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These 5 SaaS Access Control and Management Mistakes Could Harm Your Business

In today’s online landscape, SaaS solutions have become essential parts of day-to-day workflows within businesses operating in the digital sphere. These tools, which allow employees to access critical systems and data from their own devices at any time, have revolutionized the way that we work, collaborate, and communicate.

But there are some serious downsides to embracing SaaS, specifically from a security perspective. Because SaaS tools grant users the ability to view and obtain sensitive information, there is the inherent risk of data leakage, along with other security concerns. 

Without appropriate oversight and a proactive security strategy, your SaaS tools could prove to be a major vulnerability for your business.

Let’s break down the biggest SaaS access control management mistakes that may be endangering your organization. 

1. Allowing Former Users to Retain Access

Picture this:

An employee, partner, or vendor was granted permissions for a specific project, departed your organization some time later - yet they still enjoy access to critical systems and data which they no longer should be able to view.

This scenario happens far too often, especially in organizations where SaaS access control management isn’t a high priority. At DoControl, we’ve seen clients whose former employees accessed SaaS assets as long as two years after they left an organization! 

Why is this such a widespread issue? 

For one, removing access permissions typically doesn’t occur during the offboarding process. Many times, a user’s access to the SaaS application as a whole may be removed, but that user can still access specific assets via links. 

This is also the case if assets were shared with the user’s personal email address - they’ll continue to have access from there.

What to do instead:

Check that your offboarding process is truly comprehensive. That means removing the entirety of a user’s permissions, whether they were granted via a work or personal email address. 

But retracting hundreds or thousands of permissions for various assets is time-consuming, tedious, and challenging. It’s next to impossible to keep track of all of a user’s access permissions without a comprehensive tool to help guide you. It’s clear that in 2024, SaaS access management is no longer a manual task for an individual employee or team.

With complete, up-to-date mapping of all asset permissions and automated bulk remediations, DoControl offers you a practical way to ensure that users have no ‘leftover’ access. 

In addition, you should also reevaluate your SaaS assessment management strategy when it comes to users on their way out. Departing users who have not yet been offboarded must be treated with a higher security priority. 

Are they downloading assets or sharing resources with personal email addresses? These types of activities should raise more suspicion and trigger a stronger response from you than under ordinary circumstances. 

DoControl uses HR and other critical context in order to detect and alert you about suspicious activity. Our solution is able to distinguish between normal business actions and when a users’ behavior may be cause for concern.

2. Not Treating 3rd Party Apps Like Human Users

If a random user asked for admin permissions for one of your business-critical SaaS apps without a valid reason, would you grant it? The answer to that question is a resounding no

So why do we treat 3rd party SaaS apps differently, as though we inherently trust them? 

Typically, when SaaS apps ask permission to access our directory or change and edit data, we simply click “yes.” 

This puts your organization at serious risk for a number of catastrophic scenarios, such as a bad actor copying, downloading, or even deleting crucial information within your internal systems.

What to do instead:

Third-party SaaS apps permissions and activities should be monitored with the same intensity and scrutiny as apply to human users.

If you’ve found an over-permissioned app, immediately remove those permissions. In one audit, DoControl discovered a third-party app with access to an organization’s calendar, email, and numerous other business-sensitive functions. That level of permissions was completely unnecessary for the app in question. DoControl removed the app and implemented a workflow that would prevent anyone from re-adding it.

If a third-party app is raising red flags, your organization needs to respond, swiftly. DoControl offers your organization automated workflows for these exact situations, which immediately flag the potential issue, alert you, and offer automatic remediations.

3. Using Access Control Solutions That Are Too Slow for SaaS

Intuitive SaaS UX, which makes sharing sensitive data easy as a few clicks, drives massive internal exposures. When a user simply has to click a button to make data visible to another person, they often do so without thinking about the potential consequences or considering the ramifications of sharing.

Another factor here is that user expectations for SaaS apps are higher than ever. People expect to use these tools to work faster and more smoothly, prioritizing productivity and efficacy over anything else. And SaaS security controls that bring the workflow to a grinding halt aren’t going to cut it.

The truth is that traditional API-based CASBs simply weren’t designed to oversee this level of activity. They may slow down your business workflow as they struggle to keep up with users, and could even miss problems altogether because of an API rate that limits or denies requests.

What to do instead:

Embrace a SaaS security solution that leverages multiple contexts when determining risk, which streamlines the risk-assessment process and won’t slow down your workflows. 

DoControl uses end-user business context to secure data, which means that it understands when user behavior is suspicious or simply part of normal, day-to-day activity at your company. 

With significant enrichments such as the user’s email address, department, role, location, data permissions, group memberships, and employment status, DoControl expertly differentiates between risky scenarios and typical behavior, meaning that you won’t have to cut through the noise of endless alerts or disrupt your employees’ workflows.

4. Not Integrating Employee Security Training 

Insider risk poses a serious threat to your SaaS security, but this factor often goes unnoticed by companies. With a CASB in place, thinking about how to involve end-users in the remediation process is often overlooked - but it shouldn’t be.

At the end of the day, your employees can make the difference between a disastrous data leak and preventing a breach before it happens. While the right technology can help secure your SaaS environment, it’s critical to educate and train your team so they can become active members of your security strategy. 

What to do instead:

Understand that your employees should be active participants in your data security strategy. That means using tools that allow them to take initiative and stay on top of data sharing and potential exposures within your organization.

DoControl’s platform takes the end user into account, by making employees aware of risky behavior and empowering them to become part of the solution. When users perform actions such as publicly sharing an asset, DoControl doesn’t just correct the issue - it informs them about what they’ve just done, and gives them an opportunity to make things right.

5. Ignoring How Third Parties Share Assets

Sharing assets with third parties, such as partners, collaborators, and external contractors, is going to happen. And those third parties may need to provide access to their own third parties, who are fourth parties to your company, in order to get the job done. 

But how far can this ever-expanding chain of permissions go, and should you be worried?

An analysis of DoControl clients determined that third-party insiders shared an average of 3,003 assets with fourth-parties.

This sobering statistic shows that you may have far less control over your data than you may realize. And, as we mentioned earlier, are you going to remember to remove all of those user permissions once the project is done?

What to do instead:

DoControl’s automated and bulk remediations lighten the load for your IT and IS teams. With these tools, permissions and access can be revoked comprehensively, without the need for employees to manual review each and every setting.

As part of a strong SaaS access control management strategy, you should consider implementing solutions that provide you with a full, big-picture overview of all your potential data exposures and permissions - especially when it comes to those with third-party collaborators. 

SaaS Access Control: The Key to Keeping Data Safe

Avoiding these errors and embracing SaaS security controls means helping your employees, vendors, and partners to work more efficiently, while safeguarding the crucial systems and data within your SaaS environment.

Your SaaS security controls are a fundamental element within an overall plan for safeguarding your company's business-critical data. Tools like DoControl can help ensure that access to sensitive data is limited to those who need it, and that potential exposures and risky user behavior are swiftly remediated.

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