Eliminate the Risk of Shadow SaaS and Secure Corporate Data: A Comprehensive Guide

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SaaS applications, also known as Software-as-a-Service, have become increasingly popular in the corporate world. These applications offer organizations the ability to leverage technology and improve their business operations. However, along with the benefits they provide, SaaS applications also introduce a new security risk that needs to be addressed by security leaders. The existing security stack in many organizations does not enable complete control or comprehensive monitoring of SaaS application usage, leaving room for potential vulnerabilities.

LayerX, a leading cybersecurity company, has recently released a comprehensive guide titled “Let There Be Light: Eliminating the Risk of Shadow SaaS” to help security and IT teams address this security gap. The guide focuses on the challenges of shadow SaaS, which refers to the unauthorized use of SaaS applications for work purposes, and provides recommendations and controls to mitigate these risks. It also compares different security controls such as CASB (Cloud Access Security Broker), SASE (Secure Access Service Edge), and Secure Browser Extensions, explaining how each control operates and its effectiveness. The guide emphasizes the importance of understanding and managing shadow SaaS risks for all security leaders in modern organizations.

The guide highlights the risks associated with shadow SaaS. According to LayerX, 65% of SaaS applications used within organizations are not approved by IT, and 80% of workers admit to using unapproved applications. This means that a majority of organizations are potentially exposing their corporate data to external threats. The three main risks posed by shadow SaaS include data loss, identity theft and account takeover, and compliance and privacy violations.

Data loss is a significant concern when employees use various SaaS applications that may inadvertently expose sensitive data. For example, popular AI-driven chat applications like ChatGPT or other GenAI apps, spelling checkers, and apps that help manage data files can inadvertently leak sensitive information. Additionally, employees may unknowingly use maliciously created SaaS apps that are designed to deceive and lure employees into sharing sensitive data.

Identity theft and account takeover are also common risks when employees use their work email credentials and often reuse passwords across multiple SaaS applications. Attackers can exploit these recycled credentials and gain unauthorized access to corporate accounts, leading to potential data breaches and other malicious activities.

Compliance and privacy violations are another concern related to shadow SaaS. The exposure of private and sensitive data through unapproved SaaS applications can result in violations of privacy regulations, jeopardizing the integrity of an organization’s compliance efforts.

To mitigate the risks associated with shadow SaaS, the guide proposes a three-pronged approach: app discovery, user monitoring, and active enforcement. Each aspect of this approach is thoroughly explained, providing security leaders with a roadmap to effectively protect their systems and resources. The guide also compares two options for shadow SaaS mitigation: the traditional Proxy approach and the browser-based solution.

The Proxy approach, implemented through CASB or SASE, provides some level of control and enforcement in monitoring SaaS application usage. However, it falls short in terms of comprehensive user monitoring and active enforcement capabilities, limiting its effectiveness in combating shadow SaaS risks.

On the other hand, secure browser extensions emerge as a more compelling solution for mitigating shadow SaaS risks. These extensions offer organizations a comprehensive and user-friendly approach to regain control over SaaS environments while providing visibility and governance of application usage. Secure browser extensions work by continuously analyzing browser sessions to identify which SaaS applications employees are accessing. This allows IT teams to have a clear understanding of the SaaS landscape within the organization and detect any unauthorized or risky applications.

Moreover, secure browser extensions can integrate with cloud identity providers, acting as an additional authentication factor to enhance identity security posture. By preventing attackers with compromised credentials from accessing SaaS applications, organizations can significantly reduce the risk of account takeover and unauthorized access.

Additionally, secure browser extensions can generate alerts when new user accounts are created, enabling the identity team to review these accounts and ensure their alignment with the organization’s security policies. By applying governance and control mechanisms, secure browser extensions can block access to flagged risky applications and prevent data upload from user devices to those applications.

In summary, while SaaS applications offer numerous advantages to organizations, they also introduce security risks that need to be addressed. The LayerX guide “Let There Be Light: Eliminating the Risk of Shadow SaaS” provides valuable insights into understanding and managing shadow SaaS risks. It emphasizes the importance of implementing a three-pronged approach that includes app discovery, user monitoring, and active enforcement. Among the various security controls available, secure browser extensions emerge as a comprehensive and user-friendly solution to combat shadow SaaS risks. By leveraging secure browser extensions, organizations can regain control of their SaaS environment while ensuring a secure and flexible workspace.

In conclusion, security and IT teams should embrace the use of SaaS applications to support business operations. However, it is essential to find ways to allow the use of SaaS applications while ensuring the protection of corporate environments. Secure browser extensions offer a promising solution by providing comprehensive visibility, governance, and control over SaaS application usage. Implementing these extensions can empower security leaders to safeguard their organizations from the risks associated with shadow SaaS. To gain more insights and information, security leaders are encouraged to read the complete guide provided by LayerX on shadow SaaS mitigation.

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