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Summary

  • SSPM and cloud DLP are two very different security solutions designed to tackle differing issues common in cloud apps.
  • While SSPM helps organizations to identify misconfigurations and excessive user permissions, cloud DLP brings security to the data level, helping organizations to safeguard sensitive information from accidental leakage or theft.
  • SSPM often adds to the complexity facing security teams, as these solutions require administrators to visit each individual app to rectify alerts.
  • Cloud DLP, on the other hand, comes in the form of a centralized interface and works autonomously for the most part, effectively taking away some of the strain on overburdened team members.
  • Moreover, cloud DLP works to minimize the risks associated with misconfigurations and user privileges that make SSPM valuable. So, if you can only choose one, go for cloud DLP. 

So, you want to secure your SaaS apps. You’ve realized that Slack and Teams are a potent source of data leakage and you’re increasingly worried about the threat of credentials compromise. 

Chances are, you’ve taken to the web to look for a security solution to solve all your SaaS woes, only to end your search feeling more confused. With so many vendors and tools out there – each promising themselves to be at the forefront of SaaS security – how do you know which type of solution to go for? 

Well, first things first, you can take secure access service edge (SASE) off the shortlist. As we wrote in this blog, SASE solutions are quite a few years away from being truly valuable to organizations. 

That leaves two potential solutions left: SaaS security posture management (SSPM) and cloud data loss prevention (DLP). 

Which one should you go for? Let’s find out below. 

SSPM: the lowdown 

Firstly, we’ll explore SSPM: a class of tools that aim to reduce the likelihood of misconfigurations and excess user privileges in your SaaS apps. 

What is SSPM?

SSPM tools plug directly into your various SaaS app interfaces, where they autonomously scan each app for user permissions or configurations that could put your company at odds with compliance obligations

Depending on the nature of the specific tool you’ve chosen, the SSPM solution will then automatically fix the errors it has found, or send an alert to your IT team for further inspection. 

Benefits

Against a backdrop of surging data leaks triggered by misconfigurations, SSPM certainly has a role to play in enhancing cloud app security. By deploying this tool, organizations can: 

  • Reduce the likelihood of data theft and leakage: Misconfigurations are one of the major causes of sensitive data leakage. It’s near impossible for security teams to find these errors manually, especially as cloud apps are in a constant state of flux. SSPM helps tremendously by bringing high-level visibility to this issue.  
  • Crack down on excessive permissions: Employees need different levels of access to an application depending on their roles and responsibilities. Based on approved permissions, SPPM tools can monitor to make sure users permissions are as they should be, and highlight any discrepancies for admins to take a closer look. 
  • Maintain compliance: SSPM uses predefined policies, based on established compliance mandates like HIPAA and the GDPR, to discover misconfigurations and outdated user permissions, meaning the tool helps organizations to meet compliance objectives. 

Limitations 

While SSPM certainly has its place in the security stack, it’s definitely not a silver bullet. Some limitations of these tools include: 

  • Lack of visibility: SSPM plugs directly into your different cloud apps’ admin portals. It doesn’t unify or simplify app management at a strategic level. It’s more of a tactical way to spot misconfigurations in individual applications. 
  • Compliance doesn’t cover everything: SSPM uses compliance policies to identify and remediate configurations but this inherently leaves security gaps when it comes to information like intellectual property. 
  • The dynamic nature of SaaS: SaaS apps are easily customized and app vendors tend to release updates at a rapid pace. Against this backdrop, it’s hard for SSPM tools to keep up, leading to a phenomenon known as ‘configuration drift’, where admins are constantly chasing their tails trying to keep up with misconfiguration errors across disparate applications.  
  • Not granular enough: Even with SSPM fixing misconfigurations, there’s still the risk of employees mis-using sensitive data within your applications. SSPM doesn’t have any say over how people use, upload, download and share sensitive information, meaning you’re still at risk from insider threats and credentials compromise

Cloud DLP: the lowdown  

Now it’s time to delve into cloud DLP. That limitation we mentioned about SSPM not being granular enough? That’s actually the main benefit of deploying cloud DLP. Here’s an overview. 

What is cloud DLP?

Cloud DLP is a less singular tool and more a harmonization of several capabilities. With cloud DLP, features like data classification, natural language processing, machine learning and encryption work simultaneously in your cloud apps to discover, monitor and protect sensitive data in real-time. 

The overall aim of cloud DLP is to ensure that only verified, genuine, authorized users access sensitive information and, moreover, only use it in a compliant, secure way. 

Benefits

  • Prevent data leakage and theft in your SaaS apps: Using the power of data analytics combined with ready-to-go compliance templates, cloud DLP solutions immediately discover and protect sensitive information in your cloud apps, including unstructured data in chats, images and PDF files. 
  • Easily meet compliance obligations: A good cloud DLP solution will autonomously create an inventory of all security events, in line with compliance requirements, so any audits you need to undertake are a complete breeze. 
  • Boost security learning outcomes: Best-in-class cloud DLP tools incorporate security training into the workflow. Polymer DLP, for example, features a helpful, friendly bot that integrates directly into your SaaS apps. When a user violates one of your policies, we explain why they can’t make that move, in language they understand, so they’ll know better next time.  
  • Embrace zero trust: Cloud DLP tools like Polymer DLP use contextual authentication factors to protect sensitive information from malicious actors, unlawful access and compromise. Our engine looks at factors like the user’s identity, the activity being performed, the nature of the data, and the file’s type and location to make a risk-based judgment about user access, which is the bedrock of zero trust. 

Limitations 

  • Proxy-based tools are clunky: Older cloud DLP variations rely on proxies, which are notoriously hard to deploy and invasive to users. However, newer solutions use application programming interfaces (APIs), which overcome these weaknesses. 
  • False positives: Again related to older solutions, DLP used to get a bad rep for generating an overwhelming number of false positives. By opting for a solution that uses natural language processing (NLP), organizations will benefit from enhanced accuracy and precision.  

Summing up 

As you can see, SSPM and cloud DLP are two very different security solutions designed to tackle differing issues common in cloud apps. 

While SSPM helps organizations to identify misconfigurations and excessive user permissions, cloud DLP brings security to the data level, helping organizations to safeguard sensitive information from accidental leakage or theft. 

You might, on first thought, think it’s a wise idea to deploy both solutions – but this isn’t always the case. For one, today’s security teams are already time-pressed and stressed as it is. SSPM often adds to the complexity facing security teams, as these solutions require administrators to visit each individual app to rectify alerts. 

Cloud DLP, on the other hand, comes in the form of a centralized interface and works autonomously for the most part, effectively taking away some of the strain on overburdened team members. 

Moreover, cloud DLP works to minimize the risks associated with misconfigurations and user privileges that make SSPM valuable. By protecting data at the source, cloud DLP ensures that your sensitive information is always safe from unlawful access or editing, even in the event a document or repository is left exposed to the public. 

So, if you only have the budget for one solution or are pondering which way to go, make cloud DLP your next move. 

Ready to get started? Schedule a free demo today. 

Polymer is a human-centric data loss prevention (DLP) platform that holistically reduces the risk of data exposure in your SaaS apps and AI tools. In addition to automatically detecting and remediating violations, Polymer coaches your employees to become better data stewards. Try Polymer for free.

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