Senior Writer: Rahul Jade
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Companies across the globe continue to make massive investments in software as a service (SaaS) instead of purchasing commercial off-the-shelf software (COTS). SaaS has gained popularity as a business model in many industries and niches.
Companies adopting SaaS rely on third-party vendors and cloud platforms to host their data and applications in the cloud. It brings us to cybersecurity concerning data stored in SaaS applications.
We will discuss the risks involved in SaaS security and the best practices. Also, we will understand how it affects your sales.
What is SaaS Security?
SaaS Security deals with securing corporate data in subscription-based cloud applications while ensuring user privacy. We can also call it a set of practices that companies use to protect sensitive data about their customers and the business itself.
SaaS security is also a significant part of SaaS management that can reduce security risks by creating visibility into business operations. It can also boost your sales.
Why Is SaaS Security Important For Sales?
We know that SaaS services host sensitive data on the public cloud. Thus, it increases the data’s exposure to potential security breaches.
IBM’s annual The Cost of a Data Breach report shows that the average cost of a data breach is 4.24 million dollars.
If your business can ensure SaaS security in the cloud through a better cloud security framework and security policies, the data will be safe. Safe data means happy customers. Thus, SaaS security solutions can boost your sales or bring them down depending on your efforts to safeguard the data.
Let us look at an example of how ignoring SaaS can prove disastrous security for any brand.
The Solar Wind Compromise: A Classic Example Of Poor Cybersecurity
In 2020, a popular networking tool vendor SolarWinds fell victim to a sophisticated cyberattack. The New York Times reported that the breach affected over 250 companies and government organizations.
The extensive list includes but is not limited to –
- The Justice Department
- The Energy Department
- The Pentagon
The hackers managed to compromise SolarWinds’ widely-used software program, Orion. Subsequently, over 18,000 users responded to Orion’s prompt to allow a routine software update.
The deadly cyberattack also affected the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). It is the branch of Homeland Security that is responsible to prevent such attacks.
After the disaster, SolarWinds faced a backlash for its poor security systems. Former SolarWinds security adviser, Ian Thornton-Trump, terminated his contract with the company. He also claimed that the leadership at SolarWinds failed to take his SaaS Security concerns seriously.
This cyberattack proves that nothing is impenetrable. Now let us dig deeper into some of the known security risks in business.
What are the Crucial SaaS Security And Privacy Risks In Business?
SaaS apps are usually secure if service providers comply with regulatory guidelines. But there are some known risks you should know as a user of SaaS software management.
Data In Transit
When data is in transit, it is more vulnerable to attacks. The people accessing, modifying, and sharing the data are the weak links in the transit chain. We will discuss how to secure the data later in the blog.
Multiplying Apps And Team Members
Multiply data-in-transit transactions by the number of SaaS apps and the number of users in your company. The number is a lot. It is a SaaS security risk because every transaction is vulnerable to cyber threats.
Shadow IT is when team members use SaaS products without company approval. Such usage is vulnerable and unknown to you and your IT security team.
Poor Security Practices
The convenience offered by SaaS software can sometimes make companies overlook the vulnerabilities of cloud solutions. Ignoring potential SaaS security risks can lead to compliance issues or costly data breaches.
What Is SaaS Security In Cloud Computing?
78% of IT managers believe poor security is one of the biggest barriers to the adoption of cloud technologies. In cloud computing, SaaS security refers to securing data held in a third-party data center without compromising+61 its control and accessibility.
Modern SaaS applications use stringent security measures, standards, and algorithms. Here are three examples of risk mitigation strategies in SaaS security and how industries to see how they responded to SaaS security challenges:
- Contractual protection: Organizations should adopt contractual protection to ensure vendors follow acceptable practices and manage data securely.
- Security audits: Companies should perform regular SaaS security audits of cloud providers to ensure their security policies align with those of the organizations. Even the service providers should audit their cloud infrastructure regularly. For example, the System and Organization Control (SOC 2) is an auditing process that helps a SaaS providers comply with specific criteria when working with sensitive data.
- Security certifications: Cloud service providers should certify their control environments, using Service Organization Control reports, such as ISAE 3402 reports or ISO/IEC 27001 security management certifications.
Have You Assessed SaaS Security For Your Business?
We saw in a previous section that SaaS security depends on the number of apps your company uses and the number of users. Small to midsize companies use about 100 SaaS applications on average, and the data might is present on over 100 different servers on the cloud.
You must assess the SaaS security policy of your company to avoid SaaS risks. You can start by considering the interactions of every user with every SaaS-based app.
Person-To-App Relationship In SaaS security
Your team and their relationships with the company’s SaaS applications create a SaaS Graph.
Business growth makes app-to-person connections more complex. And these complex app-to-person connections make your company more vulnerable to cyber-attacks.
Now, we will look at some of the SaaS security best practices. You can use them to protect your business and customer data.
