SaaS Security: How to Defend Your Organization's SaaS Perimeter

Jan 23, 2023

Jan 23, 2023

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SaaS security is vital to an organization's cybersecurity strategy. SaaS security detects, monitors, and protects against security vulnerabilities and attacks.

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Josh Mayfield
SaaS Security: How to Defend Your Organization's SaaS Perimeter
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SaaS Security: How to Defend Your Organization's SaaS Perimeter 

SaaS security is key to effective risk management in most modern enterprises. Just a few years ago, many businesses were hosting all their applications and data on onsite servers. But with the rise of cloud computing, an increasing number of companies have adopted software as a service (SaaS) applications. SaaS applications are flexible and customizable and offer a lower barrier to adoption because they do not require major capital expenditures or IT support. However, they present specific security concerns. Learn more about how to protect your SaaS perimeter.

SaaS Security and Business-Led IT

Most companies have a central IT team that is responsible for purchasing and implementing any new software or applications, but business-led IT is gaining traction as the de facto approach to technology purchases. With this approach, employees or teams acquire and use SaaS applications outside the purview of a company’s IT staff, meaning they are also not protected by the company’s security strategy.

Business-led IT helps companies stay nimble because they can quickly acquire the tools they need to compete and respond to market changes. Unfortunately, this model can also expose companies to risk. When different departments or teams use a range of different applications, a business can end up with SaaS cyber security gaps and risky practices like weak passwords or shared credentials. Since SaaS tools are cloud-based and internet-accessible, you can’t control access to the enterprise perimeter in the same way.

Because teams can acquire SaaS tools outside of the IT purchasing process, an issue known as shadow SaaS, IT leaders may not even know how many SaaS applications are in use. Forbes reports that up to 70% of an organization’s applications may be unknown to its IT team.

What Are the SaaS Security Risks of Business-Led IT?

Effective SaaS security includes managing the SaaS layer, monitoring application usage, and protecting company data from attacks. SaaS security risks include:

  • Ransomware and malware: SaaS can be used to distribute ransomware or malware that users download to their computers.
  • Phishing: Today’s phishing attacks are sophisticated. Compromised SaaS credentials can be used to access other applications and systems, providing a major opportunity for cybercriminals to breach your perimeter and access sensitive data.
  • Zero-day vulnerability: This refers to any kind of software vulnerability unknown to developers, so there’s no patch or immediate fix if an attack happens.
  • Incomplete vetting processes: Depending on the maturity of the SaaS vendor, they may not have mature security processes and operations that meet your organization’s security standards and regulatory requirements.

Top SaaS Security Concerns

You can’t eliminate SaaS applications from your operations, nor would you want to. Instead, you need to find a way for your teams to use SaaS safely. When it comes to SaaS security best practices, the primary objectives are:

  • Maintain visibility: With more and more employees working remotely and using personal devices, IT teams need more advanced solutions that are identity aware and able to filter out false positives to keep track of the complete SaaS layer. 
  • Mitigate risk: Every SaaS application is unique. A standardized risk assessment process is required to properly vet each service and ensure it meets your privacy and security requirements. 
  • Control access: Teams and organizations grow and change. You need centralized control to manage who has access to particular applications and ensure that abandoned SaaS doesn’t offer cybercriminals a way in.

SaaS Security for the SaaS Service Layer

Cloud computing has three layers:

  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS)
  • Software as a Service (SaaS)

The SaaS layer is the complete set of tools and applications your employees regularly use to do their jobs. Modern work SaaS can include applications for almost any purpose including:

  • File storage and sharing, such as Dropbox
  • Customer relationship management, such as Salesforce
  • Internal task management, such as Monday
  • Customer communication and outbound marketing, such as Mailchimp or Sendgrid 
  • Meetings and collaboration, such as Zoom

However, today’s companies can have hundreds of additional SaaS tools to manage everything from social media to ecommerce. Not every SaaS solution is a good fit, and it’s common for teams to abandon certain tools that don’t suit their needs. This leads to SaaS sprawl – the perimeter grows, and SaaS tools are unmonitored and unsecured. Furthermore, companies need to ensure that SaaS applications meet their internal compliance and regulatory requirements. 

How to Detect SaaS Security Vulnerabilities

Using a SaaS security checklist, combined with ongoing monitoring and threat assessment, significantly lowers your risk. Once an attack has happened, it may be too late to recover your data. You need a proactive tool that employs discovery methods to identify SaaS across all your networks and devices. 

Your SaaS security checklist should also include:

  • Using single sign-on (SSO) and multi-factor authentication (MFA)
  • Monitoring shared SaaS accounts
  • Discovering SaaS accounts created by employees
  • Identifying and closing dormant SaaS accounts
  • Implementing and enforcing password policies

SaaS Security Platforms

Many companies use a Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) to manage and protect the data that SaaS applications can access. However, CASBs don’t always fit with business-led IT: they’re focused on destroying threats rather than proactively safeguarding your SaaS layer. 

In contrast, a SaaS Security Control Plane (SSCP) solution discovers SaaS services, indexes risk, and enforces security measures. An SSCP helps IT teams embrace business-led IT while still protecting the enterprise perimeter.

SaaS Cloud Security Secures the Identity Perimeter 

At Grip, we’re dedicated to helping businesses defend IT resources with adequate SaaS security. Grip SSCP lets you discover, index, and prioritize SaaS security needs with a simple, user-friendly interface. To learn more about our SaaS solutions, read our SaaS security guide, request a demo or get a free SaaS security risk assessment from Grip today.

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