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CyberSecurity|Technology April 29, 2022 Last Updated: April 29, 2022

The ongoing digital transformation in every industry vertical has led to many organizations gravitating towards cloud. According to SWZD, by 2023, 50% of all business workloads are expected to run in the cloud. Businesses, no doubt, value the convenience but a vulnerability here and there can knock your Software as a Service (SaaS) system down a peg and lead to dire critical problems.

Don’t think companies can afford to jeopardize their daily operations. A downtime or disruption can eat a big chunk of your revenue. A data breach, a misconfiguration, a compliance issue, or any other common security threat can rattle the very foundations of your business. The point is, there’s a lot at stake, which is why you need a rundown on the top SaaS security risks and concerns. Let’s dive in!

Top 7 SaaS Security Risks and Concerns

Listed below are the top seven SaaS security risks that every organization needs to address at the earliest:

1. Data Breach: SaaS offers many benefits: fast implementation, no maintenance, zero initial setup costs, easy upgrade, rapid scaling, and much more. However, this doesn’t imply that your business data is full-proof secured from any outside threat. A chink in the armor means access to your confidential data. A data breach can also mean data corruption or data loss.

In both scenarios, you end up losing pivotal data. If the crucial data assets belong to another firm, be prepared to face litigation and loss of reputation. A third-party cloud storage vendor can only do so much to protect your business info. Their security protocols, controls, and certifications will dictate how safe your data is at the end of the day.

From zero-day vulnerabilities, phishing, ransomware attacks, malware exfiltration, and more, cybercriminals utilize sophisticated bouts to access, retrieve and/or modify sensitive data. Today, insider threats are just as likely; according to Gartner, by 2025, 99% of cloud security failures will be the customer’s fault. You might want to regulate the level of internal access privilege.


2. Misconfiguration Management: You need to monitor the level of configurations assigned and permissions allotted across your IT department. Excessive user permissions or access rights from an admin to an end-user can result in a permissions gap. Too many permissions widen the gap and make your cloud data vulnerable to leaks and breaches.

Errors, oversights, or ill-informed configuration choices have resulted in unintended exposure of critical information and assets. According to Trend Micro, in 2018 and 2019, cloud misconfiguration breaches cost companies almost $5 trillion. Misconfiguration related to boot disk volume, disk volume encryption, and blob storage is some of the most common mistakes for malicious actors to exploit.


3. Compliance and Audit Issues: Cloud compliance is integral to its cybersecurity practices. Suppose your SaaS vendor is non-compliant or lacks fundamental auditing capabilities in sync with all the relevant government mandates, regulations, and frameworks. In that case, they could potentially expose your organization to fines and reputation damage.

Your SaaS provider must comply with all the standard cybersecurity regulations and have proper certifications such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), PCI DSS, ISO 27001, SOC2, NIST Cybersecurity Framework, etc. Furthermore, you may need to bring a potent Content Security Protocol (CSP) into effect. CSP, made up of effective policies, segregated responsibilities, proper logging, auditing, and monitoring, will keep a leash on staff activities.


4. Missing transparency and stability issues: Reliable SaaS vendors are few and far between, so it won’t be a far-fetched call to say that you could potentially end up with someone who’ll pack their bags, shut everything down, and walk away. This is something you need to address in advance, data portability or data migration to a new vendor, even if you need someone else to facilitate the transfer.

Take up questions and address concerns head-on at the very beginning to avoid getting entangled in a legal mess later on. Questions can include but are not limited to data centers, operations, security protocols, and other measures they have taken to ensure your data stays safe. From DoS attacks to insecure Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), account hijacking, and more – getting answers on as many facets as possible.


5. Unintended insider threat: Businesses have to deal with user negligence to administrators going rogue. An insider attack can prove costly, as these resources are the closest to your sensitive data and know the vulnerabilities better than anyone. However, not all insiders with high-level access cause intentional damage; many don’t realize their violation until it’s too late.

Their weak passwords, stolen devices, and shared credentials become a liability and compromise your SaaS system’s security. When your SaaS product is accessed from the inside, on the go, in remote areas, with minimal firewall and fewer layers of network security, it makes it easier for spiteful 3rd-party players to swing into action and exploit the same.


6. Unreliable data location and access: SaaS vendors don’t disclose where the data is stored. The data centers are in remote places. If your company falls under The Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), you have to have your sensitive data within the United States. However, when traveling abroad, the data shifts closer to you. Clarify the precise location of the data center.

Similarly, you may want to establish who else has access to the data. Ideally, your organizational data must not reach anyone else. They may end up storing your data in a third-party cloud, start mining your data with a third-party tool, or may outsource another software development firm to configure, maintain, manage, or upgrade the services. In which case, your data ends up with other parties.


7. Ransomware, Malware, Zero-day vulnerabilities, Denial of Service (DoS), and Phishing Attacks: Ransomware attacks can cause downtime, data breaches, and intellectual property theft. This will persist till the ransom gets paid. In the same way, malware too can eavesdrop, steal data, such as personally identifiable information (PII) and Intellectual Property (IP), and pass it down to an unauthorized third party.

