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What is DSPM? Data Security Posture Management Explained

Growing cloud data poses a threat to sensitive information. A 2023 survey found that 75% of businesses reported over 40% of their cloud data as sensitive, making cloud data security a top concern for security teams.

Amidst this looming threat, Data Security Posture Management (DSPM) emerges as a revolutionary solution. It provides organizations with critical intelligence, empowering them to: 

  • Identify sensitive data across your cloud environment.

  • Understand who can access this data.

  • Assess the data’s overall security posture.

  • Fix potential vulnerabilities.

That being said, here we’ll explore what DSPM is, how it works, and what its role is in cybersecurity.

What is Data Security Posture Management (DSPM)?

DSPM is a relatively new cybersecurity technology that helps organizations protect their sensitive data across various environments, including multi-cloud platforms. 

First identified by market researcher Gartner in its Hype Cycle for Data Security 2022, DSPM is sometimes referred to as a “data-first” approach, meaning it prioritizes protecting the data itself rather than just focusing on securing the systems and applications that access it.

It helps you identify where sensitive data resides, who has access to it, in what way it’s being used, and most importantly, how secure it is. 

Imagine it like a security map, illuminating all corners of your cloud infrastructure and pointing out the precise places where data is at risk so you can take steps to defend them properly.

This is crucial in today’s world where data is scattered across diverse environments and constantly on the move.

How Does DSPM Work?

How Does DSPM Work?

Data Security Posture Management helps companies protect their important information by knowing the way data moves inside their systems and finding possible security dangers. It operates through a well-defined cycle, ensuring continuous monitoring and improvement of data security posture.

1. Data Discovery

The process starts by finding and listing all data sources in the company – this includes databases, systems for files, storage in the cloud, and applications from outside parties.

The detailed map shows where important and private data is kept, such as personal details, money records, business ideas, or intellectual property.

2. Data Classification

Once discovered, data is categorized based on its sensitivity and importance. This classification, often aligned with regulatory compliance requirements, helps to decide which data protection actions are most important.

High-risk data, such as medical records or credit card numbers, demands more stringent safeguards than less sensitive information.

3. Data Flow Mapping

DSPM goes beyond static data location, visualizing how it moves within the infrastructure. It maps how sensitive data flows between servers, databases, and software, revealing potential weak points and access paths.

This visual representation helps us understand the patterns of data transfer and possible areas that are not strong enough.

4. Risk Assessment

Armed with data flow insights, DSPM tool identifies potential risks and vulnerabilities—think unauthorized access, data leaks, or even the lack of encryption.

It looks for:

  • Misconfigurations: Missing security settings leaving data vulnerable (unsecured cloud storage, unpatched systems, weak encryption).

  • Overentitlements: Users have more access than needed, increasing the attack surface.

  • Data flow/lineage issues: Tracking data movement to identify potential attack paths.

  • Policy/regulatory violations: Finding gaps between data protection and security policies/regulations.

This evaluation of risk lets companies arrange their security tasks by importance, giving attention first to the most serious dangers and dealing with them before they happen.

5. Security Control Implementation

Based on the identified risks, organizations can implement the necessary security controls to protect their data. This might involve encryption to scramble sensitive information, access control to restrict unauthorized users, or data loss prevention (DLP) techniques to monitor and block unauthorized data transfers.

6. Monitoring and Auditing

Constant vigilance is key. DSPM continuously monitors data flow to detect anomalies, potential threats, and policy violations. Regular audits ensure the effectiveness of security controls and compliance with data protection regulations, preventing issues before they escalate.

7. Incident Response and Remediation

In the case of a security issue, DSPM provides crucial information for rapid response. It helps identify affected data, assess the breach’s scope, and implement remediation measures to minimize the impact. This swift action can significantly reduce the damage caused by data breaches.

Benefits of DSPM for Cloud Data Security

Holistic Data Visibility

Identify all sensitive data (structured and unstructured) residing in your cloud environments, including forgotten databases and shadow data stores. This comprehensive view eliminates blind spots and empowers informed security decisions.

Data classification and mapping

Classify sensitive data and map it to relevant regulations, revealing exposure areas and tracking data lineage (origin and access history).

Attack path analysis

Discover potential attack vectors or paths leading to sensitive data by looking at how sensitive the data is, who can access it, what weak spots there are, and how things are set up. This helps prioritize risks based on their severity.

DevSecOps integration

Integrate with DevSecOps workflows to address risks early in the application development lifecycle, promoting proactive security throughout the development process.

Compliance

Simplify compliance with data protection regulations like GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI-DSS by identifying and closing security gaps that could lead to non-compliance and reputational damage.

Incident response

Leverage built-in incident response plans offered by most DSPM solutions to accelerate recovery from security incidents and minimize potential harm.

In a nutshell, when you use a DSPM solution, your security team, IT operations group, and DevOps unit get a full picture of what’s happening with data in the cloud. This helps them to:

  • Proactively identify and mitigate security risks before they can be exploited.

  • Prioritize remediation efforts based on data sensitivity and potential impact.

  • Demonstrate compliance with data privacy regulations.

  • Respond quickly and effectively to security incidents.

Key Considerations When Choosing a DSPM Solution:

Based on the provided information, here are the key points to look for in a Data Security Posture Management (DSPM) solution:

Visibility and Monitoring:

  • Rapid, agentless data discovery: The solution should quickly scan your infrastructure for sensitive data without requiring agent installation, ensuring efficient discovery and minimal disruption.

