SaaS Security Best Practices for Businesses

SaaS solutions have become a one-stop shop for companies seeking flexible, scalable, and cost-effective software solutions. However, as the popularity of the SaaS model rises, so does the threat landscape, underscoring the need for stringent security measures. With customers entrusting sensitive data to SaaS providers, cybersecurity compliance for SaaS is more crucial than ever.

Dig in as we detail what SaaS security is and highlight best practices that'll give your firm an edge in the cutthroat market.

What is SaaS Security?

SaaS security refers to the measures and processes that providers implement to safeguard user data and privacy. Cybersecurity is a major consideration for SaaS companies because their products handle a vast amount of sensitive data ranging from Social Security Numbers to home addresses and beyond.

As such, SaaS providers employ a host of security measures, including authentication, encryption, network security, access controls, as well as data backup and recovery. These measures help ensure Personally Identifiable Information (PII) doesn't fall into the wrong hands. They also safeguard SaaS applications from threat actors with malicious intents, including service disruption.

To help standardize the efforts to safeguard customer data, regulatory bodies have outlined mandatory cybersecurity guidelines for SaaS companies. They include the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).

The best SaaS security spans the entire tech stack—infrastructure, network, and the application and the associated software.

How to Secure SaaS Applications

Given the ever-evolving threat facing cloud service providers, securing SaaS applications requires a layered approach. Here's a SaaS application security checklist to help you breeze through the process:

Choose a Reputable SaaS Platform

Look for a trustworthy SaaS platform that prioritizes security. Ascertain their safety measures by evaluating their certifications, security practices, and data protection measures.

Conduct a Risk Assessment

Use the assessment to identify the type of data you'll store, potential vulnerabilities, and threats you may encounter. A risk assessment also helps you allocate resources effectively by prioritizing security controls.

Require Strong Authentication

Encourage your customers to secure their accounts with strong passwords and use multi-factor authentication (MFA) to create an extra security layer. An MFA combines user passwords with a unique code, often sent to a mobile device when securing an account.

Embrace Encryption

Encrypting sensitive data while at rest and in transit makes it inaccessible to threat actors. Use secure protocols such as HTTPS/TLS to protect data in transit and store all encrypted data in secure databases. Encryption also scrambles the data, making it unreadable or unusable to anyone without a decryption key.

Setup Access Control

Use granular access controls to determine user privileges and specify which features and data authorized users can access within the app. Leverage the principle of least privilege to assign roles and permissions and grant employees just the access they need to do their jobs.

Perform Regular Updates

Regularly update your app and the underlying infrastructure to ensure you're running on the latest security patches and updates. Besides the app, keep your operating systems, frameworks, and libraries updated. Scan for and promptly address any known vulnerabilities to lower the risk of exploitation.

Perform Security Testing

Run regular security assessments such as vulnerability scanning and penetration testing to root out vulnerabilities and weaknesses. Promptly address any issues identified by your testing efforts.

Train and Educate Your Users

Run comprehensive security training and awareness programs for your customers. Educate them about the best security practices, such as using strong passwords, avoiding phishing scams, and reporting suspicious activities.

What Are the 7 Security Issues in SaaS?

The top 7 security issues in SaaS include:

1. Data Breaches

Since SaaS applications store valuable information on their servers, they're frequently targeted by cybercriminals. Threat actors exploit security lapses such as weak access control and application vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access. Besides stealing valuable data, hackers also use compromised networks to target your customers, which may lead you to incur financial losses and suffer severe legal consequences.

2. Account Hijacking

If a hacker takes over a SaaS user's account, they can steal or manipulate data or disrupt services. In some instances, they hijack accounts and use them to launch bigger attacks. Threat actors often hijack accounts by exploiting authentication mechanisms, launching phishing attacks, or cracking weak passwords.

3. Insider Threats

Sometimes authorized users or employees may abuse their access privileges and inadvertently compromise security. Sometimes, they may abuse their access with malicious intentions. Employees can also steal sensitive data, intentionally leak information, or install malware. Detecting and mitigating insider threats can prove challenging since these actors have legitimate access.

4. Insecure APIs

While Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) allow seamless integration with other third-party applications, they can also pose a security risk. Insecure APIs can lead to unauthorized access, data leaks, as well as compromised app security. Hackers often exploit unsecured APIs to penetrate your otherwise secure app, where they may steal data, disrupt service, or hold you for ransom.

5. Compliance and Legal Risks

As a SaaS provider, you must comply with federal and industry-specific regulations to avoid legal trouble or exposing clients to diverse cyber threats. Given the intricate and interconnected nature of IT infrastructure, one vulnerability can lead to wide scale cyberattacks. As such, compliance becomes a joint responsibility where all parties in the network uphold the necessary standards. Failing to comply may expose your company to steep fines, lawsuits, financial losses, and reputational damage.

6. Data Loss

Hardware failures, accidental deletions, software errors, or malicious activities may lead to loss of data. If a CSP lacks proper data backup and recovery mechanisms, it may grapple with service disruption, permanent data loss, as well as a dipping customer trust. Implementing robust cybersecurity measures and backups can help mitigate this risk and ensure business continuity.

7. Lack of Visibility and Control

When using a SaaS solution, you have limited control and visibility into the application's infrastructure and security controls. As such, you may not effectively assess the app's security posture, monitor for potential threats, or ensure compliance. Seeking transparency from SaaS vendors about their security practices, establishing contractual agreements, and conducting independent assessments can help mitigate this risk.

What Are the 5 Key Security Elements of the SaaS Model?

