Elevate SaaS Security With Closed Loop Zero Trust

Integrate dynamic and continuous authorization into your Zero Trust architecture

By Brian Soby, CTO and Co-Founder, AppOmni

The Zero Trust (ZT) approach to security is now the dominant strategy to secure modern and distributed data. This approach operates on the principle that trust should never be assumed implicitly, regardless of network location or asset ownership. Zero Trust mandates continuous verification of all access requests to enterprise resources and focuses on securing data and services rather than just defending perimeters.

To truly adapt to the dynamic nature of modern cybersecurity threats, a Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA) needs to be both proactive and reactive. This is where the concept of “Closed Loop Zero Trust” comes into play. 

Closed Loop Zero Trust is an advanced implementation within ZTA that integrates continuous feedback mechanisms. This model doesn’t just evaluate threats as they come, but instead continuously learns and adapts to ensure that security measures are always aligned with the latest threat landscape and user behavior patterns.

Closed Loop Zero Trust architectures integrate dynamic and continuous authorization processes so that they can adjust to real-time changes within the environment and provide a robust, responsive security posture. To protect modern, complex IT infrastructures, organizations need this level of responsiveness in their security posture.  

This article explores one part of AppOmni’s Zero Trust Posture Management (ZTPM) capabilities: security and bridging using the Shared Signals Framework to comprehensively incorporate your SaaS and other applications into an end-to-end Zero Trust solution.

Feedback loops in Zero Trust architectures

A robust Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA) safeguards against known threats and can also adapt to new security challenges as they emerge. This adaptive capability is largely enabled through the implementation of feedback loops—a fundamental component that is recommended by various security standards, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Feedback loops in ZTA allow for dynamic and continuous authorization, which enhances security measures and ensures that those measures remain effective against evolving threats. 

Feedback loops continuously collect data on user behavior, system configurations, and network activity. This data is then analyzed to detect anomalies, deviations from normal patterns, and changes to user or application context—all of which could indicate potential security breaches or vulnerabilities.

Once a potential threat is identified, the system can immediately adjust access controls and security protocols to mitigate the risk. This process of continuous monitoring and adjustment forms the core of dynamic and continuous authorization, which enables the real-time responses that are crucial for maintaining a secure environment.

For example, if a user’s behavior suddenly changes—say, the user accesses sensitive data at unusual hours or after they switch locations—the system can automatically trigger additional authentication measures or even temporarily block access until the activity can be verified. Similarly, if a new device attempts to connect to the network, the system can enforce stricter controls until the device is fully authenticated and deemed secure.

Incorporating feedback loops into Zero Trust frameworks transforms static security measures into a dynamic defense system. It’s not just about setting up barriers—it’s about creating a responsive and adaptive security environment that can anticipate and react to threats as they happen so that organizations can defend against both current and emerging risks. This continuous cycle of monitoring, analyzing, and responding makes Zero Trust a powerful approach to modern cybersecurity.

Integrating feedback loops into modern applications is difficult

Despite the clear benefits of incorporating feedback loops into Zero Trust Architectures, a significant challenge remains—almost no applications natively support these dynamic mechanisms. This lack of inherent support for Shared Signals or other feedback frameworks limits an organization’s ability to implement truly dynamic and adaptive security measures.

Without feedback loops in applications, IT security teams must manually perform any adaptations to security policies or controls. This approach is not only resource-intensive but also slower and therefore can leave the organization vulnerable to attack during the gap between the detection of a threat and the response to that threat.

Moreover, the integration of feedback mechanisms into legacy applications can be technically challenging and costly. It requires not only significant development resources to retrofit these capabilities but also a deep understanding of both the existing application architecture and the latest in security protocols. 

Many organizations may hesitate to undertake such extensive modifications due to these complexities and potential disruptions to business operations. In the case of SaaS and vendor-developed applications, it requires that these vendors prioritize considerable changes to support these frameworks, something for which very little incentive exists and timelines are extended, if they exist at all.

As a result, the inability to effectively incorporate applications prevents the creation of end-to-end visibility and continuous authorization, which inherently limits the effectiveness of Zero Trust strategies and creates siloed, fragmented security mechanisms. 

These limitations underscore the need for modern security solutions that can bridge the gap by directly analyzing and monitoring applications for relevant changes and activities, creating signals to other Zero Trust components on behalf of the monitored applications.

