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SaaS security posture management: Your comprehensive guide

SaaS security posture management (SSPM) is about maintaining visibility and control over your organization’s digital assets. Learn what SSPM involves here.

Roy Horev | May 15, 2024

Security posture management is integral to every contemporary organization. Even brick-and-mortar companies connect with customers via email, and with the pervasiveness of phishing scams and other social engineering threats, it’s imperative that every company knows how to evaluate and monitor fundamental information about its cyber security.

Companies that rely on software as a service (SaaS) platforms have to be all the more vigilant, so we’ve created this comprehensive guide on SaaS security posture management (SSPM) to define what SSPM entails, the challenges businesses face when protecting their assets, and the many benefits that stem from a centralized cyber security platform solution used to protect all of your organization’s assets.

TL;DR

SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM) involves continuously monitoring and managing the security of SaaS applications to protect an organization’s digital assets. Key elements include user access control, data encryption, security monitoring, and incident response.

SSPM addresses challenges like shared responsibility, managing multiple SaaS applications, and compliance with data regulations. Best practices include regular access reviews, strong encryption, security log monitoring, periodic security audits, and having a tested incident response plan. Centralized SSPM platforms enhance visibility, automate threat mitigation, and ensure compliance.

What is SaaS?

Software as a service (SaaS) is a model for how users purchase and use software applications. In the past, people would purchase software outright to download and install on their computer. SaaS represents the shift away from this traditional method to an online model where people use software through their internet connection. 

SaaS is often accessed through the convenience of an internet browser based on multi-tiered subscription options instead of a one-time payment. A SaaS provider hosts the application and is responsible for its maintenance and updates.

In many cases, SaaS is synonymous with cloud-based computing, but it can take on different forms as a stand-alone application that doesn’t always require being online. SaaS can be as common and familiar as email service or an online office suite and as widely used as a popular e-commerce site.

The SaaS business model is effective due to the ability to scale, assist productivity, and provide a wide range of services. 

The many benefits of SaaS platforms have led organizations to heavily rely on them for productivity, opening these companies up to new vulnerabilities they must address.

 

What is SaaS security posture management?

SaaS security posture management (SSPM) focuses on the continuous assessment and governance of security for SaaS applications used by an organization. SSPM should provide 24/7 monitoring, task automation, and the ability to visualize every element that connects an organization to its SaaS program platforms. 

SSPM tools allow an organization to track and remediate vulnerabilities and threats stemming directly from every SaaS its networks are connected to. They’re designed to prevent data breaches, mitigate risk, and help organizations maintain security compliance.

 

Why is SaaS security posture management important?

SSPM helps protect an organization’s assets by providing thorough visibility of assets, vulnerabilities, potential software misconfigurations, and compliance risks.

Security posture is about an organization’s ability to improve its security outlook using a centralized management tool that provides maximum control over SaaS-based security threats.

81%

Sensitive SaaS data has been exposed in approximately 81% of organizations, underscoring the widespread nature of data vulnerabilities and the pressing need for improved security measures.

The visibility SSPM provides empowers companies to recognize and respond to security gaps in order to protect their data and networks. A centralized SSPM platform helps these companies keep up with the constant onslaught of new threats so they can prevent breaches and prioritize risks and vulnerabilities.

Learn more about SPM: The Complete Guide to Security Posture Management 

SSPM is crucial to protect businesses from data leakage, monitor the attack surface, prevent foreseeable attacks, and expedite response time if a breach occurs. A company can never completely eliminate risk, but SSPM provides a centralized platform to help teams keep watch while automating continuous tracking of processes for every application in use.

 

What are the essential elements of SSPM visibility and control?

An SSPM solution’s robust feature set should be easy to navigate and should integrate every SaaS platform an organization connects to. In order to have a thorough view of potential threats and the ability to guard against them, an SSPM platform needs complete control over the following elements.

User access control (UAC)

UAC deals with numerous vital aspects of a healthy security posture. Generally speaking, managing UAC is about configuring every SaaS platform to only allow access to employees based on the proper credentials. 

An SSPM platform provides visibility into every program’s settings to maintain accurate privilege settings for the entire workforce. 

UAC includes:

Role-based access control (RBAC)

RBAC is a framework where organizations can predefine permission settings for individuals based on what actions their job requires.

The principle of least privilege (PoLP)

PoLP is an optimal protocol used in security-conscious UAC practices. Individuals are granted the absolute minimum level of access required to fulfill their duties.

