What Is CSPM?

5 min. read

Cloud security posture management (CSPM) is both a practice and a technology designed to detect and prevent the misconfigurations and threats that lead to sensitive data breaches and compliance violations. With strong CSPM, security teams can eliminate cloud blind spots, achieve compliance and proactively address risks.

Cloud Security Posture Management Explained

Cloud security posture management (CSPM) is a means of mitigating risk and compliance violations by identifying and remediating misconfigurations across public cloud environments. CSPM tools help security and compliance teams by providing automated visibility, continuous monitoring and remediation workflows for their infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and software as a service (SaaS).

Organizations generally adopt CSPM as a standard security practice when they migrate their applications to various cloud providers, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). As part of the cloud security shared responsibility model, CSPM tools can help client organizations in many ways.

CSPM and the shared responsibility model

Employing a CSPM solution is a customary first step to securing cloud configurations and keeping private data secure. Cloud-native computing is here to stay, and cloud security posture management tools play a critical role in providing vital visibility and misconfiguration detection and response.

Benefits of Cloud Security Posture Management

CSPM offers numerous benefits through autodetection and remediation of configuration errors, abuses, threats and compliance issues.

CSPM Provides Visibility

Gaining visibility into all cloud services distributed across cloud providers is both essential and challenging. CSPM solutions provide centralized visibility across cloud and multicloud environments by analyzing and normalizing data sources as well as creating a detailed inventory of cloud resources and assets.

Some CSPM solutions provide continuous real-time visibility, while others collect periodic snapshots of cloud asset inventories. A CSPM solution that offers single-dashboard visibility across several clouds is more than convenient. This CSPM platform is immensely valuable to security teams, given that schematics for each cloud provider environment differ.

Misconfiguration Detection and Response with CSPM

CSPM helps security operations center (SOC) teams build a robust security posture without requiring deep expertise in individual environments. Once overall cloud security posture is defined, CSPM tools help enforce it across multicloud environments.

Examples of Misconfigured Services

  • Amazon S3 bucket carrying sensitive data is exposed to the internet
  • Kubernetes cluster endpoint access is publicly enabled
  • Serverless function is overly permissive

Many CSPM tools come with security policies to flag misconfigurations that bring risk to the organization. These security policies can help with remediation by providing actionable feedback or resolving policy violations with autoremediation capabilities.

Maintaining Compliance with CSPM

Governance and compliance teams using the cloud and dealing with stringent compliance regulations — PCI DSS, GDPR, SOC 2 and HIPAA, to name a few — often struggle to demonstrate compliance to auditors. A CSPM solution can help with compliance monitoring and reporting by providing:

  • Continuous monitoring of your compliance posture and automatic mapping against common compliance frameworks
  • Quick-generation audit-ready reports
  • Ability for SOC teams to investigate audit data for unusual user behavior or potential account compromise

Cloud Misconfiguration Risks

While public clouds offer many advantages, simple misconfigurations can open an organization to cloud security risks and possible data breach. Rapid adoption of AWS, Azure and GCP services has led to a proliferation of dynamic and distributed environments. The scale, pace of change and “sprawl” across multiple public clouds make it difficult for security teams to keep pace.

At the same time, security professions in the U.S. are greatly outnumbered — with 10 software developers, quality assurance analysts and testers for every information security analyst. Alarmingly, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the 10-to-1 ratio to endure for the next decade. Unsurprisingly, recent estimates from Gartner Research say 50% of organizations have infrastructure as a service (IaaS) storage services, network segments and applications or APIs directly (and mistakenly) exposed to the public internet — with almost all resulting from misconfigurations.

CSPM tools can reduce the burden on cloud security teams by automating routine security monitoring, audits and remediations, allowing security teams to focus on high-priority items.

How Cloud Security Posture Management Works

The foundation of CSPM is the ability to continuously monitor and audit cloud assets across multiple cloud providers. When a new cloud service or workload is deployed or a configuration is changed, the tool must be able to detect and scan the update to ensure it complies with security requirements and best practices.

Unlike most security approaches that require appliances or agents, CSPM solutions are often API-driven products, also known as agentless security. These solutions connect to your cloud environment APIs for visibility, governance and compliance.

Intelligence Gathering

Some CSPM tools collect threat intelligence from a variety of sources to gain security risk clarity. Those sources include infrastructure as code (IaC) configurations, container images and cloud virtual machine (VM) images. Simply scanning these components, though, is insufficient to deliver full threat intelligence and detection.

An effective CSPM must also maintain high-fidelity threat intelligence to identify the latest threats and assess their severity level. The ability to detect anomalies on the network and correlate them with other types of threat data is also important for gaining full context on the potential risk impact of any threat. The same must be done with user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA) data.

Modern threat detection requires analysis of multiple data sources, combined with the ability to correlate and contextualize the data. This will identify threats within complex multilayered environments and help teams understand how to quickly prioritize risk and remediate threats.

Only through comprehensive threat detection can you associate network anomalies with an insecure container image, for instance, or determine which account is the source of a data breach. When security teams can understand threats faster, they can fix them faster, minimizing mean time to remediate.

Manual intervention will always be necessary to respond to complex security incidents or assess risks that are too complicated for your CSPM tools to handle alone. But CSPM tools automate routine security monitoring, audits and remediations so security teams can focus on the big-ticket items.