AppOmni as a bridge in Zero Trust systems

As the market leader in SaaS security, AppOmni is uniquely positioned to enable an end-to-end capability within a Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA). When customers leverage ZTPM with AppOmni, the platform can act as a “signals bridge” by enabling feedback loops and continuous authorization for applications that otherwise lack these functionalities.

The AppOmni platform continuously inspects, analyzes, and monitors the security of SaaS and other applications. This continuous oversight is crucial for detecting configuration changes and user activities that may pose security risks. 

And AppOmni doesn’t just monitor—it actively generates security signals based on the data it collects. These signals are then used to inform other components within the ZTA, such as authorization services, Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), Identity Providers (IdPs), and other observatory frameworks.

For example, when AppOmni detects that a user has modified their access level within a SaaS application in a manner that is inconsistent with their role or current security policies, it can immediately generate a signal. This signal can prompt a re-evaluation of the user’s current session permissions or initiate a step-up authentication process, thereby ensuring that any potential security breach is quickly averted.

AppOmni’s signals bridging capabilities enhance the integration of applications into the broader ZTA by ensuring that all parts of the security architecture are continuously informed of the state of application security. This holistic visibility is key in a Zero Trust framework, where security decisions are based on comprehensive, real-time data.

By acting as a “bridge” within the ZTA, AppOmni’s ZTPM capabilities ensure that security controls remain agile and responsive. This capability not only compensates for the lack of native feedback mechanisms in SaaS and other applications but also enhances the overall efficacy of the Zero Trust strategy. With AppOmni, organizations get a more secure, dynamic environment that adapts to both user behavior and evolving external threats.

AppOmni’s patent-pending Zero Trust technology

AppOmni’s innovative approach to Zero Trust Posture Management (ZTPM) provides a number of benefits to complete a Zero Trust architecture. The AppOmni platform:

  • Identifies bypasses and backdoors to maintain the integrity of Zero Trust network architecture
  • Applies ZT concepts—such as least privilege, data access protection, and cloud-to-cloud and non-human identity monitoring—into the applications themselves 
  • Extends Identity Protection with visibility into SaaS data access, entitlements, and activities
  • Creates end-to-end visibility and feedback loops to bridge applications into the Zero Trust architecture

While all are critical capabilities within a ZTA, AppOmni’s Closed Loop Zero Trust approach is unique and underpinned by its patent-pending technology. With this technology, AppOmni enhances the capabilities of Zero Trust Architectures (ZTA) because its Closed Loop approach is designed to meticulously inspect, analyze, and monitor SaaS applications for any signs of configuration changes or unusual user activities that could impact security.

For instance, if AppOmni detects that a user’s activities within an application have shifted in location or behavior, which suggests possible session hijacking, the platform immediately generates a signal. This signal can prompt real-time actions from other ZT components, such as:

  • Authorization services, which may reassess the user’s access rights based on the new information.
  • Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) platforms, which might adjust their filtering and monitoring settings to protect against potential data leaks.
  • Identity Providers (IdPs), which could require additional authentication steps from the user to reconfirm their identity and intent.

This capability to generate and disseminate signals enhances the responsiveness of ZTA by “closing the loop on zero trust.” With a closed loop, organizations can confirm that all components are kept up-to-date on the current state of application security. Closed Loop ZT powers continuous authorization by transforming passive monitoring into an active, integral part of the security management process, which allows for faster and more accurate responses to potential threats.

AppOmni’s technology not only aids in immediate threat detection and response but also contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of the security landscape within the organization. By providing detailed insights into user behaviors and application configurations, the platform helps refine existing security policies and shape new ones.

Through this integration of advanced monitoring and responsive signaling, AppOmni’s patent-pending technology solidifies its role as a pivotal component of Zero Trust. Closed Loop Zero Trust enhances the dynamic and adaptive capabilities of Zero Trust Architectures and ensures that organizations can maintain robust security measures in a constantly evolving digital environment.

Conclusion

By evolving Zero Trust to comprehensively include SaaS and other applications regardless of native support, AppOmni’s ZTPM capabilities embody the essence of “closing the loop on zero trust.” The platform provides organizations with a dynamic, adaptable, and comprehensive approach to security that is essential in today’s complex and ever-changing digital landscape. Through continuous authorization and monitoring, AppOmni ensures that Zero Trust is not just a theoretical concept but a practical, effective, and continuously-evolving reality.

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