Conditional access

Conditional access can set additional parameters that must be met to accept an individual’s credentials. For instance, if a user is logging in from a different location or device, it may require additional verification of their identity or simply deny access.

Data encryption and protection

Data loss prevention (DLP), encryption, and a consistent backup routine protect an organization’s sensitive data and are essential for an organization to follow regulatory compliance measures.

Security monitoring and incident response

Monitoring your organization’s network and the information flowing to and from SaaS platforms is an ongoing process aided by automated scanning and alerts. If a potential threat is recognized or a breach occurs, it’s vital to have an incident response in place for proper mitigation and remediation.

 

3 key challenges in SaaS security posture management

Businesses are multi-dimensional, and so are the cyber threats they face. The ability to conduct business and scale is wholly tied to recognizing vulnerabilities and protecting them.

There are three key challenges organizations face when it comes to SSPM.

1. Shared responsibility model in SaaS environments

Cyber risk doesn’t threaten just a segregated portion of a company’s assets. Likewise, the responsibility of keeping an organization’s assets safe isn’t the security team’s alone. SSPM requires a coordinated effort from IT, each department, and down to each individual. 

A company’s survival depends on communication, proper training for safe practices and threat awareness, and maximum visibility over all known attack surfaces.

2. Managing security across multiple SaaS applications

Organizations rely upon a wide range of tools, and as they adopt new technologies, the list of SaaS platforms they need continually grows. 

Every program has unique features, configurations, and administrative options, requiring individual updates, patches, and monitoring. The more complex the landscape of individual SaaS solutions, the wider the door opens to potential attackers.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for organizations running dozens, even hundreds, of applications.

3. Compliance with data protection regulations

Every industry comes with unique risks. But industries also come with regulatory requirements they must comply with. In many cases, an institution isn’t just protecting its own assets. Its networks may store personally identifiable data belonging to customers, medical or financial records, and other sensitive data.

There are privacy concerns, reporting and audit requirements, and other compliance issues every industry must adhere to. 

 

5 best practices for SaaS security posture management

Keeping your organization secure is contingent on protecting its connection to SaaS platforms. Next, we’ll look at the best practices that are indispensable to quality SSPM.

1. Regularly review and update user access controls

Diligence in overseeing UACs is necessary for keeping your organization’s assets safe from cyber attacks. Due diligence must include consistently checking the administrative privileges and login credentials of employees. Individuals change departments, leave companies, and get promoted or demoted. Security depends on privileges that are accurate and up-to-date.

2. Implement strong encryption mechanisms for data protection

Organizations must implement data encryption to protect data at rest and in transit to prevent malicious hackers from accessing sensitive data.

3. Monitor and analyze security logs and events

With a constant eye on automation and alerts, maintaining a healthy security posture must include monitoring and analysis of login attempts, SaaS program access, any modifications made, and any changes to settings regarding authentication processes.

Logs hold value indicators of whether any internal threats require remediation.

4. Conduct periodic security assessments and audits

Periodic audits ensure the security measures you’ve put in place maintain their expected integrity. These audits can uncover potential vulnerabilities as they arise. 

Over time, as software platforms make updates and system patches, or your workforce changes, it’s important to assess whether these developments have led to misconfigurations or any form of non-compliance. 

5. Establish an incident response plan and test it regularly

As audits uncover potential weaknesses in a security strategy or new vulnerabilities that develop over time, organizations need to plan how to best respond to attacks or breaches and implement any necessary form of remediation or mitigation.

 

Choose the right platform to protect your organization

Every organization has to carefully consider what qualities matter most in its SaaS security posture management. Gartner, which provides industry insights regarding enterprise cyber security tools, hosts guides and reviews that deal with SaaS security posture management. The Vulcan Cyber platform is recognized by Gartner with a 4-star rating for its extensive support, vulnerability source integration, scanner, and comprehensive centralized threat visibility.

Your SSPM platform choice should provide centralized visibility and reporting, automated mitigation, and a comprehensive set of tools to assess your vulnerabilities connected to SaaS platforms.

Security risk is unique to every organization based on its operations and specific assets. With Vulcan’s platform, you can prioritize your risks and manage key variables that have the greatest impact on your organization. Place the highest priority on the greatest risks based on an accurate and ongoing assessment of your vulnerabilities and attack surface.

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