Data Security Posture Management vs Cloud Security Posture Management (DSPM vs CSPM)

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Last updated on 
March 3, 2024
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Ron Reiter
Co-Founder and CTO

Editor

Yair Cohen

Yair Cohen

Reviewed by

Yair Cohen

Yair brings a wealth of experience in cybersecurity and data product management. In his previous role, Yair successfully doubled the revenue of the Datadog Infrastructure monitoring product, increasing it from $250 million ARR to $500 million ARR. With a background as a member of the IDF's Unit 8200 for five years, he possesses over 18 years of expertise in enterprise software, security, data, and cloud computing. Yair has held senior product management positions at Datadog, Digital Asset, and Microsoft Azure Protection.

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DSPM vs CSPM: Shifting Focus from Infrastructure to Data Security Risks

Data Security Posture Management (DSPM) and Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) are closely related but distinct security paradigms. Understanding their key differences is crucial for organizations seeking to make informed decisions about their security posture.

On a technical level, there’s already a significant difference between the two solutions. But at its core, it's a difference in cloud security philosophy. Relying exclusively on protecting the cloud infrastructure is essentially taking ‘on-prem era’ security approaches and trying to shoehorn it into the cloud era. When everything was on-premise, security was about protecting the infrastructure by defending the perimeter. After all, if threats were stopped at the perimeter, the data was safe.

But as the cliche says, ‘in the cloud there is no perimeter’. Data is constantly being created, replicated, and moved through cloud environments. Trying to ‘copy/paste’ from the previous era is natural, and partly effective. But it’s time to acknowledge the fact that what we’re defending isn’t a network. It’s not the ‘network’ that malicious actors are after. It’s the data. So why are we still obsessed with infrastructure? DSPM is the solution that recognizes this new paradigm.

DSPM primarily focuses on securing an organization's data. It involves managing, classifying, and protecting data at rest, in transit, and during processing. DSPM solutions ensure data privacy, integrity, and compliance. In contrast, CSPM revolves around securing cloud infrastructures and services. It emphasizes the configuration and monitoring of cloud environments to identify and rectify vulnerabilities, compliance violations, and misconfigurations.

These differences are foundational in shaping the specific roles and functions of DSPM and CSPM within an organization's security strategy. While DSPM safeguards data regardless of its location, CSPM concentrates on securing the cloud environment itself. Understanding these distinctions is vital for tailoring an effective security posture that addresses both data and cloud security comprehensively.

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What is CSPM?

CSPM tools are built to secure cloud infrastructures - including IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS architectures. Misconfigurations, vulnerabilities, and basic compliance violations are identified across an organization's cloud environment, and alerts are generated for their SOC team members to sift through, prioritize and remediate. Most CSPMs also offer some sort of basic data discovery tools, such as discovering credit card or social security numbers.

The size of organizations’ cloud infrastructures coupled with the difficulty of finding experienced cloud security professionals has driven adoption of CSPM across most cloud-first organizations and led to an increased focus on automation and remediation of cloud infrastructure vulnerabilities. But despite additions and upgrades, CSPM essentially remains a misconfiguration detection tool for cloud infrastructure.

So what’s missing from your average CSPM? Context.

Let’s say you find a number of misconfigured cloud resources. A CSPM won’t be able to tell you what sensitive data is actually at risk. It’s data agnostic. It also won’t know what security posture it’s supposed to have - who’s the data’s original owner and who is supposed to have access to it. The result is that now you need to spend time sifting through your alerts, finding the critical data at risk.

Key Capabilities of CSPM

Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) equips organizations with powerful capabilities to safeguard their cloud environments. It ensures robust security by continuously monitoring cloud infrastructure, identifying vulnerabilities, and enforcing compliance policies. CSPM tools also play a critical role in access control and the consistent application of security policies. The following are the key capabilities of CSPM:

1. Continuous Monitoring

CSPM tools offer real-time monitoring of cloud environments, ensuring that any changes in configurations or access permissions are promptly detected. This continuous vigilance allows organizations to stay ahead of potential security threats and unauthorized activities.

2. Vulnerability Scanning

CSPM solutions perform in-depth vulnerability assessments to identify weaknesses within cloud configurations. They scan for misconfigurations, outdated software, and potential entry points for cyberattacks. These scans enable organizations to take proactive measures to secure their cloud infrastructure.

3. Compliance Checks

CSPM plays a crucial role in ensuring that organizations adhere to regulatory standards and industry-specific compliance requirements. By evaluating cloud environments against predefined compliance policies, CSPM tools highlight areas where organizations may be at risk of non-compliance, allowing for corrective actions to be taken.

