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SaaS Security: Identity and Access Management

Dec 9, 2022

Dec 9, 2022

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4 min

SaaS identity and access management is the aspect of security that allows authorized employees to access the resources they need at the proper times for valid reasons.

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SaaS Security: Identity and Access Management
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Of the many roles the cybersecurity department fills for businesses, SaaS IAM is one of the most essential. SaaS identity and access management is the aspect of security that allows authorized employees to access the resources they need at the proper times for valid reasons. It encompasses the various networks, applications, devices, and similar tools a business utilizes to ensure employees have secure access to the apps they need to do their jobs. 

Since IAM is so vital to cybersecurity processes, understanding its related security risks is crucial. This guide is designed to help information security directors, CISOs, and other information security leaders better understand these risks and provide them with insights on navigating them. 

Understanding IAM for SaaS Security 

IAM uses identities, or unique profiles for each user, to provide secure access to IT resources, including SaaS. This feature is key because identity is the only element of the many SaaS apps users provision on their own that is within the cybersecurity team’s control — aside from officially sanctioned SaaS, you cannot control the tens of thousands of SaaS apps available on the internet or the network connections to them. 

Three primary methods of IAM, each with unique benefits and setbacks, are used to secure SaaS apps. These variations include: 

IAM for Known Core SaaS Apps 

This IAM is reserved for apps the IT department either purchased itself or knows employees use. These apps are typically handled by single sign-on (SSO), an approach to authentication that permits users to access various systems and apps using a sole ID and password. 

You have a single location to monitor SaaS with this type of IAM, which makes it beneficial for enforcing security. However, it is only valuable for those core apps, plus licensing can be costly for this IAM. 

IAM for General SaaS Apps 

Some SaaS apps do not utilize or integrate with SSO products, or the costs to do so are not justifiable. So instead, they rely on password managers or identity providers (IdP), such as Google  or Microsoft. As with core apps, IAM SaaS solutions for these apps can be more convenient for managing access since there is a single place to supervise. However, it is voluntary, and most employees will opt not to use it. 

IAM for SaaS Apps that do Not Support SSO or IdP 

Password managers offer a secure means for employees to store, create, and share credentials apps that do not support SSO or IdPs. 

You may choose password managers because they offer a central location for IAM. Yet, they also present significant risks. First, they are voluntary, which may encourage employees to use personal passwords. They also cannot prevent poor password practices, such as failing to rotate codes and repeating the same combinations of characters. 

Identity and Access Management (IAM) for Shadow SaaS 

In general, SaaS IAM has two responsibilities. It begins by verifying that the user or system attempting to access an app is who it claims to be by authenticating its credentials. If access is granted, IAM ensures the user only employs resources or completes actions they have permission to use. 

While IAM can be helpful for known SaaS resources and even some non-SSO apps, it is largely ineffective for shadow SaaS. Any SaaS that employees procure without notifying IT is labeled shadow SaaS. Since it cannot deliver adequate shadow SaaS access management, relying on IAM alone may expose your business to several vulnerabilities, such as: 

  • Increased, hidden costs 
  • Potentially more data breaches
  • Reduced compliance with data regulations, resulting in possible legal issues 

Shadow SaaS IAM Best Practices

In many ways, the modern business world depends on SaaS, and it is only projected to grow in the coming years. While the SaaS sprawl is inevitable, your IT department can implement tactics to better manage the spread. Some shadow SaaS IAM strategies include: 

  • Make SaaS more visible: Getting a more accurate picture of how many apps employees, including their cost and usage, can help you identify shadow IT. 
  • Develop a system to evaluate new SaaS: When employees request the IT team about using a particular app or software, having a system for assessing the resource can close gaps in security. 
  • Augment onboarding: When new hires are training, be sure to tell them which apps are sanctioned by the IT department and which other employees use. This can encourage them away from using another service. 
  • Automate offboarding: When an employee leaves the company, the best practice is to turn off every SaaS account, especially for shadow SaaS, so the employee cannot access them afterward. Because many people use hundreds of apps, this is best done through automation.

Ultimately, controlling the SaaS sprawl boils down to one set of steps — better identifying SaaS, prioritizing those with the most risk, and securing them to cultivate stronger IT security.   

The Benefits of an SSCP for SaaS IAM 

Between the complexities of sprawling SaaS and a future where passwordless login may become the norm, the traditional approach with IAM is not enough to protect your IT infrastructure. You need IAM SaaS solutions that provide broader protection — like the SaaS Security Control Plane (SSCP). 

An SSCP enables companies to locate, prioritize, secure, and arrange SaaS security for all applications — authorized and unauthorized — and deliver secure access across all devices — managed or unmanaged. Other advantages of this shadow SaaS access management solution include: 

  • Accounts for gaps with SSO 
  • Boosts credential security 
  • It makes up for some of the restrictions of cloud access security brokers (CASBs) 
  • Offers better management of SaaS impacted by employee offboarding 

Enhance SaaS Identity and Access Management with Grip 

If your IT department lacks the resources to achieve proper SaaS IAM, consider the SSCP from Grip. Our innovation will enable you to update your security architecture to meet modern SaaS demands and embrace a more secure business-led IT strategy. 

To learn more about SaaS and access management IAM solutions at Grip, request a demo today. 

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