SaaS Risk Management for SaaS Security

Mar 27, 2023

Mar 27, 2023

blue polygon icon

6 min

Weak SaaS security is an opportunity for cyber attackers to infiltrate your organization and hijack your data. A SaaS risk management program identifies SaaS usage across your organization and identifies the risky and unattended accounts.

Link to Linkedin
Link to Linkedin
Link to Linkedin
Josh Mayfield
VP Product Marketing
SaaS Risk Management for SaaS Security
This webinar will cover:

Every business today relies on SaaS applications to support business operations and remain competitive. However, as SaaS adoption grows, so does an organization's risk. And without effective management, SaaS risks continue to proliferate, leaving your organization vulnerable.

Understanding SaaS Risk Management Principles

Most IT departments have a set of standards or guidelines for adopting new applications or tools. Before approving a SaaS application for company use, an IT team typically reviews:

  • Usage controls
  • Privacy settings
  • User authentication
  • Vendor security maturity 

Unfortunately, many organizations make the mistake of viewing and addressing risk in silos. For example, they may have separate strategies for managing identity, endpoint, network, and email risk. The reality, however, is that all the risk is related, especially in the SaaS environment. 

Say an employee’s email account is compromised; the breach could extend beyond the email account since email can be used to reset passwords, providing access to multiple systems. In this scenario, the  IT team needs to take immediate steps to secure the employee’s endpoint device, the network, and any applications they use.

Types of Risks in SaaS

SaaS applications offer scalability and flexibility for companies, but with that comes a set of risks. These include:

Shadow IT

Also known as business-led IT, shadow IT includes any tool or service that your employees use without the explicit knowledge and approval of your IT department. Without the right security controls, any end user with internet access can download and install a SaaS application. 

This makes your whole organization vulnerable: unsanctioned SaaS tools can create major security gaps. And your IT team can’t put appropriate protections in place if they don’t even know the full extent of SaaS sprawl

Potential Data Loss

SaaS tools often have access to critical business data. Even if you’ve vetted an application’s security and privacy settings, you should still be prepared for a potential breach. 

Exposure or loss of sensitive data can have a major impact on your company’s finances and reputation. If private customer data is leaked, you run the risk of violating regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).


A typical company might use over 300 different SaaS applications. SaaS usage can also be uneven across an enterprise – certain applications may be used company-wide, while others might be limited to a specific team, like marketing or finance. Ongoing monitoring is critical to keep track of configurations and permissions. Otherwise, you run the risk of unintentionally exposing company data and assets. 

Unauthorized Access

Unapproved or unmonitored SaaS applications may help bad actors obtain private information or continue using company assets. One common bad practice is dangling access – an employee or contractor leaves your company, but retains their SaaS credentials and can continue using the application. While often an honest mistake, this affects your SaaS perimeter and can create unsecured access points. Furthermore, because SaaS applications are cloud-based, you could also be at risk of brute-force attacks.

Threats to SaaS Security

Weak SaaS security is an opportunity for cyber attackers to infiltrate your organization and hijack your data. The most common threats associated with SaaS applications include:

  • Account Takeovers: Hackers gain access, usually through phishing, social engineering, or malware, to steal account credentials and use a SaaS account for illicit purposes. Once they gain access, the can also view, modify, or delete the user’s data. 
  • Malware: Because many SaaS applications use cloud storage, it can be difficult to monitor all cloud activity across the entire SaaS layer. This lets attackers hide malware like viruses or spyware. 
  • Phishing: This attack method uses social engineering to convince an end user to reveal their credentials.
  • SQL injection: An attacker can use Structured Query Language to inject malicious code into a SaaS application. This gives the attacker access to the SaaS data, which they can then view or modify.

Ongoing employee training and a central, enforceable security policy can help reduce the risk of common SaaS attacks.

frost and sullivan award

Best Practices for Managing SaaS Risk

You don’t need to eliminate SaaS applications to protect your company. Implementing safe SaaS usage practices can significantly reduce your risk. These include:

Identity and Access Management (IAM)

Identity sprawl occurs when employees have access to SaaS accounts that aren’t monitored by IT and may be unsecured. Under an IAM policy, each end user in the company has a unique profile. They must use this profile to securely access any SaaS tools. That way, all user credentials are authenticated, and SaaS permissions are centrally managed by your IT team.  

Monitoring and Review

When it comes to SaaS risk management, regular review of your security settings is key. Cybersecurity mesh architecture (CSMA) can help you tailor a central security policy to individual programs or applications. 


The best SaaS tools have end-to-end encryption, a security setting that protects cloud data with a unique encryption key. While encryption doesn’t eliminate risk, it can prevent attackers from accessing your data even if they penetrate the cloud environment.

Common Mistakes to Avoid in SaaS Risk Management

SaaS applications are now so ubiquitous that companies may become less vigilant in their security practices. Avoid these common mistakes:

Poor Compliance Oversight

Make sure your IT and legal teams coordinate on regulatory compliance. If you’re adopting a new SaaS tool, you need to know if the vendor complies with privacy regulations like GDPR or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and if they hold third-party security certifications. An external security audit can help you identify any potential issues. 

Shared Credentials

Too often, teams will use a shared login for a SaaS application. This is especially common in tiered-pricing models, where a company pays a SaaS subscription fee based on the number of users or licenses. But shared credentials are unsafe – they can fall into the wrong hands and make it more difficult for IT staff to trace issues and manage permissions. Each end user needs to have a unique username and password to reduce identity risk.

Data Storage

Because SaaS applications have access to potentially sensitive company data, you need to understand where information will be stored. Your vetting process should include a review of the vendor’s storage policies. Will your data be in a private data center or a secure cloud service? Do you have control over the storage location? Get a complete picture of the vendor's data security practices before you move forward.

SaaS Risk Management for SaaS Security

A strong security posture is essential if you want to mitigate the risks associated with SaaS. At Grip, we understand the challenges of shadow SaaS and the need for a comprehensive risk management dashboard. 

That’s why we created the SaaS Security Control Plane – a platform that gives you complete control over SaaS access and usage company-wide. Contact Grip to set up a complimentary SaaS security risk assessment or request a demo today.

In this webinar:
See More
See more
Fill out the form and watch webinar
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Register now and save your seat!
Registration successful!
Webinar link will be sent to your email soon
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
In this webinar:
See More
See more

See Grip, the leading SaaS discovery tool, live.

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.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.