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/ What Is SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM)?

What Is SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM)?

SaaS security posture management (SSPM) is an approach to securing SaaS apps and data that unifies continuous cybersecurity risk assessment and compliance monitoring with detection, enforcement, and remediation. Effective SSPM solutions provide critical visibility into the security posture of organizations’ software-as-a-service deployments, ensuring they can continue using cloud services to accelerate and streamline operations.

Why Do Enterprises Need SSPM?

In short, SSPM tools help enterprises better secure and manage their SaaS applications and data, enabling them to more efficiently and effectively:

  • Find and secure SaaS data with expanded visibility and granular policy enforcement
  • Respond to identity risks by establishing and enforcing least-privileged access controls
  • Harden SaaS cloud posture by addressing misconfigurations and configuration drift
  • Govern risky app integrations with in-depth shadow IT discovery and auditing

With companies now using an average of 130 SaaS apps (Vendr, 2023), all of this is becoming more important in the modern workplace. Popular platforms and apps such as Google Workspace, Microsoft 365, and Slack may be used by nearly every employee at an organization where they’re deployed, and they’re often brimming with business-critical data. This data can be, and often is, exposed due to misconfigurations, the main cause of today’s largest breaches.

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82% of breaches involved data stored in the cloud (IBM, 2023)

In spite of this, SaaS security is still a major blind spot in many organizations. Overlooking the security of SaaS apps drastically increases the risk of data loss, leakage, and threats as security teams cope with:

  • Poor sensitive data visibility, including where sensitive data is located and how it’s used across SaaS platforms
  • Risky access and permissions, such as overprivileged access, exposing SaaS data and the organization to security threats
  • Dangerous misconfigurations stemming from human error as well as complexities and discrepancies among multiple apps
  • Lack of shadow IT visibility when users integrate risky third-party apps into SaaS platforms, potentially exposing data
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What Is SaaS Security Posture?

SaaS security posture is the overall security status and resilience of a SaaS environment, including all measures in place to protect data, maintain compliance, and reduce risk associated with SaaS apps.

How Does SSPM Work?

SSPM works by providing these essential functions:

  • Continuous monitoring for moment-to-moment visibility into your sensitive data and SaaS security risks across identity, permissions, misconfigurations, integrations, and add-ons
  • Configuration assessment to ensure that, among other settings, security configurations for SaaS apps align with best practices as well as any relevant industry or regional compliance standards
  • Remediation and response, including risk triage as well as both guided and automated policy enforcement, to close security gaps and minimize the potential impact of cyberattacks

Key Features of SSPM

These are some of the key solutions and tools that serve one or more functions of SSPM:

  • Cloud access security brokers (CASBs) act as intermediaries between users and cloud services, providing security and compliance controls. They offer features like data loss prevention, threat protection, and access control.
  • Identity and access management (IAM) solutions manage users’ identities, roles, and permissions to help enforce least-privileged access controls.
  • Data loss prevention (DLP) tools help identify and protect sensitive information in SaaS apps, prevent data leaks, and support compliance.
  • Security information and event management (SIEM) platforms collect and analyze events and logs from SaaS apps to help identify and respond to potential security incidents and policy violations.
  • Data encryption tools, usually native to SaaS apps themselves, encode data at rest (in storage) and in motion (moving to or from an endpoint or service) to protect it against unauthorized access.
  • Vulnerability management tools scan SaaS apps for vulnerabilities and misconfigurations to help organizations proactively mitigate security risks.
  • Application programming interface (API) security tools protect data exchanged between SaaS apps and other systems as part of API-based integrations.
  • Zero trust principles require security policy to be based on context established through least-privileged access controls and strict user authentication—not assumed trust.

Key Benefits of SSPM

Find and secure SaaS data: Get total visibility across data in transit to and already within SaaS apps, and enforce granular policies to control risky exposure.

Respond to identity risks: Leverage a zero trust approach to revoke excessive privileges and restrict risky user profiles from accessing SaaS apps and data.

Harden SaaS cloud posture: Continuously monitor SaaS platforms for dangerous misconfigurations, and fix risky configuration drift due to human error or oversight.

Govern risky app integrations: Leverage in-depth SaaS shadow IT discovery to identify and audit risky third-party app integrations or add-ons.

Comparison: SSPM vs. CASB vs. CSPM

SaaS security posture management (SSPM), cloud access security broker (CASB), and cloud security posture management (CSPM) solutions each focus on particular areas of cloud security.

Quick breakdown

SSPM

CASB

CSPM

Focus

Continuously monitor and assess the security of SaaS apps and infrastructure to pinpoint and address vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and noncompliance

Provide security and control over apps and data as they move between an organization's on-premises infrastructure and cloud service providers

Continuously monitor and assess the security of cloud environments (IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS) to identify and remediate misconfigurations and vulnerabilities

Coverage

Activity monitoring, data protection, and configuration management

Access control, data loss prevention (DLP), and visibility into user activity across SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS

Configuration management, compliance, and risk mitigation in cloud environments

Use cases

Manage SaaS app security configurations, ensure secure user access, protect data, ensure regulatory compliance

Help prevent data breaches by giving security teams a clearer view of, and more control over, cloud data policy and security

Identify and mitigate misconfigurations, address vulnerabilities, and apply best practices to secure overall cloud infrastructure

SSPM Use Cases

Through continuous monitoring, threat detection, enforcement, and remediation of vulnerabilities and misconfigurations across your SaaS environment, SSPM enables you to:

  • Manage compliance with regional or industry standards and benchmarks
  • Mitigate risks that lead to data breaches, unauthorized access, and the like
  • Conduct vulnerability assessments to help identify and close security gaps
  • Discover, assess, and mitigate the security risks associated with shadow IT
  • Assess the impact and remediate security issues in the event of a breach

Zscaler Advanced SSPM Can Help

Zscaler Advanced SSPM, part of the Zscaler Data Protection suite, is a comprehensive and unified solution that delivers complete security across SaaS apps and platforms, from data visibility to posture and governance. Advanced SSPM helps you quickly identify SaaS risks and prevent threats from compromising data and your organization by enabling you to:

  • Identify risky misconfigurations: Secure your sensitive data from open gaps and risk integrations that can lead to data loss or breaches.
  • Retire risky or dormant integrations: Reduce your attack surface by vetting all SaaS platform integrations and revoking risky connections.
  • Enforce zero trust access: Ensure least-privileged SaaS access and revoke overprivileged identities and permissions.
  • Maintain posture and compliance: Continuously monitor SaaS security to ensure regulatory compliance is maintained across the organization.

By empowering you to find and secure SaaS data, respond to identity risks, harden SaaS cloud security posture, and govern risky app integrations, Zscaler Advanced SSPM gives you complete control over your SaaS security.

Request a demo today to see for yourself.

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Zscaler was the only Leader in the 2023 Forrester Wave for SSPM, and CRN named Zscaler Data Protection a 2023 Product of the Year.

Suggested Resources

The Forrester Wave for SSPM
Get the report
Defend Your SaaS Platforms
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Zscaler Advanced SSPM at a Glance
Get the data sheet
A New and Critical Layer to Protect Data: SaaS Supply Chain Security
Read the blog
Why You Need SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM) for Microsoft 365
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Zscaler SaaS Security Posture Management
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