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AcademyCWPP vs CSPM vs CNAPP vs CIEM: What's the Difference?

CWPP vs CSPM vs CNAPP vs CIEM: What's the Difference?

Learn where CSPM, CWPPs, CNAPPs, and CIEM overlap, where they differ, and which is right for your organization.

Wiz Experts Team
6 min read

A brief history of cloud security technologies 

Cloud technologies have created a major shift in the information technology practices of enterprises. They have brought much convenience for companies and users, along with security challenges. 

Unfortunately, many security tools today date from when on-premises servers were the main solution for companies. Before the inception of cloud computing, fundamental security measures such as firewalls, encryption protocols, and virtual private networks (VPNs) were deployed to safeguard data during transmission and storage. Most of these tools and techniques were simply reused for cloud infrastructures.

But as cloud adoption grew, so did the interest of malicious actors seeking to gain access to cloud-based data and workloads. That triggered a demand from the security community for more advanced security solutions. Identity and access management (IAM) systems were developed to help IT team members supervise user identities and control access to cloud resources. Intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS) arose to help organizations scan for attacks and take action against them. 

Enter CNAPPs

To counter the security challenges of containerization and microservices, specialized platforms and runtime protection solutions were developed to secure containerized applications and isolate them from potential threats.

More recently, cloud-native application protection platforms (CNAPPs)have emerged as the leader in securing cloud-native apps. CNAPPs integrate runtime protection, vulnerability management, and visibility into a single platform, ensuring comprehensive security throughout the entire application development and operation lifecycle. 

CNAPPs are popular since they combine the features of many other tools. Because of this, they are expected to gain market share in the future as companies seek to reduce their number of vendors.

In fact, by 2026, 80% of companies will have consolidated their security tooling for cloud-native applications to three or fewer vendors, down from an average of 10 in 2022.

Comparing cloud security solutions: CSPM vs. CWPP vs. CNAPP vs. CIEM

CSPM, CWPPs, CNAPPs, and CIEM all help organizations enhance and protect their cloud environment. While their features sometimes overlap, they were each designed to tackle a specific goal. 

The following tables summarizes the key data for each and helps differentiate between them.


First, let's cover what each solution is designed to do:

Ensures the security and compliance of the cloud environmentProvides security and protection for workloads running in cloud environmentsManages user access permissions and enforces security policiesOne-stop shop for cloud infrastructure and application protection

Key capabilities

The table below compares the core features of each solution:

  • Real-time monitoring of cloud configurations and security settings
  • Identification of misconfigurations and vulnerabilities
  • Compliance and policy enforcement, ensuring adherence to industry standards and best practices
  • Real-time monitoring and threat detection on cloud workloads
  • Vulnerability assessment and patch management
  • Encryption and data protection of cloud workloads
  • Centralized view of access and control
  • Entitlement lifecycle management, including provisioning and deprovisioning
  • Continuous monitoring and detection of suspicious or unauthorized entitlement
  • All core capabilities from CSPM, CWPP, and CIEM including:
  • Resource and infrastructure scanning, threat detection
  • Identification of misconfigurations and vulnerabilities
  • IAC scanning
  • Runtime threat protection
Pro tip

CNAPP is more than a stitching together of all these individual point solutions. By combining user behavior data from the cloud and from workloads, CNAPP provides advanced insights that could improve detection rates and reduce false positives.

Learn more

Attack vectors, threats covered

Next, let's compare what threats each cloud tool covers:

  • Threats from misconfiguration and missing updates
  • Business threats from non-regulatory compliance
  • Denial of service
  • API and container vulnerabilities
  • Unauthorized access
  • Over-privileged access
  • Credential misuse
  • Threats from misconfiguration and missing updates
  • Unauthorized access
  • API and container vulnerabilities

Best for...

Finally, consider which solution fits the needs of your business:

Compliance and configuration managementWorkload securityPermission and access security managementOverall cloud infrastructure and application security

Explaining each solution further

What is CSPM?

Cloud security posture management (CSPM)implements essential software tools used by organizations to assess, manage, and enhance the security of their cloud environments. More precisely, it provides organizations with clear visibility into their cloud infrastructure to better identify and mitigate potential security risks, misconfigurations, and compliance issues, allowing them to protect sensitive data and optimize costs. 

A CSPM solution will offer a wide range of features:

  • Continuous monitoring: Continuously scans and monitors cloud resources, identifying vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and security gaps

  • Risk assessment and compliance: Evaluates your cloud environment against established security best practices and cloud compliance standards, e.g., CIS benchmarks and sector regulations

  • Real-time alerts and remediation: Provides instant notifications about security incidents and misconfigurations, enabling rapid remediation to minimize potential risks

  • Automation and policy enforcement: Automates security policies and best practices, ensuring consistent adherence and reducing the likelihood of human error

  • Collaboration and reporting: Facilitates collaboration among different teams, including security, operations, and compliance; generates comprehensive reports for audits and compliance requirements

Pro tip

The CSPM market is so mature that there is now a growing gap between legacy and modern CSPMs. Learn how the market has evolved and what you can do to make sure you choose a modern CSPM tool.

