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CNAPP vs CSPM: Key Differences between CNAPP and CSPM

In the last few years, the adoption of cloud infrastructure has increased by leaps and bounds. Nowadays, most organizations have their applications or services in the cloud infrastructure. 

However, the rise of cloud infrastructure adoption has given rise to security issues like misconfiguration and breaches. CNAPP and CPSM serve as the two functional and powerful tools that can solve this problem. 

While CSPM only helps you take care of logs and configuration of the services, CNAPP combines the capability of CSPM, CIEM, CWPP, CDR and many other security tools in one platform. But how would you know which security solution will be ideal for you? To save you from getting perplexed, we have created this guide on CNAPP vs CPSM that will untangle the difference between the two solutions.

Before we take a look at the dissimilarities, we would like you to go through CSPM and CNAPP first;

What is CSPM?

Cloud security posture management, or CSPM, is a widely used cloud security tool that is used for monitoring the cloud configuration settings and compliance across your cloud environment. It basically automates the security governance and enables your security to implement a consistent security posture across your cloud environment. 

Whether you are working on single or multi-cloud infrastructure, CSPM will help you manage securities across environments. The primary purpose of CPSM is to monitor your cloud infrastructure continually and look for gaps in the security configuration. Besides, it also looks for non-compliance with regulatory framework and deflection from top security practices defined by the developers and security team. 

It alerts the security teams regarding security issues that could cause security breaches, unauthorized access or operational inefficiencies. Risk assessment is a vital aspect of this security solution as it assesses all the risks associated with misconfiguration and vulnerability and prioritizes the issues based on impact level. 

This security solution not only automates the process of identification of security risks but sometimes also the remediation process of those risks. CSPM provides the security and other stakeholders with complete visibility of their cloud security posture and all the required tools for monitoring. 

Along with visibility, it also includes reporting, which helps the security to understand the current situation of their security and areas where they need improvement. The ultimate end goal of CSPM is to eliminate the attack surface as much as possible and harden the overall security posture of your cloud infrastructure. Read our detailed guide on CSPM here.

What is CNAPP?

What is CNAPP | CNAPP detailed view per Gartner 2023

A cloud-native application protection platform (CNAPP) is an end-to-end cloud security solution that is designed to help organizations solve different security issues associated with cloud-native applications. A CNAPP is a combination of multiple security capabilities like CSPM, CIEM, CWPP, CSNS, KSPM, and IAM, with compliance and risk management. 

Since it integrates different security capabilities in one solution, it helps you with threat prevention, risk management, and risk scoring. Through its single platform, you get complete visibility of your cloud estate that allows you to protect your cloud infrastructure using a single solution instead of using and managing different point solutions. 

Unifying all the security solutions helps reduce the management fatigue of security teams and allows them to enhance efficiency and address issues more quickly.

Moreover, it is instrumental in reducing the high operational cost that is used for maintaining an extensive security infrastructure and agents. CNAPP also helps in incorporating “shift left” capability into your cloud infrastructure that allows you to identify and manage risks in your application during runtime and DevOps. 

It helps your security teams and DevOps engineers secure your application through its complete lifecycle. This agentless security solution can also accomplish cloud attack path analysis and identify which low-impact security risks can lead to a severe attack vector.

Key Differences Between CSPM and CNAPP

CSPM and CNAP are distinctive cloud solutions that may have the same motive but operate differently with distinct focuses. Here, we will go through the key differences between CSPM and CNAPP;

Main Focus The primary focus of CSPM is to maintain the security posture of the cloud infrastructure by maintaining configuration management. It also ensures adherence to compliances and best security practices. CNAPP focuses mainly on the security of cloud-native applications in an infrastructure. It aims to secure the application throughout the development, deployment and runtime.
Primary Objective The primary objective of CSPM is to identify misconfigurations, compliance issues and vulnerabilities in the cloud infrastructure. CNAPP is destined to identify and solve security issues associated with cloud-native applications. It helps in mitigating vulnerabilities, data breaches, runtime attacks, and others.
Scope CSPM monitors the whole cloud environment along with its services and configurations. CNAPP is designed only to secure the cloud-native application and the workloads associated with it.
Main Capabilities This cloud security solution automates the continuous monitoring process, policy enforcement, cloud configuration assessment and risk mitigation. CNAPP helps with automated application scanning, runtime protection, and DevSecOps integrations.
Integration With Security Solutions CSPM serves as a standalone security solution. CNAPP integrates with multiple security solutions like CIEM, CWPP, CSPM, KSPM, and IAM to ensure all-in-one cloud security.
User Category It is mainly used by compliance teams, infrastructure security personnel and cloud administrators. It is widely used by DevOps engineers, application security professionals, and developers.
Example of Tools AWS Config, Google Cloud Security Command Center, Azure Security Center and others. Aqua Security, CloudDefense.AI, Orca Security and others.
DevOps Integration CSPM can be integrated into DevOps to enable the protection of cloud infrastructure deployment. CNAPP integrates into CI/CD pipelines to automate application security identification and remediation.
Deployment and Management CSPM is involved in managing the compliance settings and cloud configuration. It is deployed at the infrastructure layer. CNAPP is involved in managing application scanning, runtime protection of applications and security policies. It is deployed at the application layer.
Automation Goal CSPM automates the assessment process of policy violations and cloud configuration issues. CNAPP automates the process of application vulnerability checks, threat response and security analysis.
Main Limitation The primary limitation of CSPM is that it covers some application risks. Teams working on CNAPP need to have a deep understanding of the cloud native architecture; otherwise, it deteriorates the performance of the application.