8 SaaS Security Best Practices
1. Enhanced Authentication
Access to a SaaS service is through login credentials. You must know how your user access the resource and how the cloud service provider handles the authentication process.
Once you understand the basics of user authentication, you can make better SaaS security decisions and activate additional security layers like multifactor authentication (MFA). You may also integrate enhanced authentication methods with the SaaS security monitoring algorithm.
2. Data Encryption
The majority of SaaS applications use TLS (Transport Layer Security) to protect data in transit. However, data at rest is also equally vulnerable to cyber attacks as data in transit. So you should check for encryption capabilities with your SaaS provider to protect both forms of data. We do not need to tell you to vouch for the latest encryption technology.
3. Vetting And Oversight Using VRM
New SaaS vendors have entered the industry due to the rapid increase in SaaS deployment, usage, and demand. The SaaS vendor’s life cycle is a recurring task that organizations must manage efficiently to avoid SaaS security issues. Additionally, vendors are introducing SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM) systems that can regulate and automate SaaS security.
When you partner with your SaaS vendors, invest in a robust VRM (Vendor Risk Management) system. It will help you establish productive communication with your SaaS providers.
VRM system also provides effective protocols that allow everyone to focus on the task at hand and keeps everyone on the same page. Last but not least, your VRM program should have a business continuity plan. It will allow you to remain operational even during vendor disruptions.
4. Discovery And Inventory
Increased digital literacy means that software procurement is not only limited to IT departments but also to almost every employee. It leads to shadow IT and security loopholes.
One of the most significant SaaS security practices is maintaining an inventory of all SaaS services with help of Saas providers and tracking their usage to detect unusual activities. You can take the help of automated notification tools within SaaS management systems to get alerts for such activities in real-time.
Sometimes your SaaS providers cannot provide the level of SaaS security that your company requires. If there are no suitable alternatives to the vendor, you can consider cloud access security broker (CASB) tool options.
Cloud access security brokers(CASBs) adds another layer of security controls that are not native to your SaaS application. Remember to check that a CASB (whether proxy or API-based) is compatible with your existing IT architecture.
6. Secure Web Browser Settings
Your company’s web browser administrator should apply security settings at the account level. It ensures that all team members accessing the browser are protected 24/7. You can also set up the security settings across several devices for added security.
7. Cloud Storage
Take advantage of shared spaces for teams like G Suite Team Drives to contain data in secure spaces. For instance, you add new members and give them role-based access at the user level. You can also set and change member permissions or remove members when needed.
8. Identity And Access Management (IAM)
If your company has over 100 employees, start thinking about investing in a unified IAM solution. It works by authenticating a user once and then unlocking all SaaS applications for them. Users do not need to sign in to each app individually every time. As Saas provider provides such solutions that streamline the end user’s experience and protect your company from malware, ransomware, and phishing.
We can see that SaaS security is a sophisticated topic. So the above best practices alone will not help you protect customer data. You will need a step-by-step guide to achieve the security objectives with Saas access management. So let us go through a 5-step checklist you can start using today.
SaaS Security Checklist To Boost Your Sales
The checklist will help you take a proactive approach toward SaaS security and foster a company culture that is adaptable to the benefits of SaaS. Let us go through the five steps systematically.
1. Create A Detailed SaaS Security Guide
Brainstorm with your internal IT security team and external security experts to develop the security guide. It will give you a better understanding of possible vulnerabilities and risks. You will also get a fair idea of how to eliminate these risks through internal controls.
2. Implement A Secure Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC)
Establish security activities during the entire software development lifecycle. They include secure coding methodologies, vulnerability analysis, and penetration tests.
The SDLC also encourages development teams to shift their focus from functionality to security in the development process.
3. Ensure Secure Deployment
Once you have decided on SaaS vendors, you should think about deployment safety. You will usually have two main options, cloud and self-hosted deployment.
If you go with the first option, your SaaS vendor ensures data security and segregation. But in the second scenario, you are responsible for the deployment and prevention of denial-of-service (DoS) and network attacks. It is a SaaS security best practice to automate the deployment process as much as possible.
4. Set Up Automated Backups
Data backups are crucial in a crisis. Your business continuity depends on them!
It will not take much time and effort to set up an automated process that creates backups regularly. Consult your SaaS service provider for the various backup options.
5. Implement Security Controls
SaaS security controls can detect, mitigate or reduce risks such as data breaches or cyber-attacks. Here are some of them for your reference:
- Data encryption: It is the process of encoding information in the form of a ciphertext that only authorized parties can read.
- Malware prevention: Set up firewalls, limit application privileges, and always use unique, strong passwords.
- IAM: We spoke about it earlier. It includes security measures like two-factor authentication (2FA) and password policy creation.
Automate and streamline Your SaaS Security With ControlHippo
It is a good thing to have a helping hand when managing SaaS security requirements for your business. ControlHippo is a next-gen SaaS management platform that takes care of all your SaaS security needs in one place. You can integrate your SaaS applications directly with ControlHippo and automate everything from start to finish.