Learn more

What is a CWPP? 

A CWPP, or cloud workload protection platform, refers to a centralized software platform designed to safeguard the security of cloud workloads. In this context, workloads refer to applications, virtual machines, containers, physical servers, and serverless functions running any type of computation in the cloud.

A CWPP provides organizations with features including:

  • Threat detection and prevention: Employs advanced threat intelligence and analytics for various types of cyber threats, including malware, zero-day exploits, and unauthorized access attempts

  • Vulnerability management: Conducts regular assessments for visibility into security gaps, enabling you to prioritize vulnerabilities and successfully address them

  • Network segmentation: Helps alleviate the complexity of overseeing security across multiple environments, making it more difficult for attackers to breach your entire network through a single entry point; provides your team with quicker insights into the origin of threats

  • Configuration compliance: Ensures that cloud workloads adhere to established security policies and best practices, helping maintain compliance with industry standards and regulatory requirements

  • Incident response and forensics: Facilitates incident response via real-time alerts, comprehensive incident investigation, and forensic capabilities, allowing for timely identification and mitigation of security incidents

What is CIEM? 

CIEM, or cloud infrastructure entitlement management, refers to the practice of managing and controlling user access to cloud resources. It enables organizations to govern and enforce granular permissions across their cloud infrastructure.

A CIEM platform provides a range of features that enhance the security and governance of your cloud infrastructure:

  • Access visibility and control: Offers a centralized view of user entitlements, permissions, and privileges, providing visibility and control over access to all cloud resources

  • Identity and access governance: Helps establish and enforce access policies to make sure users are only granted the permissions required for their roles and responsibilities; helps prevent excessive permissions, minimize the risk of privilege misuse, and maintain compliance with security standards and regulatory requirements

  • Continuous monitoring and compliance: Continuously monitors user activities, detects anomalous behavior, and provides real-time alerts for potential security risks or policy violations; helps maintain a strong security posture and address compliance mandates

  • Automated entitlement lifecycle management: Automates the provisioning and deprovisioning of user entitlements, streamlining the onboarding and offboarding of employees and contractors; reduces manual errors, enhances operational efficiency, and minimizes the risk of unauthorized access

  • Auditing and reporting: Generates comprehensive audit trails and reports on user entitlements, access patterns, and compliance status; helps organizations demonstrate compliance, perform security audits, and facilitate incident response and forensic investigations 

What is a CNAPP? 

A cloud-native application protection platform (CNAPP) is, as its name suggests, software that is designed for ensuring the security of cloud-native applications and infrastructure. It equips organizations with the essential tools, capabilities, and best practices to safeguard applications built on cloud architectures. 

A CNAPP combines features from multiple tools to simplify cloud environment security:

  • Runtime workload protection: Comes with many workload protection features similar to a CWPP, including the detection of threats and malware, container scanning, and network segmentation

  • Infrastructure entitlement: Enables identity and access management of cloud resources; brings automatic detection of malicious activity, visibility over entitlements, continuous access monitoring, and audit report generation

  • Misconfiguration detection: Features continuous scanning to monitor cloud resources, identifying and resolving vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and potential security threats. It’s worth noting that many of these features are part of a CNAPP offering, and it is expected that by 2025, 75% of new CSPM purchases will be part of an integrated CNAPP offering.

  • IaC scanning: Enables scanning of IaC (infrastructure as code) files, discovering bad configurations that can lead to vulnerabilities; unveils opportunities to make better use of cloud resources

  • Visibility and compliance: Provides extensive visibility into the security status of cloud components; enables monitoring via a unified dashboard as well as compliance with industry standards and regulatory mandates

CNAPPs bring many features under one umbrella, providing organizations with the identity management of a CIEM, the workload protection of a CWPP, and the misconfiguration detection of a CSPM. 

CNAPPs also help organizations reduce costs and operational complexity by detecting threats before a security incident occurs, speeding up DevOps processes, and automating processes like monitoring workloads and detecting misconfigurations.

CNAPPs simplify cloud-native security by unifying security into a single solution, as opposed to the siloed approach of having many different platforms (CIEM, CWPP, etc.). 

Which solution should I choose?

Selecting the right cloud security platform really comes down to your company’s priorities. Decision-makers will need to consider what features described in the preceding sections are the most critical for the company’s use cases and industry. 

They must also be aware that the cloud and cybersecurity industry is heading toward CNAPPs, as they combine most of the features under one umbrella. For instance, it is expected that by 2025, 60% of enterprises will have consolidated CWPP and CSPMcapabilities under a single-vendor platform like CNAPP. To get a better understanding of CNAPPs, take a look at the CNAPP for dummies book.

To interactively see how unifying all these solutions reduces complexity and costs while improving efficacy, schedule a demo with Wiz. 

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