BigID explaining the basic of data security posture management (DSPM)

DSPM: Data Security Posture Management 101

No matter the industry, organizations of all sizes collect, store, and process more data than ever. Data management in the modern age requires new and comprehensive data security posture management tools and solutions that protect an organization’s assets—whether on-prem or in the cloud.

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What is DSPM?

Gartner coined the term data security posture management’ (DSPM) in April 2022. The company said this technology would be needed to quickly find lost data in repositories, reduce privacy risks, and improve security.

Let’s take a look at what it is.

DSPM is both a process and framework used by security and IT teams to automatically identify and understand sensitive data. This approach to data security is essential for modern data management, especially as data collection, storage, and processing have become vital for businesses.

If managed effectively, an organization’s data security posture reduces the risk of data leaks and compliance violations, whether data is stored on-premise or in the cloud. It identifies where data is stored within the organization, who has access to it, and how it’s used. It also assesses how secure the data is where it’s stored or in the applications it’s being used, allowing them to implement appropriate security controls. It will also alert the security team in the event of a security incident.

As a process, it includes:

  • Continuous monitoring of data security risks
  • Identifying, assessing, and mitigating risks
  • Checking for compliance and ensuring adherence to data protection regulations and standards

As a framework, it focuses on:

  • A structured approach to managing data security
  • Components, tools, and methodologies for protecting data
  • Incorporating industry best practices for data security management

How Does DSPM Work?

DSPM focuses on an intuitive way to manage, assess, and prevent data loss at scale. A DSPM solution helps your security team evaluate security controls and finds vulnerabilities using vulnerability scanning, penetration testing, cloud storage, and data center security audits.

Once risks are identified, the tool and security team modify security configurations and controls. This includes changes to firewall rules, data access permissions, and intrusion prevention system (IPS) settings.

In general, DSPM security platforms are “agentless”. That means the system does not require the installation of additional software (agents) on each device and resource it monitors.

Key Components of DSPM

Data security experts will disagree on the finer details of the process, but are mostly agreed that DSPM offers the following components:

  • Data discovery
  • Data classification
  • Risk assessment and prioritization
  • Remediation and prevention

However, these components can be expanded to encompass:

Data Discovery and Classification

Business data is usually spread across various locations on the premises and in the cloud. Mapping it manually can take a long time. DSPM helps automate the identification of all business data across repositories, infrastructure, and networks.

After the data is discovered and identified, it can be classified based on:

  • Sensitivity: Protected health information (PHI) and personally identifiable information (PII) needs more protection than publicly available knowledge.
  • Access: Who is authorized to view and use the data?
  • Processing: How is the data being stored, handled, and used?
  • Regulatory Requirements: Is the data protected under a regulatory framework?

Security Assessments for Real-Time Risk Identification and Prioritization

A data security posture management solution follows data movement across the organization and identifies potential security threats. The process may require network scans, vulnerability scans, penetration testing, and a review of access controls and encryption protocols.

Software misconfiguration could lead to data leaks or breaches. DSPM may use threat intelligence databases to identify any such misconfigurations.

This is when the user access permissions may also be assessed. If overentitlement—or overpermissioning—has been granted to users, it can be a security threat. The access levels might be revoked to just enough to allow users to do their jobs and no more.

Risk Remediation and Response

Real-time dashboards and reports that prioritize vulnerabilities enhance data security. Ranking them on severity enables security teams to focus on the most critical issues.

They often include step-by-step remediation instructions or incident response playbooks for active threats. Certain solutions can automatically make changes to system configurations, access controls, and security settings to avoid data exposure. They can also work with DevOps processes to deal with security issues at an early stage of development. Additionally, they continuously monitor and audit new data assets to identify potential security risks, ensuring ongoing protection.

Compliance and Reporting

The compliance and reporting component ensures data security practices align with relevant regulations and industry standards. This component includes:

  • Benchmarking: Comparing current security practices against industry standards and regulatory requirements to ensure compliance.
  • Flagging Violations: Identifying and flagging instances where practices do not meet required standards.
  • Alerting and Reporting: Providing options to alert security teams of data security compliance issues and generate reports that demonstrate adherence to regulations. This helps organizations maintain regulatory compliance and provides evidence during audits.

