Identity And Access Management From The SaaS Application Perspective

Identity And Access Management From The SaaS Application Perspective

The SaaS Application Perspective

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) has taken the enterprise by storm as the go-to delivery model for applications, and the cloud service is here to stay…for better or worse. Enterprises look to its benefits including dramatic cost savings, app availability from anywhere, and seamless updates and upgrades pushed to users from the SaaS provider.

There’s certainly no trepidation surrounding the benefits that the cloud rains down on enterprises, but what makes CISOs uneasy about SaaS delivery of apps is the lack of control and visibility into who has access to them while floating around in the cloud. Enterprises can obviously call the shots when data and apps are stored on-premise, but the fear of data breaches is amped up when applications and data, and who controls the access to them, is out of the hands of the enterprise and in the hands of the SaaS provider.

So what should a SaaS application developer or provider do so enterprises can govern their identity and access issues effectively? There are three key Identity and Access Management (IAM) areas that deserve close attention.

Authentication

SaaS apps can take several routes for authenticating users. The first is independent authentication with a private user directory and independent user account management. This is a poor choice because it forces the SaaS application to manage passwords and forces users to remember separate credentials for the SaaS app.  In addition, from an enterprise perspective, supporting joiners, movers and leavers (who’s moving in and out of your organization) here becomes difficult.

A variant of the independent option is internal authentication with a private user directory synched to an external user repository, usually Active Directory. While this approach may seem to be fine for a single application, as the number of applications scales, IT administrators have trouble managing the synching, and the risk of a breach goes up significantly when credentials are transmitted outside the perimeter.

The ideal authentication setup for a SaaS app is token-based authentication and SSO based on directory federation. SAML (Secure Access Markup Language) tokens issued by corporate identity providers fit the bill perfectly. Why? A single corporate username and password enables access across multiple SaaS applications. The process is intelligent, too, because user attributes relevant to authorization can be delivered in the token, and “just-in-time” provisioning (automated account setup for a first-visit user) can be supported.  While this approach requires the management of trust relationships between individual enterprises and the SaaS application in question, and at least basic user account management, the headaches of syncing and having hundreds of passwords are off the table here.

Entitlements

So your users have been authenticated to your SaaS apps. That’s the easy part, but effective management of entitlements – what your users can do within those apps at a fine-grained, nitty-gritty level, is far more difficult.

Most SaaS applications come with their own entitlement model, with internal administration of entitlement policies and an application-specific user interface for defining who gets what entitlements within the application. From an application developer’s perspective, this approach seems convenient, but in reality, it provides poor support for enterprise identity and access lifecycle management and compliance.  Setting up joiners and movers or de-provisioning leavers requires manual intervention, and tracking “who has access to what” often means the creation of application-specific reports.

The best option here is for SaaS applications to support an entitlement model that includes pre-defined application roles, and an API that supports the collection of current user-role and user-entitlement bindings as well as the provisioning or de-provisioning of user-to-role and user-to-entitlement bindings.  With this approach, administering user-to-role policies is done by each enterprise outside of the SaaS application, while the runtime authorization enforcement based on provisioned user bindings or user attributes is done within the SaaS application. Leaving policy administration out of the application and up to the enterprise makes change management and compliance much easier.

The benefit of having application roles is that it’s far easier to track and change user access to SaaS apps when each application’s access can be described in terms of tens of application roles and a few out-of-role entitlements, versus  thousands of entitlements.

It’s likely that a standards-based protocol will emerge someday for the API referenced above, but SPML (Secure Provisioning Markup Language) fell short, and SCIM (Simple Cloud Identity Management), while useful for account and user profile provisioning, doesn’t help with entitlements.

Auditing

Your users have been authenticated and can wield the power they’ve been given by individual application roles and entitlements within SaaS applications. But are you taking notes on every move they make within your organization? Probably not!  Automated logging of user activity for each SaaS app is crucial to both the audit trail needed when the auditor comes knocking and the real-time alerting required by enterprise SOCs (security operations centers). If a subset of the application roles and entitlements for a SaaS app is considered sensitive or privileged, it is up to the SaaS application developer and provider to ensure that the use of this privileged access can be closely and continuously scrutinized.