4. Security Policy Enforcement

CSPM tools enable organizations to enforce security policies consistently across their cloud services. This consistency ensures that security controls, such as access restrictions and encryption, are applied uniformly, reducing the risk of data exposure and security breaches.

5. Access Control

CSPM solutions provide robust access control mechanisms for managing permissions related to cloud resources. They assist organizations in enforcing the principle of least privilege, ensuring that users and services are granted access only to the resources necessary for their specific roles.

What is DSPM?

It’s this missing context that DSPM has been developed to provide. Unlike data agnostic CSPM, DSPM acknowledges the new reality that because not all data is equally valuable, they don’t all need the same security posture. But the problem DSPM solves goes beyond discovery and classification of cloud data. In order to provide actionable insights (and not just be yet another ‘alert generating security tool’), it’s not enough to find unsecured data. DSPMs can also leverage Machine Learning to understand what its data security posture is supposed to be.

Data in the cloud doesn’t stay in one place indefinitely. Data stores are continuously being replicated and moved throughout the public cloud. Data travels. But the security posture doesn’t follow the data to its new location. So if sensitive data is moved to a lower environment, it now has a weaker security posture - even though the data itself is still just as sensitive as it was before!

If an asset with sensitive data is replicated in a lower environment, a DSPM tool will not only send an alert, it will let you know how to match the security posture of the original environment and who the data’s owner is. This way, you spend less time sifting through logs trying to find out who owns the data and how exactly it's meant to be secured.  Another key difference from CSPM is that as opposed to finding cloud infrastructure vulnerabilities, DSPM goes a step further and identifies data vulnerabilities. These can include:

  • Exposed PII
  • Exposed developer secrets, including company source code
  • Privileged data that’s been replicated in a lower environment with an inappropriate security posture

Next let's look at how they reduce the attack surface of an organization’s public cloud. CSPM reduces the infrastructure’s attack surface by helping remediate misconfigurations and vulnerabilities. In theory, this results in fewer attack paths which could lead to damaging breaches. DSPM also reduces the attack surface - but the way it accomplishes this is by reducing the risk from vulnerable and valuable data. For example, DSPM can ensure PCI data stays in a specific VPC, so attack paths can be reduced to a single VPC only.  This way, even if there is an infrastructure breach, the valuable data has the right security posture and cannot be leaked.

Finally, DSPMs can also see where CSPMs can’t - including data stores like RDS instances or cloud-native databases. And of course, it needs to work at huge scales - think petabytes, not terabytes - without breaking your cloud bill. Using smart metadata clustering, these scans can provide the total visibility security teams need at a fraction of the cost of scanning every bit of data in your cloud.

Key Capabilities of DSPM

Data Security Posture Management (DSPM) is dedicated to the protection of sensitive data, regardless of its location. Its capabilities encompass data classification, encryption, access control, and data loss prevention. DSPM solutions are instrumental in enforcing data protection policies, preventing data breaches, and identifying anomalies in data access and usage patterns. Here are the key capabilities of DSPM:

1. Data Classification

DSPM solutions empower organizations to classify and categorize their data, allowing for the identification of sensitive and critical information. This classification forms the basis for defining access controls and data protection policies.

2. Encryption and Tokenization

DSPM tools provide robust encryption and tokenization capabilities to secure data both at rest and in transit. By rendering data indecipherable to unauthorized users, these technologies offer a vital layer of protection.

3. Access Control and Permission Management

DSPM focuses on managing access controls and permissions for sensitive data. It ensures that only authorized personnel can access and modify data, reducing the risk of data breaches.

4. Data Loss Prevention (DLP)

DSPM includes DLP mechanisms to monitor and prevent unauthorized data transfers or leaks. It identifies and halts data movement that violates established policies, enhancing data security.

5. Anomaly Detection

DSPM solutions employ anomaly detection algorithms to identify unusual data access or usage patterns. When deviations from normal behavior are detected, alerts are triggered, enabling swift response to potential security incidents.

DSPM and CSPM Pros and Cons

Pros and Cons of Data Security Posture Management (DSPM) and Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) have distinct characteristics. DSPM excels in safeguarding sensitive data and ensuring compliance, with granular policy control, while CSPM offers a comprehensive view of cloud infrastructure security, identifying and rectifying misconfigurations.