Now, let’s go through the benefits and challenges of CSPM and CNAPP;

Benefits Of Cloud Security Posture Management

CSPM has become a vital tool for modern cloud security that benefits organizations in many ways. These benefits are;

  • Provides complete visibility: With CSPM integrated into your cloud infrastructure, you will get comprehensive and centralized visibility in your cloud and multi-cloud assets. It offers real-time visibility through a single dashboard.
  • Effective security policy implementation:  CPSM serves as a practical solution that helps you monitor misconfigurations and implement security policies across your cloud infrastructure.
  • Quick identification and remediation of misconfiguration: This security solution helps the SOC team to quickly solve any misconfiguration issue through an automated identification and remediation process.
  • Helps in maintaining compliance: CPSM solution continuously monitors the compliance posture of your cloud infrastructure and automates the proper and misconfigured findings into the compliance framework. This allows the team to audit the data for unusual activity that can lead to security breaches.
  • Auditing cloud control planes: Since CSPM connects to your infrastructure through API, it quickly integrates and asses all configurations across the entire cloud surface.
  • Scans storage buckets: One of the critical benefits of CSPM is its ability to monitor all the storage buckets for misconfigurations and quickly report for risks that can make the sensitive data publicly accessible.

Challenge Of Cloud Security Posture Management

Even though CSPM is highly beneficial for organizations, it still has some critical disadvantages;

  • Ineffective against ransomware and malware: Almost every CSPM tool doesn’t proactively provide defense against ransomware, malware attacks or any exfiltration. It can’t detect any threats that move laterally across the cloud infrastructure.
  • Lacks vulnerability scanning: A major drawback of some CPSM tools is the lack of vulnerability scanning functionality, and due to this, they have to rely on third-party solutions.
  • Poor alert prioritization: CSPM tools determine the severity of a security issue based on limited parameters like CVSS score. Since they don’t evaluate the entire cloud infrastructure, they don’t consider the environmental context for alert prioritization.
  • Automatic risk remediation can cause issues: Some CSPM tools are capable of automating the remediation process and solving the problem efficiently. However, not all problems can be solved through automation as they require manual intervention.

Benefits Of Cloud Native Application Protection Platform

CNAPP is a unified security solution that provides organizations with numerous benefits that help them maintain a robust security infrastructure. These benefits are;

  • Provides a centralized interface: CNAPP provides every organization with a single interface using which teams collaborate to identify issues and work their way out to solve them. The single pane of glass also allows teams to work efficiently for all types of attack vectors and events.
  • Minimizes all types of complexity: By providing all the security features in one place and complete viability, CNAPP minimizes all the complexities. It automates the identification process and prioritizes the most critical risks.
  • Increases team productivity: CNAPP helps both developers and DevOps teams to identify security risks and misconfiguration at the CI/CD pipeline phase. It enhances the productivity of teams by curbing bug fixes and future merge/pull requests.
  • Distributed security responsibility: One significant advantage of CNAPP is that it deploys security controls at every level of the DevOps cycle, which helps in implementing guardrails. It allows developers to take responsibility for the security of their codes.
  • Provides security to cloud workloads and VMs: With CNAPP, you can completely protect your cloud workloads and VMs that are always vulnerable to attacks. It allows security teams real-time visibility into workloads and identifies any risks at an early stage.

