CNAPP vs CSPM | SentinelOne

CNAPP vs CSPM: 10 Critical Differences

There are robust security solutions available in the cloud security industry when it comes to protecting enterprise resources, and assets, and safeguarding cloud-based applications against various threats.

CNAPP and CSPM are two emerging solutions in the market that unravel different cloud vulnerabilities and help organizations improve their entire cloud security posture. The debate about CNAPP vs CSPM has always existed among security practitioners and DevOps professionals.

Here is an overview of each, its key features, and the difference between CNAPP and CSPM. 

What is CNAPP?

A Cloud-Native Application Protection Platform or CNAPP is a solution that combines different cloud security posture management features for effective workload protection and privacy management. CNAPP is a platform that ensures continuous compliance and provides holistic security across multi-cloud environments. A key advantage of using CNAPP is that it enforces shift-left security and secures cloud applications during production and before deployment. DevOps teams enjoy efficient runtime protection, and CNAPP is great for security professionals and those that adopt an Agile and scalable approach to cloud security.

Key Features of CNAPP

The main advantage of CNAPP is that it incorporates DevOps aspects of security and secures cloud applications in production environments. CNAPP offers the following features to organizations:

  • Cloud Workload Protection Platform (CWPP) 

Cloud Workload Protection Platform (CWPP) is an exclusive feature offered by CNAPP that enables organizations to protect their cloud infrastructure workloads from a variety of security threats. CWPP covers VMs, databases, and containers. It keeps production environments running smoothly and makes recommendations on how to enhance holistic security for enterprises. 

  • Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) Scanning 

CNAPP runs Infrastructure-as-Code scans on organizations and helps them better define their cloud architectures and services. IaC tools are used on configuration files and actual code, and some of the most popular IaC templates are based on Terraform, CloudFormation, GitHub, and GitLab. IaC scanning eliminates cloud misconfiguration issues and ensures optimal code quality for smooth infrastructure performance. It also integrates well into the CI/CD pipeline phase. 

  • Kubernetes Security Posture Management (KSPM)

Kubernetes Security Posture Management involves automating container management and cloud software deployments. It helps DevOps engineers scan Kubernetes environments, find unknown vulnerabilities, and fix misconfiguration issues. Users can do benchmarking and run cluster penetration tests to monitor environments, configurations, workloads, and overall security, thus helping organizations minimize risks and remediate errors.

  • Secrets Scanning 

Secrets Scanning involves scanning access keys and code repositories for sensitive information. It uses a wide variety of techniques to identify potential threats and uncover exploits before threat actors can act on them. Secret scanning can help organizations prevent data breaches, eliminate reputational threats, and reduce operational costs by eliminating business risks. CNAPP can also prevent cloud credentials leakages, validate detected secrets, and blacklist secrets that are backend-driven or where monitoring is not needed.

What is CSPM?

Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) provides enhanced visibility into cloud infrastructure components, resources, and services. It enables security teams to ensure continuous compliance and sends alerts in real-time to address security gaps and implement effective remediation. The CSPM feature can also be used for risk analysis and help in the maintenance of healthy security standards within the organization. CSPM scanning is also applied in the CI/CD pipeline and is considered one of the best DevOps practices when it comes to managing identity and access management policies for cloud accounts and networks.

Key Features of CSPM

CSPM solutions will ensure that cloud environments are configured properly and stay in compliance. These tools will generate alerts for all threat scenarios and give users recommendations on how to fix security issues. 

CSPM tools typically offer the following features:

  • Can scan cloud systems for security misconfigurations, and improper settings, and make sure they are not left vulnerable to exploits and attacks
  • Monitor, manage, and assess risks for on-premise, hybrid, and multi-cloud environments. CSPM tools can analyze security risks and deliver threat intelligence for IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS services as well
  • These solutions can provide regular updates about compliance mandates like PCI-DSS, GDPR, and other security standards. CSPM tools maintain policy visibility and provide reliable enforcement across all providers
  • CSPM tools can perform standardized risk assessments and evaluate security frameworks against external standards that organizations make. They can make threat remediation recommendations based on these assessments and eliminate security gaps. 
  • CSPM can also enforce security automation capabilities across multi-cloud environments. They do not require manual human intervention to make immediate corrections. 

What is the Difference between CNAPP and CSPM?

