With benefits including enhanced functionality, rich customisation options, and high compatibility with other applications, it’s no surprise that vast numbers of companies have adopted SaaS (software-as-a-service) applications. Subsequently, research shows that around 70% of applications organisations use are SaaS, which is set to rise to 85% by 2025.
However, organisations must overcome the challenges of hosting their data and applications remotely when migrating infrastructure into the cloud. Above all, companies often struggle to maintain visibility over the security posture of their cloud-based applications in the same way they did when hosted on-premises. Consequently, essential aspects of application security, like effective access control and compliance management, become more complex – leaving the company more vulnerable to cloud-based cyber attacks.
Fortunately, SaaS security posture management (SSPM) tools offer solutions to these challenges, providing security teams visibility and control over their SaaS applications to better secure sensitive data and improve their overall cloud cyber security posture. Let’s look at SaaS security posture management tools and how they help companies avoid cloud hacks, malware and other cyber threats facing their cloud environment.
What is SSPM and why is it important for SaaS?
SaaS security posture management (SSPM) is an automated tool that continuously monitors SaaS applications for:
- Inactive user accounts
- Excessive access permissions
- Compliance risks
- Instances of “shadow IT”, i.e., employees using SaaS applications without IT’s knowledge or consent
SSPM is vital for SaaS applications because they’re hosted remotely, in data centres maintained by cloud service providers (CSPs). While this offers benefits like simple scalability and the ability to access applications from any device, it makes security posture management more difficult for organisations, as they have diminished visibility and influence over the ecosystem. An SSPM solution enhances a company’s security posture management capabilities, giving them greater insight into their cloud applications’ security and how to better mitigate threats.
Additionally, SSPM complements a cloud access security broker (CASB), which enforces the company’s overall cloud cybersecurity policies and who can access its data. By conducting frequent, automated SaaS cyber security assessments, SSPM ensures they adhere to the company’s security policies and help maintain its entire cyber security posture.
How does SSPM differ from traditional security posture management?
The main difference between SSPM and traditional security posture management is that SaaS applications are hosted offsite by a CSP instead of “on-prem” by a company. Consequently, visibility over SaaS apps in a remote cloud environment can be problematic – which is where an SSPM solution comes in.
Additionally, SSPM differs from cloud security posture management (CSPM), which is concerned with better securing the entire cloud infrastructure – while an SSPM tool focuses on SaaS applications.
What are some key benefits of using SSPM tools to manage security risks?
The key advantages of using SSPM tools to manage cyber security risks include:
• The ability to respond to cyber threats in real-time
• Automatic detection of misconfigurations and exploitable vulnerabilities
• Detect instances of shadow IT
• Identifying inactive user accounts and employees with excess access privileges
10 critical benefits of SaaS security posture management
Now that we’ve looked at what SaaS Security Posture Management is and why it’s essential, here are 10 benefits of SSPM.
1. Protect your SaaS platform against cyber threats
Firstly, having an SSPM in place provides constant insight into the vulnerabilities of your SaaS applications and how to address them, which reduces the probability of cyberattacks. This allows security teams to be proactive about cloud security instead of being forced to react after a breach has taken place. Better still, some SSPM tools have auto-remediation capabilities, allowing them to eliminate cyber threats as they present themselves.
2. Ensure compliance with industry regulations
Because SaaS applications are dynamic, distributed, and often ephemeral, compliance with data privacy regulations can prove challenging. SSPM continuously monitors the SaaS applications for misconfigurations, weak controls and other issues that risk the organisation failing to comply with regulations and legislation like GDPR, PCI DSS, and HIPAA.
When compliance risk factors are identified, the SSPM tool alerts the security team and, in some cases, can automatically correct the issue without further intervention. Subsequently, the reporting provided by a SaaS security posture management tool reduces the time needed to prepare for a compliance audit – often considerably.
3. Gain visibility into your SaaS platform’s security
As security teams can’t mitigate cyber threats they’re unaware of, gaining maximum visibility into the security posture of each SaaS application is a significant advantage SSPM tools offer. This is especially important for dealing with the use of unauthorised SaaS apps by employees, i.e., shadow IT, as SSPN brings such applications to IT’s attention and allows them to mitigate potential threats (or restrict their use entirely).
4. Implement a stronger access management strategy
Controlling which users can access particular data and functionality on SaaS applications – or who can access the applications at all – is essential to effective SaaS security posture management.
SSPM helps manage cloud identity and access management (IAM) by highlighting inactive user accounts, which present a security risk as hackers could use them for malicious purposes. https://www.cloudflare.com/learning/security/glossary/attack-vector/More importantly, SSPM can help identify which accounts have excessive or unwarranted access privileges, alerting security teams to remove them.
5. Ensure data privacy and confidentiality for customers
By enforcing compliance with data privacy regulations and improving access management, SSPM tools better protect your customers’ sensitive information.
Also, by knowing a SaaS is vulnerable, you can take steps to prevent supply chain attacks, in which hackers use trusted SaaS applications to deploy malware, which may involve ceasing the use of a SaaS application altogether in favour of a more secure alternative. As well as protecting your customer’s data, you’ll better ensure the security of the data and assets of members of your supply network, like vendors and partners, which you have access to.
6. Build and maintain trust with your customers
The stronger access management and data privacy compliance an SSPM provides allow you to demonstrate your commitment to information security to your customers. With data breaches increasingly growing as a concern, this helps build trust with your existing customers and sets you apart from your less security-conscious competitors.
7. Detect and respond to security incidents in real-time
SSPM tools provide continuous monitoring capabilities that allow security teams to detect SaaS application security events as they happen. This is far more effective than ad-hoc monitoring and testing, which open the door for breaches between scheduled tests. Continuous monitoring reflects a “assume breach” mentality, in which security teams presuppose their cloud security has been compromised and are constantly looking for exploited attack vectors.
An SSPM solution will also send automated alerts to security teams when it discovers misconfigurations and vulnerabilities in cloud-based applications. Plus, as mentioned earlier, some SSPM tools can automatically mitigate risk factors.
8. Identify Misconfigurations and Vulnerabilities
Common SaaS misconfigurations, such as open ports and overly permissive access privileges, are easy mistakes to make – but, unfortunately, they’re just as easily exploited by malicious actors. SSPM scans for configuration errors that could expose sensitive data or provide a way for cybercriminals to access your network.
SSPM tools also address the problem of configuration drift, i.e., when applications initially configured correctly are gradually changed – without the changes being authorised or adequately documented.
9. Improve operational efficiency and reduce downtime
The more visibility you have over your cloud environment, the better aware you are of your cyber risk profile – and the better your ability to hone in on the controls and policies that mitigate your most significant cloud risks. Consequently, you can reduce the downtimes of your SaaS applications and cloud environment in general.
10. Stay ahead of emerging cyber security threats
The reports generated by SaaS security posture management tools provide security teams with regular cyber threat intelligence that they can use to make their cloud environments more secure. By analysing the nature of their most frequent and significant cyber attacks and combining it with threat intelligence from other sources, companies can maintain a better awareness of emerging cyber threats – and work on appropriate mitigation strategies as soon as possible.
How RiskXchange can help your company improve its SaaS security posture management
RiskXchange can help you select the ideal SSPM solution for your particular cloud computing environment and address the challenges of cloud-based application security. Contact us for your free cyber risk security assessment and begin the critical process of strengthening your cloud security posture.