It is important to note that mobile and cloud computing is causing the Identity and Access Management industry to adopt new models and consider new standards.  OpenID Connect and OAuth, for example, are very promising standards, but SaaS applications targeted for broad-based enterprise use can’t rely exclusively on them today.

While SaaS applications, being outside the perimeter, aren’t inherently ideal for meeting enterprise identity and access lifecycle management and compliance initiatives, SaaS app developers and providers should look to these areas as the first action items when rolling out cloud-based applications across the enterprise.

By Deepak Taneja,

Contributor Deepak Taneja is Founder and CTO of Aveksa, provider of the industry’s most comprehensive Business-Driven Identity and Access Management platform.  By uniquely integrating Identity and Access Governance, Provisioning and Authentication, Aveksa enables enterprises to manage the complete lifecycle of user access for SaaS and On-premise applications and data.  Learn more at www.aveksa.com.

About CloudTweaks

Established in 2009, CloudTweaks is recognized as one of the leading authorities in connected technology information and services.

We embrace and instill thought leadership insights, relevant and timely news related stories, unbiased benchmark reporting as well as offer green/cleantech learning and consultive services around the world.

Our vision is to create awareness and to help find innovative ways to connect our planet in a positive eco-friendly manner.

In the meantime, you may connect with CloudTweaks by following and sharing our resources.

View All Articles

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.

Comic
Cukes and the Cloud

Cukes and the Cloud

The Cloud, through bringing vast processing power to bear inexpensively, is enabling artificial intelligence. But, don’t think Skynet and the Terminator. Think cucumbers! Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) conjures up the images of vast cool intellects bent on our destruction or at best ignoring us the way we ignore ants. Reality is a lot different and much…

Ransomware’s Great Lessons

Ransomware’s Great Lessons

Ransomware The vision is chilling. It’s another busy day. An employee arrives and logs on to the network only to be confronted by a locked screen displaying a simple message: “Your files have been captured and encrypted. To release them, you must pay.” Ransomware has grown recently to become one of the primary threats to…

InformationWeek Reveals Top 125 Vendors Taking the Technology Industry by Storm

InformationWeek Reveals Top 125 Vendors Taking the Technology Industry by Storm

InformationWeek Reveals Top 125 Vendors Five-part series details companies to watch across five essential technology sectors SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 27, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — InformationWeek released its list of “125 Vendors to Watch” in 2017. Selected by InformationWeek’s expert editorial team, the companies listed fall into one of five key themes: infrastructure, security, cloud, data management and…

Part 1 – Connected Vehicles: Paving The Way For IoT On Wheels

Part 1 – Connected Vehicles: Paving The Way For IoT On Wheels

Connected Vehicles From cars to combines, the IoT market potential of connected vehicles is so expansive that it will even eclipse that of the mobile phone. Connected personal vehicles will be the final link in a fully connected IoT ecosystem. This is an incredibly important moment to capitalize on given how much time people spend…

Embedded Sensors and the Wearable Personal Cloud

Embedded Sensors and the Wearable Personal Cloud

The Wearable Personal Cloud Wearable tech is one avenue of technology that’s encouraging cloud connections and getting us all onto interconnected networks, and with the continued miniaturization and advancement of computing the types of wearable tech are always expanding and providing us with new opportunities. A few years ago, smartwatches were rather clunky devices with…

HOW THE CFAA RULING AFFECTS INDIVIDUALS AND PASSWORD-SHARING

HOW THE CFAA RULING AFFECTS INDIVIDUALS AND PASSWORD-SHARING

Individuals and Password-Sharing With the 1980s came the explosion of computing. In 1980, the Commodore ushered in the advent of home computing. Time magazine declared 1982 was “The Year of the Computer.” By 1983, there were an estimated 10 million personal computers in the United States alone. As soon as computers became popular, the federal government…

