SSPM vs CSPM: Does Your Organization Need Both?

By AppOmni

As SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM) solutions emerge, evaluating their role and potential in the security space is vital. This type of initiative is especially timely as IT budgets come under scrutiny while cybersecurity threats show no signs of diminishing.

After all, SSPM is no substitute for Cloud Security Posture Management’s (CSPM) ability to identify cloud network misconfigurations and secure your data stored in AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, and other cloud hosting solutions. For organizations with data stored solely in the cloud locations, CSPM’s risk assessment and remediation value is indisputable.

But what about your data stored everywhere else? And all the configurations within the dozens — if not hundreds — of SaaS tools your organization relies on every day?

These aren’t cocktail party hypotheticals of data loss and malware. The volume of high-profile security breaches and incidents related to SaaS and SaaS-to-SaaS (typically referred to as third-party) vendors is only growing. Verizon’s 15th Annual Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) shows this trend started gaining traction with the SolarWinds attack in 2020. And it has continued with more recent breaches affecting HubSpot, GitHub, and Okta in 2022.

CSPM isn’t equipped to handle this evolution of cybersecurity threats. To address the vulnerabilities related to SaaS applications — especially those storing sensitive data — you need a dedicated SaaS security posture management solution.

What Does CSPM Monitor — and Why Can’t it Protect SaaS Data?

CSPM vendors monitor the security and compliance posture of standard and custom cloud applications deployed into public cloud environments. And they typically provide compliance monitoring, DevOps, and dynamic cloud integration functionality.

With CSPM in place, your organization can be proactive, assess risk, reduce misconfigurations, and ensure your cloud ecosystem has the highest cloud security measures in place. But a CSPM is focused only on the data stored and used exclusively in your cloud architecture.

Relying on CSPM alone neglects the security posture of SaaS applications and their data — often a company’s most sensitive data. This leaves enterprise SaaS apps like Salesforce, Microsoft 365, and ServiceNow susceptible to risky configurations, configuration drift, and noncompliance. And the dozens of SaaS apps used by business units and departments are even more vulnerable to security compromises.

How Does SSPM Mitigate SaaS Security Vulnerabilities?

SSPM focuses on securing data housed in SaaS applications. It quickly and automatically reveals misconfigurations and related security vulnerabilities within SaaS apps.

Of course, SaaS’s much-touted flexibility is precisely what puts enterprises at risk for certain types of security vulnerabilities and misconfigurations. Every day, security and IT teams are not informed of changes made in enterprise SaaS environments, even with a security policy in place. These include:

  • Users being added, removed, or having permissions changed

  • New functionality being added to business units

  • Vendor updates to features and/or configurations

  • New 3rd party apps integrated into the SaaS application

Though seemingly harmless from a user’s or business owner’s perspective, this unmonitored and unobserved activity can result in security vulnerabilities and insecure SaaS data.

With SSPM in place, you’ll know what modifications employees are making in SaaS apps, and be able to prevent potentially harmful changes. Your organization will achieve automated and continuous monitoring of cloud-based SaaS applications like Salesforce, Microsoft 365, ServiceNow, and more. Your security team can detect overly permissive settings and help ensure compliance without adding to their workloads. 

How Do SSPM and CSPM Data Security Capabilities Compare?

Areas of FocusMonitor cloud services like AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud.Monitor PaaS and SaaS applications like Salesforce, Microsoft 365, ServiceNow, and more. Some solutions also secure custom apps.
BenefitsIdentify misconfigured networks
Assess latest data risk
Continuously monitor cloud environments
Manage 3rd party apps
Continuously monitor SaaS environments
Identify SaaS misconfigurations
Detect overly permissive settings
Automate security workflows
Continuously detect threats
Deliver remediation advice
Simplify governance and risk compliance
Use CasesIdentify vulnerable cloud configuration settings
Provide compliance for security frameworks
Keep track of cloud-based services
Manage changes made to logs
24/7 visibility into SaaS apps
Strengthen security posture
Unified visibility and monitoring of all SaaS accounts and apps
Fix common misconfigurations
Monitor privilege levels and data access
Inventory 3rd party apps
Compliance monitoring and reporting
Security Violations FlaggedData hosting misconfigurations
Permission errors
Missing MFA
Data storage exposure
SaaS misconfigurations
Permission errors
Missing MFA
Data storage exposure
Data leaks
Insider threats
External hackers
Key FeaturesIntegration with DevOps
Ability to assess cloud service provider settings
Track activities in real-time
Secure all SaaS apps
Continuous monitoring
Manage privilege levels & data access
3rd party application management
Threat detection
Misconfiguration remediation
This chart illustrates CSPM and SSPM differences in detail — and where CSPM falls short in securing SaaS data.

Is SSPM Worth the Investment?

Operating without an SSPM tool will force your organization to:

  • Rely on each SaaS app to secure itself. If that application ever becomes compromised, the native security tool monitoring will be affected as well. 

  • Limit security insights and depth of monitoring to native app functionality. Your team will waste time managing dozens (in some cases hundreds) of security consoles, which typically don’t monitor the many integrations users have added. All too often, the security team’s workloads become more complicated and resource-intensive.

  • Divert your team members from higher value work as they become security experts in every SaaS application your organization uses. This approach doesn’t scale.  

These legacy security shortcomings are now more apparent to CISOs, CIOs and the industry at large.

Plus, the cost and reputational damage of one SaaS data incident far exceeds the investment in a SaaS-focused security posture. IBM reports that the costs of a data breach averages $4.45 million. After all, SSPM will give your enterprise the visibility, control, and compliance management to combat these challenges. CSPM solutions don’t deliver the necessary level of security for SaaS data.

Does Your Organization Need SSPM, CSPM, or Both?

Companies with sophisticated tech stacks that include both cloud providers and numerous SaaS applications likely need SSPM and CSPM to fully secure their data and prevent configuration drift.

Securing SaaS data requires a solution dedicated to protecting it, just as cloud environments require a solution dedicated to cloud security. SSPM delivers full visibility into an organization’s SaaS security posture, checking for compliance with industry standards and company policy, as well as flagging data access violations or misconfigurations and recommending remediation steps.

An SSPM solution can significantly improve the efficiency of a security team and comprehensively protect SaaS data throughout the increasingly complex SaaS application ecosystem.

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