Securing SaaS Access: Navigating the Challenges of Unmanaged Applications

Jun 3, 2024

Jun 3, 2024

blue polygon icon

SaaS applications support many facets of modern business operations, yet these services often lie beyond traditional security perimeters, complicating user management and access control. This article explores securing SaaS access more effectively, regardless of how the app was acquired.

Link to Linkedin
Link to Linkedin
Link to Linkedin
Securing SaaS Access: Navigating the Challenges of Unmanaged Applications
This webinar will cover:

Ever feel like achieving SaaS security puts you between a rock and a hard place?

SaaS applications support many facets of modern business operations, yet these services often lie beyond traditional security perimeters, complicating user management and access control. The decentralized acquisition of SaaS, where employees independently subscribe to SaaS tools without IT oversight (AKA shadow SaaS), compounds the problem and increases an organization’s attack surface. Get used to shadow SaaS and the business-led IT movement, though—it's growing and here to stay—and that's the rock. The hard place is that despite our best efforts to implement security controls like SSO and MFA, protecting unmanaged SaaS applications remains a significant industry challenge.

So what’s the answer? Let’s explore how to secure SaaS access more effectively, regardless of how the app was acquired.

Limitations of Existing Identity Controls

Both SSO and MFA are highly effective for managing access to known, sanctioned SaaS applications. However, they often miss unmanaged SaaS, creating significant blind spots in an organization's security posture. Unmanaged SaaS results from various scenarios:

Employee-driven SaaS: Call it shadow SaaS or business-led IT, the outcome is the same: an app acquired outside of IT’s visibility. According to Gartner, we should expect this trend to continue at an accelerated pace.

SaaS churn: SaaS is easily acquired, and it’s also quickly retired for something else. Many SaaS apps have short lifecycles, estimated at a 40-50% churn rate per year. Because of the high churn rate, many apps remain unfederated.

Smaller SaaS user bases: While enterprise-level SaaS applications like Slack, Zoom, and Salesforce are typically managed through conventional procurement and IT processes, many SaaS applications are smaller, with fewer than ten users. According to various studies, these smaller applications account for 74% of all apps. Due to the smaller user bases, it’s challenging to 1) identify the apps in the first place and 2) monitor logins, manage credentials, and identify unauthorized account sharing.  

Varied SaaS usage: Employees use SaaS applications differently, leading to actions misaligned with their roles or permissions. Secure SaaS access is not one-size-fits-all; usage variance makes it difficult to standardize access controls across the organization without the input of stakeholders.

In short, securing a diverse and dispersed SaaS environment is complex, complicating the decision of which applications should be prioritized for MFA implementation or integrated into SSO for enhanced SaaS access.

The Risks of Unmanaged SaaS Access

Beyond the immediate security risks and potential for data breaches, unmanaged SaaS access undermines data governance and accountability, making it difficult for organizations to ensure that sensitive information is handled according to mandated standards. Compliance requirements are increasing surrounding MFA requirements, specifically:  

PCI DSS 4.0: By March 2025, PCI DSS 4.0 will require more robust authentication controls, emphasizing MFA.

NYDFS Cybersecurity Regulation: NYDFS requires MFA for individuals accessing sensitive company information, including SaaS.

HIPAA: HIPAA has long required MFA to access electronic health records (EHRs) and other sensitive healthcare data.

Updated Safeguards Rule: In addition to mandating financial institutions to review access controls periodically and maintain a SaaS inventory, MFA is required for anyone accessing customer information on your system.

As the requirements for MFA and access controls expand across various standards, effective SaaS access management is essential—and a more practical approach for prioritizing SaaS for MFA and SSO is needed, too. The good news is that Grip can meet these demands while enhancing your overall SaaS security.

Optimizing Your SaaS Access Management

Managing access control for SaaS applications is a multifaceted challenge that only scratches the surface of the complexities IT and security teams face. Security teams need a comprehensive solution to achieve higher confidence in SaaS security, and Grip’s latest update fills the need.

Secure Access Coverage is a dedicated section in the Grip SaaS Security Control Plane (SSCP), which allows companies to prioritize and secure unmanaged applications and those with unconfirmed SSO and MFA status. It provides:

  • Visibility: Identifies both managed and unmanaged applications and displays their MFA and SSO status, answering questions such as, “Does this app support SSO and MFA? Are they enabled?”
  • Prioritization: Helps rank which apps to focus on first.
  • Actionable insights: Recommends actions to secure both managed and unmanaged applications.
  • Progress monitoring: Tracks actions taken on applications for auditability.

See how it works:

Key Benefits of Secure Access Coverage

Secure Access Coverage (SAC) simplifies an otherwise complex workflow that improves your SaaS discovery capabilities, prioritizes your SaaS risks, recommends prescriptive next steps, and involves the appropriate stakeholders to manage SaaS scalably. As a result, SAC empowers teams to:

  • Reduce risks, protecting shadow SaaS with SSO & MFA.
  • Exceed compliance mandates, satisfying internal & external requirements.
  • Get more value from existing tools, extending their coverage without adding cost.

Securing SaaS Access for Present and Future Risks

Shadow SaaS and the business-led IT movement are the primary forces behind the surge in unmanaged SaaS applications, making it a challenge for organizations to maintain strong security protocols. All predictions are that the trends will only grow, and the risks will snowball if left unmanaged.  

Effective SaaS access management begins with understanding today’s SaaS environment and usage behaviors, and adopting innovative, adaptable solutions for the evolving digital landscape. Grip enables security teams to transition from being caught between a rock and a hard place to finding a SaaS sweet spot, empowering innovation and productivity while gaining visibility into the apps employees use and how they access them. And with the enhanced Secure Access Coverage, teams can strategically prioritize MFA and SSO implementation, meeting compliance standards and significantly reducing an organization’s SaaS-related risks.

To learn more about Grip, Secure Access Coverage, or to see a live demo of the SaaS Security Control Plane, we invite you to book time with our team.

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.