Adopting A Cohesive GRC Mindset For Cloud Security

Adopting A Cohesive GRC Mindset For Cloud Security

Cloud Security Mindset Businesses are becoming wise to the compelling benefits of cloud computing. When adopting cloud, they need a high level of confidence in how it will be risk-managed and controlled, to preserve the security of their information and integrity of their operations. Cloud implementation is sometimes built up over time in a business,…

5 Ways To Ensure Your Cloud Solution Is Always Operational

5 Ways To Ensure Your Cloud Solution Is Always Operational

Ensure Your Cloud Is Always Operational We have become so accustomed to being online that we take for granted the technological advances that enable us to have instant access to everything and anything on the internet, wherever we are. In fact, it would likely be a little disconcerting if we really mapped out all that…

Cloud-based GRC Intelligence Supports Better Business Performance

Cloud-based GRC Intelligence Supports Better Business Performance

Cloud-based GRC Intelligence All businesses need a strategy and processes for governance, risk and compliance (GRC). Many still view GRC activity as a burdensome ‘must-do,’ approaching it reactively and managing it with non-specialized tools. GRC is a necessary business endeavor but it can be elevated from a cost drain to a value-add activity. By integrating…

5 THINGS TO CONSIDER ABOUT YOUR NEXT ENTERPRISE FILE SHARING SOLUTION

5 THINGS TO CONSIDER ABOUT YOUR NEXT ENTERPRISE FILE SHARING SOLUTION

Enterprise File Sharing Solution Businesses have varying file sharing needs. Large, multi-regional businesses need to synchronize folders across a large number of sites, whereas small businesses may only need to support a handful of users in a single site. Construction or advertising firms require sharing and collaboration with very large (several Gigabytes) files. Financial services…

Driving Success: 6 Key Metrics For Every Recurring Revenue Business

Driving Success: 6 Key Metrics For Every Recurring Revenue Business

Recurring Revenue Business Metrics Recurring revenue is the secret sauce behind the explosive growth of powerhouses like Netflix and Uber. Unsurprisingly, recurring revenue is also quickly gaining ground in more traditional industries like healthcare and the automotive business. In fact, nearly half of U.S. businesses have adopted or are planning to adopt a recurring revenue model,…

Cloud Infographic – Monetizing Internet Of Things

Cloud Infographic – Monetizing Internet Of Things

Monetizing Internet Of Things There are many interesting ways in which companies are looking to connect devices to the cloud. From the vehicles to kitchen appliances the internet of things is already a $1.9 trillion dollar market based on research estimates from IDC. Included is a fascinating infographic provided by AriaSystems which shows us some of the exciting…

The Internet of Things Lifts Off To The Cloud

The Internet of Things Lifts Off To The Cloud

The Staggering Size And Potential Of The Internet of Things Here’s a quick statistic that will blow your mind and give you a glimpse into the future. When you break that down, it translates to 127 new devices online every second. In only a decade from now, every single vehicle on earth will be connected…

Teach Yourself The Cloud: Cloud Computing Knowledge In 5 Easy Steps

Teach Yourself The Cloud: Cloud Computing Knowledge In 5 Easy Steps

Teach Yourself The Cloud Learn how to get to grips with cloud computing in business  Struggling to get your head around the Cloud? Here are five easy ways you can improve your cloud knowledge and perhaps even introduce cloud systems into your business.  Any new technology can appear daunting, and cloud computing is no exception.…

How Your Startup Can Benefit From Cloud Computing And Growth Hacking

How Your Startup Can Benefit From Cloud Computing And Growth Hacking

Ambitious Startups An oft-quoted statistic, 50% of new businesses fail within five years. And the culling of startups is even more dramatic, with an estimated nine out of ten folding. But to quote Steve Jobs, “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” So while…

Cloud Computing – A Requirement For Greater Innovation

Cloud Computing – A Requirement For Greater Innovation

Cloud Computing Innovation Sao Paulo, Brazil has had trouble with both energy and water supplies as of late. Despite it is the rainy period. Unfortunately Sao Paulo is very dependent on its rain as a majority of its power is generated from large dams. No water, no energy. Difficult situation for a city of some…