CSPM is not able to give insights into workloads and cannot send users alerts. These tools are unable to prioritize security risks and alerts in an environmental context, and CSPMs are limited to only highlighting the severity of security issues. CSPMS also cannot detect lateral movements within networks and leave important attack vectors completely exposed.

CNAPP greatly consolidates cloud security and can reduce the risk of misconfigurations by securing cloud-native applications. It streamlines governance and compliance, helps analysts chart and understand attack paths better, enables real-time scanning of secrets, and increases DevSecOps visibility. CNAPP solutions can manage user account permissions and help enterprises strengthen their cloud security posture by offering the best features. With the incorporation of agentless scanning, there is no need to deploy agents and scanners as well manually. 

CNAPP solutions eliminate alert fatigue, provide complete agentless coverage, and centralize cloud security insights into one platform, offering comprehensive reporting, analytics, and threat remediation guidance. By analyzing both CNAPP and CSPM, it can be safe to say that CNAPP is the clear winner when it comes to CNAPP vs. CSPM, in terms of features and coverage.

However, many organizations find that using CNAPP and CSPM combined gives them the best results. Cloud environments are becoming increasingly dynamic and complex, with no one-size-fits-all solution. Whether an organization uses CNAPP or CSPM depends on cloud security requirements. CNAPP and CSPM are the answer to getting comprehensive cloud-native security and protection.

CNAPP vs CSPM: Key Differences

CSPM is more focused on providing alerts and auto-remediating misconfigurations for multiple environments, while CNAPP is tailored to encompass security controls, cloud accounts management, and workload protection.

CNAPP can be integrated with various development and cloud operational workflows as well. The following are the key differences when comparing CNAPP vs. CSPM.

Key Area of Differentiation CNAPP CSPM
Compliance Ensures compliance with the latest industry standards like HIPAA, PCI-DSS, NIST, and security policy enforcement Performs inventory workload management and automated threat discovery
Threat Identification Identifies security risks across endpoints, workloads, data centers, and infrastructure components, and detects configuration drifts as well Identifies unknown and hidden risks across cloud services and estates
Risk Assessment CNAPP offers agentless cloud detection, contextual attack lineage discovery, and curated threat dashboards CSPM does comprehensive risk visualizations and assessments and identifies misconfigurations.
Integration CNAPP integrates with CI/CD pipelines and container orchestration platforms CSPM integrates with cloud-native security services and cloud management platforms
Asset Inventory CNAPP helps enterprises classify and inventory assets across IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS platforms and services CSPM gives historical views of assets and real-time updates and maps out public cloud assets and resources relationships across different accounts, network interfaces, and associated services.
Visibility CNAPP provides continuous monitoring of hybrid and multi-cloud environments and offers real-time visibility into cloud security risks and compliance violations CSPM provides a centralized view of all workloads and monitors from a single pane of glass
Policy enforcement Automatically resolves policy violations and implements the latest security policies for all deployments Can design and assign custom security policies across multi-cloud environments
Vulnerability Management CSPM gives historical views of assets and real-time updates, and maps out public cloud assets and resources relationships across different accounts, network interfaces, and associated services. Host firewall management, automated threat intelligence, anti-malware and anti-virus, and unified visibility and control across multi-cloud environments
Identity and Access Management Single Sign-on (SSO), Multi-factor Authentication (MFA), Zero Trust Network Security, and the Principle of Least Privilege Access Zero-day vulnerability assessments, identify cloud resources and assets with known CVEs, VM snapshot scanning, and threat watch dashboards.
Reporting and Analytics On-demand report generation for vulnerabilities and compliance supports integration with major platforms like Jira and Slack, exports compliance reports, and offers widgets to track and resolve issues in alignment with reported metrics Not all CSPM tools provide reporting and analytics. Modern CSPM solutions use AI and Machine Learning to offer advanced analytics, analyze data, and find patterns and anomalies.
The key difference between CNAPP vs CSPM


A CSPM tool offers basic features to organizations that want to secure cloud resources, while CNAPP is designed to have a full suite of tools for enhanced cloud security posture management. Agentless scanning and container protection are important in today’s evolving cloud security landscape and can be expensive. Modern CNAPP platforms bundle critical features and take into consideration an organization’s evolving security requirements. CSPM, with container protection, can safeguard cloud applications and workload data and is great for detecting misconfiguration issues. The only challenge with CSPM solutions is a lack of depth of visibility for security risks and gaps in coverage. CNAPP is great for fortifying the security of cloud-native applications; it addresses compliance risks and provides enhanced visibility and coverage.