This component is essential for managing regulatory risks and proving compliance to stakeholders.

Seamless Integration and Scalability

Integration and scalability are important components that allow the security solution to work smoothly with existing infrastructure and tools. This includes:

  • Integration with Existing Tools: Compatibility with systems like security information and event management (SIEM), IT service management (ITSM), and various multicloud environments. This allows for a unified security approach without needing to replace existing tools.
  • Scalability: The ability to grow and adapt to the organization’s evolving security needs. As the organization expands or as new security challenges emerge, the data security platform can scale accordingly to maintain effective data protection.

This component ensures that DSPM can be easily incorporated into current operations and can grow alongside the organization, supporting ongoing and future security requirements.

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The Importance of Data Security Posture Management

An organization’s overall health depends on several key factors — security posture is simply a critical piece of the puzzle. Without it, an organization can become susceptible to cyberattacks, data breaches, and audits that could result in heavy fines.

A business can use DSPM to enjoy:

  • Better data protection: Enforce data security measures and monitor access controls to drastically reduce the risk of data leaks, which could damage the business’s reputation and cause financial losses.
  • Reduced attack surface: Proactively mitigate potentially exploitable vulnerabilities to reduce the opportunities for threat actors to steal data.
  • Risk mitigation: Constantly monitor data security metrics and indicators to respond to incidents faster and have robust mitigation strategies in place.
  • Improved compliance: Meet the regulations to protect data by identifying and bridging security gaps.

DSPM is a continuous and dynamic process. These platforms constantly adapt to evolving threats and vulnerabilities to ensure that security measures remain effective and relevant in the face of emerging challenges.

By adopting a proactive stance, organizations can head off potential threats and minimize the likelihood of data breaches and their impacts on reputation, financial stability, and legal compliance.

DSPM Benefits

DSPM provides a wide range of benefits to organizations across all industries. Some notable upsides are:

Protect Sensitive Data and Reduce Data Risk

As a company, you must safeguard your data in the digital age. The impact of a data breach can be financial losses, erosion of trust, and customer attrition. Compliance requirements surrounding regulated sensitive data, including PII, PHI, and payment card industry (PCI), add another layer of complexity.

The cloud does offer unparalleled flexibility. However, it introduces challenges in protecting sensitive data that often lead to inadvertent exposures.

DSPM solutions provide visibility into where sensitive data resides, enabling appropriate security controls and data governance. They help classify it, and continuously monitor its security posture. This proactive approach allows you to protect and prevent the exposure of your most sensitive information. It also helps avert potential fines and mitigate regulatory scrutiny.

Reduce Your Data Attack Surface

Unused copies and outdated versions of data present a significant risk within organizations. Data copies that are created for testing, accidentally duplicated, or generated by third-party applications without explicit knowledge, increase the potential attack surface.

A DSPM platform plays a pivotal role in automatically monitoring this shadow data and versions of sensitive data. It discovers and classifies sensitive data across the cloud environment, verifies policy adherence, and offers remediation guidance.

Empower Value Creators

Traditional security approaches confined data within walled perimeters managed by gatekeeper-style security teams. However, the contemporary business landscape demands data democratization, which allows everyone, regardless of technical expertise, to work with it.

DSPM capabilities empower your security team to support data democratization efforts. The tools monitor for unauthorized access to sensitive data without hindering cloud performance. They promote innovation and strike a balance between facilitating work and ensuring data security and compliance.

Achieve Faster Data Security and Compliance

Cloud compliance regulations can be a significant challenge for security teams. DSPM uses automation to ensure continuous cloud data security. It prevents security incidents by detecting and alerting whenever sensitive and regulated data violates data residency requirements.

It separates the environment based on data privacy requirements and business needs, which turns data inventory and classification efforts into tangible compliance reports. This ensures compliance with diverse regulations and proves your commitment to security to auditors and regulatory bodies.

