What is SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM)?

Discover how SaaS security posture management (SSPM) can enhance your cybersecurity strategy.

A strong security posture keeps an organization prepared to predict, prevent, and mitigate security threats. While your security posture should include any technologies your organization builds, it also must account for all the tech tools in your ecosystem. The proliferation of SaaS applications in modern business has inspired an entirely new category of security: SaaS security posture management, or SSPM. In this article, we’ll look at everything you need to know about implementing SSPM to protect all the SaaS apps across your organization.

What is SaaS security posture management?

SaaS security posture management (SSPM) is a comprehensive approach organizations can use to ensure the security and compliance of their SaaS apps. As cloud services become crucial to virtually every organization, building and maintaining a strong security posture is vital. SSPM tools automate security for all cloud-based SaaS apps in use at any given time. 

This ensures that the right policies and programs are running around the clock to keep those apps — and the organization at large — as secure as possible. Most SSPM tools are designed to alert security teams when risks are identified; some can even autonomously mitigate certain types of risks.

Key components of effective SSPM

By constantly assessing the security of an organization’s SaaS apps, SSPM streamlines the process of building and maintaining a strong security posture. Here are the primary components to look for in an effective SSPM tool:

  • Continuous monitoring: Regularly scan SaaS apps for security issues and vulnerabilities to identify and address them promptly.
  • Configuration management: Ensure that SaaS apps are configured securely according to best practices and policies. This includes managing settings related to access controls, data sharing, encryption, and more.
  • Threat detection and response: Identify and respond to potential security threats and incidents within SaaS apps. This can include detecting unusual activity, unauthorized access, and other indicators of compromise.
  • Compliance management: Ensure that SaaS apps meet regulatory and industry-specific compliance requirements.
  • Access control: Manage user access to SaaS apps to ensure only authorized individuals have the necessary permissions. This includes implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA), role-based access controls (RBAC), and least privilege principles as part of a broader zero-trust stance.
  • Data protection: Ensure that data within SaaS apps is protected with encryption, secure data sharing practices, and implement data loss prevention (DLP) measures.
  • Security policy enforcement: Automate the enforcement of security policies and configurations to maintain a consistent security posture across all your SaaS apps.

How SSPM and CASB work together 

It’s important to understand how SaaS security posture management and cloud access security brokers (CASB) play complementary roles in securing cloud services. SSPM focuses on securing SaaS apps and protecting sensitive data from security threats. CASBs manage user access and enforce security policies in the cloud. Integrating SSPM and CASB solutions into a unified strategy enhances an organization’s overall cloud security posture by combining the most important features for this level of security, including continuous monitoring, risk mitigation, access control, and data protection.

6 steps for implementing SSPM solutions

To deploy SSPM effectively, security teams must plan ahead and coordinate carefully. Here are six steps to ensure a successful SSPM deployment:

#1: Assess your SaaS environment

Evaluate all the apps in your environment, including assessing their criticality and any potential security risks. The architecture of the app itself, how the app is used, where it’s installed, and when it was last updated can all contribute to security risks.

#2: Define your security policies

Set clear access controls, encryption rules, and incident response procedures. Effective SSPM strategies have as much to do with how users interact with SaaS apps — and how your team responds when risks are present — as it does with those apps’ inherent security.

#3: Choose a SSPM tool

Select a software platform or tool that meets your security needs. Account for all the SaaS apps already in your tech stack and any additional tools you plan to onboard in the near future. It’s also critical that your SSPM tool is built to scale along with your organization’s growth.

#4: Configure your SSPM tool 

Carefully integrate your new SSPM tool with your existing infrastructure. Set up your data feeds, ensure all the appropriate access is granted between your SSPM tool and the apps it’s protecting, and define the monitoring metrics you will use to evaluate performance.

#5: Apply continuous monitoring 

Regularly monitor your entire environment for any vulnerabilities or misconfigurations. Configure real-time alerts and periodic summaries to notify your team of any issues that arise and report on any automated steps the SSPM has taken to ensure security.