However, DSPM might not cover all aspects of cloud security, necessitating integration with CSPM, which might require additional tools for data-centric protection and compliance management. The choice between DSPM and CSPM largely depends on an organization's specific needs and the balance between data-centric and overall cloud security concerns. Let’s look into their pros and cons in more detail:

DSPM Pros and Cons

Pros of DSPM Cons of DSPM
Data-Centric Security: DSPM places data at the forefront of its security strategy, ensuring that sensitive information remains protected. Limited Scope: DSPM's primary focus on data may lead to neglect in securing other facets of an organization's security posture.
Compliance Adherence: DSPM solutions aid in complying with data protection regulations and industry standards. Complex Implementation: Implementing DSPM solutions can be intricate, requiring comprehensive data analysis and classification.
Data Classification: They offer robust data classification tools, allowing organizations to categorize data based on sensitivity. Resource Intensive: DSPM solutions can be resource-intensive, particularly in organizations with vast amounts of data. The processing and analysis of large datasets may strain an organization's computational resources and lead to performance bottlenecks. This can necessitate substantial investments in hardware and infrastructure to support DSPM's operations.

CSPM Pros and Cons

Pros of CSPM Cons of CSPM
Comprehensive Cloud Security: CSPM ensures that cloud configurations and services are well-protected, reducing the risk of data exposure. Dependency on Cloud Service Providers: CSPM solutions often rely on APIs provided by cloud service vendors, limiting control.
Real-Time Monitoring: It offers real-time monitoring of cloud environments, enabling immediate threat detection and response.
Potential Overhead: Continuous monitoring and scanning may generate a significant volume of alerts, necessitating robust incident response mechanisms.
Scalability: CSPM scales with cloud infrastructure, accommodating the dynamic nature of cloud services.
Complexity in Multi-Cloud Environments: In organizations with multi-cloud or hybrid cloud environments, implementing CSPM across different cloud platforms can be complex. Each cloud provider may have its own set of CSPM tools and APIs, making it challenging to achieve a unified security posture. Coordinating and managing CSPM across multiple clouds can lead to increased complexity and potential gaps in security coverage.

How Do DSPM and CSPM Complement Each Other?

The synergy between Data Security Posture Management (DSPM) and Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) is a key aspect of a robust security strategy. Together, they create a comprehensive security posture that addresses both data protection and cloud environment security.

DSPM's primary role is to protect an organization's data, regardless of its location. In a cloud-centric world, data resides in various cloud services, making DSPM's role critical. It ensures that sensitive data is classified, encrypted, and access-controlled within the cloud while monitoring data usage and access patterns, detecting anomalies, and enforcing data loss prevention policies. On the other hand, CSPM is designed to secure the cloud infrastructure itself. It focuses on the configuration of cloud services, network security, and access controls. CSPM continuously scans the cloud environment for misconfigurations, compliance violations, and vulnerabilities. 

The integration of DSPM with CSPM provides a unique advantage: the ability to identify data vulnerabilities within the cloud infrastructure. By combining DSPM and CSPM, organizations gain the capability to detect and respond to threats early in the data lifecycle. Suspicious data access, unusual configurations, or unauthorized access to cloud resources trigger alerts and actions. This proactive threat detection enhances an organization's security posture and minimizes the impact of security incidents.

When Should You Use Both DSPM and CSPM - Use Cases

The decision to employ both Data Security Posture Management (DSPM) and Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) is not merely a matter of choice; it often aligns with specific CSPM and DSPM use cases and scenarios where comprehensive security is paramount. Here are several use cases illustrating when it's prudent to use both DSPM and CSPM in tandem:

Hybrid Cloud Environments

Organizations that operate in hybrid cloud environments, combining on-premises infrastructure with cloud services, greatly benefit from the combined power of DSPM and CSPM. DSPM secures sensitive data, regardless of where it resides, while CSPM ensures the integrity of the cloud infrastructure. In hybrid setups, data flows between on-premises and cloud environments, making it essential to maintain robust security measures across the entire ecosystem.

Data-Intensive Industries

Industries dealing with vast amounts of sensitive data, such as healthcare, finance, or research institutions, should consider employing both DSPM and CSPM. DSPM plays a pivotal role in safeguarding sensitive data, ensuring its privacy, and enforcing access controls. Meanwhile, CSPM secures the cloud environments where data processing and storage take place. In data-intensive sectors, protecting both data and the cloud infrastructure is essential to prevent breaches and data leaks.

Multi-Cloud Deployments

Organizations that embrace multi-cloud strategies, utilizing services from various cloud providers, face unique security challenges. Each cloud platform may have different security features and configurations. Using both DSPM and CSPM allows organizations to maintain consistent security practices across diverse cloud environments, ensuring uniform protection and compliance adherence.

