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How to Strengthen Your Security Posture as SaaS Application Complexity Grows

IT and security leaders must manage and control the increasing complexity of SaaS applications as usage surges across the workplace

2023-11-27 20:45:17


GBI, Industry News

Think back to five years ago in the workplace. Things look different, don't they? Beyond the drastic shift to remote work, there seems to be an app for everything. While employees enjoy the benefits of increased productivity, accessibility, and flexibility provided by SaaS apps, their proliferation has created more complexity for IT and security professionals. From increased data sprawl, compliance issues, and security gaps to a need for more visibility into the entire SaaS stack, today's IT and security leaders are challenged with navigating a growing and complex SaaS environment.

How can organizations continue to provide SaaS applications without risking security gaps? A long-term, collaborative SaaS management strategy starts with identifying the challenges SaaS apps create. 

Why SaaS security is so challenging 

In a study conducted in 2022, 66% of IT and security professionals reported spending more on SaaS tools than a year ago. And that’s not likely to stop anytime soon. As adoption grows, so have new obstacles for IT and security teams, including: 

  • Understanding which SaaS apps are being used and if they’re all properly managed
  • Ensuring employees are correctly onboarded and offboarded from SaaS apps
  • Securing sensitive data stored and shared across the company’s SaaS apps 
  • Monitoring SaaS app compliance against relevant frameworks and certifications
  • Optimizing SaaS spend, rightsizing SaaS licenses, and eliminating redundant applications

With IT and security professionals facing several unknowns across the SaaS app environment, a robust SaaS management strategy must include working with internal app owners to uncover why and how apps are procured and managed. Participation from app owners will range from HR, finance, and sales to marketing, R&D, and customer support, and help IT and security personnel discover specific reasons for SaaS app use and security vulnerabilities. Here are four steps to help start internal conversations: 

How to drive internal SaaS collaboration:

  • Initiate SaaS adoption discussions to understand the use case for individual apps: When collaborating with SaaS app owners, ask Which apps are essential to your teams? How are you managing user and data access to these apps? Roundtable discussions and surveys are effective ways to gather this information. 
  • Help your peers understand the big picture of all the SaaS apps across your company landscape: SaaS apps become part of an organization’s attack surface as soon as they are onboarded. Transparent discussions about the implications of uncontrolled SaaS sprawl, including shadow SaaS, non-compliance risks, spend optimization, and onboarding and offboarding gaps from decentralized IT management can help app owners understand how they impact an organization.   
  • Establish, review, and enforce company policies around SaaS applications: Consider developing a foundation for employee SaaS app usage, creating thresholds around user privileges, and establishing clear vetting processes when onboarding new SaaS apps.
  • Build a transparent, collaborative review process to continuously evaluate the effectiveness of your SaaS strategy: Review your SaaS stacks at least once a year. Focus on areas like identifying shadow applications and new users, obtaining utilization insights for the SaaS apps that handle sensitive customer and business data, and tracking SaaS spending trends.  

A modern, comprehensive solution to SaaS management: 

While SaaS application growth and complexity is inevitable, a modern, comprehensive approach to SaaS management can help. Axonius SaaS Management helps IT and security leaders solve key SaaS challenges by connecting to all layers of the SaaS application stack. Offering a single source of truth into the SaaS application environment, Axonius SaaS Management can help IT and security teams:

  • Discover all SaaS applications, including sanctioned, unsanctioned, shadow, and unmanaged apps
  • Gain actionable visibility into the interconnectivity flows between SaaS apps and 3rd/4th party app extensions
  • Uncover and mitigate misconfigurations and data security risks
  • Inform SaaS cost optimization and spend

To learn more about gaining control and managing the sprawl of SaaS apps, identifying misconfigurations, and mitigating data security risks, download our ebook, “Let’s Talk SaaS: Control SaaS Complexity With Your Business Stakeholders”, or request a demo