  • Centralized dashboard and reporting: A central dashboard with comprehensive reports, real-time monitoring, and customizable visualizations is crucial for gaining insights into your data security posture.

Threat Detection and Prioritization:

  • Continuous monitoring and detection: Opt for a solution that continuously monitors for critical data exposure and offers automated data classification to prioritize the most critical risks.

  • Data lineage mapping: Look for a solution that implements data lineage mapping to understand the data lifecycle and detect potential backdoors or compliance issues.

Remediation and Automation:

  • Real-time remediation: Choose a solution that allows for automatic or low-touch remediation of identified security issues, ensuring prompt response and reduced manual effort.

  • CI/CD integration: Prioritize a DSPM solution that integrates with CI/CD pipelines to automatically scan code, infrastructure, and dependencies for vulnerabilities, offering comprehensive coverage.

  • Automated compliance assessments: The solution should scan for compliance violations, generate reports, and provide recommendations for addressing non-compliance.

Advanced Features:

  • AI security: Look for a solution that extends to AI environments, automatically detecting sensitive training data and proactively removing attack paths, addressing the emerging risks of AI data security.

  • Scalability and performance: For large organizations, ensure the solution scales efficiently to handle massive datasets without performance lags.

Should DSPM Operate Independently as a Solution?

Considering today’s cloud security front, organizations are keen on ensuring the security of cloud-native applications and their associated data throughout the entire development process. The aim is to have a unified platform that caters to the needs of various teams, including security, DevOps, and data protection. 

That’s why relying solely on DSPM as a standalone solution might not be the best approach. Although it brings valuable data protection features, incorporating it into broader CNAPPs like CloudDefense.AI offers numerous benefits. Here’s why:

The Trend Towards Consolidation:

  • Security teams are facing tool sprawl and alert fatigue, making unified platforms with integrated solutions increasingly desirable.

  • Organizations strive for holistic security across the cloud-native application lifecycle, encompassing development, deployment, and operations. A single platform catering to security, DevOps, and data protection teams builds better collaboration and efficiency.

Benefits of Integrating DSPM with CNAPP:

  • Unified Risk View: CNAPP combines CSPM, CIEM, and CWP functionalities, already providing a comprehensive security posture picture. Adding DSPM creates a unified risk list prioritizing both data and cloud security vulnerabilities, streamlining remediation efforts.

  • Enhanced Data Security: CNAPP with DSPM tracks data origin and flow within cloud storage and application networks, enabling efficient data movement protection.

  • Reduced Alert Fatigue: CNAPP solutions correlate and prioritize security risks, minimizing alerts. When coupled with DSPM, the number of alerts is further reduced, allowing security professionals to focus on critical vulnerabilities.

While a stand-alone DSPM can offer data protection, its true potential unfolds when integrated within a CNAPP platform. This holistic approach streamlines security operations, prioritizes risks effectively, and empowers teams with a unified view of cloud and data security posture.

Difference Between DSPM, CSPM, and CIEM

While all three acronyms – DSPM, CSPM, and CIEM – deal with cloud security, they each focus on different aspects and serve distinct purposes. Here’s a breakdown:

AcronymFocusFunctionKey Capabilities
CSPMSecures the overall cloud environmentIdentifies and addresses misconfigurations, compliance issues, and security risks in your cloud infrastructure and resources.Continuously monitors cloud configurations for deviations from security best practices. Detects potential threats and vulnerabilities. Ensures compliance with industry standards and regulations. Provides insights and recommendations for improving cloud security posture.
DSPMProtecting sensitive data in the cloudDiscovers, classifies and monitors sensitive data across your cloud environment to prevent unauthorized access or breaches.Identifies and classifies sensitive data types (e.g., PII, financial data). Tracks data movement and access attempts. Detects suspicious activity related to sensitive data. Helps ensure compliance with data privacy regulations.
CIEMManaging user access and entitlements in the cloudProvides centralized control over user access to cloud resources, enforcing the principle of least privilege and preventing unauthorized access.Discovers and inventories all users and devices accessing cloud resources. Tracks user activity and entitlements. Provides granular control over user permissions and access. Helps prevent insider threats and privilege escalation attacks.

Conclusion

To sum up, CloudDefense.AI’s CNAPP empowers your security team by adopting a unified and data-driven approach to DSPM. Proactively handle data security risks, effectively prioritize tasks, and make well-informed decisions across your entire cloud setup.

By unifying data from various sources and utilizing advanced analytics, CloudDefense.AI offers a comprehensive overview of your cloud security stance. This grants you real-time insights into potential threats and allows you to prioritize efficiently and make informed decisions. 

Don’t wait for a breach to expose your vulnerabilities. Take control of your cloud security today. Book a live demo and experience the power of CloudDefense.AI’s CNAPP firsthand. See how it can transform your security posture and empower your team to thrive in the cloud.

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Abhishek Arora
Abhishek Arora
Abhishek Arora, a co-founder and Chief Operating Officer at CloudDefense.AI, is a serial entrepreneur and investor. With a background in Computer Science, Agile Software Development, and Agile Product Development, Abhishek has been a driving force behind CloudDefense.AI’s mission to rapidly identify and mitigate critical risks in Applications and Infrastructure as Code.
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