Critical Infrastructure Protection

In scenarios where critical infrastructure, such as utilities, transportation systems, or government services, relies on cloud computing, the integration of DSPM and CSPM becomes imperative. The security of both data and cloud environments is crucial to prevent disruptions, data breaches, or cyberattacks that could have far-reaching consequences.

E-Commerce and Online Retail

The e-commerce industry, dealing with vast amounts of customer data and online transactions, is a prime use case for employing both DSPM and CSPM. DSPM ensures the security and privacy of customer data, including payment information, while CSPM secures the cloud infrastructure that hosts e-commerce applications. This comprehensive approach is essential to maintain customer trust and regulatory compliance.

These use cases highlight the importance of utilizing both DSPM and CSPM in various scenarios, ensuring a comprehensive security posture that covers data protection and cloud environment security. While the specific use cases may vary, the shared goal is to mitigate risks, secure sensitive information, and maintain a robust security framework in an evolving digital landscape.

How to Implement Both DSPM and CSPM with Sentra

Implementing both Data Security Posture Management (DSPM) and Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) can be a complex task, but with the right tools and strategies, organizations can streamline the process. Sentra, a comprehensive security management platform, offers a robust framework for deploying DSPM and CSPM effectively. Here's a detailed look at how to implement both DSPM and CSPM with Sentra:

Initial Assessment

Begin with a comprehensive security assessment of your organization's data and cloud infrastructure. Identify vulnerabilities, data-related risks, and potential misconfigurations within your cloud environment. Assess the sensitivity of your data and the criticality of cloud services.

Solution Selection

Choose DSPM and CSPM solutions that align with your organization's specific requirements. Ensure that these solutions seamlessly integrate with Sentra to provide centralized management and reporting. The compatibility of these solutions with Sentra is crucial for a cohesive security framework.

Deployment and Configuration

Implement DSPM to secure data and CSPM to protect your cloud environment. Configure both solutions to perform real-time monitoring, vulnerability scanning, and compliance checks. Establish policies that enforce data protection, access controls, and cloud security best practices.

Integration with Sentra

Integrate DSPM and CSPM with Sentra to create a centralized security management platform. This integration enables a unified view of your security posture, simplifying the monitoring and management of both data and cloud security. Sentra acts as a central hub for security data, providing a comprehensive overview of your organization's security landscape.

Continuous Monitoring and Response

Regularly monitor and analyze security alerts generated by both DSPM and CSPM. Ensure that your incident response mechanisms are well-defined and capable of addressing the alerts promptly. Continuous monitoring and response are critical to proactively address vulnerabilities and compliance issues.

Ongoing Optimization

Regularly review and optimize your DSPM and CSPM configurations based on changing security requirements, data sensitivity, and cloud environment updates. Ensure that both solutions remain aligned with your organization's evolving security needs.

By following these implementation steps with Sentra, organizations can effectively implement DSPM and CSPM to create a cohesive and robust security framework. Sentra simplifies the deployment and management of both solutions, enabling organizations to proactively protect data and secure their cloud environments.

Conclusion

In a world where data is a prized asset and cloud services underpin modern business operations, the combined deployment of Data Security Posture Management (DSPM) and Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) is a potent strategy. DSPM offers data-centric protection, while CSPM secures the cloud infrastructure. By leveraging both, organizations can build a robust security posture that safeguards data, cloud services, and overall operations. Sentra simplifies the implementation process, ensuring a comprehensive security framework. As the digital landscape evolves, embracing both DSPM and CSPM becomes an imperative choice for organizations committed to data and cloud security.

If you’re interested in seeing Sentra’s DSPM in action, you can request a demo here

FAQ

Ron Reiter
Ron Reiter

Ron has more than 20 years of tech hands-on and leadership experience, focusing on cybersecurity, cloud, big data, and machine learning. Following his military experience, Ron built a company that was sold to Oracle. He became a serial entrepreneur and a seed investor in several cybersecurity startups, including Axonius, Firefly, Guardio, Talon Cyber Security, and Lightricks.

Editor

Yair Cohen

Reviewed by 

Yair Cohen

Yair brings a wealth of experience in cybersecurity and data product management. In his previous role, Yair successfully doubled the revenue of the Datadog Infrastructure monitoring product, increasing it from $250 million ARR to $500 million ARR. With a background as a member of the IDF's Unit 8200 for five years, he possesses over 18 years of expertise in enterprise software, security, data, and cloud computing. Yair has held senior product management positions at Datadog, Digital Asset, and Microsoft Azure Protection.

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