What is SSPM?

December 15, 2022
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The short answer: It’s no secret that in today’s day and age, organizations rely heavily on hundreds of SaaS apps for their day-to-day operations. While SaaS apps include a host of native security settings, they need to be hardened and monitored by the organization’s security team. 

SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM), a category created by Gartner, refers to SaaS security solutions that continuously assess security risk and manage the SaaS applications’ security posture. 

The longer answer:  Stick around, and we’ll explain why SSPM is important to your organization, its benefits, and the difference between SSPM and some of the other cloud security tools.

Why Is Having an SSPM Important?

SSPM protects data stored in SaaS apps and helps organizations meet compliance requirements through these features:

Coverage Across all Applications 

Organizations require visibility into their entire SaaS stack. The high volume of configurations, user roles, permissions, devices, and third-party apps make it impossible for security teams to secure the apps manually. SSPMs automatically review security settings from all apps in one unified display that can be interpreted easily.

Non-Stop Monitoring

SaaS apps are dynamic and ever-evolving; their speed of change makes them incredibly hard to govern.  Apps’ settings need to be continuously modified to accommodate security updates, feature enhancements, and employee provisioning. There are also continuous compliance updates to meet industry standards and best practices (NIST, SOC2, ISO, MITRE, etc.) that need to be checked and modified.

Securing the SaaS stack periodically is far from enough to keep it secure year-round. Non-stop monitoring enables security teams to stay aware of risks in real time. 

Threat Detection

As the SaaS landscape widens, so does the SaaS attack surface. Organizations need a comprehensive SaaS security solution to prevent data theft, encryption, or sabotage. 

Among others, an SSPM solution detects threats stemming from anomalous user behavior, such as logging onto applications from irregular locations or using a suspicious browser. It identifies and raises an alert for lateral movements – such as the creation of a new admin account – that indicates an attack may be under way.  

Remediation

When misconfigurations are found, SSPMs provide step-by-step remediation descriptions to show exactly how to fix the SaaS misconfiguration. Advanced SSPMs may also include an auto-remediate feature directly from the platform.

Security Benchmarks

Security teams need to have a long-term view of their security posture to understand how their system has evolved over time. SSPM solutions provide posture-over-time graphs to enable teams to benchmark individual applications against each other, compare different instances of the same app, or compare segments. 

What are the Benefits of SSPM?

While the native security controls of SaaS apps are often robust, it falls on the responsibility of the organization to ensure that all configurations are properly set — from global settings, to every user role and privilege. The security team is tasked with knowing every app, user, and configuration, and ensuring they are all compliant with industry and company policy.

With an SSPM solution, security teams can increase their SaaS security beyond Misconfiguration Management to also cover SaaS-to-SaaS Access, Device-to-SaaS User Risk levels, and Identity & Access Management Governance.

Misconfiguration Management

Each app can have hundreds of global settings, such as which files can be shared, whether MFA is required, or whether recording is allowed in video conferencing. Then multiply this number by thousands of employees. Security teams must familiarize themselves with every application’s specific set of rules and configurations and ensure they are secure. Additionally, the SaaS app owner often sits outside of the security team, in the department that most uses the app, and have their priorities focused on productivity rather than the security upkeep of the app. 

SSPM bridges these gaps and enables security teams to continuously oversee and fix the posture of each app and communicate its configuration fixes through the platform while enabling business continuity.

SaaS-to-SaaS Access Discovery and Control

Employees often extend the functionality of their primary SaaS applications by connecting them to a secondary SaaS app, otherwise known as 3rd-party app access. However, users rarely realize they've handed over significant permission rights to the new 3rd-party application.

The security team needs to be able to identify and monitor all that happens within their SaaS ecosystem. Visibility into all configurations and user permissions of each and every app, including all the SaaS-to-SaaS apps that have been granted access by users is crucial. This way, security teams can retain control of the SaaS stack, remediate any issues, block any apps using too many privileges, and mitigate their risk.

Device-to-SaaS Risk Management

Employees often use personal and company devices to get the jobs done. However, if their  device’s hygiene contains even one vulnerability, it increases the risk for the organization and widens the attack surface for bad actors. 

Security teams need to be able to remediate threats posed by endpoint devices. To get a handle on which devices and users pose the highest risk, security teams can correlate devices, their users, and associated SaaS app permissions. 

Identity and Access Governance

Implementing Identity & Access Management best practices are crucial to secure the SaaS environment. 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. An SSPM solution enables this by managing prevention domains such as misconfigurations, vulnerabilities, and exposure. 

What Makes SSPM Different?

CSPM vs. SSPM

CSPM refers to IaaS security solutions while an SSPM solution is specialized in SaaS app technology and offers unique value to be able to integrate with any app in the organization’s SaaS app stack.

CASB vs. SSPM

SSPM is frequently confused with CASB, as both are designed to address security issues within SaaS applications. While there may be some overlap between the two, SSPM looks at security settings within SaaS applications, including user profiles, devices, and third party SaaS applications that connect to core SaaS apps. CASB, in contrast, functions as a gatekeeper, allowing organizations to extend their security policies into the cloud.

Conclusion

SSPM provides visibility across a company’s entire SaaS stack to protect against cybersecurity attacks and data breaches. It offers non-stop monitoring of millions of configurations, SaaS app connections, user security hygiene, and devices used to reduce risks and detect threats. While there are multiple security tools that focus on cloud-based data protection, SSPM is the only one that provides real-time protection for all your SaaS data. 

About the writer

Adaptive Shield Team
What is SSPM?
Businesses today run nearly every facet of their operations using a wide array of interconnected SaaS apps. Adaptive Shield’s team is here to keep you informed as well as help you secure your SaaS estate.