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SaaS Security: Pitfalls IT Often Overlooks

By Claudio Buttice | Last updated: September 2, 2021
Presented by BetterCloud
Key Takeaways

Effective SaaS security revolves on the need to trust but verify, monitor data flow, not rely too heavily on pentests and ensure uninterrupted security workflows. A centralized SaaS platform can help.

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Continually staying ahead of the competition requires endlessly demanding efforts from business owners, who must constantly look for new technological solutions. However, digital tech comes at a price, and it’s not always possible or advisable to purchase and maintain all the necessary equipment to host the most advanced software in-house.

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Software as a Service (SaaS) or cloud-based solutions represent a viable model for companies looking for tools that don’t require complex hosting infrastructure. In some cases, purchasing a SaaS solution requires little more than a credit card and a few clicks. However, rolling those products out to your organization is usually far more complicated.

Challenges come with the territory, and SaaS solutions are no exception. In this article, we'll explore some of the less obvious SaaS security risks and pitfalls that IT pros may not be aware of. We’ll also offer a few tips to help you manage those risks and show you how a SaaS management platform like BetterCloud can be a major component of your entire SaaS management strategy.

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Internal Security Threats

SecOps teams often build security strategies based on a traditional perimeter security model, which assumes that malicious actors are ready to strike only from the outside.

But as we’ve seen in recent months, some of the biggest security threats against your organization are internal users who unwittingly expose sensitive data. In early 2021, we learned that a SolarWInds password that was publicly accessible for years led to one of the biggest cybersecurity fiascos in modern history.

This is just one example of the endless opportunities that bad actors look to manipulate—which makes it critical for IT to constantly monitor external and internal activity across an organization.


In response, many IT executives have turned to a Zero Trust model, in which no devices are implicitly trusted, even when they’re connected to your company’s network. To gain access to sensitive data or internal documents, users are required to authenticate their device and identity, which dramatically reduces the potential for a serious breach or ransomware attack. (Read also: Zero Trust Policy: How Software Intelligence Platforms Help.)


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To supplement a Zero Trust model, many organizations leverage a SaaS management platform like BetterCloud to monitor every application connected to their cloud-based environments. This gives IT the visibility it needs to understand how many applications each employee is using—and more importantly, be proactive when a new security risk arises.

Data Flow Monitoring

SaaS-based solutions offer a few unique advantages over their on-prem counterparts, especially when it comes to data security. But as your cloud portfolio grows over time, it’s incredibly difficult to manage the data flowing in and out of each application. It’s even more challenging to take proactive measures to keep a data breach in one SaaS platform from impacting your entire organization. (Read also: How to Prepare for the Next Generation of Cloud Security.)

A centralized SaaS management platform is a powerful tool that allows you to scan files for specific data types and set up alerts for unwanted exposure. Additionally, IT can leverage the platform to build workflows that automatically enforce your file sharing policy and lock down files when an unauthorized user gains access.

Over Reliance on Penetration Tests

Penetration tests (also called “pentests”) are simulated attacks performed periodically by external or internal teams to assess the security of a network. They are often a mandatory best practice in compliance audits to make sure a company’s SaaS infrastructure is secure. However, pentests can lead to a very dangerous sense of false security.

All of the findings from a pentest could be invalidated as soon as a privileged user accesses the SaaS environment again from a different endpoint. An installed third-party software may fail to update its system’s security and become a vulnerability a day after the test was run. An unpredicted misconfiguration could expose the system to new vulnerabilities. The list of possibilities goes on and on.

While pentests can be useful, they can’t guarantee the security of an entire SaaS-based environment. They should be combined with management technologies that allow continuous monitoring of the whole SaaS environment. (Read also: Penetration Testing and the Delicate Balance Between Security and Risk.)


Security Workflow Interruption

Automation is an undeniably powerful tool, especially as remote work becomes increasingly popular across all organizations. But because workflows can be really easy to spin up with just a few clicks, you run the risk of duplicating tasks across several workflows if your IT department isn’t strategic about how it leverages them.

This issue can be particularly problematic if you unwittingly create several workflows to address the same incident response and security protocols. SaaS management platforms can help IT streamline the creation of workflows in several ways. Most notably, BetterCloud Workflow Templates simplify the creation of the most common (and necessary) workflows and walk users through best practices for the most critical, multi-step actions.

Conclusion

The SaaS industry is constantly evolving. To put your organization in a position to adapt quickly while also leveraging the power of SaaS, centralized SaaS management platforms represent a solution to some of the most complex and unpredictable issues across your entire cloud portfolio.

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Written by Claudio Buttice | Data Analyst, Contributor

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Dr. Claudio Butticè, Pharm.D., is a former clinical and hospital pharmacist who worked for several public hospitals in Italy, as well as for the humanitarian NGO Emergency. He is now an accomplished book author who has written on topics such as medicine, technology, world poverty, human rights, and science for publishers such as SAGE Publishing, ABC-Clio, and Mission Bell Media. His latest book is "Universal Health Care" (Greenwood Publishing, 2019).

A data analyst and freelance journalist as well, many of his articles have been published in magazines such as Cracked, The Elephant, Digital Journal, The Ring of Fire, and Business Insider. Dr. Butticè also published pharmacology and psychology papers on several clinical journals, and works as a medical consultant and advisor for many companies across the globe.

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