Cloud Services / Security / Contributed

Top 3 Questions to Ask about SaaS Application Security

9 Jun 2022 10:00am, by
Jennifer Kuvlesky
Jennifer Kuvlesky is a customer-success focused product marketer and SaaS management expert at Snow Software. At Snow, she is focused on helping customers get visibility of their SaaS application environment to optimize costs and minimize risk. Prior to joining Snow, Jennifer held product marketing, program management and product management roles at SolarWinds and IBM.

Most organizations run hundreds to thousands of SaaS applications simultaneously (many unknowingly), creating IT blind spots and leaving enterprises vulnerable to cyberattacks. The increasingly malicious cybersecurity threat landscape over the past couple of years has made SaaS application visibility, IT compliance and cybersecurity education mission-critical.

A recent report found that 69% of IT leaders said their organization’s investment in SaaS applications has increased significantly in the last year, with new SaaS applications being added to their tech stacks every day, and visibility and control over each gradually diminishing. It’s critical that IT leaders have visibility and access to the solutions being used by their employees in order to proactively detect any that may pose a threat to the organization — with 76% of IT professionals acknowledging that unsanctioned applications are a major security risk.

Having complete visibility into your tech stack can help reduce risk, minimize contract complexity, reduce costs from unused or over-licensed applications and mitigate SaaS sprawl. To achieve this, IT leaders must ask themselves three key questions to assess their SaaS application security state and make necessary changes or risk dangerous breaches.

Can Employees Access the Tools They Need to Be Successful in a Compliant Way?

Self-service features are more important than ever for employees working in a distributed workforce. This means having the ability to access the software and tools needed to do their jobs efficiently and effectively without the IT department onsite to help.

Think about the consumer experience of downloading apps from the App Store and mimic that user experience and self-service approach for work applications. Providing a similar experience for employees makes it easy for them to search for what they need and request a subscription that has been vetted and approved by the IT department.

By offering employees a place to get their applications, you are removing the risk of redundant software in your environment and making the IT-compliant way of accessing new applications also the easy way, while also ensuring SaaS applications are provisioned with the least privileged access in mind.

Since many SaaS applications are widely used by many organizations and contain so many features, it’s important to understand the least privileged access concepts. Often, teams outside of security are provisioning access to SaaS applications and don’t really think about these controls.

For Instance, AppOmni found that 70% of ServiceNow accounts they tested had misconfigurations leading to leaking data in these accounts. The misconfigurations resulted from a combination of customer-managed configurations and over-provisioning of permissions to guest users.

How Many SaaS Applications Are Employees Using that Aren’t Sanctioned by the IT Department?

Eighty-six percent of IT leaders said most businesses are procuring far more cloud and SaaS than IT knows about, and this is a distinct stressor. The reason for this is availability and access to unknown applications, which creates many risks.

Unsanctioned SaaS application use can result in costly SaaS sprawl, data compliance violations, and can create cybersecurity vulnerabilities within the organization. This has become a much bigger issue with fully remote and hybrid work employees, with 70% of IT leaders stating that SaaS investment had increased in the last 12 months — with nearly half reporting that controlling SaaS sprawl is their biggest challenge.

Cybercriminals are eager to take advantage of the distributed workforce, target individual employees and find software vulnerabilities. If the IT department is unaware of applications in use, then they are unable to vet the risks of these providers or how they interface with other organizational IT, leaving the door open and unchecked for a potential breach. Enterprise security is the responsibility of every employee from the C-Suite down, and it’s important that there are regular training and conversations around SaaS application security and compliance.

Are Employees at Every Level on the Same Page about SaaS Application Use?

Employees should have access to the tools they need to be successful at doing their jobs, and the IT department does not want to inhibit productivity or ease-of-use of solutions. That said, IT leaders should communicate, educate and collaborate with employees at every level to ensure everyone is on the same page about enterprise security and SaaS application use.

Have conversations about why going outside of policy to use free or licensed applications is risky for the organization. In having these conversations, IT leaders will also learn about the departments’ or employees’ application requirements and will be better equipped to partner with them on identifying a safe solution to help them be productive.

SaaS application use is powering an entirely new way of working, but a failure to proactively govern its use will create challenges and headaches for IT leaders. In response, IT departments need to shift how they work to maximize growing SaaS application use while reducing the risks that shadow IT and SaaS sprawl bring. This means having the technology in place to support remote and in-person employees with their IT needs and adapting to employee work preferences.

Knowing how many SaaS applications you’re really using can help your organization reduce risk, and without using modern methods to understand application use, there may be much more you’re missing. Having visibility into all applications in use, categorized by application functionality, will help IT break down silos across departments and gain a holistic view of the organizations’ SaaS application use. The benefits of understanding your organization’s technology use are many — reducing costs, identifying risks and minimizing redundancies to name a few — and will pay off greatly in the future.

Feature image via Pixabay.