CSPM vs. NHIM (Non-Human Identity Management)

Ido Geffen, VP Product

Ido Geffen, VP Product

CSPM vs. NHIM (Non-Human Identity Management)

CSPM vs. NHIM (Non-Human Identity Management)


CSPM and NHI Management serve distinct purposes and address different threat vectors, complementing each other to provide comprehensive security coverage.

CSPM focuses on fortifying cloud infrastructure security, identifying misconfigurations, and ensuring compliance with security policies. It is indispensable for organizations concerned with maintaining a secure cloud environment and adhering to industry standards.

NHI Management, on the other hand, addresses the unique challenges associated with managing and securing non-human identities. NHIs are responsible for governing the service-to-service connections. If cloud infrastructure are the islands where code lives, NHIs are the bridges that connect them. NHIM focuses on providing visibility, assessing security posture and automating the lifecycle of NHIs (provisioning, rotation, decommissioning) 

In today's rapidly evolving digital landscape, the security of cloud environments stands as a paramount concern for organizations of all sizes. As businesses increasingly rely on cloud infrastructure and services, ensuring the protection of sensitive data and resources has become a top priority. Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) and Non-Human Identity (NHI) Management are two essential and complementary components of a robust cloud security strategy.

What Is CSPM?

Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) tools excel in assessing, managing, and enhancing the security of cloud environments. They focus on identifying and remedying infrastructure misconfigurations, ensuring compliance with security policies, and minimizing the risk of security breaches.

Key capabilities of CSPM:

CSPM Features:

  • Continuous Monitoring: CSPM tools maintain a watch over cloud environments, detecting deviations from security best practices.
  • Risk Assessment and Compliance: They conduct thorough risk assessments, ensuring compliance with industry standards and regulations.
  • Remediation: CSPM solutions spring into action, automatically remedying security issues and enforcing policy compliance.
  • Policy Enforcement: They automate the enforcement of security policies, maintaining a consistent security posture across the cloud ecosystem.

What is NHI Management?

In cloud security, Non-Human Identities (NHIs) such as service accounts, IAM roles, and access keys, play a critical yet often overlooked role. NHI Management solutions provide a comprehensive approach to these entities, illuminating their presence within the network and overseeing their lifecycle from inception to retirement. This holistic management encapsulates visibility—offering a clear view of all NHIs in the environment, posture—assessing and enhancing their security configuration, and lifecycle management—ensuring their efficient operation and timely decommissioning. Through NHIM, organizations gain a balanced strategy that not only secures but also optimizes the use of NHIs in supporting cloud operations.

Key capabilities of NHI Management:

  • Continuous Discovery and Unified Inventory:

NHI Management solutions continuously discover and dynamically update a centralized inventory of all non-human identities across various platforms, including hybrid cloud environments (IaaS such as AWS, Azure, GCP; PaaS/SaaS; and on-prem systems like Active Directory and database local accounts). This capability ensures that all NHIs, whether previously known or newly instantiated, are consistently tracked and managed.

  • Holistic Contextual Visibility with Ownership and Dependency Mapping:

NHI Management tools provide deep insights into the usage patterns, operational dependencies, and ownership details of non-human identities. This comprehensive visibility, incorporating data from across the IT ecosystem, including interactions with infrastructure as code (IaC), IT service management (ITSM) systems, logs, and development tools. This enables informed decision-making and supports robust security and compliance strategies.

  • Active Posture Management with Automated Risk Assessment and Remediation:

NHI Management proactively assesses the security posture of non-human identities and automatically identifies vulnerabilities. It generates remediation plans based on these assessments, facilitating swift and effective responses to mitigate potential risks. This proactive stance helps maintain the integrity and security of the IT infrastructure continuously.

  • Lifecycle Automation for Secure Secret Management:

The management of secrets associated with non-human identities must be automated across their entire lifecycle. This includes the provisioning, policy definition, credential rotation, and decommissioning of secrets. Integration with various secret managers (e.g., HashiCorp Vault, Azure Key Vault, CyberArk, Delinea) is crucial to ensure that credential handling is secure and consistent across all environments. Automating these processes minimizes the risk of credential theft and misuse, supporting a robust security posture.

  • Developer-Ready, API-Driven Integration:

NHI Management solutions are designed to integrate seamlessly into the developer workflow and operational stack through robust, well-documented APIs. This ensures that non-human identity management can be effectively handled within existing development tools and paradigms, enhancing efficiency and reducing the likelihood of security gaps.

CSPM vs. NHIM (Non-Human Identity Management)


Why Both CSPM and NHIM Are Essential For Enterprise Security

While CSPM and NHI management each address distinct facets of cloud security, their true power lies in collaboration:

Complementary: CSPM focuses on infrastructure security and compliance, while NHI management specializes in non-human identity management.

Comprehensive: By combining CSPM and NHI Management, organizations achieve a comprehensive security posture, effectively mitigating a wide range of threats

By including both CSPM and NHI Management into their cloud security strategy, organizations can achieve comprehensive protection against a wide range of threats. 

llustrating Their Significance

Consider the following scenarios that exemplify the pivotal role of CSPM and NHI Management:

CSPM in Action

Let’s consider a scenario of a cloud server that has been misconfigured during setup, inadvertently exposing it to public internet access. Additionally, this server is running an application vulnerable to the log4j exploit, significantly increasing the risk of unauthorized access. The CSPM tool alerts the security team to the misconfiguration and the vulnerability, recommends immediate actions to rectify the server's exposure, and suggests updating the application to patch the security vulnerability. By doing so, the CSPM ensures rapid mitigation of potential threats while reinforcing the organization's cloud security posture.

NHI management in Action

In this scenario, an organization makes extensive use of service accounts and API keys. These NHIs have been accumulating over time as the company digital transformation strategy progressed and developers increased their use of cloud and microservices. The organization is now faced with the challenge of identifying and decommissioning all the active, but unused non-human identities. These stale NHIs, which are often forgotten after project completion or personnel changes, pose significant security risks, potentially granting unauthorized access if exploited. In this case, an NHIM solution, like Oasis, drastically simplifies the process by automatically discovering, inventorying, and assessing which identities are stale, enabling timely decommissioning through automated remediation plans.

Experience the benefits of Oasis Security today and streamline the management of allnon-human identities with confidence and ease.

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