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Is SSPM Enough to Protect the Identity Fabric of SaaS Security?

May 18, 2023

May 18, 2023

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5 Minutes

Discover the limitations of SSPM in protecting the identity fabric of SaaS security and explore alternative solutions for a comprehensive security strategy.

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Josh Mayfield
VP Product Marketing
Is SSPM Enough to Protect the Identity Fabric of SaaS Security?
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Is SSPM Enough to Protect the Identity Fabric of SaaS Security?

Today, many organizations rely on software as a service (SaaS) for critical business functions and thus need SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM) tools. SSPM solutions are just one component of an identity fabric, a composable, scalable architecture centered on securing identities that’s often part of Cybersecurity Mesh Architecture (CSMA). Learn more about the benefits – and limitations – of SSPM in this guide from Grip.

Importance of SaaS Security and Identity Fabric Protection

Organizations in many different industries are responsible for the proper management of sensitive data, whether it’s customer credit card information or electronic medical records. Safeguarding private data is paramount, but with an increasingly distributed workforce and more and more companies shifting to cloud computing, it can be a challenge to implement comprehensive cybersecurity protections.

Whether you’re a small startup or a multinational corporation, you’re probably using SaaS solutions. That means you could be managing dozens – or even hundreds – of applications that hold sensitive data, resulting in identity sprawl, dangling access, or weak credentials. As part of your identity data fabric, you need SaaS security tools that control provisioning, credentials, access, and permissions.

What Is an Identity Fabric?

A popular approach to Identity and Access Management (IAM) is the identity fabric. This is simply a distributed framework that integrates different IAM tools to manage access across a set of cloud computing services. The key components of an identity fabric include:

  • Centralized management of user identities and access levels
  • Enhanced visibility and threat detection across SaaS applications and on-premise tools
  • More efficient user authentication and authorization protocols
  • A higher degree of compliance with internal policies and regulatory requirements, such as GDPR

Ultimately, the goal of an identity fabric is to lower your risk exposure by using a consistent approach to identity security throughout the entire organization.

Identity Fabric Vulnerabilities

An identity fabric is unique to your enterprise, and is the last remaining control point — and exposure when left unguarded. Human error and oversights can create vulnerabilities that put identities risk. These include:

Shadow SaaS

Certain SaaS applications are sanctioned, controlled, and monitored by your IT team. But in the case of business-led IT, you may have shadow SaaS – applications that different teams are installing and using without the knowledge or oversight of your IT department. This means that your organization could be unknowingly exposed to security breaches, data loss, and more.

Shared or Dangling Access

People are creatures of habit. Even when they have been trained on best practices, they are liable to use weak or duplicate passwords. Even worse, a department or team may use a shared set of credentials to use a SaaS application. And without a centralized policy for onboarding and offboarding users, former employees or contractors may retain access to SaaS programs – and by extension, sensitive data – after they have left an organization.

Understanding SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM)

Security teams know that SaaS applications are now business-critical tools. Because these applications are cloud-based, they require a specific security posture that lets enterprises work efficiently while lowering their risk profile. SSPM refers to a group of automated security tools and processes that track and manage threats in SaaS applications. Specifically, SSPM features address these key issues:

  • Configuration: Is the application set up correctly and safely?
  • Privileges: Are there too many end users with administrator permissions?
  • Access: Who can access the application? Beyond human access like employees and contractors, are there established integrations or service accounts?
  • Activity: How is the application being used?

How Does an SSPM Work?

Each SaaS app is different, but an SSPM gives you a common approach to managing risk. SSPM solutions integrate into a SaaS application interface. They then scan the app for user permissions or configurations that are not in compliance with your internal policies or regulatory guidelines. SSPM offers:

  • Improved visibility across the SaaS layer
  • Enhanced security
  • Activity monitoring
  • Cost savings

SSPM is a valuable component of identity fabric security architecture, not a standalone solution.

Limitations of SSPM for Identity Fabric

Although SSPM offers helpful features, it’s not a perfect solution. SaaS applications are dynamic – many are easily customized and developers may frequently release patches or updates. It can be hard for SSPM solutions to keep up with the rapid pace of SaaS development while still integrating correctly with other security solutions.

Plus, even if SSPM identifies and fixes misconfigurations, it doesn’t offer identity control or limit what end users upload to or download from an application. That leaves a major risk that contractors, consultants, interns, or former employees could misuse sensitive company data.

And while cloud computing is efficient, a single point of failure (SPOF) can be a risk. Without hardware and software redundancies built in, a failed switch or router can interrupt access to SaaS applications.

Why SSPM Is Not Enough

Unfortunately, SSPM still leaves vulnerabilities in IAM and SaaS security. SSPM tools let IT administrators discover misconfigurations, but they don’t provide information about who is using specific applications. Depending on the SSPM you choose, you may also have incomplete support for certain applications. The result is gaps in your security fabric and risk exposure.

Using Grip for Identity Fabric Protection and SaaS Security

What makes Grip’s SaaS Security Control Plane (SSCP) unique is its ability to offer both full visibility across the SaaS layer, as well as granular control. The Grip SSCP can:

  • Find current and historic gaps in identity access control
  • Monitor suspicious identity activity
  • Track and manage justified use of SaaS services
  • Automatically prioritize potential SaaS risks

Using identity as the key enforcement point, an SSCP makes it easier to manage both SaaS services and users, while overcoming the limits of tools like single sign-on (SSO).

Learn More about SaaS Security

No identity fabric is complete without a comprehensive solution for securing the SaaS layer. By partnering with Grip, you can have SaaS oversight in place in the form of an SSCP before implementing SSPM tools. For more insight into Grip’s solutions and expertise, request a demo of the SSCP or schedule a free SaaS security risk assessment today.

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