Organizations rely on SaaS for efficient, collaborative, and scalable solutions to achieve their business outcomes and accommodate an increasingly distributed workforce. SaaS investment reflects this trend—expected to reach $244 billion in 2024, with an annual growth rate of 20%.

However, with this migration comes new risks and complexity. While SaaS providers secure their applications and infrastructure, businesses are responsible for securing the data and users within their environments. And this is not easy—SaaS breaches are up 4x year-over-year.


Challenges in SaaS Security

1. Lack of Standardization

SaaS applications vary widely, with approximately 30,000 different vendors globally. Organizations often use hundreds of these applications, each with unique capabilities and different permission and configuration models, making it difficult to centrally manage and secure.

2. Distributed Ownership

SaaS applications are also implemented and managed by dedicated application owners primarily concerned with ensuring that business operations can continue smoothly. This leaves security teams with severely limited insight into the applications and makes collaboration with application owners difficult. Ensuring that security teams have access to information from the SaaS environment helps facilitate more informed decision making and better cross-functional communication.

3. Growing and Complex Integrations

Integrations between SaaS applications further complicate security efforts, and the repercussions are more extreme. App-to-app integrations move 10x more data than users, so any impacts from compromise become exponentially larger. Additionally, these integrations, whether third- or fourth-party, create numerous potential entry points for attackers. In fact, 55% of Shadow SaaS applications integrate with core data, heightening security risks beyond your current visibility. Since many of these integrations are done by application owners, they are also outside the visibility spectrum of security teams, often making it difficult for security teams to understand the true exposure.

4. Data Privacy and Compliance

Navigating data privacy laws poses a complex challenge for SaaS providers, given the wide variation in regulations that are constantly evolving. With data protection laws prevalent in 80% of countries and organizations depending on hundreds of applications with inconsistent settings and controls, ensuring compliance and data residency for every regulation is impossible with a DIY approach. Automated compliance is a must.


A Complete Approach to SaaS Security

To properly safeguard your SaaS environment, there are three fundamental pillars to prioritize: application posture, identity security, and data governance. Together, these pillars lay the groundwork for a resilient security strategy tailored to the unique challenges of SaaS and PaaS environments.

1. Application Posture

At the core of SaaS security lies application posture—the practice of configuring SaaS applications for secure deployment to eliminate vulnerabilities and ensure compliance. An effective approach involves not only initial configuration but also continuous monitoring and management to sustain security over time.

Tools like SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM) facilitate this process by offering features for assessing, remediating, and maintaining application security. However, it’s crucial to recognize that even perfect posture will only prevent 15% of SaaS breaches.

To address the rest, you need to consider how you’re securing your identities and the data that resides in SaaS.

2. Identity Security

Identity compromises are responsible for a staggering 82% of SaaS breaches. SaaS security without a robust identity security strategy is a non-starter. Safeguarding user identities within SaaS platforms against cyber threats requires a comprehensive solution that swiftly detects and neutralizes threats in real-time; including sophisticated attacks like spearphishing and token compromise. A successful SaaS identity security strategy should also help accelerate incident response and minimize data loss in the event of a breach.

3. Data Governance

Data governance revolves around managing and securing the data flow between applications as well as adhering to the growing compliance requirements. An effective data governance solution should reduce your attack surface with actionable insights, not just alerts, around identifying risky third-party SaaS integrations, governing data flows (especially for sensitive data), and ensuring compliance with data residency regulations.


Obsidian’s Approach to SaaS Security

Obsidian Security leads the way in SaaS security, offering the only solution that delivers application posture, data governance, and identity security in a single modular platform. Obsidian automatically scans your application environment, promptly identifying high-risk behaviors in real-time and providing simple steps for remediation.

In addition to these core pillars, leaders should also only consider solutions that prioritize speed, scale, and context.

1. Speed

Attacks can unfold in a matter of minutes; CrowdStrike reports the average breakout time—when an attacker moves laterally from the initial compromise—is now just 62 minutes. Look for solutions that deliver advanced threat detection, even prevent SaaS threats, to accelerate incident response and prevent future threats before they have a chance to escalate.

2. Scale

Organizations average hundreds of applications, thousands of integrations, and terabytes of data movement; not to mention the users and identity credentials. A comprehensive solution should provide a consolidated view of identity, posture, and data movement across all these facets, simplifying the management of complex integration networks.

3. Context

Context is king when it comes to security incidents (ask any security analyst or incident responder!). Effective SaaS security necessitates a deep understanding of risks and actionable insights for remediation. Alerts alone are insufficient in combating today’s threats. Only adopt solutions that offer contextualized insights to proactively prevent and mitigate breaches.

Final Thoughts

As SaaS adoption continues to surge, its security is an undeniable necessity. Adopting a comprehensive SaaS security approach is challenging, but the teams that prioritize these key pillars and guiding principles will have a strong foundation in place.

To dive deeper into operationalizing SaaS security, explore our whitepaper for actionable insights and strategies.

Adopt a 360° Approach to SaaS Security

Addressing SaaS security necessitates a unified view into applications, identities, and data.


Application Posture

Streamline SaaS posture to accelerate compliance and data security.



Secure human and application
identities across SaaS.


SaaS Data Governance

Understand data flows
between apps to control access.