In today’s world, data has become one of the most valuable assets that a business has. Safeguarding that sensitive data is every security team’s top priority, but changes in the perimeter have challenged teams to evolve their approaches to enterprise security.

When an increasingly mobile workforce first stretched the perimeter beyond on-premises data centers and office locations, endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions emerged to provide security teams with contextual visibility into user devices. This enabled security teams to continually monitor and respond to advanced threats as users connected from a variety of devices and networks around the world.

Today, the widespread adoption of cloud-based infrastructure and applications has once again changed the perimeter. The proliferation of software as a service (SaaS) solutions presents a particularly pronounced challenge for security teams, as the number of discrete applications containing business-critical data continues to grow. Bad actors are increasingly targeting these services, which is creating a sense of urgency for security leaders to identify and implement a comprehensive SaaS security strategy.

What is CSPM?


Challenges in SaaS Security

As security leaders develop their organizations’ SaaS security strategies, they often encounter a number of challenges ranging from practical resource limitations to insufficient coverage by the security solutions they rely on. Below, we’ve detailed three of the most common challenges that appear when leaders plan their SaaS security approaches.

1. Applications are unique and complex

The SaaS applications that businesses rely on are inherently unique and complex systems with their own proprietary data logs, configurations, roles, and permissions. This means that to effectively monitor and protect these services, security teams need to become familiar with the specifics of each individual application—and that is no easy task.

SaaS applications are typically 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.

2. SaaS security is your responsibility

Not long ago, businesses operated their own data centers on-premises and hosted the entirety of their operating environments on these servers. Security teams were responsible for the safety of the entire environment, including the network, applications, and business data. The shift to cloud-based applications offered some relief to security teams as SaaS providers were tasked with security for the underlying service. But make no mistake—shared responsibility for SaaS security means that you are responsible for protecting your own environment.

The shared responsibility model states that SaaS security is a responsibility shared between the provider and the customer of a service. While providers focus on securing the underlying physical infrastructure, network, and OS behind the application, customers are tasked with managing the users, devices, and data in their own environments. For this reason, it’s imperative that security teams have readily available access to this information in order to make timely and informed decisions around protecting the services that their businesses rely on.

3. Traditional solutions leave significant gaps

Existing SaaS security solutions have taken different approaches to protecting certain aspects of the application, and each one plays an important role within a modern security stack. Still, these solutions alone are insufficient because they have limited or no insight into configurations, permissions, and activity data within the SaaS environment. Companies investing in zero trust will also find that the policy of “never trust, always verify” stops at the identity provider and leaves SaaS outside of scope.

Identity and Authentication Management (IAM) solutions have become ubiquitous first lines of defense with capabilities like single sign-on (SSO) and multi-factor authentication (MFA). Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASB) and Secure Web Gateways (SWG) examine data in transit to enforce data loss prevention and limit shadow IT. Learn about the gaps these solutions leave unaddressed and how to complete your SaaS security stack.


A Complete Approach to SaaS Security

Complete SaaS security starts with a foundational understanding of the SaaS environment. To protect business-critical applications, your security team needs to understand exactly who your users are and what they’re doing within and across services. With this crucial context available, they can make decisions about posture management and threat mitigation quickly and confidently.

Consolidate state and activity data

Before taking measures to improve your SaaS security posture and combat threats, your security team needs to understand the unique data schemas of each SaaS application in order to make informed, contextualized decisions. This requires mapping the entities and actions within each application and across your SaaS environment: users, files, permissions, roles, configurations, and activities.

After this important data is aggregated, it needs to be normalized and enriched so that security analysts and incident responders can reliably use the data for detections and investigations without worrying about application-specific nuances. This means that data from each service is standardized to a single format and complemented with important context from the SaaS environment. Learn more about how consolidated visibility underpins SaaS security and the steps needed for a comprehensive approach.

Monitor and mitigate threats continuously

Bad actors are increasingly targeting the wealth of sensitive data contained in SaaS applications and leveraging techniques such as session hijacking and cookie stealing to bypass SSO and MFA. It’s incredibly important that your security team has the insights necessary to identify malicious activity early on in order to minimize or altogether prevent data exfiltration. With various integrations connecting your core applications, a vulnerability in one service can grant an attacker access to sensitive data contained in others.

A baseline understanding of user activity within and across applications enables security analysts to analyze behavioral trends and detect concerning patterns which indicate account takeovers or insider threats. Layering on additional context around permissions and configurations helps responders clearly define the scope of a breach and facilitates a much smoother incident reporting process.

Harden application posture proactively

Every SaaS application has a wide variety of unique configuration settings and user permissions that can be optimized to minimize the risk and potential impact of an attack. However, the application owners who implement and manage these services often leave these settings untouched and dole out privileged roles generously so as to not impede business operations. This lack of prioritization of SaaS security leaves these business-critical services far more vulnerable to a potentially catastrophic breach.

Ensuring that your security team has clear, consolidated insight into configurations and permissions across your SaaS environment is imperative to minimizing risk. A unified inventory makes it easier to improve settings, stay on top of configuration drift, rein in unnecessary privileges, and proactively improve your organization’s SaaS security posture.

What is SSPM?


The Obsidian Approach to SaaS Security

Obsidian Security is the first truly comprehensive SaaS security solution built for the applications that your business relies on. Obsidian covers the gaps left by traditional SaaS security solutions by consolidating and analyzing data from within and across your applications, making crucial context around users, permissions, configurations, and activities easily accessible to your security team. From there, our platform identifies opportunities to reduce unnecessary privileges and harden configurations while continuously monitoring activity to identify threats in the earliest stages of SaaS account takeover.

For organizations that take a zero trust approach to security and continuously validate access to minimize risk, identity and access management solutions can help verify user access but are unable to validate every entity within the SaaS environment. Only Obsidian’s comprehensive approach provides a deep understanding of each application in its entirety that extends zero trust coverage to SaaS.

The CSPM and SSPM solutions that organizations typically deploy help security teams identify misconfigurations and vulnerabilities across their cloud infrastructures to promote better security posture. Because the Obsidian approach starts with a deeper, consolidated understanding of your SaaS applications, our posture recommendations are enriched with additional important context on related activities and impacted users. This combined with our unmatched threat detection and mitigation capabilities empowers security professionals to complete their SaaS security stack and make informed decisions quickly, confidently, and without the guesswork. Learn more about Obsidian and find out how our solution completes your security team’s approach to SaaS security.