SaaS Security

Guide to SaaS security

In this guide, we’ll run through the key considerations associated with ensuring your
software-as-a-service platforms are kept safe from threats like malware, data breaches, and unauthorized access.

What is SaaS security?

SaaS security refers to the various measures and practices used to protect the data, applications, and infrastructure of cloud-based software solutions. At its core, it aims to mitigate risks around unauthorized access, data breaches, malware infections, and other SaaS security risks in order to protect data and services hosted in the cloud.

Various controls and mechanisms can be put in place as part of a SaaS security strategy. For example, technologies like access control and encryption can help prevent confidential data from getting into the wrong hands, while firewalls and packet inspection can safeguard employees from phishing attacks or malware drive-by downloads.

Often, a robust approach to SaaS security is required as part of compliance with industry regulations and standards such as GDPR, HIPAA, or PCI DSS. SaaS security tools often provide in-depth reporting and auditing capabilities to make it easier for organizations to demonstrate compliance and identify vulnerabilities.

Ultimately, SaaS security is a broad and complex topic — which is no surprise considering the significant number of software solutions businesses are deploying within their stack.

On this page we’ll explain SaaS security concerns in more detail, along with some of the tools and practices available to help you manage your approach.

Common SaaS security risks

New cybersecurity threats are emerging all the time, adding to the plethora of existing risks.

Here are some common SaaS security concerns you’ll need to be aware of when evaluating whether network security tools provide the coverage you need:

  • Data breaches – Unauthorized access to data stored in your cloud applications can lead to exposure of confidential information like customer records, financial data, or intellectual property.
  • Insider threats – Malicious or negligent behavior from employees or partners with access to your platforms can result in data exfiltration or damage to IT systems.
  • Account hijacking – Bad actors can gain access to and subsequently misuse legitimate user accounts through means like phishing, weak passwords, or compromised credentials.
  • Insecure APIs – Many SaaS solutions integrate with one another through the use of application programming interfaces (APIs). Vulnerabilities in such APIs can be exploited by attackers to gain unauthorized access to systems or data.
  • Misconfigurations – Incorrect settings within SaaS tools can lead to vulnerabilities, with the risk potential increasing the more complex your stack is.
  • Shadow IT – Employees may be using unsanctioned software or devices that fly under the radar of your IT staff. These tools may be non-compliant or expose your stack to vulnerabilities which are difficult to remediate.
  • Compliance violations – Failure to adhere to regulatory requirements can result in legal penalties and damage to reputation due to mishandling of sensitive data.
  • Data loss – Business operations can be disrupted due to accidental or intentional deletion or corruption of data stored in your SaaS products.
  • Cross-site scripting – XSS attacks can mislead users into running malicious code within trusted applications or websites, letting the attacker bypass security controls, access data, or otherwise damage your systems.
  • Malware infections – Viruses, trojans, or ransomware can exploit vulnerabilities in your SaaS applications, stealing sensitive data and disrupting services.
  • Lack of visibility – Limited visibility over activity and usage of SaaS applications within your organization makes it hard to detect and respond to security incidents.

Best practice for managing SaaS security

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways organizations can improve their SaaS security posture. Here’s a look at some of the best practices you can employ within your business to better mitigate the myriad SaaS security risks.

Strong authentication
Utilizing technologies like multi-factor authentication (MFA) or single sign-on (SSO) can help prevent unauthorized access to SaaS applications and better enforce existing access management policies. Authorization frameworks like OAuth can be used to ensure use of APIs within your stack remains secure.

Access management
Identity and access management (IAM) tools should be employed to set permissions and privileges of employees within your SaaS apps. Least privilege principles — where employees are granted the minimum access necessary for their job responsibilities — can be followed through processes like user provisioning and role-based access control (RBAC).

Data encryption
Whether data is in transit between SaaS tools and users or at rest within a database, it should be encrypted such that it can only be accessed by authorized users with the appropriate permissions.

System updates
One strength of the SaaS model is it enables vendors to regularly roll out updates to their software for all customers simultaneously. That said, you should be sure to maintain any infrastructure or apps within your stack with the latest bug fixes and security patches. By doing so, you’re reducing the likelihood of known vulnerabilities being exploited.

CASB deployment
You should consider utilizing a cloud access security broker (CASB) within your stack, a security solution that sits between your users and SaaS applications. CASBs integrate a number of security features within a single platform, such as user monitoring, threat detection, policy enforcement, and packet inspection.

Ultimately, it’s difficult to protect your systems if you don’t have full insight into what they actually entail. Stack sprawl can lead to increased complexity and risk within your organization, as can the use of unsanctioned software or services without knowledge or oversight of the IT department. With greater visibility, you can eliminate shadow IT and reduce your digital footprint, decreasing the potential surfaces for attack.

Staff training
Comprehensive training and increased awareness can go a long way to ensuring your employees, contractors, and stakeholders employ SaaS security best practices and create a security-conscious culture within your organization.

Incident response
Formulating a robust incident response plan means you’ll be sufficiently prepared in the event of a security incident or data breach. Your plan should clearly define roles, responsibilities, and procedures for incident detection, analysis, containment, and recovery, and incorporate regular drills and exercises to make sure you’re poised to act quickly if a problem arises.

SaaS and network security tools

There are many services available to address your organization’s SaaS security concerns.Many of these are all-in-one solutions, but you’ll also find best-of-breed tools that are more specialized.

Here’s a quick look at three network security tools on the market to get you started:

Cloudflare offers a broad suite of security features, including a web application firewall(WAF) and distributed denial of service (DDoS) protection, as well as content delivery network (CDN) services, to protect your SaaS applications from various cyber threats. Its Cloudflare One platform is based on the secure access service edge (SASE) model which
combines networking and security features into a single cloud computing service.

Deploying a CASB is one way to manage a number of SaaS security risks within a single solution. Netskope’s CASB service gives organizations greater visibility and control over their cloud footprint and how users access it, helping to enforce security policies, prevent data loss, and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.

CrowdStrike Falcon
CrowdStrike Falcon is an endpoint protection platform (EPP) that can help protect your organization’s endpoints — such as devices accessing SaaS applications — from threats like malware, ransomware, and security breaches. The service provides several endpoint detection and response (EDR) features such as real-time activity monitoring and threat detection.

How the Vertice platform supports SaaS security

The Vertice SaaS purchasing platform can help you bolster your SaaS security in a number of ways. By leveraging our solution, you’ll get greater visibility into your tech footprint — this can help you identify your risk exposure and reduce it by eliminating shadow IT or extraneous cloud products. It’s also easier to properly offboard employees by seeing what services and data they have access to.

On top, Vertice can streamline your compliance vetting of potential vendors to ensure they meet security standards, all while lowering acquisition or renewal costs by negotiating the best price on your behalf. Find out more about the Vertice SaaS purchasing platform to get started.

Smarter SaaS Spend

Learn more about Vertice and how we can help your business save on SaaS.

SaaS security FAQs