Cloud service providers (CSP) use these 5 SaaS security standards to ensure the security and integrity of their applications and platforms:

1. Identity and Access Management (IAM)

IAM helps SaaS applications manage user identities and control user access. It entails using granular controls and layered security measures such as multi-factor authentication to grant access to legit users and eliminate the risk of authorized access.

2. Data Protection

SaaS employs various methods, including encryption, data loss prevention mechanisms, and access control, to protect sensitive data. Encryption scrambles the data and only makes it accessible with the correct decryption key. Access control helps prevent data leaks, while regular backups help prevent data loss.

3. Network Security

Your SaaS security should include safeguarding the network infrastructure to ensure secure data transmission. This includes deploying anti-malware solutions as well as intrusion detection systems to detect and deter breaches. Continuous network monitoring also facilitates proactive responses to threats and minimizes damage.

4. Application Security

Application security focuses on keeping the SaaS application safe and secure. They include regular security testing measures such as vulnerability assessment and penetration testing to identify and resolve potential vulnerabilities. Best practices such as secure coding, input validation, and patch management help secure the application code.

5. Compliance and Governance

SaaS providers must comply with diverse regulations and privacy requirements to secure personal data and protect user privacy. Although the requirements vary by industry and geographical location, they include the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA).

What Is SaaS Security Posture Management?

SaaS security posture management (SSPM) is a specialty risk assessment tool that helps applications monitor security risks. It is specially designed to continually monitor and eliminate security gaps in SaaS applications.

An SSPM system helps identify cloud security issues such as misconfigurations, excessive user permissions, unnecessary user accounts, and compliance risks. SaaS solutions have different cybersecurity requirements than traditional networks because these applications are hosted on the cloud instead of a local internal network.

SaaS security posture accounts for the unique security needs of a SaaS application. For instance, remote hosting means the application security is outside the company's control. Also, SaaS applications are designed to be accessible over the internet from most devices. That increases the risk of accidental data release or unauthorized data access.

SSPM tools automatically detect such security risks and help eliminate the risk that manual setup errors pose.

An SSPM continually analyzes three core aspects of a SaaS application:

What Are the Top 5 Cloud Computing Security Challenges?

Here are the top 5 SaaS security issues in cloud computing that providers are likely to encounter:

1. Cloud Security Misconfiguration

Security misconfigurations are errors, gaps, and vulnerabilities that occur when you neglect or choose poor security settings. Misconfigurations are rife in cloud computing for many reasons, including the nature of the network.

Since cloud infrastructure prioritizes accessibility and data sharing, it's difficult to restrict data access to authorized parties. For instance, link-based data sharing allows anyone with a link to access the data.

Security misconfigurations may also arise when you have more than one service provider. With each service provider using different protocols, your team may struggle to understand and implement all the different security controls, leading to vulnerabilities.

2. Supply Chain Attacks

With a supply chain attack, cybercriminals target CSPs by exploiting security lapses and oversights in their supply chain. In most cases, such vulnerabilities arise from vendors having poor cybersecurity practices. With a supply chain attack, threat actors target your vendor's software's building processes, source codes, or updating mechanisms and use them to breach your infrastructure. In 2020, hackers exploited a supply chain vulnerability and launched the biggest cyberattack on the US government.

3. Zero-Day Vulnerabilities

Zero-day vulnerabilities are unpatched software issues that escape the radar of the developers. Threat actors favor zero-day vulnerabilities because they facilitate large-scale attacks. A successful zero-day attack on a popular SaaS grants the attackers access to the organizations using the service. As such, threat actors can launch various attacks, including DoS, malware, or ransomware.

4. Non-Compliance

Subscribing to a cloud solution carries the risk of non-compliance because it triggers the shared security responsibility. That means your cybersecurity measures are as strong as your weakest link. Even if you're internally compliant with all the relevant regulations and frameworks, there's a risk of non-compliance if one of your CSPs is non-compliant. Some regulatory frameworks, such as the PCI DSS Standard, have third-party risk management requirements that require companies to ascertain their vendors are compliant to achieve full compliance.

5. Cyberattack-Related Data Loss

Cloud-based networks make prime targets for threat actors because they're readily accessible from the public internet. Since multiple companies often share a CSP, the effects of a successful hack can be cascading. Attackers may replicate a successful attack and use it to penetrate many of those companies.

SaaS companies often struggle to cope with the skyrocketing threat levels, which only serves to invite hackers to double their efforts. Human errors, malicious attacks, or natural disasters that can destroy physical servers can lead to crippling data loss.

What is the Security Control of SaaS

SaaS security controls are the measures and safeguards you institute to protect the integrity, availability, as well as confidentiality of your SaaS solution and its data. Such controls help you mitigate risk while ensuring your application operates safely and securely.

Top SaaS security requirements include:

What Are the Challenges Associated With Security in SaaS?

The SaaS landscape is dynamic and constantly changing, which subjects SaaS providers to unique security challenges. Common SaaS security challenges include:

Adopting software governance best practices can help you mitigate these risks and ensure compliance while delivering a top-notch solution to your customers.

Don't Take Chances With SaaS Security

Prioritizing robust cybersecurity measures is no longer a choice for SaaS providers—it's an imperative. With threat actors becoming more brazen and launching sophisticated attacks by the day, you can't afford to take chances with SaaS security. Implementing SaaS security best practices enables your solution to thrive amidst the rising cyber threat levels.

At Trava Security, we specialize in helping businesses navigate the complex compliance landscape and seamlessly mitigate cybersecurity risks. Our Compliance Maturity Assessment is specially designed to provide you with a personalized road map that'll accelerate your compliance journey.

Ready to secure your business and gain a decisive edge on the market? Trava can help!


We can help!  Talk to the Trava Team and see how we can assist you with your cybersecurity needs.