Reduce Your Cloud Costs

Cloud providers charge users based on consumption, making unused data in the cloud a financial burden. DSPM addresses this issue by identifying duplicate, redundant, and abandoned data and providing actionable remediation steps to eliminate unnecessary costs and risks.

By actively managing and optimizing data storage in the cloud, you can significantly reduce expenses associated with unused data, align cloud costs with actual utility, and improve overall financial efficiency.

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Getting started with DSPM

Regardless of your chosen DSPM provider, your security strategy must be based on a firm foundation. However, once you’ve decided upon the one you want, here’s how to get started:

DSPM Deployment

Deploying DSPM depends on several factors, such as your provider, your business ecosystem, and your data security needs. While there is no set formula, these are the steps you’d need to take for a smooth and successful deployment.

  • Understand your organization’s security needs: Understand your organization’s security needs. Determine the type of data you have and check if it is regulated by industry standards or governance to decide on the appropriate security level.
  • Identify a solution that matches your requirements: In addition to providing security, you need to look for a DSPM solution that’s within your budget. It should also scale with your business as it grows and be easy to use for your team. Finally, it should integrate seamlessly with your existing technologies.
  • Prepare your team: Establish definitive policies and procedures, where each member of the security team understands their responsibilities. That can make the adoption of the solution easier and more likely to succeed.
  • Configure your DSPM solution: Once the solution adapts to your organization’s data flows and typical behavior, it will implement security policy adjustments. It may also provide custom recommendations for policy changes to ensure better protection.
  • DSPM integration with various security tools: Incorporate the DSPM with your other data security solutions, ideally during initial deployment. The most effective DSPM solutions will integrate with your stack natively and automatically.

DSPM Integrations

DSPM tools are able to work effectively with other security technologies, enhancing overall data security. Here’s how DSPM integrates with various tools:

  • IAM: Identity and access management ensures that only authorized users access sensitive data. DSPM automates the enforcement and management of authentication and access controls.
  • CASBs: Cloud access security brokers provide visibility into cloud infrastructure, enforce data protection policies, and prevent unauthorized cloud access. DSPM extends data security to cloud data stores.
  • EDR: Monitors and detects threats on endpoints in real time. DSPM ensures data security policies are in sync with endpoint detection and response solutions.
  • SIEM: This consolidates and analyzes data to detect and respond to incidents. DSPM integration enhances visibility and correlation, strengthening data security.
  • DLP: A data loss prevention solution protects sensitive data from loss or theft. DSPM monitors and controls data movement, preventing unauthorized access or disclosure.
  • IDPS: An intrusion detection and prevention system monitors for suspicious activity to prevent unauthorized access or malicious traffic. DSPM enables real-time monitoring and alerting for proactive prevention.
  • Security Analytics: This uses machine learning to identify potential threats by recognizing patterns and anomalies. DSPM integration provides real-time threat detection and actionable insights to improve security posture.

These integrations make your data security posture management more robust and effective by ensuring comprehensive coverage and seamless collaboration with existing security and data protection tools.

DSPM Best Practices

Effective DSPM requires careful configuration and planning, focusing on five key practices:

  • Discover and Classify Data: Achieve visibility and control over sensitive data through classification to help prioritize security efforts.
  • Restrict Access and Implement Least Privilege: Manage and limit data access to reduce breach risk and ensure compliance.
  • Continuous Risk Assessment and Auditing: Regularly monitor data stores and activity against security standards and regulations.
  • Prioritize Risk and Remediation: Analyze and score data risks, setting up alerts and rapid response mechanisms.
  • Establish Policies and Procedures: Create and enforce data handling policies to minimize errors and misuse.

The Difference Between DSPM vs CSPM vs CIEM

Overall Data Security (On-Premises + Cloud)

Data security posture management focuses on managing data security across both on-premises and cloud environments. It helps identify and assess risks, monitor security controls, and plan for incident responses.

Cloud-Specific Security

CSPM, or cloud security posture management, concentrates specifically on the security of cloud data. It identifies and manages risks and compliance issues in cloud environments through asset discovery, configuration management, access management, and detection and response to threats.