#6: Offer training and education

Train your entire team on best practices for securing SaaS apps as they interact with your environment. A strong security posture requires the entire organization’s participation; it can’t rest solely on the shoulders of the security team to save the day after breaches have already occurred.

Common challenges in SSPM implementation

Implementing SSPM solutions can be challenging for organizations. By addressing these common challenges proactively and collaborating with SSPM vendors, organizations can enhance the security of their SaaS apps.

  • Lack of visibility: Implement an SSPM solution for comprehensive monitoring and reporting of all SaaS apps.
  • Inadequate configuration management: Regularly review and update configuration settings using your SSPM tool to detect and remediate misconfigurations.
  • Insufficient user training: Conduct regular training sessions to educate users on security best practices and potential risks associated with SaaS apps to reduce human error.
  • Lack of integration with existing security tools: Ensure seamless integration between SSPM solutions and existing security tools, such as SIEM systems, and identity management platforms for effective security management.

Enhance your security framework with SSPM and CASB 

SaaS security posture management is a vital component in modern cybersecurity strategies, particularly for organizations heavily reliant on cloud-based apps. When integrated with CASB solutions, SSPM can significantly enhance an organization's security framework. CASBs such as Lookout Secure Cloud Access protect access to cloud services, ensure data compliance, and enforce security policies. SSPM adds another layer of defense by continuously monitoring and managing the security configurations and posture of these SaaS apps. 

Frequently asked questions

What are the key benefits of SSPM?

The fundamental benefit of implementing an SSPM tool is that it gives security teams the visibility they need to protect their SaaS apps. Building on that foundation of traceability and transparency, SSPM tools introduce several other key benefits:

  • Threat detection: Identify vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, access issues, and more.
  • Remediation: Mitigate certain risks automatically before escalating to security teams.
  • Access control: Use least privilege principles to grant users appropriate permissions.
  • Compliance: Satisfy industry standards and regulations with constant adjustments.
  • Automation: Minimize manual effort so security teams can focus on high-value tasks.

How does SSPM differ from CSPM or DSPM?

SaaS security posture management (SSPM), cloud security posture management (CSPM), and data security posture management (DSPM) are all distinct but related security strategies. Each one approaches security from a different angle, or more precisely, at a different level. Of the three, CSPM is the most overarching approach, forming an umbrella of security over the other two types; in other words, CSPM tackles the security of an organization’s entire cloud environment. SSPM, as we’ve already seen, focuses specifically on securing the SaaS apps within that cloud environment. Lastly, DSPM prioritizes protecting an organization’s data wherever it lives within the cloud environment, SaaS apps, etc.

Many security professionals use the analogy of a medieval castle to illustrate how these strategies interact. CSPM protects the castle itself, identifying any secret passageways or hidden doors before an attacker can find and exploit them. SSPM protects certain hallways and wings of the castle, especially those that lead to other proverbial kingdoms. DSPM protects the treasure and riches around which the castle is built. To learn more about how to find the right security strategy to protect your cloud-based organization, download our free e-book: Safeguarding Cloud Data with CASB: 4 Questions to Consider.

Safeguarding Cloud Data with CASB: 4 Key Questions to Consider

Book a personalized, no-pressure demo today to learn:
  • How adversaries are leveraging avenues outside traditional email to conduct phishing on iOS and Android devices
  • Real-world examples of phishing and app threats that have compromised organizations
  • How an integrated endpoint-to-cloud security platform can detect threats and protect your organization

Hybrid work increases cloud data risks. Traditional security fails, but the right CASB can protect you. Learn how to choose the best CASB solution.

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Book a personalized, no-pressure demo today to learn:

Safeguarding Cloud Data with CASB: 4 Key Questions to Consider

Hybrid work increases cloud data risks. Traditional security fails, but the right CASB can protect you. Learn how to choose the best CASB solution.

  • How adversaries are leveraging avenues outside traditional email to conduct phishing on iOS and Android devices
  • Real-world examples of phishing and app threats that have compromised organizations
  • How an integrated endpoint-to-cloud security platform can detect threats and protect your organization