Software as a Service (SaaS) security refers to the security mechanisms used to protect data in cloud-based SaaS applications. It encompasses practices organizations use to protect sensitive data in the cloud, including personal customer information and sensitive business information. SaaS security is a shared responsibility between service providers and their customers.
SaaS security is integral to effective SaaS management, covering objectives such as reducing unused licenses, eliminating shadow IT, and achieving high visibility to minimize security risks.
This is part of our series of articles about SSPM.
SaaS security issues include vulnerabilities and data breach threats that cost organizations millions of dollars each year. The number of threats affecting cloud services is rapidly increasing.
The most common issues and threats affecting SaaS-related cybersecurity arise from cloud computing vulnerabilities. Organizations that store data using cloud services rely on a third-party provider for security and make their data accessible over the Internet.
Critical issues affecting SaaS application security include:
Learn more in our detailed guide to SaaS security
Here are some best practices to help secure your SaaS applications.
Cloud providers offer different authentication options. Some allow you to integrate with a customer-managed identity provider (i.e., OpenID Connect, Open Authorization, etc.). Some offerings support multi-factor authentication (MFA), providing an added layer of security. However, not all providers offer the same capabilities.
You need to understand the alternatives offered by your cloud provider. You can then select the appropriate authentication methods according to your organization’s needs. Where possible, choose a SaaS provider that supports Active Directory Single Sign-On (AD SSO) to ensure account and password policies align with your SaaS application usage.
Encrypt data to protect it at rest and in transit in the cloud. According to government regulations, sensitive data such as healthcare, financial, and personally identifiable information often requires encryption.
Start by checking how users access and use SaaS resources. Use collaboration controls to identify granular permissions on shared files, for example, if external users can access the files via a web link. Authorized users can share confidential files, either intentionally or inadvertently, via team spaces, email, and cloud file storage applications like Dropbox.
Review and evaluate SaaS providers before adopting their products. Make sure you understand their security model and any additional security features they offer.
While most customers trust their service providers to handle security, according to research by McAfee only 18% of SaaS providers support MFA and only 10% encrypt data at rest. Review the audits of each SaaS provider to ensure it complies with data privacy and security regulations and meets your organization’s requirements in terms of data encryption, data segregation, and cyber protection.
Regularly identify and track usage of SaaS applications and look out for unexpected or suspicious usage. SaaS enables the rapid deployment of applications, so it’s important to stay on top of usage using automated tools and manual data collection methods. Maintain an accurate inventory of the services employed and who uses them throughout your organization.
In some cases, SaaS providers cannot ensure the level of security you require. You can use a Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) solution to add security controls that SaaS providers do not offer natively. CASB tools can help complement the provider’s security model. When using a CASB tool, ensure you choose the appropriate deployment configuration (i.e., API or proxy-based) for your organization’s architecture.
Monitor all SaaS usage and assess the security logs provided by the service provider and data from security tools like CASBs. Make sure your security and IT teams understand that SaaS solutions are powerful tools requiring a high level of security, like any enterprise application. Combine monitoring with a risk management strategy to ensure that users handle SaaS applications safely.
SSPM ensures that SaaS applications are properly configured to protect them from compromise. Cynet provides a leading SSPM solution that continuously monitors SaaS applications to identify gaps between stated security policies and actual security posture, letting you automatically find and fix security risks in SaaS assets, and automatically prioritize risks and misconfigurations by severity.
Cynet SSPM provides:
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