies, such as an app that tries to connect to an unusual database or a user who logs in from an unknown location.

Centralized multi-cloud security policy enforcement

Unifying cloud security controls into a single platform lets you reliably roll out policies across all your cloud accounts. CSPM abstracts away the differences between each provider's security layers, ensuring you only need to write your policies once.

What is SSPM?

SSPM is the process of automating the detection and resolution of security issues created by your use of SaaS applications. The problems that it protects you from are primarily misconfigurations that unintentionally expose data or permit unauthorized access; however, SSPM can also defend against other types of risk, including the accidental use of features that violate data privacy or compliance standards like GDPR and the CCPA.

SaaS apps are often overlooked when considering your security posture. It's tempting to trust that software services from reputable vendors are already safe and secure. However, SaaS operates under a shared responsibility model; this means the vendor secures how the app is operated, but you must ensure correct configurations are maintained to protect your own data.

SSPM tools

SSPM solutions provide the tools you need to secure your data. They monitor the apps you use, look for known configuration issues, and help automatically remediate problems that pose a security risk. An SSPM platform might uncover disused Microsoft 365 administrator accounts, for example, or find that a Slack integration has excessive permissions allowing it to collect your data.

SSPM benefits

Let’s look at some of the security advantages that SSPM provides.

Detection of unsafe SaaS app configurations

SaaS apps are convenient and cost-effective, but they can be challenging to correctly configure for security. SSPM allows you to find unsafe settings and make adjustments to improve your security posture—often by applying automatic recommendations.

Continuous compliance for SaaS apps

SaaS can become less safe over time as your users change settings or experiment with newly launched features. SSPM lets you continually monitor SaaS security to ensure protection is maintained as apps and your teams evolve. It also lets you reliably hold SaaS services to the same security standards that you apply to your own infrastructure.

Elimination of security coverage gaps caused by SaaS apps 

The security implications of SaaS apps are easy to overlook when conducting audits and implementing security policies. But just because SaaS apps are developed by somebody else, it doesn't mean they don't affect your security posture. An insecure SaaS app could be the weak link in your otherwise secure architecture. SSPM ensures SaaS threats remain visible, helping you eradicate security coverage gaps.

How does SSPM relate to CSPM?

SSPM and CSPM are separate but complementary techniques. Again, CSPM is concerned with the cloud accounts that you control, whereas SSPM secures the SaaS apps that you purchase from external vendors.

SSPM does contribute to your cloud security posture. For example, if SaaS apps have access to your cloud accounts, then utilizing SSPM helps ensure those apps can’t silently steal data or apply privileged actions to your cloud infrastructure. However, SSPM is not part of CSPM, and you won't usually find SaaS-related features within a CSPM solution.

CSPM vs. SSPM: Comparison table

CSPMSSPM
ScopeCloud, infrastructure, and IaC securitySaaS application security
Use caseSecuring resources and infrastructure in cloud accounts such as AWS, Azure, and Google CloudSecuring SaaS apps like Microsoft 365 and Slack to prevent unauthorized access and data loss
Visibility and controlUnified visibility into risks and threats across your cloud providers; ability to apply consistent security policies that affect all providers you useVisibility into your inventory of SaaS apps and user accounts, helping you secure your fleet and identify unused apps
Misconfigurations detectedPermission errors, exposed infrastructure, unsafe network traffic, anomalous access, and unsafe or insecure authentication requirements (e.g., missing MFA)Exposed SaaS data, overprivileged user accounts, SaaS security misconfigurations, and unsafe authentication requirements (e.g., missing MFA)
Real-time threat protectionMonitoring of cloud accounts to identify anomalous activity and apply automatic mitigations, such as by securing your cloud resources or blocking unsafe traffic flowsReal-time detection of SaaS app misconfigurations, with recommendations and automatic remediations to solve discovered problems

Do I need CSPM or SSPM?

The simplest answer is "It depends." Although some security teams might only need CSPM or SSPM, it's also common for these solutions to be used together.

While both CSPM and SSPM are essential for cloud security, they address distinct areas:

  • Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) safeguards your Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) cloud environments like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. It continuously monitors resources, enforces security policies, and identifies misconfigurations to protect your custom cloud applications and data storage.

  • SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM), on the other hand, focuses on securing the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications your organization uses. It empowers you to manage user access, pinpoint security vulnerabilities within those applications, and ensure they adhere to relevant regulations.

Choosing the Right Tool

Selecting between CSPM and SSPM depends on your specific cloud security needs:

  • Prioritize CSPM if:

    • You leverage public cloud services like AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud Platform.

    • Your primary concern is monitoring and securing your cloud infrastructure.

    • You need to comply with security regulations for your cloud environment.

  • Prioritize SSPM if:

    • Your organization relies on multiple SaaS applications.

    • Managing user access and permissions within SaaS applications is critical.

    • You need to identify and address security risks within SaaS applications.

The Power of Combining CSPM and SSPM

For a comprehensive cloud security posture, many organizations benefit from implementing both CSPM and SSPM. This combined approach safeguards both your cloud infrastructure and the third-party SaaS applications you utilize.

As you rightly pointed out, most software organizations, regardless of size, depend on SaaS products in some capacity. Even limited use cases can introduce security risks. Therefore, SSPM plays a vital role in a robust cloud security strategy.

Use Wiz for complete CSPM

Wiz is a cloud security platform that provides a comprehensive set of CSPM features. Wiz connects to your public and hybrid cloud environments—including AWS, GCP, Azure, OCI, and VMware—and analyzes over 1,400 rules to detect active misconfigurations, vulnerabilities, and attack vectors in real time.

Reported problems are contextualized by the Wiz Security Graph, helping you efficiently triage whether new issues are actual risks. Wiz can also automatically remedy confirmed threats, such as by disabling public access to an accidentally exposed S3 storage bucket.

Wiz offers unparalleled visibility into cloud security risks. Its clear insights and simple recommendations give you control over your cloud security posture management. 

To see how Wiz can help you rapidly build and deliver software in the cloud without compromising on safety, get your personalized Wiz demo today.

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