Every SaaS app user and login is a potential threat; whether it’s bad actors or potential disgruntled former associates, identity management and access control is crucial to prevent unwanted or mistaken entrances to the organization’s data and systems.
Since enterprises have thousands to tens of thousands of users, and hundreds to thousands of different apps, ensuring each entrance point and user role is secure is no easy feat. Security teams need to monitor all identities to ensure that user activity meets their organization’s security guidelines.
Identity and Access Management (IAM) solutions administer user identities and control access to enterprise resources and applications. As identities became the new perimeter, making sure this area is governed by the security team is vital.
Gartner has recently named a new security discipline called Identity Threat Detection and Response (ITDR) that incorporates detection mechanisms that investigate suspicious posture changes and activities, and responds to attacks to restore the integrity of the identity infrastructure.
ITDR incorporates strong SaaS Security IAM Governance methodologies and best practices that are found in SaaS Security Posture Management solutions (SSPM), enabling security teams to gain continuous and consolidated visibility of user accounts, permissions, and privileged activities across the SaaS stack, such as:
- Identifying who is accessing what and when, and with the right levels of privileges
- Forensics related to user actions, focusing on privileged users
- Roles’ continuous and automated discovery and consolidation
- Role right-sizing by revoking unnecessary or unwanted access
Whether you are a CISO, IT or on the Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) team, this article will cover the role of Identity and Access Management Governance as part of the organization’s SaaS security program.
What is IAM Governance
IAM Governance enables the security team to act upon arising issues by providing constant monitoring of the company’s SaaS Security posture as well as its implementation of access control.
There are a few critical prevention domains where an SSPM can manage Identity and Access Management Governance: 1) Misconfigurations 2) Vulnerabilities 3) Exposure.
IAM controls need to be properly configured on a continuous basis. The IAM configurations should be monitored for any suspicious changes and ensure that the appropriate steps are taken to investigate and remediate when relevant.
For example, an organization can enable MFA across the organization and not require it. This gap in policy enforcement can leave the organization at risk — and an SSPM can alert the security team about this gap.
The SSPM solution can utilize patching or compensating controls to address commonly exploited vulnerabilities in the identity infrastructure such as the SaaS user’s device. For example, a privileged CRM user can present a high risk to the company if their device is vulnerable. To remediate potential threats that stem from devices, security teams need to be able to correlate SaaS app users, roles, and permissions with their associated devices' hygiene. This end-to-end tactic enables a holistic zero-trust approach to SaaS security.
Another critical vulnerability stems from authentication protocols that the password access is limited to a single-factor authentication method, such as with legacy protocols like IMAP, POP, SMTP and Messaging API (MAPI). An SSPM can identify where these protocols are in place across the organization’s SaaS stack.
The SSPM helps to reduce the attack surface by identifying and mitigating places of exposure. For example, removing unnecessary or excessive privileges or allowing an external admin for a business-critical app. (See figure 1.)
Additionally, 3rd party app access, also known as SaaS-to-SaaS access can leave an organization exposed. Users connect one app to another app to either provide enhanced features or user’s information (e.g contacts, files, calendar, etc). This connection boosts workflow efficiency and as a result, employees’ workspaces are connected to multitudes of different apps. However, the security team is most often in the dark about which apps have been connected to their organization’s ecosystem, unable to monitor or mitigate any threats.
IAM is a method for hardening access control, whereas IAM Governance in SSPMs offer continuous monitoring of these features to ensure security teams have full visibility and control of what's happening in the domain.