Why High Tech Companies Struggle with SaaS Security - Adaptive Shield

Why High Tech Companies Struggle with SaaS Security

Adaptive Shield Team

It’s easy to think high-tech companies have a security advantage over other older, more mature industries. Most are unburdened by 40 years of legacy systems and software. They draw some of the world’s youngest, brightest digital natives to their ranks, all of whom consider cybersecurity issues their entire lives.

Perhaps it is due to their familiarity with technology that causes them to overlook SaaS security configurations. During the last Christmas holiday season, Slack had some private code stolen from its GitHub repository. According to Slack, the stolen code didn’t impact production, and no customer data was taken.

Still, the breach should serve as a warning sign to other tech companies. Stolen tokens allowed threat actors to access the GitHub instance and download the code. If this type of attack can happen to Slack on GitHub, it can happen to any high-tech company. Tech companies must take SaaS security seriously to prevent resources from leaking or being stolen.

App Breaches: A Recurring Story

Slack’s misfortune with GitHub wasn’t the first time a GitHub breach occurred. Back in April, a stolen OAuth token from Heroku and Travis CI-maintained OAuth applications were stolen, leading to an attacker downloading data from dozens of private code repositories.

MailChimp, a SaaS app used to manage email campaigns, experienced three breaches over 12 months spanning 2022-23. Customer data was stolen by threat actors, who used that data in attacks against cryptocurrency companies.

SevenRooms had over 400 GB of sensitive data stolen from its CRM platform, PayPal notified customers in January that unauthorized parties accessed accounts using stolen login credentials, and Atlassian saw employee data and corporate data exposed in a February breach.

Clearly, tech companies aren’t immune to data breaches. Protecting their proprietary code, customer data, and employee records that are stored within SaaS applications should be a top priority.

Reliance on SaaS Applications

A strong SaaS posture is important for any company, but it is particularly important for organizations that store their proprietary code in SaaS applications. This code is especially tempting to threat actors, who would like nothing more than to monetize their efforts and ransom the code back to its creators.

Tech companies also tend to rely on a large number and mix of SaaS applications, from collaboration platforms to sales and marketing tools, legal and finance, data warehouses, cybersecurity solutions, and many more – making it even more challenging to secure the entire stack.

Tech employees heavily depend on SaaS apps to do their day-to-day work; this requires security teams to strictly govern identities and their access. Moreover, these users tend to log into their SaaS apps through different devices to maintain efficiency, which may pose a risk to the organization based on the device’s level of hygiene. On top of this, tech employees tend to connect third-party applications to the core stack without thinking twice, granting these apps high risk scopes.

Controlling SaaS Access After Layoffs

The high-tech industry is known for periods of hyper-growth, followed by downsizing. Over the past few months, we’ve seen Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Shopify and others announce layoffs.

Deprovisioning employees from SaaS applications is a critical element in data security. While much of the offboarding of employees is automated, SaaS applications that are not connected to the company directory don’t automatically revoke access. Even those applications that are connected may have admin accounts that are outside the company’s SSO. While the primary SSO account may be disconnected, the user’s admin access through the app’s login screen is often accessible.

Organic Hyper Growth and M&As

At the same time, the industry is ripe with mergers and acquisition announcements. As a result of M&As, the acquiring company needs to create a baseline for SaaS security and monitor all SaaS stacks of merged or acquired companies, while enabling business continuity. Whether the hyper growth is organic or through an M&A, organizations need to be able to ensure access is right-sized for their users, at scale and rapidly.

Identity Threat Detection & Response

The majority of data breaches impacting tech companies stem from stolen credentials and tokens. The threat actor enters the system through the front door, using valid credentials of the user.

Identity Threat Detection and Response (ITDR) picks up suspicious events that would otherwise go unnoticed. An SSPM (SaaS Security Posture Management) solution with threat detection engines in place will alert when there is an Indicator of Compromise (IOC). These IOCs are based on cross-referencing of activities such as user geolocation, time, frequency, recurring attempts to login, excessive activities and more.

Securing High Tech’s SaaS

Maintaining a high SaaS security posture is challenging for high tech companies, who may mistakenly believe they are equipped and well trained to prevent SaaS attacks. SaaS Security Posture Management is essential to preventing SaaS breaches, while an SSPM with ITDR capabilities will go a long way toward ensuring that your SaaS data is secure.

About the writer

Adaptive Shield Team

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.