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SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM) Checklist

The digital age has woven SaaS applications into the fabric of organizational operations across a wide range of business functions. Great possibilities, however, come with great challenges. These have evolved into a complex labyrinth of management for IT professionals. 

Considering cloud security is like a bird's eye view, and there are so many layers of services, including Infrastructure as a Service ("IaaS"), Platform as a Service ("PaaS"), and SaaS, SaaS Security Posture Management ("SSPM") stands out as a SaaS guardian, relentlessly scrutinizing security risks and steering the helm on the security posture of SaaS applications, a must-have for any IT professional in this diverse field.

The Expanding Universe of SaaS Applications and the Threat They Pose

In most organizations, 40 to 60 different applications are used by departments. When the organization is taken into account as a whole, this number rises to over 200. Heavy hitters in the use of these applications are those in the security, engineering, and IT departments.

Cloud Security Alliance's 2022 SaaS Security Report reveals that SaaS misconfigurations are a major cause of security incidents. Misconfigurations have consistently remained a major issue for organizations since 2019. Alarmingly, a minimum of 43% of organizations have encountered one or more security incidents due to SaaS misconfigurations. In addition, a substantial portion of organizations is uncertain whether they have experienced a security incident due to SaaS misconfiguration, which might push the percentage as high as 63%. 

Security Incidents due to SaaS Misconfiguration

Suggested Reading: SaaS Security Statistics You Should Know in 2023

The SSPM Revolution

Gartner introduced the SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM) category as a means to offer solutions that consistently evaluate security risks and uphold the security stance of SaaS applications. SSPM tools, according to Gartner, are designed to constantly assess the security risks and govern the security state of SaaS applications. Reports on the configuration of SaaS security settings, management of identity permissions, and recommendations for optimizing configuration are some of the functionalities of an SSPM. 

Two primary methods through which organizations can strengthen their SaaS security posture are:

  • Equipping security teams with comprehensive visibility into SaaS app configurations
  • Implementing automated monitoring coupled with remediation of SaaS security misconfigurations.

These approaches empower the security teams while simultaneously ensuring that they do not disrupt other departments in the fulfillment of their tasks. The combination of these strategies is encapsulated in an all-encompassing solution: SSPM. The necessity for detailed insights into SaaS security configurations and timely corrective measures is especially crucial for enterprises that have 1,000 or more employees, as they typically utilize a diverse array of applications.

SSPM represents an innovative methodology that aids IT Operations and DevOps teams tackle the hurdles of monitoring SaaS applications. The crucial point of SSPM is the formulation of a security-centric approach that automates and defines policies across diverse SaaS vendors. In essence, SSPM involves the strategic use of SaaS security controls, coupled with continuous monitoring of applications such as Slack, GitHub, and Jira, to uphold and bolster the security posture of your organization.

Suggested Reading: What is SSPM?

‚ÄćCrafting Your Ultimate SSPM Checklist

Understanding that each organization has distinct needs and challenges is pivotal in sculpting a SaaS Security Posture Management Checklist that is both adaptive and robust. An efficient SSPM strategy must emphasize prompt alerts, agile remediation, and efficient continuous monitoring to bolster defenses against vulnerabilities, ensuring they are identified and nullified well before cyber adversaries exploit them. For organizations, it is imperative to adopt a meticulously crafted SSPM Checklist, which serves as a roadmap for SaaS Security Posture Management.

Let's dive into the SaaS Security Posture Management Checklist, dissecting its invaluable components as we fasten our seatbelts and grab our explorer hats!

SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM) Checklist

Visibility & Insights

As everything starts with exploring and understanding the situation, the first step must be to perform extensive security assessments to gain an understanding of your SaaS environment, encompassing all integrations and risk domains. Resmo, for instance, empowers you with capabilities such as:

  • Change History
  • Data Visualization and Analysis
  • Compliance Assessment
  • Assessing Unprotected Data
  • Enhanced Data-Sharing Practices
1. Strengthen Configurations & Ensure Compliance

An application's configuration settings enable granular control over its usage and can be customized to meet internal and external security requirements. With so many settings scattered across applications, manual audits and alignment with best practices are challenging. A lack of automation may result in data loss and non-compliance for organizations since sole reliance on default configurations often leaves loopholes that can be effortlessly exploited. The Cloud Security Alliance's 2022 SaaS Security Report confirms that manually monitoring and remediating SaaS security settings is taxing to security teams and leaves organizations vulnerable. Another 5% do not check at all, while nearly half (46%) can only check monthly or less frequently. 

