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Extend Zero Trust to SaaS Apps for Identity Security

How to Extend Zero Trust to SaaS Apps You Don’t Control

Software as a service (SaaS) tools offer flexibility and efficiency, helping everyone at your company do their best work. However, the proliferation of SaaS applications can lead to identity sprawl, weak credentials, and other security risks. Learn how zero trust architecture offers a framework for using SaaS apps safely.

Understanding Zero Trust Security

Traditional approaches to cybersecurity sought to define and secure a network perimeter. But with the growth of hybrid work models and the move to cloud computing, it is increasingly difficult to define the perimeter. Instead, enterprises are moving toward cybersecurity mesh architecture (CSMA), an ecosystem of integrated security solutions to secure a modern, distributed network setup.

Zero trust security is an important component of many CSMA solutions. Rather than a single tool or program, zero trust architecture is a security strategy rooted in the principle of “never trust, always verify.” Because employees can access SaaS tools from multiple endpoint devices and networks, implicit trust no longer makes sense. Zero trust security for SaaS uses:

  • Continuous verification: There are no trusted credentials or devices. Every user and device needs to be authenticated every time to ensure identity security.
  • Least privilege approach: Users are always verified before access is given. But once access is granted, all users and applications may only have the minimum amount of access they need to perform a job or task. 
  • Assumption of breach: IT teams plan for the worst-case scenario and segment authorization and access to limit the impact of a potential breach.

Zero Trust Security for SaaS

Zero trust frameworks can be customized to specific industries or organizations, but they always have a similar posture. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) outlines seven key factors of zero trust architecture:

  • Resources: All computing services and sources of data are considered resources, including SaaS applications and employees’ devices.
  • Communications: Regardless of network location, all communication must be secured.
  • Access control: Users must be authenticated before access is granted to any resource or application. Access is on a per-session basis, not continual, with minimum privileges required to complete a task.
  • Dynamic policy: Access to specific resources may vary by factors including the end user, asset, or service. 
  • Monitoring: No asset is awarded inherent trust – the enterprise uses continuous diagnostics and mitigation to monitor devices and tools for potential vulnerabilities.
  • Identity and Access Management (IAM): All users and resources have to be authenticated and authorized before access is granted to any application or program.
  • Analytics: Ongoing data collection and analysis are used to improve the organization’s security posture.

Benefits of Zero Trust

Zero trust architecture is an important component of SaaS security. As companies become more reliant on SaaS applications and shift to a hybrid model of work, the security perimeter is no longer clearly defined. Zero trust helps to minimize risk by:

  • Improving visibility into user activity
  • Providing dynamic access based on identity and use case
  • Offering protection against cybersecurity threats while allowing for remote work

Even if a hacker successfully accesses one application, zero trust architecture prevents lateral movement across your network, limiting the impact of a breach.

Challenges of Extending Zero Trust and SaaS

Unfortunately, many organizations struggle to secure the SaaS layer. By their very nature, SaaS applications can be difficult to monitor and control. Potential problems in implementing zero trust architecture can include:

Shadow SaaS

Within an enterprise, some applications are approved, installed, and monitored by an IT team. Others, however, may be downloaded and used by different teams outside of the established IT vetting and purchasing process. These ad hoc solutions may help your business grow, but they can pose a major risk because they are unmonitored.

Configuration Issues

Each SaaS application is different. While the developer may offer adjustable security and privacy settings, you may not be able to enforce your security policy on a third-party application. Plus, you could fall victim to day-one vulnerabilities or unsecured integrations. 

Without a central dashboard for locating, monitoring, and securing each SaaS application, your enterprise will always have a potential gap in your security fabric. 

Extending Zero Trust to SaaS

There are multiple options for implementing zero trust security across the SaaS layer. Common best practices include:

Cloud Access Security Broker

A Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) is a security policy enforcement point, placed between enterprise end users and cloud service providers. CASBs may be implemented to control SaaS access using tools like authentication, credential mapping, and malware detection.

Identity and Access Management

Identity and Access Management (IAM) is a framework for managing and limiting access to systems, data, or tools. In the context of SaaS applications, an IAM approach may be necessary because identity is often the only element that an IT team can control, especially with unsanctioned SaaS. Integrated IAM tools for SaaS can include single sign-on (SSO) and password managers. 

Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is a tool for verifying an end user’s identity by asking for two or more types of credentials. The goal is to prevent unauthorized access, limit the use of shared credentials, and stop hackers. In addition to a username and password, an MFA checkpoint might request a security token, ask a personal question, or even require biometric data like facial recognition.

Application Programming Interfaces

Utilizing an Application Programming Interface (API) integration can offer better control across the SaaS layer, applying a centralized security policy to multiple apps or services.

Improve SaaS Security with Help from Grip

Integrating zero trust into your identity fabric can help address the inherent security challenges of business-led IT. At Grip, we offer an unmatched security solution through the SaaS Security Control Plane (SSCP). Providing complete visibility across all sanctioned and unsanctioned SaaS, Grip SSCP deploys in minutes and continuously monitors all applications. The dashboard indexes and prioritizes risk so you can quickly secure individual apps. 

Get started with a SaaS identity risk assessment.

You can also read how about how the SaaS Security Control Plane protects Security Service Edge Blind Spot here.

*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from Grip Security Blog authored by Grip Security Blog. Read the original post at: https://www.grip.security/blog/extend-zero-trust-to-saas