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June 25, 2024 | Reading time 9 minutes

DSPM and CSPM, What’s the difference?

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CEO and Founder

As technology has grown and improved, legacy on-premise networks and data storage have been pushed aside by cheaper, more powerful cloud computing resources and data centers. As a result, organizations are increasingly reliant on cloud environments and vast amounts of digital data to drive their operations.

With this reliance comes new risks as attack points increase across platforms, highlighting the need for new and robust security measures that protect sensitive information and ensure regulatory compliance while company data travels between server farms and personal devices.  

Two essential security frameworks have emerged to address these challenges: Data Security Posture Management (DSPM) and Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM). 

Understanding these frameworks, their capabilities, and their differences is crucial for any modern organization looking to enhance their security posture.

What is DSPM?

Data Security Posture Management (DSPM) refers to a set of practices and tools designed to continuously monitor, assess, and improve the security of an organization’s critical data assets.

These days a company’s data can live across a variety of platforms and networks, both on-premises and in the cloud. This means there are an increased number of entry points for data leaks and cyber attacks, as your data moves across servers, is copied and pasted, or shared directly with outside accounts and users.

While there are a number of ways to secure your network, cloud, and on premise infrastructure, DSPM focuses solely on the privacy and security of your data regardless of where it is stored.

For example, picture a large financial group that manages vast amounts of sensitive customer data, including personally identifiable information (PII), financial records, and transaction details. 

This data is then stored and moved across platforms and networks like AWS, Microsoft OneDrive, Google Workspace, as well as any applications installed within these cloud environments or given permission to them.

If this institution wants to properly secure data while it is stored or moving across networks, it should know who has access, how the data is traveling, the level of the data’s sensitivity, and if there are any compliance gaps.

All of these factors can be tracked manually, but by partnering with a DSPM solution IT and security teams can automate their data posture management, reducing human error and enhancing overall efficiency in identifying and mitigating threats.

Read more about Data Security Posture Management (DSPM) here 

Key Capabilities

DSPMs can have a range of features and capabilities, but the most typical and crucial are:

  1. Data Classification and Discovery 

Not only can DSPM scan and detect the data sensitivity and properly classify it, they can also automatically surface redundancies or data that has been lost across your network as well as map how your data is traveling across networks

  1. Encryption 

DPSM are able to encrypt data at rest and in transit, supplying an extra layer of protection by making data inaccessible to cybercriminals

  1. Threat Detection

Algorithms are used to detect unusual data usage or access, alerting you to potential attacks and allowing to respond before critical data loss

  1. Access Control

DSPMs allow you to monitor and manage account permissions for sensitive data, so you can ensure only the necessary people have access.

  1. Risk Management

DSPMs are able to then take all this information and provide you with an overall risk score, complete with remediation suggestion as well as alerts to any potential compliance and regulatory gaps. 

Implementation  

Once the DSPM solution has been properly integrated and data classification is complete, proper security controls can be applied to your data. Since the DSPM will now register the sensitivity level of your data, it can begin to encrypt critical data, limit account permissions, and map the flow of data traveling between storage centers and platforms within your organization.

Reports will then be made laying out the potential security gaps and providing remediation options.

What is CSPM?

While DSPM focuses on securing data as it travels across your cloud environment, Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) focuses on enhancing the security of its infrastructure.

By continuously monitoring and managing the configuration of cloud resources, CSPM aims to identify and mitigate risks associated with misconfigurations, compliance violations, and other security issues within cloud services (e.g., IaaS, PaaS, SaaS). It provides organizations with visibility into their cloud assets, ensuring that cloud deployments adhere to security best practices and regulatory requirements.

For example, a healthcare organization transitioning its operations to a cloud-based infrastructure must adhere to regulatory requirements like HIPAA, which mandates the protection of patient data. 

By implementing a CSPM solution, the organization can continuously monitor and audit its cloud configurations to ensure compliance with security policies and regulations. The CSPM tool provides real-time visibility into cloud assets, identifies misconfigurations, and automatically alerts to vulnerabilities, such as improper access controls or unencrypted data storage. 

This proactive approach not only strengthens the organization’s security posture but also ensures that sensitive patient information remains protected, thereby maintaining regulatory compliance and safeguarding patient trust.

Key Capabilities

Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) tools offer a range of capabilities that ensure an organizations can effectively manage their cloud resources, mitigate risks, and maintain robust security postures. Here are some of the essential capabilities provided by CSPM solutions:

  • Configuration Management 

Ensures cloud resources are configured according to security best practices and organizational policies, reducing the risk of misconfigurations that could be exploited by attackers.

  • Compliance Checks 

Assists in maintaining compliance with industry standards and regulations by continuously auditing cloud configurations and generating compliance reports.

  • Threat Detection and Response

Identifies potential threats and vulnerabilities within cloud environments and provides automated responses to mitigate risks.

  • Access Control

Similar to DSPMs, CSPMs can monitor account permissions, protecting sensitive data by limiting who has access. 

