What is SSPM? 7 Building Blocks of SaaS Security Posture Management
Have you ever woken up at 2:00 AM, worried if your company’s most sensitive data was safe? Or perhaps you worried about whether you did everything required to protect privacy laws and avoid unimaginable violations.
From HR to finance departments, companies run most of their workloads on third-party software. While there is no turning back on SaaS, we also can’t ignore that it opens up a can of security worms for your business. 55% of organizations experienced a SaaS security event in the last two years. And to make matters worse, mitigating these issues often falls outside the capabilities of traditional security tools.
But that’s what SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM) is here for. SSPM solutions give IT and security teams visibility into the security posture of their sprawling SaaS ecosystems—detecting vulnerabilities and, in some cases, offering automated remediation – both essentials in combating increasingly frequent SaaS threats.
What is SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM)?
SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM) is a combination of tools, processes, and practices that aim to improve the security posture of SaaS environments. Security posture concerns an organization’s ability to defend its networks, information systems, and other digital resources.
An organization that uses SaaS apps needs SSPM to protect its data and business operations. The average company now uses over a hundred SaaS apps (that they know of… which is a whole other problem). These apps store corporate data in ways that may not be secure—which tends to be opaque to IT and security teams.
In contrast to traditional on-premises applications and databases, which security teams can relatively quickly defend and monitor, SaaS apps are freestanding. They’re operated by third parties, offering a wide latitude in security configuration to individual users.
Implemented correctly, an SSPM solution helps mitigate the security risks inherent in SaaS and unique to the SaaS architecture. It extends an organization’s security posture into SaaS. Benefits include a lower risk of data breach and leakage from SaaS and less chance of SaaS compliance problems.
The challenges of implementing SSPM
Making SSPM work can be challenging, primarily due to the sheer scale of most SaaS environments. If a company has five SaaS apps, admins can check each for compliance. If there are a hundred apps, however, admins will be overloaded and unable to check for compliance consistently. Establishing and maintaining visibility over configurations, user access, data placement, and third-party integrations can be challenging.
A parallel problem comes from SaaS apps’ rapid development cycles. Each SaaS vendor will update its app regularly, perhaps as often as every few weeks. Each new version has the potential to break security controls and integrations, so the third-party plugin that was secure last week may no longer be. The plugins may also create security risks due to frequent updates and neglect.
Only 10% of companies continuously conduct SaaS security configuration checks, and 5% don’t scan for misconfigurations. Without multidimensional visibility and monitoring, it is possible to miss threats and vulnerabilities that can negatively affect the SaaS security posture.
Compliance requirements can change, too, which may lead to specific SaaS configurations and data storage decisions causing compliance problems. Alternatively, SaaS providers may move your customers’ Personal Identifiable Data (PII) data between regions that don’t allow such moves, and you’ll be hard-pressed to know about it.
There’s also the “shadow SaaS” issue, where employees sign up for SaaS apps independently and store corporate data on them without getting IT or security permission. This is more common than people realize and can be a significant security headache as it creates invisible risk exposure. A good SSPM solution will be able to scan for shadow SaaS and flag it for intervention by IT.
7 Building Blocks of SaaS Security Posture Management
All effective SSPM solutions should offer a high degree of flexibility, scalability, and visibility into your SaaS environment. But there are other vital factors to consider:
All SSPM solutions feature some degree of automation; the more automation, the better. With each SaaS app potentially having hundreds of settings and a user base that could span thousands of devices, human admins simply cannot keep up with the SaaS security workload. Ideally, teams will be free to analyze complicated SaaS security situations that arise while the bulk of security alerts and remediations occur automatically. This is possible with Suridata, which automates some of its SaaS security remediations, such as misconfigurations and version changes.
2. Misconfiguration discovery and remediation
Misconfigurations are common in a SaaS environment and can lead to risk exposure. For example, if users keep the default settings on certain file-sharing SaaS apps, data stored on them may be accessible worldwide. An SSPM solution must offer deep visibility into all configurations, settings, and any built-in security controls that affect SaaS security posture. With the ability to discover SaaS misconfigurations, an SSPM solution can also identify SaaS apps that are not using multi-factor authentication (MFA) in critical accounts. It can flag unencrypted file sharing, which might cause risk exposure in certain use cases.
3. Detection and remediation of insecure third-party integrations
Employees who use third-party plugins to integrate their SaaS apps with others can inadvertently expose sensitive data to unauthorized access, among other risks. The integration may seem innocuous, such as linking a SaaS-based customer relationship management (CRM) solution with a SaaS email program. The problem is that the email program will treat the CRM as a user who does not need to be authenticated after the initial connection is established. A malicious actor can exploit this connection channel to access the email account.
SSPM solutions like Suridata offer a countermeasure. They provide an overview of each third-party integration’s source and give admins detailed information about all the various permissions granted via the plugin. This way, teams can detect “overprivileged” users—potentially shutting off their access until their access rights can be reviewed.
4. IAM and user monitoring
Your SaaS security posture benefits from your team’s firm understanding of who is who and who can access what. Indeed, almost any security breach is possible without such control and will be challenging to detect or respond to. For these reasons, an SSPM solution must integrate with IAM solutions and other access control tools that enable zero trust security, such as privileged access management (PAM) suites. When combined with the SSPM solution’s user activity monitoring, the result is an effective countermeasure against SaaS penetrations by malicious actors.
5. Data exposure analysis
The ability for end users to store data in hard-to-monitor or unknown SaaS locations represents a significant point of vulnerability and a source of compliance violations. An SSPM solution has to automatically scan for data stored in SaaS apps and detect threats; this process should work preventatively and forensically. The SSPM solution should identify corporate data that users have placed on SaaS apps and determine who has access to it and who can share it. If there is a breach, SSPM solutions like Suridata can analyze the impact on data sets stored on SaaS apps—recommending actions to limit the damage.
6. Threat detection and response
Like other information systems, SaaS apps need protection that activates threat detection and response processes. SSPM solutions need to monitor all SaaS apps for suspicious activities, including, for instance, detecting a user who has logged in from a foreign country and attempted to download a great deal of data. Suridata offers this capability, along with automated alerts and other incident response tasks.
7. SecOps integration
SSPM should be part of a broader security and IT management workflow set. A security alert regarding a SaaS app is like any other security alert – it must be routed to a human analyst and subject to a planned incident response plan or go through an automated response workflow. Either way, this can only happen if the SSPM solution is integrated with ticketing systems and security operations (SecOps) tools like security automation, orchestration, and response (SOAR) and ITDR platforms.
Given that the overring goal in SecOps is to minimize drains on people’s time, the SSPM solution will ideally support automated remediations. If the solution can fix a problem without human hands, that’s the best outcome. On a related front, the SSPM solution should prioritize SaaS security alerts—focusing analysts’ attention only on the most serious. The SSPM solution would also provide remediation guidance for each alert. The path to correcting a security problem may not be evident to everyone. Solutions like Suridata benefit from collective experience in SaaS security to guide security analysts in their remediation efforts.
Getting to a strong SaaS security posture
A robust SaaS security posture is attainable but will take a lot of groundwork and the right tools. SSPM solutions like Suridata can make your SaaS security journey much more seamless, offering you the automation capabilities to monitor all your SaaS apps, including the ones you didn’t even know your employees were using. With the detection and remediation of insecure third-party integrations, monitoring for anomalies, and integrating with IAM, you can mitigate many of the most severe threats affecting SaaS and the business operations that depend on it. To learn about Suridata’s SSPM solution, visit our demo page.
Co-Founder & COO