SaaS Security Configuration Check Frequency

An SSPM solution should eliminate ambiguity and complexity around configuration strengthening, allowing your security team to govern application usage. It begins with assimilating application settings into a cohesive inventory and pinpointing significant misconfigurations and areas for improvement. In order to make informed decisions, SSPM vendors should provide recommendations based on SaaS expertise, industry benchmarks, and compliance standards. Monitoring configurations continuously is also crucial for ensuring controls don't deviate inadvertently over time.

  • Gather configuration data from connected applications into a comprehensive inventory.
  • Highlight misconfigurations along with their severity to facilitate prioritization of remediation efforts.
  • Monitor reinforced controls to identify any deviation from preferred settings.
  • Provide in-depth insights into users and integrations affected by a particular control to inform decision-making.
  • Outline actionable steps for configuration remediation and seamless integration with existing ticketing systems.
  • Compare your SaaS posture with industry benchmarks and standards.
  • Align controls with prominent compliance standards for sustained compliance.

Suggested Reading: Continuous Compliance 101

2. Assess & Reduce Excessive Privileges

Privileges are often liberally allocated to empower users and facilitate business operations. However, this inadvertent privilege creep significantly escalates the risk and impact radius of potential incidents. Based on Cybersecurity Insiders' report in 2020, 49% of organizations give users more access privileges than are necessary to do their jobs.  Regarding to their roles and responsibilities, users should have permissions that correspond to their roles. By providing context and independence, SSPM solutions can help security teams appropriately calibrate user privileges without compromising productivity. This includes consolidating a list of privileged users, identifying inactive accounts, and ensuring that high-risk groups such as third-party contractors are not unintentionally granted excessive privileges.

  • Consolidate user roles and permissions into a single inventory.
  • Identify users with extensive privileges posing heightened risks.
  • Monitor user privileges to avoid unintentional attribution to high-risk groups.
  • Utilize title and peer group analyses to detect users with disproportionate privileges.
  • Analyze activity data to identify underutilized privileges that can be reduced without operational disruptions.
3. Minimize Data Exposure

SaaS applications contain sensitive data, including financial reports, proprietary knowledge, and personally identifiable information. To prevent data leaks, it is imperative to scrutinize data visibility among a variety of users, such as partners, third-party contractors, and customers. It becomes more complex and important as organizations expand to monitor and manage sensitive resources.

In the event of a data breach, nearly one-third of all vendor relationships would be considered high risk. An estimated 80% of organizations surveyed experienced a third-party data breach last year.

To detect sensitive information, SSPM solutions need to provide transparent views of user access to specific resources, utilizing platform-specific knowledge. Continuous monitoring facilitates the detection of risky activities in a timely manner. The SSPM should also identify other potential vulnerabilities, such as publicly accessible APIs, and monitor user activity around sensitive resources, especially by privileged users.

  • Understand which SaaS resources are accessible by different user groups.
  • Monitor pages, files, and other resources shared with external users or publicly accessible.
  • Detect publicly accessible APIs to ensure they do not jeopardize sensitive SaaS data.
  • Keep track of activity around sensitive SaaS resources to identify unusual behavior promptly.‚Äć

‚ÄćContinuous Monitoring & Remediation

In business environments, dealing with issues is a sensitive and intricate process. Apart from providing detailed insights into each configuration, SSPM should streamline monitoring and facilitate triggering alerts in real time. As a result of this proactive approach, vulnerabilities are quickly identified and fixed, preventing cyberattacks from exploiting them.

SSPM solutions, such as Resmo, offer a comprehensive suite of features that empower your security team to communicate effectively, identify and neutralize vulnerabilities, and safeguard your systems. Some of the essential features encompass:

  • 24/7 continuous monitoring
  • Automated security checks
  • Identification of malicious threats
  • Real-time alerts

Suggested Reading: Resmo Security Alerts

4. Detect & Resolve Malicious Threats on Time

Today, enterprises are overwhelmed by a deluge of users accessing core SaaS applications around the globe, each engaged in different activities and with varying levels of privilege. Malicious entities recognize the treasure trove of sensitive data within SaaS and employ a variety of tactics to infiltrate them. In order to proactively minimize the likelihood and ramifications of a breach, SaaS posture must be strengthened, although threats cannot be fully eradicated. The security teams must decipher the cacophony within SaaS environments and distinguish threats across applications.

Threat mitigation, a cornerstone of an ultimate SSPM checklist, commences with a profound, contextual analysis of user activity in your SaaS environment. SSPM solutions can detect account compromises, insider threats, and other high-risk behaviors by establishing a baseline profile for each user. In order to remain accurate, these detections should be continuously refined through configuration data from the SaaS environment, enhancements to underlying models, and insights from a wide range of users. As a result, security teams can respond early in the attack lifecycle, minimizing the probability of data exfiltration. 

