Third-Party App Access Presents Security Risks, Study Shows

Adaptive Shield, a SaaS security company, releases today its SaaS-to-SaaS Access Report. According to the research, employees provide hundreds to thousands of third-party apps with access to the two most dominant workspaces, Microsoft 365 (M365) and Google Workspace. With no oversight or control from security teams, companies have no way to quantify the risk that these SaaS-to-SaaS connections present to their businesses.

While the SaaS-to-SaaS connections provide enhanced features that boost workflow efficiency, they also give permission for apps to read, update, create, delete or otherwise engage with corporate and personal data. In its report, Adaptive Shield identifies how many SaaS apps are being connected to the core SaaS stack, specifically M365 and Google Workspace and business-critical apps such as Salesforce and Slack, the types of permissions being granted to these applications, and the risk level these apps present.

According to the research, companies with 10,000 SaaS users average 2,033 applications connected to M365 and 6,710 connected to Google workspace. For the companies using Google Workspace, that figure jumps to an average of 13,913 connected apps for 10,000 – 20,000 SaaS users.

While the risk level for permissions varies from one app to the next, Adaptive Shield researchers found that 39 percent of apps connected to M365 and 10 percent to Google Workspace have ‘high-risk’ permission access. Additional details on these include:

  • In Google Workspace, the top three high-risk permission sets (78%) requested the ability to see, edit, create, and delete any or all Google Drive files, emails, and docs.
  • In the Microsoft 365 ecosystem, the two most common high-risk scopes grant the app the ability to read, create, update, and delete data. Together, they make up 27% of all high-risk scopes being granted.

While these challenges are most prominent in M365 and Google Workspace, they are not exclusive to these apps. As part of this effort, Adaptive Shield examined two other business-critical apps, Slack and Salesforce. The research shows that organizations have an average 222 SaaS-to-SaaS apps for Slack and another 41 apps for Salesforce.

A final area of research are app categories that are connected most frequently. According to the research, email applications are far and away the number one connected category followed by apps related to file and document management, communications and meetings and calendars and scheduling.

The Adaptive Shield full report, 2023 SaaS-to-SaaS Access Report: Uncovering the Risks & Realities of Third-Party Connected Apps, is available now.