  • Risk Assessment

CSPMs also provided users with a risk assessment score, and will offer remediation options to secure possible holes in your security posture

DSPM vs CSPM: Key Differences

While DSPM and CSPM have similar features and functions, it is important to remember that they apply to entirely different modes of securing your data and should not be used interchangeably. When considering to partner with either, or both solutions it will be important to consider your company’s unique needs and tech stack.

As mentioned above, Data security Posture Management (DSPM) primarily focuses on the security of data itself, regardless of where it is stored or processed. 

DSPM offers comprehensive data protection throughout its lifecycle, enhanced visibility into data assets and their security status with user-friendly dashboards, and a strong focus on regulatory compliance and data privacy.

However, DSPM may require significant integration effort with existing systems and can involve complex management due to the diverse nature of data environments. 

Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) concentrates on the security of cloud infrastructure and services, ensuring that cloud resources are correctly configured and compliant with security policies.

CSPM improves the security and compliance of cloud environments, provides real-time visibility and monitoring of cloud resources, and offers automated detection and remediation of misconfigurations and vulnerabilities. Despite these strengths, CSPM is primarily focused on cloud infrastructure, potentially overlooking on-premises and hybrid environments, and may require continuous adaptation to keep up with evolving cloud services and configurations.

To make things easier, the table and pros/cons list below outlines the primary differences and focuses of DSPMs and CSPMs, highlighting their specific areas of concern, key functions, and the tools and techniques they employ to secure their respective domains.

DSPMCSPM
Focus Data security and complianceCloud infrastructure security and compliance
ScopeData assets, data flows, date protection policies Cloud services, configurations, and infrastructure
Primary Concerns Data breaches, data leaks, regulatory compliance (GDPR, CCPA, etc.)Misconfigurations, insecure settings, compliance (CIS, NIST, etc.)
Key FunctionsData Classification and Discovery
Encryption
Threat Detection
Access Control
Risk Management
Configuration Management
Compliance Checks
Threat Detection
Access Control
Risk Management
IntegrationPrimarily Integrates with data stores and databasesPrimarily integrates with cloud service providers (AWS, Azure, GCP)
VisibilityProvides visibility into data locations, access, and usageProvides visibility into cloud resource configurations adn security posture
Risk ManagementFocuses on data-centric risksFocuses on cloud infrastructure-centric risks
ComplianceHelps ensure compliance with data protection regulationsHelps ensure compliance with cloud security standards

Pros and Cons

DSPM Pros

  • Comprehensive Data Protection: Ensures data is secure throughout its lifecycle.
  • Enhanced Data Visibility: Provides a clear understanding of where data resides and its sensitivity.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Helps organizations meet regulatory requirements for data security and privacy.

DSPM Cons

  • Complex Integration: May require significant effort to integrate with existing systems.
  • Management Complexity: Diverse data environments can make management challenging.

CSPM Pros

  • Enhanced Cloud Security: Improves the security posture of cloud environments.
  • Real-Time Monitoring: Provides continuous visibility and monitoring of cloud resources.
  • Automated Remediation: Automatically detects and addresses misconfigurations and vulnerabilities.

CSPM Cons

  • Cloud-Focused: Primarily addresses cloud environments, potentially neglecting on-premises and hybrid setups.
  • Continuous Adaptation: Requires ongoing adjustments to keep up with evolving cloud services.

When to Use DSPM vs CSPM

Choosing the right security posture management approach will always depend on your organization’s specific needs and focus areas. Data Security Posture Management (DSPM) and Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) offer distinct advantages tailored to different aspects of security. Below are scenarios outlining when to use DSPM versus CSPM, helping you determine the best fit for your security requirements:

Use DSPM When:

  • Your primary concern is the security of data itself, regardless of where it is stored or processed.
  • You need to ensure compliance with data protection regulations.
  • You require comprehensive data visibility and control across diverse environments.

Use CSPM When:

  • Your focus is on securing cloud infrastructure and services.
  • You need real-time visibility and automated remediation of cloud misconfigurations and vulnerabilities.
  • You aim to maintain compliance within cloud environments and optimize cloud resource usage.

Organizations may also combine DSPM and CSPM solutions if their needs and data require a more robust approach to their security. 

Both DSPM and CSPM are integral to a robust security strategy. By understanding their capabilities, strengths, and limitations, organizations can choose the appropriate framework to safeguard their data and cloud resources effectively. Adopting both DSPM and CSPM can provide a comprehensive security posture, addressing the unique challenges of data protection and cloud security in today’s digital landscape.

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Written by

CEO and Founder at Spin.AI

Dmitry Dontov is the CEO and Founder at Spin.AI.

He is a tech entrepreneur and cybersecurity expert with over 20 years of experience in cybersecurity and team management.

He also has a strong engineering background in cybersecurity and cloud data protection, making him an expert in SaaS data security.

He is the author of 2 patents and a member of Forbes Business Council.

Dmitry was Named 2023 Winner in the BIG Award for Business and Small Business Executive of the Year.


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