Are Your SaaS Applications Safe? Essential Security Tips

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Tips to level up your cloud security: When it comes to cloud security, you can't afford to take chances, so choose carefully when partnering with certified providers for ultimate data protection, and selecting a reliable third-party service provider.

Safeguarding an organization’s valuable data in the cloud poses a significant challenge for businesses adopting Software as a Service (SaaS) applications.

With insider threats and cybercrime activity rising, security teams must take decisive action to protect their data. This means implementing strict controls, managing access and identities, and fortifying defenses against potential breaches.

A recent Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) report shows a significant rise in investment in SaaS and SaaS Security resources. A massive 66% of organizations have upped their spending on apps, while 71% have increased their investment in security tools for SaaS.

However, it’s important to note responsibility for different aspects of the SaaS service is divided between the provider and the customer – a cloud model known as Shared Responsibility. It is crucial to follow basic practices to ensure a smooth and secure transition to a third-party SaaS provider.

SaaS Security: Fundamental Practices to Follow

Ensure the basics are covered before signing contracts and submitting purchase orders to a third-party SaaS provider. Conduct thorough research on the SaaS provider’s reputation and security measures as part of your due diligence process. Leverage your network of trusted contacts to ascertain their experience with a particular cloud service provider (CSP).

Look for confirmation demonstrating the CSP has implemented a comprehensive information security management system (ISMS). Additionally, inquire about their data encryption protocols, how they handle data backups, and whether they use administrative segregation of duties.

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You can uncover further details that may impact your business by thoroughly reviewing your contract, especially around the service level agreement (SLA) section. Being meticulous in your review will help you avoid any surprises. Don’t allow the devil in the details to catch you off guard. Know exactly what you’re getting into!

Choosing a Reputable SaaS Provider That Takes Security Seriously

Selecting a well-established and trusted SaaS provider can significantly reduce the risk of security breaches and your level of concern. Look for providers with a robust data protection record and strong security measures in place.

A world-class CSP will have garnered a selection of the following certifications and standards:

  1. Cloud Security Alliance Star Verification
  2. EuroCloud SaaS Star Audit
  3. Common Criteria
  4. FIPS 140-2
  5. ISO/IEC 27017 Cloud-Security
  6. Cyber Essentials Plus
  7. EU-U.S. Data Privacy Framework
  8. International Privacy Verification (IPV) programme
  9. SOC 2 Type 2
  10. PCI DSS

Effective SaaS Security Measures

Now that you understand the importance of selecting a reputable SaaS provider that takes security seriously, let’s delve into the specific factors you should consider when evaluating potential providers. Remember that most of the controls covered will also apply to your organization.

Implement Strong Access Controls

There are two sides to the coin when it comes to access controls; on the one hand, you have the controls put in place by the CSP controlling and protecting your data in the cloud. Controls will include segregation of duties, ensuring individuals within the CSP are granted access to the data and resources necessary for their role, and nothing more. This helps prevent unauthorized access and reduces the risk of collusion from insider threats. Going deeper, do they use just-in-time (JIT) access control, privilege identity management (PIM), and privilege access management (PAM)?

On the other hand, as the client, you must implement similar internal access controls. This includes managing user permissions, enforcing strong password policies, and regularly reviewing user access control lists (ACLs) and JIT, PIM, and PAM.

Multi-factor authentication is a great solution, requiring users to provide multiple forms of identification, like a password, randomly generated code, or biometric verification.

Think about implementing Active Directory Federated Services (ADFS) or PingFederation that offer single sign-on (SSO).

Using groups in Active Directory (AD), you could, for example, configure a security group dedicated to a particular SaaS application, making access management for your movers, leavers, and joiners a whole lot simpler and further enhancing security.

Combining these factors can reduce the likelihood of unauthorized access and potential data breaches.

Regularly Monitor and Audit SaaS Access

Monitoring and auditing your environment is vital for detecting suspicious activities or potential security breaches. This includes monitoring user activities: login attempts, unauthorized data transfers, and checking system logs for anomalies.

Consider implementing a security information and event management (SIEM) solution to help you centralize and analyze security event data from various sources. This will enable you to identify and respond to security incidents promptly.

Ascertain whether the CSP provides a system for monitoring and logging user activity within their SaaS environment, too. Block user activity that accesses unauthorized SaaS applications, also known as Shadow SaaS, from within your enterprise environment. Consider implementing a Cloud Service Access Broker (CASB) to gain insights and prevent this type of rogue activity.

Data Encryption and Backups

Data encryption is a critical aspect of SaaS security. Ensure your SaaS provider uses robust encryption protocols to protect your data in transit and at rest. This helps safeguard your information from unauthorized access. Additionally, inquire about your SaaS provider’s data backup procedures. For example, is the data backed up to a geographical location outside what has been agreed?

Updates and Patching

SaaS providers regularly release updates and patches to address security vulnerabilities and to provide enhancements to service. Patching should be seamless, without any interruptions to your service. Ensure your provider is proactive in applying these updates to minimize the risk of threats.

Understanding the Importance of SaaS Security

Picture this: a misconfigured SaaS environment or weak internal controls. Sounds like a nightmare, right? But brace yourself for an even scarier scenario: your precious data falling into the wrong hands! Without robust security controls, your business environment becomes a prime target for ruthless hackers. It’s important you recognize the undeniable importance of SaaS security and shield your business from the imminent threat of a data breach.

The Bottom Line

While SaaS applications offer numerous benefits to businesses, it’s crucial to prioritize security to protect sensitive data and prevent unauthorized access. Analyzing security event data and implementing a Cloud Access Service Broker (CASB) can help identify and respond to security incidents promptly.

Additionally, ensuring you and your service provider have robust encryption protocols for data in transit and at rest is paramount to safeguarding your data.

Regular data backups are crucial to enable quick recovery and minimize the impact of a breach. By prioritizing these security measures, businesses can confidently leverage the convenience and scalability of SaaS applications without compromise. Security teams on both sides must remain vigilant and continuously adapt their security strategies to the evolving threat landscape.

Remember, when selecting a CSP, prioritize security and opt for one that showcases a strong commitment to it. Request to review their certifications and adherence to industry standards.

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John Meah
Cybersecurity Expert

John is a skilled freelance writer who combines his writing talent with his cybersecurity expertise. He holds an equivalent level 7 master's degree in cybersecurity and a number of prestigious industry certifications, such as PCIP, CISSP, MCIIS, and CCSK. He has spent over two decades working in IT and information security within the finance and logistics business sectors. This experience has given John a profound understanding of cybersecurity practices, making his tech coverage on Techopedia particularly insightful and valuable. He has honed his writing skills through courses from renowned institutions like the Guardian and Writers Bureau UK.