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/ What Is Data Security Posture Management (DSPM)?

What Is Data Security Posture Management (DSPM)?

Data security posture management (DSPM) is designed to help protect data—both local and in the cloud—against unauthorized access, misuse, or theft by continuously monitoring, updating, and refining security. DSPM solutions use intelligent automation to identify potential vulnerabilities, enact safeguards, and perform regular system tests and audits.

What Is Data Security Posture Management (DSPM)?

How DSPM Works

DSPM solutions evaluate an organization's security controls and identify vulnerabilities. They may use vulnerability scans, penetration testing, security audits of data centers and cloud environments, and other means.

The DSPM and security staff can add or change firewall rules, access controls, IPS configurations, and other security controls based on identified risks. Regular testing and auditing help organizations maintain effective controls and more quickly identify and implement changes to enhance their data security posture.

Key Components of DSPM

The key components and functions of DSPM typically include:

  1. Data discovery and classification of sensitive data across various sources and formats to ensure effective data security management regardless of its location.
  2. Real-time monitoring, vulnerability scanning, and risk assessment of the organization's data security posture to identify and prioritize data security risks and vulnerabilities with capabilities such as AI/ML, risk correlation, and integration with threat intelligence.
  3. Risk remediation to minimize the risk of data exposure. Fix issues and violations at the source with context-based guided remediation. 
  4. Compliance and reporting in line with regulations and industry standards. This includes benchmarking, flagging of violations, and alerting and reporting options to demonstrate compliance.
  5. Seamless integration and scalability to work with existing infrastructure and tools (e.g., SIEMs, ITSM, multicloud) as well as support evolving security needs and growth.

Working together, these components help organizations effectively protect sensitive data, detect and respond to threats, ensure compliance, and integrate with existing security infrastructure.

Why Modern Organizations Need DSPM

Modern organizations need Data Security Posture Management (DSPM) for several reasons:

Complex Environments

Securing data is difficult in environments that combine on-premises, cloud, and hybrid infrastructures. DSPM integrations make it easier to seamlessly manage data security across these environments, ensuring consistent protection and compliance.

Increasing Volume of Data

It can be a challenge to understand and manage a large volume of data spread across many locations and formats. DSPM provides complete visibility into data assets, enabling organizations to discover, classify, and protect sensitive data effectively.

Evolving Threat Landscape

Sophisticated new cyberthreats emerge all the time. Using advanced technologies like AI, ML, and risk correlation, DSPM helps organizations detect and respond to hidden threats.

Compliance Assurance

Regulatory compliance violations can lead to financial penalties, reputation damage, and legal consequences. DSPM solutions provide built-in frameworks to track and attest compliance with GDPR, HIPAA, and more.

Data Governance and Risk Management

When traditional security tools create alerts without accounting for risk priority, it leads to alert fatigue and more breaches. DSPM solutions provide robust data governance insights to help organizations proactively manage vulnerabilities, prioritize remediation efforts, and reduce data risk.

Let’s look at some of the benefits an effective DSPM solution can offer in today’s data risk landscape.

Benefits of DSPM

Embedded properly within your security stack, the right DSPM solution can provide:

  • Stronger security and a reduced risk of data breaches: By automating identification and management of misconfigurations, outdated policies, faulty data classification, excessive permissions, and more, DSPM helps you better protect your data.
  • Tighter compliance and reputation support: By auditing your policies against data protection laws and regulations (e.g., HIPAA, GDPR, CCPA), DSPM helps you avoid fines and legal action while assuring customers and partners that their data is secure.
  • Smaller attack surface through effective data discovery: With a holistic view of where your data is located—even across multicloud and SaaS environments—you can more confidently create policies and controls that suit the needs of your organization and its data assets.
  • Greater operational efficiency and cost savings: Using automation to continuously monitor and strengthen your security posture, DSPM enables your security team to focus on other high-value priorities while helping you avoid the costs of a breach.

How to Get Started with DSPM

The key to establishing a DSPM suite is laying a strong foundation for your data security. Conduct an initial risk assessment to identify vulnerabilities and threats, implement appropriate security controls based on your findings, and then establish a plan that incorporates the DSPM solution for continuous monitoring, regular audits, and incident response.

DSPM Deployment

Deployment will look different depending on your DSPM provider, the rest of your ecosystem, and your organization’s needs. However, any successful deployment will require a few basic steps:

  1. Identify your organization’s security requirements. Understand the types of data you need to protect and any data governance regulations or industry standards you need to follow.
  2. Select the best solution for your business needs. Looking beyond security, consider cost-effectiveness, scalability, ease of use, integration with your existing technology, and reporting.
  3. Empower your security team to work with the DSPM. Set your team up to succeed with clear policies and procedures, and make sure everyone understands their responsibilities.
  4. Deploy and configure the DSPM, and start monitoring. As it learns your environment and data flows, your DSPM will automatically start helping you fine-tune your security policies.
  5. Integrate the DSPM with your other security tools, ideally during initial deployment. The most effective DSPM solutions will integrate with your stack natively and automatically. We’ll look at key integrations next.

