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7 SaaS Security Best Practices You Must Know

January 22, 2022
Last Updated: January 3, 2024
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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.

Get The Ultimate Guide for

Reducing SaaS Applications Risk

  • What are the key risks surrounding SaaS application
  • How to minimize the security risks associated with SaaS applications and vendors
  • How SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM) can help reduce SaaS risk

SaaS Security Concerns

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:

  • Misconfigurations—incorrect security configurations can expose computing assets to malicious activity. The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) identifies misconfigurations as the most common security issue. You can secure SaaS applications by ensuring proper configuration and timely upgrades of all tools used in the cloud environment.
  • Cross-site scripting—an XSS attack involves injecting malicious code into web pages that end-users view. It is the next most common security issue and affects most applications. You can automatically block XSS with the latest versions of React JS or Ruby on Rails.
  • Inadequate monitoring and logging—electronic audit logs are essential for detecting unauthorized or malicious activity, but many organizations fail to implement or check them in time to discover threats. You should implement sufficient monitoring across your applications and regularly check the logs to identify and contain breaches.
  • Insider threats—negligent employees and malicious insiders can leak data deliberately or accidentally, exposing SaaS applications and the organizations using them. Any data stored in the cloud poses a security risk, especially if you use shared credentials and weak passwords. SaaS security issues often arise from leaving data accessible from all systems or sharing it externally.
  • Compliance—each industry requires specific security and auditing practices, and failure to comply can result in legal or financial penalties. Many organizations are subject to regulations such as  GDPR, PCI-DSS, HIPAA, and SOX, depending on their industry and the type of data they store and process. These regulations cover requirements for protecting data in the cloud, conducting regular audits, and implementing security testing. Protecting sensitive data is thus a priority, and you must monitor your SaaS applications and provide proper logs and audit trails.
  • Identity theft—SaaS products frequently use online payment methods that pose an identity theft risk. Protecting payment card data and user identity requires a combination of security, including Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), firewalls, and data encryption in transit and at rest.

Learn more in our detailed guide to SaaS security

7 SaaS Security Best Practices

Here are some best practices to help secure your SaaS applications.

Use Products that Offer Strong Authentication

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 Your Data

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.

Monitor Data Sharing

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.

Get The Ultimate Guide for

Reducing SaaS Applications Risk

  • What are the key risks surrounding SaaS application
  • How to minimize the security risks associated with SaaS applications and vendors
  • How SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM) can help reduce SaaS risk

Vet the Provider

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.

Keep a Usage Inventory

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.

Use a CASB

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.

Maintain Visibility

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.

SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM) with Cynet

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:

  • Automatic tracking of SaaS risks – tracks security posture across all SaaS platforms, prioritized by risk category, tracked over time directly from the Cynet dashboard.
  • Automatic analysis and fix in one click – drills down to provide details and insights about every identified risk, recommends remediation actions, and applies them automatically.

Contact us to learn more about Cynet SSPM

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