In essence, the difference between DSPM and CSPM is that while both are used to mitigate security and privacy risks, one focuses on overall data while the other prioritizes effective cloud data security.

You might need CSPM if your company uses cloud-based services, such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud. However, if you store any data, you must prioritize security and should consider a holistic approach to data security.

Management of Cloud Permissions and Entitlements

CIEM focuses on managing entitlements and permissions within cloud infrastructures. It monitors, identifies, and manages risks and noncompliance related to user permissions and access rights.

How to Choose a DSPM Solution?

Global Data Visibility

  • Comprehensive visibility: The ability to see all data within your organization, whether known or previously undiscovered.
  • Details: Information about data type, location, owner, who has access, and the overall security posture of the data.

Data Hygiene

  • Remediation: Tools to clean up misplaced, redundant, and obsolete data.
  • Continuous Monitoring: Policies and mechanisms that keep data clean and up-to-date continuously.

Risk Management

  • Prioritization: Identifying which security issues pose the greatest risk based on the sensitivity of the data.
  • Detection and Remediation: Finding and fixing overexposed, unprotected, or misplaced data.

Access Governance

  • User Identification: Identifying all users, roles, and resources that have access to sensitive data.
  • Privilege Enforcement: Ensuring that users have the correct level of access privileges, neither too much nor too little.

Privacy and Compliance

  • Violation Detection: Identifying when data handling practices violate regulatory or industry standards.
  • Compliance Reporting: Generating reports that demonstrate compliance with relevant regulations, ready for audits.

Additional Considerations

  • Integration Capabilities: The DSPM should seamlessly integrate with your existing tools and infrastructure to create a cohesive security strategy.
  • Automation: The solution should automate as many processes as possible, including monitoring, risk assessment, and remediation, to reduce manual effort and increase efficiency.
  • Scalability: The ability to grow and adapt as your organization expands and as your security needs evolve.
  • User-Friendly Interface: Intuitive dashboards and reporting tools that provide clear, actionable insights and make it easy to manage your data security posture.

DSPM with BigID

BigID is a data intelligence platform for privacy, security, and governance that reduces risk, improves the security posture of the data, and orchestrates controls.

Our solution automatically identifies and protects sensitive and regulated data across the cloud, on-prem, and SaaS. It also offers data security posture management to mitigate the risk of unauthorized exposure and regulatory non-compliance.

Powered with generative AI, our intuitive platform allows you to gain complete visibility and control across all your data to assess and improve your security posture wherever your data resides. With BigID’s data-centric approach, you can automatically map, monitor, and remediate data under one platform.

Equip your organization with the critical capabilities of DSPM with BigID’s data discovery, user access maps, data flow tracking, protection against data exposure, and data security posture reports.
Reduce risk across your entire business with Big ID.

Get a 1:1 demo here with our security experts today.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is DSPM?

DSPM stands for data security posture management. It is a process and framework that helps organizations identify, assess, and manage data security risks across on-premises and cloud environments.

How does DSPM work?

DSPM continuously monitors data security, identifies risks, assesses vulnerabilities, and provides remediation strategies. It uses techniques like vulnerability scanning, penetration testing, and security audits.

Why is DSPM important?

DSPM is crucial for reducing data breach risks, ensuring compliance with regulations, and protecting sensitive data. It helps organizations maintain a strong data security posture.

What are the key components of DSPM?

The key components include data discovery and classification, risk assessment and prioritization, remediation and prevention, compliance and reporting, and seamless integration and scalability.

Does DSPM integrate with other security tools?

DSPM integrates with IAM, CASBs, EDR, SIEM, DLP, IDPS, and security analytics tools to provide a comprehensive security solution. This integration enhances visibility, automates enforcement, and strengthens overall data security.

What should I look for in a DSPM platform?

Look for features like global data visibility, data hygiene, intelligent risk management, access governance, privacy and compliance capabilities, integration with existing tools, automation, scalability, and a user-friendly interface.