5 min read

First off, what is security posture?

Security posture is a reference to the cybersecurity strength of an organization, which includes an assessment of its ability to detect and respond to security threats. A security posture includes an array of tools and strategies used to guard networks, devices, users, and data from all kinds of threats, including:

  • Compromised/stolen credentials
  • Breaches
  • Data loss
  • Network performance attacks
  • Malware
  • Spyware
  • Ransomware
  • And many others

The more an organization is capable of minimizing its risk profile, defending against threats, and adhering to security compliance standards, the better its security posture.

SSPM definition

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What is SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM)?

With that definition in mind, SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM) provides automated continuous monitoring of cloud-based Software-As-A-Service (SaaS) applications like Slack, Salesforce, and Microsoft 365 to minimize risky configurations, prevent configuration drift, and help security and IT teams to ensure compliance.

SSPM key functionality

As enterprises accelerate moving workloads and sensitive data into SaaS apps, the risk of accidental exposure, overly permissive entitlements that cause data leakage, non-compliance, and threats like malware remain significant challenges. SSPM gives organizations the visibility, control, and compliance management capabilities to protect their critical workloads and combat these challenges. With SSPM, you gain insight into the risks associated with your SaaS stack and the tools needed to rapidly detect misconfigurations, enforce compliance, and protect against insider threats and malware.

SaaS applications hold untold amounts of corporate, personal, and other types of sensitive data, and oftentimes vendors lack the expertise or resources to develop all the requisite security policies with their users. Developing and enforcing these different security policies consistently across applications and users is an extremely difficult task. SSPM simplifies this process by continuously monitoring the configuration of SaaS applications against pre-built policy profiles that map to industry standards such as CIS or NIST. Misconfigurations are quickly alerted and users can even automatically remediate issues before they are exploited.

SSPM is tightly coupled with CASBs (Cloud Access Security Brokers) to provide both in-line and API protection for SaaS applications.


Datasheet: Netskope SaaS Security Posture Management
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What are the three key benefits of SSPM?

1. Simplifies compliance management
The highly dynamic, distributed nature of SaaS applications has forced organizations to rethink how they approach compliance. SSPM continuously monitors the compliance posture against both internal frameworks and regulatory standards. If certain data handling practices or encryption standards aren’t adequate, SSPM will alert the administrators of the issue or can even automatically take corrective action.

2. Prevents cloud misconfigurations
Data breaches have skyrocketed in recent years and are often due to the misconfiguration of cloud services. While resources are often configured correctly on day one, they often drift over time and fall out of compliance. Regardless of changes to the application, data they store, or users who access them it’s of paramount importance to continuously ensure secure configurations.

3. Detects overly permissive settings
Effectively controlling who has access to take what actions on which SaaS applications is a cornerstone of a robust SaaS security posture. SSPM automatically evaluates every user’s permissions and alerts on users with overly permissive roles. This ensures that only authorized personnel have access to certain types of data, systems, devices, and assets.

SaaS security posture management (SSPM)


How does SSPM work with CASB?

A Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) is an on-premises or cloud-based security policy enforcement point placed between cloud services and users to enforce security policies as cloud-based resources are accessed. On a simpler note, think of the CASB as the sheriff that enforces the laws set by the cloud service administrators.

An SSPM supplements the enforcement capabilities of a CASB by evaluating the configuration of SaaS applications and ensuring they continuously adhere to security policies and/or regulatory standards. By continuously monitoring SaaS apps, SSPM solutions can prevent configuration drift and vastly reduce the time required to prepare for an audit. Out of the box support for common standards include:

  • CIS (Center for Internet Security)
  • PCI-DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard)
  • NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology)
  • HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)


What’s the difference between SSPM and CSPM?

Just like SSPM, Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) evaluates security posture, but instead of assessing SaaS applications, this solution monitors services like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and other Cloud Service Provider (CSP) Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) environments. CSPM monitors the security and compliance posture at the resources level that compose the custom cloud applications and workloads organizations have deployed in public cloud environments.

While these are similar, SSPM focuses on the security posture of SaaS as opposed to cloud services like IaaS.


Where does SSPM fit in the broader scope of SASE?

SASE (Secure Access Service Edge) is a cloud-based architecture resulting from the convergence of security and networking services for the purpose of protecting users, data, systems, and applications. It is an elimination of the older perimeter-based model of networking and security in favor of a cloud-based model that allows users to access data and systems securely from anywhere.

Since SSPM is tightly coupled with CASB, it is an invaluable component in the future of SASE architecture. The list of commonly used SaaS applications is growing faster than most security professionals are able to maintain and secure on their own. SSPM within a SASE architecture provides them with a helping hand to continuously evaluate the security posture of their organization, make policy changes on-demand, and seamlessly enforce compliance.


Webinar: Unpacking Series: SSPM in a SASE World


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