Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS, applications are exploding across practically every industry, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cloud-based software delivery allows organizations to deliver the software that’s necessary for success to any employee regardless of distance. This is a key advantage when remote work has become more common than ever.
Even better, SaaS applications can cut down on costs, especially when many companies are tightening the financial belt. It can save your organization from having to purchase the server infrastructure or maintain a support staff in-house.
But although SaaS applications are incredibly valuable, they’re also vulnerable. Knowing whether your SaaS applications are secure is key to guaranteeing good security for your entire organization and any sensitive information that your customers may entrust to you.
What Are Some of the Security Risks of SaaS Applications?
SaaS applications do come with a few risks, the first and most obvious of these is data location. With SaaS applications, any data used by that software is stored outside your enterprise’s boundary.
In other words, it’s outside of your direct control. Companies that are used to having total oversight over their data and the data of their customers may have noticed this limitation already.
Arguably even worse is the widespread lack of understanding of SaaS applications and their security risks. In total, nearly 67% of web applications have high security vulnerabilities, and SaaS applications are unfortunately no exception. But both employees and managers don’t fully understand exactly how cloud-based software solutions work, at least compared to their on-site counterparts. This lack of education eventually leads to gaps in security that hackers can and will take advantage of.
Major Security Vulnerabilities for SaaS Applications
Consider, for instance, a certain SaaS application that stores sensitive information about a company’s customer credit cards. It’s one thing for a cybercriminal to get access to your company’s hard drives to discover that information. It’s quite another (and possibly much easier) for that same criminal to make a data breach and steal the information from the cloud.
Software misconfigurations can also lead to data breaches of the more innocent nature. There have already been plenty of headline-grabbing data breaches in the past, some of which were more than likely caused by employees’ lack of understanding or misconfiguration. Once that information is on the web, no amount of policing can bring it all back.
Furthermore, account hijacking is a particularly serious SaaS application risk. If someone at your company has their information stolen and used to access data stored on a Cloud network, that breach could lead to significant financial and legal repercussions. This is especially true since so many great applications can integrate with one another, meaning a breach affecting one might just affect them all.
In short, the proliferation of SaaS applications has only magnified the need for good security practices.
Ways to Keep Your SaaS Applications Secure
The good news is that any company can practice excellent SaaS application security to avoid the issues discussed above.
After all, SaaS is the fastest growing cloud service model in the world, with more than 80% of organizations relying upon it for the bulk of their software needs. If SaaS applications could not be secured, they wouldn’t be so commonplace.
Security focuses can be broadly focused across these three pillars:
Data Backup and Protection
SaaS vendors may promise that they have backups for all your data, and they may very well be telling the truth. But you should not depend on their word on this point. Your data (and the data of your customers) is simply too valuable to trust to another party based only on their word.
To this end, you should have your data backed up in multiple locations, including somewhere on-site for your organization. Consider using multiple third-party backup services or data protection firms to manage and ensure data fidelity for all time.
User Behavior and Education
Your enterprise’s users have a lot of control over the security standing of your organization. This means that administrators need to know who accesses sensitive information and why they’re doing so. This might seem a little too oversight-heavy for some, but it’s necessary to ensure data security.
Beyond this basic point, all SaaS application users (and anyone who uses a computer in your organization, really) should practice good digital hygiene. These are basic practices that include:
- maintaining strong passwords and security questions
- understanding the need to change passwords frequently
- not leaving identifying information or credentials lying around – it’s easier than ever for email addresses to reveal identifying information
- not opening unidentified emails, as well as what phishing scams are
- using additional authentication mechanisms, like two-factor authentication, whenever possible
Furthermore, employees need to be educated in cybersecurity so they can correctly use SaaS applications and lower the risk of misconfiguration. Too many security breaches happen when a well-meaning employee leaves the proverbial back door open and a cybercriminal waltzes in to steal valuable and sensitive data.
Improving users’ behavior at your organization is often as simple as holding educational seminars or regularly evaluating employees for digital hygiene practices. Make this a focus for your business and you’ll see improvements across the board in no time.
Admin Behavior and Understanding
Although administrators need to oversee the educational process, they also need to take part. Misconfigurations can also occur as a result of administrative oversight, especially if they believe they know more about a given SaaS solution than their employees.
This is why one of the best ways to protect data stored on the Cloud is to go with a cloud service that enables admin activities to be monitorable by your security team and that makes configuration changes recordable and explainable. Administrators are not off the hook when it comes to security, at least not when customer data is on the line.
Monitoring should especially focus on abuse because of privileged access or account theft. CEOs and the like are frequent targets for identity theft, so they’re the ones who need to be extra careful about leaving their personal information lying around.
There’s no such thing as 100% secure operations, even for companies that are completely dedicated to the ideal. However, we can all do a much better job of ensuring our SaaS applications are secure for ourselves and our customers. Digital threats are only going to get more complex and sophisticated as time goes on.
The more we work from home, the more we will collectively rely on SaaS applications to get our work done and grow our businesses. This can become a lasting and industry-shifting change for the better – but only if we remember to practice excellent security and do our best to keep our data protected.