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Identity Security Governance: How to Defend Your Organization's Identity Perimeter

Mar 7, 2023

Mar 7, 2023

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6 min

Improve SaaS security with identity governance and administration. Learn how to secure user access, automate compliance & improve user management in our guide.

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Josh Mayfield
VP Product Marketing
Identity Security Governance: How to Defend Your Organization's Identity Perimeter
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Identity Security Governance: How to Defend Your Organization's Identity Perimeter 

Today, it’s common for an organization to have employees located in multiple time zones, with a mix of remote, hybrid, and onsite teams. This has permanently changed the enterprise perimeter, the first point where a company’s defenses begin. This presents a security challenge: traditional perimeter protections won’t work as well if employees aren’t collocated at a single, central office.

 With SaaS especially, the company no longer controls the infrastructure, applications, or endpoint, making the security products protecting those areas ineffective. 

Thus, distributed enterprises need sophisticated identity governance and administration tools to protect themselves from cybersecurity threats. Learn more about identity security and cloud security mesh architecture.

The Challenges of SaaS Security and Identity

Software-as-a-service (SaaS) tools are widely used across a range of industries. SaaS applications have many benefits: they’re customizable, flexible, and affordable. But these cloud-based solutions also carry major risks. 

In business-led environments, IT departments might not even know how many SaaS applications are in use. And with limited IT control over SaaS purchasing and implementation, employees may have dangling access, weak passwords, or shared credentials. Plus, SaaS tools may have limited security maturity or functions that are not available to IT teams because it was not an officially sanctioned application.

IT teams generally group SaaS applications into three categories:

  • Sanctioned SaaS: These applications have been reviewed, approved, and installed under IT management. They pose a minimal security risk.
  • Allowed SaaS: These tools may be more difficult to monitor and track but have been conditionally permitted by IT explicitly or implicitly, meaning they are not blocked or prohibited
  • Blocked SaaS: Usage of these applications is specifically forbidden because of security risks. However, blocking specific SaaS applications is not easy to do on unmanaged devices.

Strong identity security requires that an enterprise take a comprehensive approach to credential management: authenticating each identity, assigning the appropriate permissions, and continually monitoring credentials and access for each end user.

How Identity Governance and Administration Protects SaaS Services

A common maxim in cybersecurity is that you can’t protect what you can’t see. IT teams need to know which SaaS applications are in use and which employees are using them – across the entire enterprise. Identity governance and administration (IGA) is an approach to SaaS security that controls the account and credential access to minimize risk. 

What Is Identity Governance?

This is an organization's set of policies and processes to control access to SaaS applications and data, including access reviews, logging, and reporting.

What Is Identity Administration?

The other primary component of IGA, identity administration, refers to managing accounts, credentials, and devices, including user onboarding, offboarding protocols, and Identity Provider (IdP) systems.

How Organizations Can Create an Identity Fabric Mesh to Improve Their SaaS Security

Too often, security services are fragmented and operate in silos. This prevents IT teams from having complete visibility and can lead to overlap and redundancies. Multiple dashboards and security programs result in higher operational overhead, as well.

Cybersecurity or cloud security mesh architecture (CSMA) is a security framework that enables standalone solutions to work together in complementary ways. This framework can secure assets whether they’re cloud-based, on-premise, or located at a data center. Security protections are tailored to the risk level and function of each asset. CSMA services include:

  • Policy management: CSMA applies your company-wide access policy to individual security tools. 
  • Identity management: CSMA controls identity management and can provide adaptive access.
  • Analytics: A CSMA model can gather data, prompt the appropriate security response, and generate reports.

Gartner notes that CSMA offers a unique level of granular access control and consistent policy enforcement. Building on the technology of security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR), CSMA takes an identity-focused approach and is more adaptable for enterprises with complex infrastructures.

Identity Governance and Administration Best Practices

Take these steps to help ensure success when implementing IGA in a SaaS environment:

  • Manage access: A central IGA policy gives your IT team complete visibility into each end user and their respective permissions, so they can proactively monitor access and edit permissions when needed. 
  • Control users: Users with the wrong permissions pose a security risk, especially when access creep occurs over time. An identity access governance solution controls provisioning and de-provisioning access, enforcing the principle of least privilege.
  • Automate compliance: IGA tools help you automate routine tasks during employee onboarding and offboarding processes, saving time and streamlining workflows.
  • Unify silos: A single comprehensive IGA policy breaks down siloed workflows. Using a central platform for ongoing identity control, monitoring, and analytics helps simplify operations. At the same time, you’ll be improving visibility across the SaaS layer and potentially cutting costs.

SaaS Security Control Plane is a Key Element of Identity Governance and Administration

A SaaS Security Control Plane (SSCP) is a security solution that discovers SaaS applications, identifies threats, and enforces security controls. An SSCP enforces IGA policies by implementing security controls across the entire SaaS layer:

  • Discovery: The SSCP identifies and captures shadow SaaS.
  • Identity governance: An SSCP can control SaaS applications even if they don’t have IdP or single sign-on (SSO) functionality. 
  • Password management: With an SSCP, you can enhance password security with functions like automatic rotation or blind generation. This eliminates weak or duplicate password usage.
  • Offboarding: A SSCP solution ensures that former employees or contractors won’t retain access to any company data or services.

An SSCP is scalable, so it will continue to monitor and identify SaaS as an enterprise grows or takes on new cloud-based services.

Learn More about Identity Governance and Administration for SaaS Security

You need a comprehensive identity and access governance solution to improve SaaS security and minimize risk. That’s where Grip comes in: In as little as 15 minutes, Grip SSCP can give you a complete picture of your SaaS usage and provide insights into authentication methods. 

Grip automatically prioritizes SaaS risks so you can remediate issues and quickly secure credentials. Our platform is designed to be simple, cost-effective, and user-friendly while delivering best-in-class security protections. To get started, request a demo or a complimentary SaaS security risk assessment today.

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