How Cybersecurity Mesh Architecture Can Enhance SaaS Security

Mar 17, 2023

Mar 17, 2023

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5 min

Unlock the power of Cybersecurity Mesh Architecture (CSMA) to enhance SaaS security. Discover how it can improve compliance and protect your organization in our guide.

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Josh Mayfield
VP Product Marketing
How Cybersecurity Mesh Architecture Can Enhance SaaS Security
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How Cybersecurity Mesh Architecture Can Enhance SaaS Security

With more organizations embracing remote work than ever, software-as-a-service (SaaS) security has become increasingly challenging. A typical enterprise might use dozens of cloud-based SaaS applications, with varying access levels, across different employees and teams. 

Fortunately, cybersecurity mesh architecture (CSMA) is a good security approach. It’s a scalable, customizable solution that secures the SaaS layer. Learn more about the benefits of CSMA and best practices for SaaS security.

Understanding the Importance of Identity in SaaS Security

When employees want to use a SaaS application, they typically need to create an account with a username and password. Even at a small organization, credential management can quickly become an issue – each employee sets up credentials for different SaaS accounts, creating multiple entry points for cyber attacks. Plus, employees may use weak passwords, choose the same password for multiple services, or share credentials with their colleagues.

Traditional approaches to securing SaaS identities include single sign-on and identity provider (IdP) systems. But these existing security solutions only work for sanctioned SaaS, or in the case of IdP systems, voluntary compliance by users. Unfortunately, distributed teams and business-led IT policies can lead to shadow SaaS– a set of applications being used without an IT department's knowledge or oversight.

According to Forbes, the actual number of SaaS applications in use on a corporate network could be three times as many as the IT department knows about. This can be an even bigger problem when employees, interns, or contractors leave an organization, as they might be able to retain SaaS credentials and maintain access to private company information.

In recent years, the rush to move to hybrid or remote work meant that many organizations were suddenly dealing with SaaS identity sprawl. Users and their devices are no longer centrally located in a traditional office setting. That makes it more challenging for an IT department to establish a secure perimeter and maintain visibility in preventing security incidents. As a result of shadow SaaS, uncontrolled access, and weak credentials, enterprises are exposed to major security risks, operational complexity, and increased business costs.

Cybersecurity Mesh Architecture and SaaS Security

Cybersecurity mesh architecture (CSMA), a term first coined by Gartner, is a composable and scalable solution that takes individual security tools out of silos to create an interoperable ecosystem. A CSMA framework enhances a company’s SaaS security through four distinct layers:

  • A security analytics and intelligence layer that gathers data to analyze threats and respond accordingly. 
  • A distributed identity mesh fabric that provides identity and access management. 
  • A consolidated policy management to apply a single security policy to different tools and applications. 
  • A central dashboard to give complete transparency into the security ecosystem. 

By creating an integrated structure, CSMA ensures that all assets are monitored and secured, whether they are cloud-based or on-premises. End users can connect access points securely from anywhere in the world, whether they work onsite or remotely.

Best Practices for Enhancing SaaS Security with Cybersecurity Mesh Architecture

A CSMA framework creates a scalable security ecosystem that can adapt as you take on new SaaS services or remove outdated SaaS. By creating a set of enabling services, CSMA automates routine tasks and orchestrates the application of comprehensive security policies. Follow these recommendations when creating and implementing a CSMA solution:

  • Needs assessment: First, review your organization’s existing end users, known SaaS tools, and network architecture to get a better understanding of your risk profile and security needs.
  • Design: When selecting security solutions, prioritize tools that are designed to operate as part of a larger framework and only choose vendors with a track record of embracing evolving security standards.
  • Implementation: Apply CSMA principles to your enterprise’s existing systems, using zero-trust architecture and moving away from traditional, less secure tools like VPNs.
  • Tracking and reporting: Once your CSMA is in place, use key performance indicators (KPIs) to ensure that all tools work well. For example, your IT team may want to track the number of intrusion attempts, monthly service tickets, or the average time to resolve potential threats.

By drawing in predictive analytics and taking a collaborative approach to security, CSMA offers a higher degree of protection from attacks while improving responsiveness to any breaches that do occur.

SaaS Security Control Plane is a Key Element of CSMA

One of the main components of an effective CSMA is a SaaS Security Control Plane (SSCP). This tool secures and defends the SaaS identity perimeter by identifying, assessing, and indexing all an organization's active and dormant SaaS applications. 

The SSCP uses identity-based discovery to prioritize potential threats and enforce security policies. Risk prioritization takes a matrix of factors into account, such as:

  • Total number of users
  • User growth over time
  • Data access levels

The SSCP provides sophisticated identity and access management (IAM), with the ability to lock and manage accounts, identify weak or duplicate passwords, and even automate password hygiene practices. For example, it can automatically rotate an existing set of passwords among different applications to add another layer of protection for identity security

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How Cybersecurity Mesh Architecture Can Enhance SaaS Security

When it comes to identity security, don’t take any risks. Choose a security solution like Grip SSCP that fits into your mesh architecture. Grip SSCP works to identify shadow SaaS, offer full visibility into your SaaS layer, and resolve potential threats. Our platform is:

  • Fast: Requiring only a 15-minute deployment, Grip SSCP discovers SaaS usage for all employees throughout an organization.
  • Convenient: Once in place, Grip SSCP universalizes security controls and manages access throughout the entire SaaS layer.
  • Tailored: Grip works with your unique SaaS environment, capturing up to 10 years of history and continuously discovering new and abandoned SaaS.

To learn more about how Grip can secure your SaaS layer, request a personalized demo or schedule your free SaaS security risk assessment today.

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Gain a complete view of your SaaS usage—including shadow SaaS and rogue cloud accounts—from an identity-centric viewpoint. See how Grip can improve the security of your enterprise.

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