Understanding The Roles of CSPM and SSPM in Securing the Cloud

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Chris Simmons

March 20 2024

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Cloud environments are notoriously complex to manage and secure. Organizations have rapidly adopted cloud and SaaS technologies to accelerate growth and build resilient infrastructure without massive upfront investments in hardware. With this rapid growth comes challenges in ensuring the new technologies meet organizational security and regulatory requirements to protect the data they store and process. 

Experts frequently recommend SSPM (SaaS Security Posture Management) and CSPM (Cloud Security Posture Management) to secure this space. However, differentiating between the two is challenging due to their similar functionalities. This article will explore how each technology works and provide actionable advice on when one might be the right fit over the other. 

What is CSPM?

CSPM focuses on securely managing cloud infrastructure such as AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform services. It primarily manages security related to misconfigurations and aligning cloud infrastructure with internal policies and external regulations. To accomplish this, it monitors and reviews configurations for security gaps and identifies and remedies risks in cloud resources. As part of this process, the recommendations are aligned with the necessary regulatory requirements, helping ensure that the organization’s cloud environment is simultaneously secure and compliant. 

What is SSPM?

SSPM, on the other hand, is not focused on the holistic cloud environment but is targeted toward SaaS applications such as Microsoft 365, Salesforce, and Dropbox. Much like CSPM, though, it also looks at configurations and aligns them with security and regulatory needs. However, this is where they deviate as SSPM goes further to review user activities and data access within SaaS applications, which is crucial for ensuring compliance. Advanced SSPM solutions also detect existing SaaS environments used by the organization, helping bring decentrally managed SaaS solutions into the visibility of IT and Security teams. Find out more about What Is SSPM.

Key Functionalities

CSPM has many vital functionalities that maintain security in cloud environments. One primary function is Configuration Auditing, which involves meticulously checking cloud services and infrastructure configurations to pinpoint any misconfigurations or deviations from best practices. Complementing this, Compliance Monitoring is integral, ensuring the cloud environment consistently aligns with regulatory standards and internal policies. Another critical functionality is Risk Assessment and Visualization, where CSPM tools provide in-depth insights into the cloud environment’s overall risk posture and recommendations for prioritized remediation steps to mitigate identified risks. Additionally, CSPM aids in anomaly detection and alerts, a function that vigilantly identifies unusual activities within the cloud that are potentially indicative of security threats or breaches, thus enabling timely interventions to safeguard the cloud infrastructure.

Similarly, SSPM has its own unique set of functionalities that create multi-layered security within SaaS applications. At its core is SaaS Configuration Auditing, a process that involves monitoring and auditing the configurations of various SaaS applications to identify any settings that might compromise security. Complementing this is User Activity Monitoring, a crucial functionality that tracks activities within these applications, pinpointing abnormal behavior or signs of potential insider threats. Equally important is Access Control Analysis, which rigorously reviews permission settings and access controls in SaaS applications. This analysis is vital to ensure least-privilege access, a principle fundamental in preventing unauthorized data exposure. Lastly, SSPM places a strong emphasis on Data Security. It safeguards sensitive data within these applications using measures like encryption and Data Loss Prevention (DLP) strategies. 

Challenges with CSPM and SSPM

While both are valuable tools for managing security in their respective specialties, implementation and management still have challenges. 

Implementing CSPM presents several challenges, especially in the complex and dynamic landscape of cloud computing. CSPM, tasked with securing platforms like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform, faces the intricate challenge of managing diverse services and configurations. This diversity makes maintaining a consistently secure posture across varying cloud environments difficult. The cloud’s dynamic nature adds to the complexity, with constant updates and changes requiring CSPM tools to continuously adapt and ensure that new configurations adhere to the latest security best practices. Furthermore, the challenge of compliance management looms large, as CSPM must navigate many regulatory standards, which vary across industries and regions. 

Utilizing SSPM is beset with challenges due to the diverse nature of SaaS applications and the complexity of their management. Each SaaS platform, be it Microsoft 365, Salesforce, or Dropbox, comes with unique configurations and security controls, making standardizing security policies across these platforms a complex endeavor. Adding to this complexity is monitoring user activities within these applications. Identifying anomalous behavior or potential security breaches becomes particularly challenging as users have different access levels and ways of interacting with sensitive data. Furthermore, a significant aspect of SSPM involves ensuring that access to sensitive data is restricted to authorized users and that data handling within these applications adheres to stringent security standards. 

Understanding the Differences

When evaluating whether CSPM or SSPM is the right fit for your organization, it is essential to assess the following points:

  1. Scope of Application: CSPM is for cloud infrastructure (IaaS and PaaS), while SSPM is for SaaS applications.
  2. Primary Concerns: CSPM tackles infrastructure-level configurations and compliance, whereas SSPM deals with application-level security, including user behavior and data protection within SaaS apps.
  3. Target Audience: CSPM is generally used by cloud infrastructure teams and security professionals who manage cloud environments, whereas SSPM is utilized by SaaS administrators and security teams focusing on application security.

Every environment is different, and in some cases, both may be the right choice to help secure a very diverse cloud and SaaS environment. 

Savvy’s SSPM Solution

Managing and securing SaaS can be streamlined and efficient with the right tools. Explore how Savvy optimizes SSPM to bolster your organization’s SaaS security framework. By enabling a safe and decentralized approach to SaaS usage, Savvy ensures that users adhere to robust security practices while allowing the business to adopt SaaS solutions seamlessly without security concerns impeding progress.

Savvy empowers organizations to retain control over their SaaS environment smoothly and effectively. It employs automated interactions with end users or APIs for large-scale risk remediation. Savvy’s continuous surveillance also covers security configurations, user permissions, and compliance adherence, ensuring a secure and compliant SaaS operation.

Experience a demo of Savvy today and see how it effortlessly secures your SaaS applications from new threats while safeguarding your data, all without disrupting users.


Can CSPM and SSPM be integrated into a single security system?

Yes, CSPM and SSPM can often be integrated for comprehensive security coverage, though this depends on the specific tools and platforms used by the organization.

Are there specific industries that benefit more from SSPM compared to CSPM?

Industries heavily reliant on SaaS applications, such as tech startups or digital marketing firms, might find SSPM more immediately beneficial, whereas CSPM is crucial for any industry utilizing cloud infrastructure.

How do CSPM and SSPM handle data privacy concerns?

CSPM and SSPM are designed to align with data privacy regulations, with CSPM focusing on infrastructure-level data protection and SSPM on securing data within SaaS applications.

Can small businesses effectively implement CSPM and SSPM?

Yes, small businesses can implement CSPM and SSPM solutions tailored to their scale, which is crucial for protecting their evolving cloud and SaaS environments.

How do CSPM and SSPM complement each other?

CSPM focuses on securing cloud environments, while SSPM manages security policies across various security services within an organization. Together, they provide comprehensive security coverage, ensuring that cloud environments are properly configured and security policies are effectively enforced across the organization’s infrastructure.

How can organizations integrate CSPM and SSPM into their cybersecurity strategy?

Organizations can integrate CSPM and SSPM into their cybersecurity strategy by deploying specialized tools and platforms that address their specific security requirements. They should also regularly assess and update security policies and configurations to adapt to evolving threats and compliance requirements. Additionally, organizations should invest in employee training and awareness programs to ensure staff members know security best practices and compliance standards.