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What Is SSPM? Overview, Features and Best Practices

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What is SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM)?

SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM) solutions offer tools and automation capabilities that can provide visibility into the security posture of SaaS environments, and make it easier to remediate security concerns in those environments.

SSPM solutions may cover some or all of the following aspects of SaaS security:

  • Security controls—reviewing controls implemented by the organization for the purpose of protecting SaaS applications against external and internal cyberattacks.
  • Security management—providing tools and techniques to help establish, update, optimize, and apply security policies.
  • Detection and response—detecting threats, mitigating incidents, and recovering from cyber attacks.

This is part of an extensive series of guides about cloud security.

What is SaaS Security Posture?

SaaS security practices and tools help organizations secure corporate data and user privacy in subscription-based cloud applications. SaaS applications often hold a large amount of sensitive information. These applications allow many users to gain access to information from a wide range of devices and locations. This can introduce major privacy and security risks.

While security and IT teams are generally familiar with tools and practices designed to protect Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) environments, SaaS security requires a different approach.

SaaS applications serve different teams with varying degrees of technical expertise. Additionally, the majority of organizations use multiple SaaS applications, each with a different security structure and different levels of complexity. This can turn SaaS security into a complex and time consuming effort.


Many critical business systems are being migrated to SaaS. According to a Gartner report, worldwide spending on SaaS is as much as 48% higher than the spend on infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and 106% higher than platform as a service (PaaS). Many organizations rely on a similar set of popular, strategic SaaS applications to implement common business functions.

SSPM can address the following problems in an organization, by continuously assessing security risks and managing the security for SaaS applications:

  • Complex configurations—modern SaaS applications have hundreds of configurations that control sensitive activities, such as the ability to share files via Google’s G Suite, access customer data in Salesforce, or record video calls in Zoom. Relying on default settings is not a viable solution.
  • Multiple applications—different SaaS applications, especially if provided by different vendors, have their own set of configurations and interpret common controls such as IAM and data sharing in their distinct way. IT and security teams need to understand what each application offers and how configuration settings affect the security posture.
  • Multiple interfaces—configurations are typically contained in multi-layer menus in each application console. Security and IT operations teams must be familiar with the security features in each application, and be able to find them in the application configuration. In some cases, simple operations like adding or removing permission for multiple users can be inefficient and time consuming.
  • Configuration drift—it is not sufficient to set a secure configuration once. To ensure there are no misconfigurations, administrators should periodically check each application and identify if there were deviations from secure configuration.

How Does SSPM Work?

SSPM tools continuously evaluate the following aspects of SaaS applications:

  • User permission settings: SSPM technology determines user permissions for SaaS applications. Some SSPM tools can also identify inactive and unused user accounts, ensuring organizations can terminate these accounts to reduce the number of attack vectors.
  • Compliance: SSPM solutions can identify specific security threats that might lead to a data security or privacy violation. 
  • Configuration: SSPM tools look for security misconfigurations that can potentially expose data.

If the solution finds risks, it automatically alerts security teams. Certain SSPM solutions go beyond simple alerting by offering automated mitigation.

SSPM Features and Capabilities

Here are several key features every SSPM solution should provide:

  • 24/7 monitoring—continuously monitoring and enforcing security and privacy policies for SaaS applications.
  • Application support—enabling quick integration with the SaaS ecosystem of the organization, including video conferencing platforms, HR management systems, customer support tools, workspaces, dashboards, content, file-sharing applications, marketing platforms, messaging applications, and all integrated applications. The SSPM solutions should be able to detect misconfigurations or incorrect roles and privileges in any of these applications.
  • Remediation—supports remediation efforts, either automatically or manually via support from the SSPM vendor. SSPM solutions that provide active remediation can improve your ability to rapidly respond to security risks.
  • Built-in security benchmarks—continuously running security checks according to industry benchmarks and industry standards, and determining insecure configurations or those that represent a compliance violation. SSPM solutions should also be able to tailor security and compliance checks to the specific needs of the organization.
  • Single pane of glass—displaying all security risks across all applications on one, user-friendly dashboard. All stakeholders, including application users, IT and security staff, should be able to understand security risks, and receive actionable information to remediate them.

SaaS Security Best Practices

Here are several important best practices that all SaaS customers must practice. Many of them can be implemented or made easier by the use of SSPM solutions:

  • Detect rogue services and compromised accounts—according to recent studies, organizations use over 1,900 unique cloud services on average, many of them unknown or unmanaged by the organization due to shadow IT. Identify all cloud services and prioritize them according to the data they store and their impact on the business.
  • Apply identity and access management (IAM)—role-based IAM solutions can help ensure that users never gain access to resources they do not need to perform their jobs. IAM tools use access policies to determine what applications and files each user is allowed to access. Organizations can apply this type of role-based permission to data and ensure that end users can see only the data they are authorized to view.
  • Encrypt cloud data—encryption methods turn data into meaningless code that cannot be accessed by unauthorized users. The majority of regulatory entities require that organizations encrypt sensitive data, when it is at rest in storage repositories and while it is in transit as it moves between environments. SaaS vendors typically provide some form of encryption—but you must ensure encryption is enabled and working correctly for all sensitive data, including adequate protection of the underlying encryption keys.
  • Enforce data loss prevention (DLP)—DLP tools monitor sensitive data in SaaS applications and outgoing transmissions. These tools can block unauthorized transmissions of sensitive information, preventing leaks and theft. You should also use DLP solutions to prevent users from downloading sensitive data to personal devices, and block unauthorized attempts to access, download or delete the data.
  • Monitor collaborative sharing of data—collaboration controls can help detect granular permissions on all files shared with a wide range of users, including external users who use a web link to access files. The goal of collaboration controls is to prevent employees from intentionally or inadvertently sharing confidential documents via tools like team spaces, email accounts, and storage services like Dropbox and Google Drive.
  • Audit the security of service providers—According to a recent Cloud Adoption and Risk Report, 70% of surveyed respondents said they trust their SaaS provider’s security, but only 8% of those SaaS vendors actually met basic security requirements. For example, only 10% provided encryption of data at rest, and only 18% supported multi-factor authentication. It is critical to audit providers, evaluate their compliance certifications, their data protection, access control, and other security capabilities.

Cynet SaaS Security Posture Management

Cynet 360 AutoXDR automatically identifies, prioritizes and fixes security risks across leading SaaS applications. Using a simple dashboard, security administrators can immediately identify and prioritize SaaS security posture issues. For each SaaS environment, you can quickly view the types of risk identified, the severity of each, and details about each misconfiguration, including the related compliance standards. Historical views allow administrators to identify and analyze persistent areas of concern to help avoid future compliance violations.

See Additional Guides on Key Cloud Security Topics

Together with our content partners, we have authored in-depth guides on several other topics that can also be useful as you explore the world of cloud security.

What is MDR

Authored by Cynet

Disaster Recovery

Authored by Faddom

Cloud Security Solutions

Authored by NetApp 

Learn more about Cynet AutoXDR



SaaS security practices and tools help organizations secure corporate data and user privacy in subscripti... READ MORE

July 1, 2019

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