What Role Does Each Play?

Bhavna B. Sehgal - June 27, 2024

<strong>CNAPP vs CSPM</strong>: </br>What Role Does Each Play?
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As businesses move their operations and applications to the cloud, the increasing complexity of these environments introduces significant security challenges. When it comes to protecting their cloud infrastructures, it is crucial for businesses to deploy the right tools. Additionally, they must have a strong understanding of the tools available to them and the tools they have already adopted.

A cloud-native application protection platform (CNAPP) is a security solution designed to safeguard cloud environments by integrating various security functions — such as vulnerability management, compliance, and threat detection — into a unified platform. It consists of various components, including cloud security posture management (CSPM). In this post, we will discuss CNAPPs and CSPM, highlighting their differences and similarities and looking at the important role each one plays in cloud security.

The Schunk Group

Read this customer story and learn how The Schunk Group, an international high-tech company, protects its IT Infrastructure with cloud-native CrowdStrike Security.

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What is a CNAPP?

Though some CNAPP providers do not provide all of the components of a CNAPP, the industry definition of a CNAPP includes five components:

  • Pre-runtime/infrastructure as code (IaC) security, also known as “shift left”
  • CSPM
  • Cloud infrastructure entitlement management (CIEM)
  • Cloud workload protection (CWP)
  • Application security posture management (ASPM)

What is CSPM?

CSPM automates the identification and remediation of risks across cloud infrastructure. It is utilized for risk visualization and assessment, incident response, compliance monitoring, and DevOps integration. CSPM can uniformly apply best practices for cloud security to various cloud infrastructures, and it is typically one of the five components of a CNAPP solution.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s examine each of these two technologies in greater depth.

Key Components and Capabilities- Pre-Runtime/IaC Security (Shift Left): IaC security is a set of practices designed to ensure cloud infrastructure is deployed securely through standardized policies. By scanning IaC files, you can detect and rectify potential security issues before they are deployed into production.
- CSPM: CSPM is used to identify, prevent, and remediate cloud misconfigurations and compliance risks.
- CIEM: CIEM provides identity-based security, visibility, and simplified privileged access management to enforce the principle of least privilege.
- CWP: CWP provides runtime workload protection by continuously monitoring and securing servers, containers, and serverless functions.
- ASPM: ASPM monitors applications in production to detect and respond to real-time security threats.
- Cloud service network security (CSNS): Includes tools like web application firewalls (WAFs) and distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) protection to safeguard cloud networks.
- Kubernetes security posture management (KSPM): KSPM ensures Kubernetes clusters are securely configured and compliant with best practices.
- Data security posture management (DSPM): DSPM provides visibility into where data resides, how it's secured, and who accesses it, ensuring compliance with security policies and regulations.
- Discovery and visibility: Provides comprehensive insights into cloud assets and their configurations, making it easier to identify potential security issues before they lead to breaches.
- Misconfiguration management and remediation: Continuously scans cloud environments to help identify and fix misconfigurations and compliance drifts automatically, reducing the risk of human error.
- Continuous threat detection: Detects threats in real time, providing ongoing security monitoring to catch vulnerabilities as soon as they emerge.
- DevSecOps integration: Coordinates with DevSecOps workflows to ensure security is deeply integrated into the SDLC.
Benefits- Prevents cybersecurity threats
- Automates repetitive security tasks
- Provides visibility and control for rapid response
- Reduces complexity
- Enhances productivity
- Provides runtime protection
- Handles configuration managementImproves threat detection and response
- Integrates with continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD)
- Offers unified visibility across multi-cloud environments
- Prevents misconfigurations
- Reduces alert fatigue
- Streamlines and automates compliance
- Supports popular regulatory frameworks

Comparing CNAPPs and CSPM

Although CNAPPs and CSPM both play crucial roles in cloud security, understanding their key differences and similarities can help your organization make informed decisions about which best aligns with your specific needs.

Key differences

  • Scope of security coverage: CSPM focuses primarily on the security posture of cloud infrastructure, emphasizing configuration and compliance management across cloud platforms. In contrast, a CNAPP offers a broader range of security functionalities that covers not only the infrastructure but applications, data, and workloads.
  • Primary focus: The main focus of CSPM is to prevent configuration errors and enforce compliance standards that could potentially expose cloud resources to security threats. CNAPPs, however, provide a more holistic approach to cloud security by including features such as advanced threat protection, application security, and continuous monitoring.
  • Integration and automation: Both CSPM solutions and CNAPPs integrate with DevOps practices. However, CNAPPs are designed to be more deeply embedded into development processes, providing security insights directly within CI/CD pipelines.

Key similarities

Although CSPM and CNAPPs have significant differences, they also share several common features, including:

  • Enhanced visibility and risk management
  • Compliance and misconfiguration management
  • Integration with DevOps
  • Automated remediation

Whether you choose to prioritize broad security coverage across all cloud operations with a CNAPP or focus on the specific management of cloud configurations and compliance with CSPM, your organization can leverage these insights to strengthen its cloud security strategies.

CrowdStrike’s approach

In this post, we’ve explored the nuanced roles and capabilities of CSPM and CNAPPs. While CSPM focuses on optimizing the security posture of cloud infrastructure through continuous monitoring and compliance management, CNAPPs provide a more comprehensive security solution, encompassing applications, data, and workload security throughout the development life cycle in addition to infrastructure security. Both technologies integrate seamlessly with DevOps practices to enhance cloud security, but each one has a distinct strategic purpose within an organization’s broader security framework.

The CrowdStrike Falcon® Cloud Security platform exemplifies the integration of these technologies through its advanced CNAPP solution, which builds in robust CSPM functionalities. As one of the most comprehensive cybersecurity platforms on the market, CrowdStrike Falcon Cloud Security delivers end-to-end security from code to cloud, ensuring that your organization can maintain visibility and control across its entire cloud environment.

Falcon Cloud Security automates the identification and remediation of security risks, enhances regulatory compliance, and reduces operational complexities. It’s an ideal choice for businesses looking to strengthen their cloud security strategies.

Expert Tip

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Bhavna B. Sehgal is a Senior Manager of Product Marketing for Cloud Security at CrowdStrike. She brings 14 years of experience across product marketing, product management, and consulting, with deep expertise in security, data privacy, and compliance. Prior to Crowdstrike, Bhavna held roles at Coinbase, Meta, Google Cloud, Verizon, and Booz Allen. She holds a Masters of Science in Strategic Communications from Columbia University.