CNAPP vs CSPM

Learn where CNAPP and CSPM overlap, where they differ, and which one is right for your organization.

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Tl;DR

  • CNAPP is the Swiss Army Knife of cloud security, consolidating several tools within one platform to address application, infrastructure, and workload security comprehensively.

  • CSPM is a specialized tool within that Swiss Army Knife, focusing specifically on cloud infrastructure security and misconfiguration management.

What is CSPM?

Cloud security posture management (CSPM) is 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

What is 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 Cloud Workload Protection Platform (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

CNAPP tools bring many features under one single platform, providing organizations with the identity management of a cloud infrastructure entitlement management CIEM, the workload protection of a CWPP, cloud vulnerability management, 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 cloud security tools.

CNAPP vs CSPM: How do they Compare?

ComparisonsCSPMCNAPP
GoalsEnsures the security and compliance of the cloud environmentOne-stop shop for cloud infrastructure and application protection
Key Capabilities- 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- 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
Attack Vectors, Threats Covered- Threats from misconfiguration and missing updates - Business threats from non-regulatory compliance- Threats from misconfiguration and missing updates - Unauthorized access - API and container vulnerabilities
Best For..Compliance and configuration managementOverall cloud infrastructure and application security

Which Cloud Security Solution is Right for You?

1. Cloud Adoption Maturity:

  • Early cloud adopters: If your organization is fairly new to the cloud and primarily focusing on securing infrastructure and data, a CSPM might be enough for now. It provides a cost-effective foundation for identifying and addressing misconfigurations and compliance issues.

  • Mature cloud users: For organizations heavily invested in cloud-native apps and managing complex cloud environments, a CNAPP offers comprehensive protection across the entire application lifecycle. Its broader capabilities ensure secured workloads, infrastructure, identities, and APIs.

2. Security Needs and Priorities:

  • Foundational security: If your primary concern is preventing misconfigurations, ensuring compliance, and monitoring basic threats, a CSPM delivers essential coverage.

  • Holistic application security: If you require in-depth protection for cloud-native applications, runtime workload shielding, entitlement management, and API security, a CNAPP provides a unified platform addressing these needs.

3. Cloud Visibility 

  • CSPM: Primarily focuses on infrastructure-level visibility, offering insights into resource configurations, access controls, and compliance adherence. Its visibility into applications might be limited or require integration with additional tools.

  • CNAPP: Provides deeper unified visibility across the entire cloud environment, including infrastructure, applications, workloads, identities, and APIs. This holistic view enables comprehensive threat detection and security analysis.

4. Resources and Budget:

  • Cost-effectiveness: Generally, CSPM solutions are less expensive than their CNAPP counterparts due to their narrower focus.

  • Operational efficiency: While a CNAPP simplifies security management by consolidating tools, consider the upfront cost and potential resource investment in learning and managing a more complex platform.

5. Scalability and Future Plans:

  • Limited cloud growth: If your cloud usage is stable or anticipated to grow modestly, a CSPM might suffice for the near future.

  • Expanding cloud adoption: If significant cloud growth and adoption of cloud-native applications are on the horizon, a CNAPP offers a scalable solution that adapts to your evolving security needs. 

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 CSPM capabilities 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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