Challenges Of Cloud Native Application Protection Platform

Like every cloud security solution, CNAPP also has some drawbacks. Here are some potential disadvantages of CNAPP;

  • Integration issues: Integrating CNAPP with existing security systems, tools, and processes can be challenging. It requires a highly skilled team to enable such integration that would facilitate seamless functionality of the application.
  • Additional overhead cost: CNAPP might provide you with all-in-one security, but it also incurs additional overhead costs. You might have to spend extra on licensing fees, fees of specialized personnel for CNAPP and maintenance costs.
  • Impact on performance: As CNAPP proactively monitors application traffic and behavior, it often impacts the responsiveness and user experience of the application. Although the monitoring process is highly optimized, with some tools, you might face such problems.
  • Requires regular updates: Cloud is a rapidly evolving environment, causing security threats to develop accordingly. Thus, CNAPP service providers need to provide updates at regular intervals to keep the security at an optimum state.

Some Useful Case Studies: CNAPP vs CSPM

Both CSPM and CNAPP are designed to protect your cloud infrastructure and applications by helping you address unique security challenges. Here, we will discuss some helpful case studies of both CSPM and CNAPP security solutions.

Case Studies of CSPM 

  • Cloud security for financial services: Financial services that shift to multi-cloud platforms to improve their service often use CSPM for their cloud security. Integrating CSPM helps financial services monitor their multi-cloud assets and also utilize automated configuration drift detection for finding malicious changes. It also helps in conducting audits at regular intervals to enable continuous compliance with SOX.
  • Cloud security for e-commerce platforms: E-commerce platforms operating on cloud infrastructure need to protect their sensitive customer data, monitor configuration and secure payment information. CSPM comes as a suitable solution that continuously scans the infrastructure for misconfigurations and provides alerts when any control deviates from best practices. It also integrates with IAM for employing least privilege access to the infrastructure.
  • Healthcare cloud securities: Modern Healthcare institutes require optimum protection to secure PHI and manage user access. CSPM provides these institutes with appropriate security that helps them enforce data encryption and anomaly detection to prevent unauthorized access to patient data. It helps in conducting regular penetration testing to find out vulnerabilities that could lead to data breaches.

Case Studies of CNAPP 

  • E-commerce site protection: CNAPP are widely used for the protection of e-commerce sites because they not only protect sensitive data but also maintain the availability of the site. It deploys bot detection and web application firewall that helps mitigate DDoS attacks and prevents malicious bots from hampering the pricing of products.
  • API protection of financial services: Many financial institutions are known to utilize CNAPP to ensure robust security while providing their service to third-party developers through API. They use the API security features of CNAPP to leverage the authentication, behavioral anomaly detection, authorization and rate-limiting features and prevent API abuse or data breaches.
  • Streaming platform’s content protection: CNAPP is widely used by media streaming platforms for the protection of copyrighted content. CNAPP provides the platform with digital rights management and content delivery network capabilities that ensure the smooth streaming of continents while preventing unauthorized access.
  • Healthcare service compliances: Healthcare applications widely utilizes CNAPP to ensure compliance with HIPAA standard. The security solution implements all the security features, including data encryption, to protect sensitive patient data. 

They also deploy continuous monitoring and identity and access management to ensure the application meets all the compliance standards without compromising on scalability.


1. Is CIEM part of CNAPP?

Yes. CIEM serves as a crucial cloud security capability that is integrated with CNAPP and allows the user to get a unified view of their cloud security. It helps the CNAPP in managing the identities and privileges in the cloud environment.

2. What does CNAPP include?

CNAPP is basically a cloud security model that includes a lot of security solutions that help in providing comprehensive cloud-native application security. It includes cloud security posture management, Kubernetes posture management, cloud workload protection platform, cloud infrastructure entitlement management, cloud service network security, identity access management and others.

3. What is the difference between cloud security and CSPM?

Cloud security posture management helps protect the infrastructure and workload by adequately assessing the configuration and adherence to compliance. Cloud security refers to the set of technologies, practices and policies that are implemented to protect the cloud infrastructure, data, and application from threats and vulnerabilities.


This CNAPP vs. CSPM comparison guide will give you a complete idea regarding the dissimilarities between both security solutions. Although CSPM and CNAPP work towards cloud security, both security solutions have a different focus and approach.

Through this guide, we hope we have been able to help you understand which security solution you will need that would benefit your organization. Along with the differences, we have covered all the essential aspects that will make it easier for you to make the right choice. 

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Anshu Bansal
Anshu Bansal, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and venture capitalist, currently co-founds CloudDefense.AI, a cybersecurity solution with a mission to secure your business by rapidly identifying and removing critical risks in Applications and Infrastructure as Code. With a background in Amazon, Microsoft, and VMWare, they contributed to various software and security roles.
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