Cloud Security Posture Management Market

CSPM as a stand-alone market is unsustainable in the long term and will likely be absorbed into adjacent markets. Organizations looking to buy a CSPM tool should take that into consideration and carefully evaluate the roadmap of their security strategies. Capabilities and adjacent markets that commonly accompany CSPM tools include CIEM, IaC security and CNAPP.


While CSPM expands visibility, governance and compliance into cloud resource configurations, it doesn't typically deliver deep identity controls or access governance. This is where cloud infrastructure entitlement management (CIEM) can help.

CIEM tools focus on identifying cloud identity risks and managing entitlements for accessing cloud infrastructure. Together, CSPM and CIEM technologies can help manage the security posture of cloud infrastructure via configuration and entitlement management.

Threat Detection with CSPM

Misconfigurations are among the most common vulnerabilities in cloud environments that lead to data breaches. In addition to surfacing multicloud security risks, a reliable CSPM tool will provide threat intelligence that detects external and internal threats.

Examples of potential threats include bad actors attempting to use stolen credentials, as well as cryptomining, ransomware, other malware and hacking attempts. Some CSPM tools can correlate suspicious behavior and anomalous events for effective incident response.

IaC Security & CSPM

Developers often configure and deploy cloud infrastructure using infrastructure-as-code (IaC) templates for rapid and repeatable deployments. Preventing insecure configurations from reaching production is important when you consider that a single IaC misconfiguration can lead to hundreds of security alerts at runtime.

Scanning IaC templates for misconfigurations and applying DevSecOps principles, along with a CSPM platform, is a powerful combination for security teams.


Cloud-native application protection platform (CNAPP), a term coined by Gartner, is an integrated set of cloud security and compliance capabilities designed to help secure and protect cloud-native applications across development and production. Core capabilities of a CNAPP include:

These core functionalities within a CNAPP give security teams comprehensive visibility of public cloud infrastructure across the entire application development lifecycle. When initially adopting a platform at the early stages of their cloud journey, most organizations begin with CSPM.

Implementing Cloud Security Posture Management

CSPM is an essential part of cloud security that helps organizations discover and autoremediate threats, misconfigurations, misuse and compliance violations in public cloud environments. CSPM can be a stand-alone feature or part of a CNAPP.

The Prisma Cloud platform takes a unique approach to CSPM, going beyond compliance or configuration management with vulnerability intelligence gathered from more than 30 data sources to provide immediate clarity on critical security issues. CSPM is a part of Prisma Cloud CNAPP, which secures applications from code to cloud, enabling security and DevOps teams to effectively collaborate to accelerate secure cloud-native application development and deployment.

Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) FAQs

Cloud security posture management (CSPM) is one module in the cloud-native application protection platform (CNAPP).

CNAPP, providing a comprehensive and fully integrated approach to cloud security in a single platform, comprises CSPM, cloud workload protection platform (CWPP), cloud service network security (CSNS) and cloud infrastructure entitlement management (CIEM).

Security friction is defined as the degree to which cloud security is limiting an organization’s operations. Today, with the movement to shift-left and embrace DevSecOps principles, security friction between developers and security teams is lessening.
Misconfigurations are common and often unintentional. Since public cloud infrastructure may be programmed through APIs, incorrect settings pose a serious risk to businesses. Mismanagement of several interconnected resources like Kubernetes, serverless operations and containers is a common cause of setup errors. This is frequently the result of lack of visibility, a lack of understanding of how different resources interact, and the application of permissions from one resource to another without knowledge of the least-privileged permissions actually needed.
PCI DSS stands for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, which is an information security standard administered by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council. Created to reduce credit card fraud, PCI DSS compliance involves technical and operational standards that businesses follow to secure and protect credit card data.
Commonly known as HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 is a federal law that installed national standards designed to protect individuals' medical records and other individually identifiable health information — defined as protected health information (PHI) — and applies to health plans, healthcare clearinghouses and healthcare providers electronically conducting certain healthcare transactions.

PCI DSS stands for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, which is an information security standard administered by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council. Created to reduce credit card fraud, PCI DSS compliance involves technical and operational standards that businesses follow to secure and protect credit card data.

Penalties for HIPAA violations are issued by the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and state attorneys general. The OCR can impose a maximum fine of $1.5 million per violation, per year. Depending on the type of violation, covered entities can also be subject to criminal or civil lawsuits.

GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a privacy and security law drafted and passed by the European Union (EU) that applies to all organizations worldwide that target or collect data pertaining to people within the EU. Viewed as the world's strictest set of data protection rules, the GDPR imposes severe fines (possibly in the tens of millions of euros) on those who violate the privacy and security standards within this expansive regulation.
SOC 2 was developed by the American Institute of CPAs and refers to a voluntary compliance standard for service organizations that details how customer data should be managed. SOC 2 criteria is based on “trust service principles” — security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality and privacy. Organizations can follow one or more of the trust principles depending on the nature of their business and business practices.
NIST CSF stands for NIST Cybersecurity Framework, which delineates standards and guidance on managing and reducing risks to IT infrastructure security.
NIST SP 800-171 is a special publication that non-federal computer systems must follow to store, process or transmit controlled unclassified information (CUI). This compliance regulation governs manufacturers such as defense contractors.