A Phishing attack will clone legitimate login pages and access sensitive information like credentials, credit card info, phone number, etc. A zero-day vulnerability is an unpatched security hole unknown to the developers working with SaaS vendors or your IT team. A DoS attack could shut down the system by consuming large amounts of memory, network bandwidth, and processor power by the inherent services, preventing users from accessing their data or applications.

How to mitigate these SaaS security risks

Make sure the SaaS delivery model you use has an efficient and effective cyber security strategy for all the data it stores. Ultimately, managing any outside risk is within the scope of their responsibility. Let’s look at what business need to look out for in a SaaS solution in terms of security:


1. Compliance: The security compliance directly affects your product’s credibility in the market. Comply with a host of government-mandated regulations across regions and have the tools to control various aspects of the data. Businesses will need to have the mandatory CCPA, GDPR, The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), PCI DSS, SOX, etc. HIPAA is needed to protect health information from being disclosed

You may have to demonstrate your overall compliance and data protection through tools, procedures, and capabilities to earn the trust of your clients. Deploy internal regulatory audits to check compliance against industry standards and regulations to fix gaps. Check certifications such as ISO 27001 and Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL).

Adherence to Privacy Shield and RH-ISAC will also elevate the security posture of your brand and make it more appealing in the market. Volusion, a SaaS eCommerce platform, unintentionally exposed the credit card data of millions of customers in 2019 when hackers injected a malicious JavaScript. The whole debacle cost the company around $133 million, which resulted in its Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2020.


2. Audit Trail Management: Store logs key every single activity. Plus, it helps identify and troubleshoot issues and provides visibility about a user, their IP address, action taken, and the date and time. Admins and Super admins can view the activity to monitor, detect, and respond early to any unauthorized changes. Admins can learn to manage access more intelligently.

Be aware of user roles and their access privileges. By regulating access and monitoring the same throughout, Enterprises can be better prepared to manage internal identity theft frauds. Furthermore, educate users with tutorials, instructional manuals, and implement role-based access, single sign-on, and multi-factor authentication for better protection from insider attacks.


3. Internal Governance: You can enforce the highest security layers on-site, but with remote work in full effect in many places, many employees are not as secure as you would want. Organizations don’t manage the device in use in many instances, which only exasperates the problem. More endpoints in unsafe zones mean more chances of security lapses.

The best way to mitigate this is to equip every resource with a company laptop that comes with pre-installed solutions such as antivirus, device tracking, screen sharing, 24/7 recording, drive deletion, VPN, blocked sites, login authentication, hourly IT notifications, virtual keyboards, regular backups, restricted downloads, and other measures to safeguard users and minimize security inconsistencies.


4. Response Plan: Let’s say an unforeseen attack does go down; now is not the time to panic. This is where you initiate your “Defcon Level 1” IT security protocols. You must address a data breach or any other intrusion at the hands of the vendor or your organization immediately. The best-case scenario would include an effective strategy and SOPs to cover every specific situation.

Come up with a plan of action that involves every element in the mix – media, stakeholders, clients, partners, and more. Plus, invest in SaaS systems with an automated patching system; otherwise, you’ll be left to conduct manual penetration tests and continuous vulnerability scans.


5. Periodic Backup: A shadow backup or a near real-time data backup into a secure server will ensure that no downtime or disruption will shut your operations. This allows you to keep your business running while ensuring you or your SaaS vendor’s security team can take remedial steps to prevent further exploitation of sensitive data and even stop any data theft midways.


6. Secure APIs: APIs enable the monitoring and management of cloud services; therefore, you can’t afford to leave them exposed. Design the interfaces to prevent threats relating to authentication, encryption, and access control. Ensure there is a proper process to control API connections with SaaS products. Limiting the API access and connections to a select few would be better than permitting every other tool to connect uninterrupted.


7. Cloud security mechanisms: Implement Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) security architecture, which offers a host of advanced cloud data security solutions such as Firewall-as a-service (FWaaS), Secure Web Gateways (SWGs), Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM), and Cloud Access Service Brokers (CASBs) for near real-time visibility, better control of security policies, threat flags, and data protection across cloud computing services using gateways, proxy, or APIs.


8. Endpoint Security: Endpoint security systems protect endpoints in the cloud from malicious threats. Endpoint security isn’t your traditional antivirus software anymore; it now provides all-around protection from malware and zero-day threats. The whole package consists of a personal firewall, encryption, anti-malware, and advanced endpoint protection.


Slice and Dice your SaaS security risks

SaaS security risks, management, and governance should become a top priority for any business looking to hold its data with a third-party cloud storage provider. Review and discuss your SaaS vendor’s security technology and policies before entrusting them with any business data. If possible, initiate a trial period to get a holistic understanding of the product before committing.

Enjoy the benefits of SaaS, but be aware of the potential risks to safeguard your business interests. Are you looking to migrate to SaaS, or have you done so already? In that case, it’d make sense to consult the SaaS experts in ISHIR to evaluate a SaaS provider or perform an end-to-end review to detect, monitor, manage, and track their security parameters in real-time.

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