DSPM Integrations

DSPM tools are more effective when working together with complementary technologies such as:

  • Identity and access management (IAM) tools ensure only authorized users have access to sensitive data. Integration with DSPM enables you to automate enforcement and management of your authentication and access controls.
  • Cloud access security brokers (CASBs) provide visibility into cloud infrastructure and apps, enforce data protection policies, and prevent unauthorized cloud access. Integration with DSPM lets you extend your data security posture to your cloud data stores.
  • Endpoint detection and response (EDR) tools monitor and detect threats on endpoints in real time. Integration with DSPM helps you keep your data security policies in lockstep with your EDR solution.
  • Security information and event management (SIEM) tools consolidate and analyze data from your enterprise environment to support incident detection and response. Integration with DSPM provides broader visibility and correlation to bolster your data security.
  • Data loss prevention (DLP) tools protect sensitive data from loss or theft. Integration with DSPM lets the solution monitor and control data as it moves through your environment, helping it make appropriate changes to prevent unauthorized access or disclosure.
  • Intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS) monitor for suspicious activity to prevent illicit access or malicious traffic (e.g., DoS attacks). Integration with DSPM enables real-time monitoring and alerting for proactive incident prevention.
  • Security analytics tools use machine learning to identify potential threats by recognizing patterns and anomalies. Integration with DSPM provides real-time threat detection and insights that help you take action to bolster your security posture.

DSPM Best Practices

Effective DSPM comes down to effective configuration and planning, both for ongoing tuning and for your policy frameworks and procedures. As you adopt and deploy a DSPM solution, start by considering these five basic best practices.

1. Discover and Classify Data

To reduce overall data breach risk, you need to achieve visibility, then control, over the sensitive data in your ecosystem. Consider data tagging or other solutions to classify structured (e.g., PII) and unstructured data (e.g., source code, secrets, intellectual property). This will help your security team understand the most critical areas to focus security efforts.

2. Restrict Data Access and Implement Least-Privileged Access

Controlling access to data is one of the basics of cybersecurity hygiene. Effective cloud data security must manage privileged access while limiting data breach exposure, reducing privileged user friction, maintaining customer trust, and ensuring compliance.

3. Perform Continuous Risk Assessment and Compliance Auditing

As data moves in the cloud, you need to continuously monitor new and modified data stores against your security posture and regulations. This includes regular assessments and auditing as well as monitoring network traffic, system logs, and user activity. Sensitive data can be subject to various mandates (e.g., GDPR, CCPA, HIPAA, PCI DSS), and you need more than classification to ensure your handling of it is compliant.

4. Prioritize Risk and Remediation

To prioritize security efforts and implement remediation measures to proactively reduce risk, your team needs to be able to analyze and score data risks based on data sensitivity, regulatory compliance, security controls, and other factors. Using this as a basis for configuring real-time alerts and notifications of potential incidents, you’ll be able to respond quickly and effectively to mitigate the impact of a breach.

5. Establish Security Policies and Procedures

To govern how data is handled and protected, your security tools and teams need the right policies and procedures in place. These should cover data access, use, storage, and disposal, aligned with industry standards and regulatory requirements. By establishing clear policies and procedures, you’ll reduce the likelihood of human error or intentional misuse of data leading to a breach.

What’s the Difference Between DSPM, CSPM, and CIEM?

DSPM, cloud security posture management (CSPM), and cloud infrastructure entitlement management (CIEM) solutions all help you manage your security posture, with some key differences:

  • DSPM focuses on your overall data security posture, including on-premises and cloud environments, by helping you identify and assess risks, monitor controls, and plan incident response.
  • CSPM focuses on cloud data security, identifying and managing risk and compliance issues in cloud environments through asset discovery, configuration and access management, and detection and response.
  • CIEM monitors, identifies, and manages risks and noncompliance related to entitlements and permissions in cloud infrastructure.

Zscaler DSPM

Zscaler AI Data Protection is one platform for all data, in all channels. It secures structured and unstructured data across web, SaaS-based services, public cloud environments, private applications, email, and endpoints.

As a key part of the platform, Zscaler DSPM extends robust, best-in-class security for your data into the public cloud. It provides granular visibility into cloud data, classifies and identifies data and access, and contextualizes data exposure and security posture, empowering you to prevent and remediate cloud data breaches at scale.

It uses a single and unified DLP engine to deliver consistent data protection across all channels. By following all users across all locations as well as governing data in-use and at-rest, it ensures seamless compliance and protection for sensitive data.

Key capabilities include:

  • Data discovery to identify structured and unstructured data stores
  • Data classification to automatically detect and classify sensitive data with out-of-box detection and custom rules 
  • Data access control to map and track access to data resources 
  • Risk assessment to detect and prioritize risk based on severity and impact using AI, ML, and advanced threat correlation
  • Guided risk remediation to offer step-by-step instructions with complete context
  • Compliance management to automatically map data security posture against industry benchmarks and standards such as CIS, NIST, GDPR*, and PCI DSS* (*product roadmap)


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Learn more about Zscaler DSPM

Suggested Resources

Launch: Introducing Zscaler DSPM
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Protect Cloud Data and Stop Breaches with Zscaler DSPM
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Ebook: Top 5 Requirements for Your Next Data Security Posture Management (DSPM) Solution
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