  • Continuously monitor user activity within each application and the interconnected SaaS environment, creating a baseline for each individual.
  • In the event of a threat, provide real-time alerts so that security teams can investigate incidents in real-time and prevent data exfiltration from occurring.
  • Use cross-application data, such as geolocation or HR information, to enhance detections.
  • Continuously refine models with data from a diverse customer base to minimize false positives and alert fatigue.
5. Minimize SaaS Integration Risk

Modern SaaS ecosystems consist of interconnected SaaS platforms, third-party applications, and in-house integrations. While open-ended connectivity offers substantial operational benefits, it also makes the environment vulnerable to attacks. Understanding the extent of permissions granted to each application and integration within your ecosystem is essential, as well as preventing vulnerable connections. As new connections are constantly being established, navigating this labyrinthine landscape can be overwhelming.

With SaaS integration solutions, security teams can control integration risks through the navigation of the complexities of SaaS interconnectivity. It includes a review of existing integrations, an analysis of the organizational interaction with them, an assessment of permissions, and an evaluation of security risks. SaaS integrations, even those that appear secure, are susceptible to compromises and require monitoring for anomalous or malicious activities.

  • Discover and catalog all custom and third-party integrations linked to your core SaaS applications.
  • Continually assess the scope of each integration‚Äôs permissions and the risks they pose.
  • Identify and safely remove inactive integrations.
  • Monitor integration activity to swiftly detect anomalies and suspicious activity, even from ostensibly secure connections.
  • Ascertain and monitor the sensitive resources accessed by an integration.
  • Identify and eliminate unauthorized shadow IT that jeopardizes your SaaS data.

Suggested Reading: What is Shadow IT?

SSPM Functionality

An SSPM solution, at its foundation, must be equipped with features that ensure seamless integration into your existing security ecosystem, coupled with robust functionalities for the effective management of SaaS application security. Both the breadth of integrations and the system functionality are integral components that play a pivotal role in the efficacy of an SSPM solution.

6. Integrate with Your Entire SaaS Environment

At the forefront of an SSPM solution's capabilities, it should be able to integrate seamlessly with a wide array of SaaS applications, not excluding existing solutions and workflows, such as SIEM (Security Information and Event Management), SOAR (Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response), and ticketing tools. Because SaaS applications are based on unique frameworks and configurations, diligent monitoring is required for every application with access to user data and company systems, and any application, regardless of its role in business operations, can carry risks. Cyberattacks can often be initiated by smaller, less critical applications, which can inadvertently become gateways.

Choose an SSPM system that supports at least 30 integrations and performs thorough checks on a variety of data types to prevent misconfigurations. In addition, the ideal solution should be capable of accommodating a broad range of SaaS applications that can be seamlessly integrated with an intuitive and effortless integration approach.

7. Adopt a Strong and Smooth SSPM System

In addition to integrating with a diverse range of applications, the system must be efficient, accessible, and scalable. Simplicity in deployment and configuration is key, ensuring that your security team can easily onboard and monitor new SaaS applications without extensive training or additional strain on their workload.

Advanced threat detection and posture management capabilities are crucial for an SSPM solution. Security teams need a solution that offers real-time monitoring, automated responses to identified threats, and comprehensive reporting that assists in proactive security posturing.

Moreover, the system should be capable of evolving alongside the ever-changing landscape of SaaS applications and emerging threats. This implies that it should offer regular updates, adaptive learning capabilities, and the flexibility to adjust settings and configurations as needed.

In conclusion, your SSPM solution should not only offer a wide range of integrations but also excel in system functionality. This includes being user-friendly, scalable, and equipped with sophisticated threat detection and posture management capabilities. By ensuring these features are present, you will empower your security team to efficiently safeguard your organization’s SaaS environment against an evolving spectrum of cyber threats.

SaaS Security Posture Management Checklist FAQ

What are SSPM tools?

SSPM tools, or SaaS Security Posture Management tools, are specialized solutions that help organizations secure their SaaS applications. They provide visibility into the SaaS environment, ensure compliance with regulations, and manage controls to address challenges such as accidental data exposure, permission errors, and configuration mistakes.

What should be included in a SaaS security policy?

In order to develop a good SaaS security policy, organizations must select SaaS providers rigorously, utilize SaaS Discovery to discover which SaaS apps are being used within the organization, implement robust access controls, use encryption, audit and monitor user activities continuously, and train employees on security best practices.

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