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SSPM vs CSPM: Key Differences & Why You Need Both

Reco Security Experts
December 6, 2023
April 16, 2024
3 min read

What is Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM)?

Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) is essential for companies using cloud services like Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, or Microsoft Azure to ensure their environments are secure and compliant. CSPM monitors cloud infrastructure for misconfigurations and policy non-compliance, alerting security teams to potential risks. For example, it can detect exposed databases or overly lenient permissions.

Additionally, CSPM provides detailed security reports, helping companies identify vulnerabilities and comply with regulations like GDPR or HIPAA. Essentially, CSPM acts as an observant surveillance system, proactively protecting cloud operations and data against cyber threats.

What is SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM)?

SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM) enhances the security of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications like Microsoft 365, Salesforce, and Google Workspace. Hosted by third-party providers, these applications pose unique security challenges due to their internet-based access and external management. SSPM tools help manage these risks by monitoring application configurations and user permissions.

SSPM ensures applications are used safely by identifying risks like improper data exposure or excessive permissions and maintaining compliance with SaaS security best practices. It also plays a crucial role in identity security, especially as traditional security perimeters shift with increased remote work. SSPM ensures that only authorized users access essential applications, monitoring their actions to prevent security incidents.

Overall, SSPM provides the visibility and control security teams need to protect SaaS environments effectively, protecting crucial data and ensuring regulatory compliance.

SSPM vs CSPM: Key Differences

While SSPM and CSPM both play critical roles in maintaining the security and compliance posture of companies in cloud environments, they serve different functions tailored to different aspects of cloud computing.

Understanding these differences is key for security teams and IT departments to effectively allocate resources and strategies to protect their cloud and SaaS applications. Below, we will break down the primary distinctions between these two essential tools:

Feature CSPM (Cloud Security Posture Management) SSPM (SaaS Security Posture Management)
Focus Area Primarily targets Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) environments. Focuses on Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications.
Security Coverage Secures the foundational infrastructure layers provided by cloud vendors. Protects the application layer, ensuring safe usage of SaaS platforms.
Primary Function Monitors configurations and compliance of cloud infrastructure. Manages and secures user access and configurations within SaaS applications.
Compliance Management Ensures infrastructure meets industry regulations and standards. Ensures that SaaS applications adhere to compliance and security policies.
Risk Management Identifies misconfigurations and vulnerabilities in cloud setups. Focuses on access controls, data security, and application settings.
Operational Responsibility Customers are responsible for securing their data on the infrastructure. More control is given to SaaS providers, but data security remains with customers.
Key Benefits Enhances visibility into cloud assets and their security status. Provides detailed insights into SaaS usage, configurations, and security risks.

Why Do Organizations Need Both SSPM and CSPM?

In today's cloud-centric business landscape, protecting both cloud infrastructure and the applications it supports is extremely important. CSPM is the ultimate player in protecting cloud infrastructure, like servers and storage systems, ensuring they are correctly configured and compliant with security standards to prevent data breaches. 

SSPM focuses on securing daily-used business applications, such as email platforms and CRM systems, which are often hosted by third parties and thus harder to directly secure. SSPM tools provide the necessary oversight to ensure these applications are safely used and properly configured to protect data.

Vulnerabilities in either can lead to breaches. For example, a secure cloud server could be compromised by a misconfigured app that leaks sensitive data, or a secure app can be at risk due to vulnerable underlying infrastructure.

  • Example: Imagine a real scenario where a large healthcare provider suffered a data breach not due to cloud infrastructure failure but because of a misconfigured SaaS application for patient scheduling, set publicly accessible, exposing crucial data. While CSPM would have secured the servers, SSPM could have identified and corrected the configuration error, preventing the breach. This incident highlights the critical need for both CSPM and SSPM to protect every aspect of cloud environments effectively.

SSPM vs CSPM Use Cases

Understanding the specific use cases for both CSPM and SSPM can clarify how each tool functions in real-world scenarios and why they are vital components of a comprehensive cloud security strategy. The table below outlines key use cases for each, showcasing their distinct roles and benefits:

Use Case CSPM Usage SSPM Usage
Compliance Auditing Automates the detection of compliance violations in cloud infrastructure, ensuring that configurations meet regulatory standards like GDPR or HIPAA. Monitors SaaS applications for compliance with data protection standards, helping to manage and report on compliance status.
Security Configuration Management Identifies and corrects misconfigurations in the cloud infrastructure to prevent potential security breaches. Ensures SaaS applications are configured correctly to protect data and prevent unauthorized access.
Incident Response and Monitoring Provides real-time alerts and automated responses to security threats in cloud environments. Detects unusual activity or potential security breaches within SaaS applications and alerts security teams.
Access and Identity Management Helps manage access controls and permissions for infrastructure resources to ensure only authorized users can modify critical settings. Manages user access and permissions for SaaS applications, ensuring secure and appropriate use of corporate data.
Visibility and Reporting Offers comprehensive visibility into the cloud infrastructure's security posture with detailed reports for stakeholders. Provides insights into user activities and security settings within SaaS platforms, enhancing transparency and control.


By implementing both CSPM and SSPM, organizations can ensure comprehensive protection against a wide array of security threats, from data breaches to unauthorized access, while also maintaining strict compliance with evolving regulatory standards. This holistic approach is essential not just for detecting and responding to incidents but for preventing them. Moreover, these tools help manage cloud environments more effectively, optimizing security settings and streamlining compliance processes.

Embracing both CSPM and SSPM is not merely a best practice but a critical strategy to navigate the complexities and dynamics of modern cloud computing. In an era where digital threats are becoming more sophisticated, having layered security measures that address both the infrastructure and application levels ensures that an organization’s cloud operations are robust, secure, and resilient.

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