SSPM vs. CASB: What Do You Need for SaaS Security?

If you have a Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB), do you also need a solution for SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM)? Yes, you do, and this blog will explain why. CASBs have an important role to play in protecting Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications and their data. However, the CASB is only one element of strong SaaS security posture. A variety of other risks remain present, even with CASB’s protections. They include configuration errors, malicious code, deficiently secured third-party integrations, and more. An SSPM solution, which can integrate with a CASB, offers more complete SaaS security.

How CASBs work and why enterprises use them

The CASB has been around for a decade. It came into existence to help security managers deal with risk exposure from SaaS that did not exist when apps and data were only on-premises. Traditional firewalls can do little to protect SaaS apps and data. Indeed, with SaaS and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, users could be almost anywhere on the public Internet, on any device. This environment increased the likelihood of unauthorized access and data breaches.

CASB mitigates these risks by functioning as a point of visibility and control. As its name suggests, it brokers SaaS access requests and resulting user sessions—enforcing security policies in the process. A CASB typically works through a cloud proxy architecture. It intercepts requests for SaaS access, regardless of where they originate, blocking the ones that don’t match the rules and routing the rest to the right place. In the meantime, the CASB monitors traffic and access requests, checking for malware and suspicious behavior, among other factors. It sends alerts to system admins if it detects threats or policy violations.

The limits of CASBs in the bigger picture of SaaS security posture

CASBs contribute significant risk mitigation to SaaS security. However, they cannot help in every area of risk. When a CASB is part of a Secure Access Service Edge (SASE)architecture, it combines with Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA),Firewall-as-a-Service (FWaaS), Security Web Gateway (SWG) and aSoftware-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) to enable even better cloud security. Yet, even with SASE, certain aspects of SaaS security posture remain neglected. 

Weaknesses in SaaS security posture that continue, despite CASB or SASE, include SaaS configuration problems, deficient access management controls, and third-party risks. Configuration errors, for example, are internal in nature. A CASB cannot help when SaaS file shares are open to public access by default, to name one common configuration scenario. Regarding access management controls, CASB will do its job even if a SaaS customer allows overly simple passwords or password sharing.Third-party risks, such as those created when one SaaS app can access another, bypass CASB’s policy enforcement point. 

Compliance is another area of SaaS security posture that is not addressed by CASB. A SaaS customer might have to abide by regulations covering data sovereignty or consumer privacy. CASB does not have an impact on such compliance requirements.

Poor accountmanagement is also a problem that cannot be alleviated by CASB. If a SaaScustomer does not stay on top of user accounts, closing them when an employeeleaves the company, for instance, CASB will still let them through.

How SSPM solutions complement CASBs for SaaS security

An SSPM solution addresses the gaps in SaaS security posture left by a CASB operating on its own, or as part of a SASE architecture. These solutions work in various different ways, but in general, they thoroughly and regularly scan SaaS instances with the goal of identifying and prioritizing SaaS security problems. Using automated processes, augmented by Artificial Intelligence (AI), they can spot misconfigurations, questionable third-party integrations, and external sharing that may violate security policies. 

Some SSPM solutions, such as Suridata, enable system owners to monitor SaaS security posture across multiple SaaS applications. This is an increasingly important need, given that the average mid-sized enterprise runs more than 185 SaaS apps. Keeping track of configurations and third-party integrations in such a broad, complex environment is nearly impossible using manual processes. The solution may also provide unified management and monitoring capabilities, which simplifies SaaS security operations. 

An SSPM solution can also monitor SaaS user behavior to detect suspicious events that might reveal a cyber-attack in progress or the presence of a malicious user. Here, the SSPM solution starts to overlap with the CASB. As the solution detects problems, it may be able to orchestrate their remediation. This process could be automated and continuous enabling the ongoing strengthening of SaaS security posture. 

As products evolve, some CASBs are starting to offer functionality that incorporates that of SSPM solutions. Alternatively, the two solutions can be integrated. Connecting a CASB with an SSPM solution helps the CASB do its job better. The SSPM solution can ingest data and alerts from the CASB into its SaaS security monitoring, and respond accordingly, for example.


CASBs do a lot for SaaS security, but they cannot address all the elements of SaaS security posture on their own. Certain areas of risk, such as SaaS configuration, remain open. An SSPM solution can fill in the missing pieces, monitoring configurations, third-party integrations and more. Together, a CASB and an SSPM can deliver a fuller, more robust SaaS security posture.

Lee Kappon

Co-Founder & CEO

Back to list

Watch also