This article was originally published on 06/29/2021.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications usually comprise sensitive data and allow users to access them from almost any device, which can typically pose a risk to confidential information. This blog will focus on strengthening the security of such SaaS applications.

Practices for improving SaaS security

Before cloud technology came into existence, business applications and data were hosted on on-premise servers. From a security point of view, it put the burden of securing confidential information on the business.

SaaS applications delivered via the internet or a web browser can help avoid painful installations and lengthy contracts. Though it makes these applications more flexible, it also raises security concerns that effective security measures should ideally address. In order to combat these concerns, you may leverage cloud security software to ensure the protection of your data in the cloud. 

Read on and understand how to secure SaaS applications using some effective practices to keep them protected. 

Before we dive deep into SaaS security, let’s first discuss what SaaS is and its benefits.

What is SaaS?

SaaS is a software delivery model using which users can access data and applications from any device with an internet connection and a web browser. In this model, the software vendor hosts, maintains, and supports the servers and the code that makes up an application.

The SaaS model typically differs from the on-premise software delivery model in two ways:

  • Unlike on-premise tools, a SaaS platform doesn’t need extensive hardware, software setup, and maintenance. Most of the IT responsibilities are handled by the software provider remotely.
  • SaaS offerings are usually priced on a recurring subscription model, allowing for lower upfront costs compared to most on-premise software. The subscription could be monthly, quarterly, annual etc., depending on the product and the chosen plan.

What are the benefits of SaaS?

Before moving to SaaS security, let’s quickly see five benefits of using the SaaS model:

1. SaaS systems can potentially save you money

You can conveniently access SaaS tools via an internet connection, computer, or smartphone. Also, you may not need an in-house IT specialist to install, update, or troubleshoot your SaaS software. Finally, you aren’t responsible for any data costs to host servers as the SaaS provider does it for you.

2. Most SaaS solutions can integrate with existing software

It may be difficult to operate a business without using different types of software. Therefore, while selecting software, it’s important to ensure your existing tools are able to integrate with any new software you buy. SaaS providers understand this concern and usually offer integrations with other common tools so you can more conveniently share data between them.

3. SaaS tools offer immediate access to software and data

As SaaS solutions are deployed via the cloud, you can typically immediately access the software and your data from a computer or mobile device. You may not have to wait or worry about installing the system once the software is deployed from the SaaS provider’s end.

4. SaaS providers usually update and improve their solutions

Many SaaS vendors have user experience (UX) teams that ensure their software is easy to learn and use. These teams generally run tests to understand how to improve the system continually. Also, as SaaS solutions are cloud-based and typically upgraded regularly, you may not need to buy new versions and can enjoy the updates as soon as they are deployed.

5. SaaS solutions can offer scalability

With SaaS solutions, scalability is another significant advantage. Most SaaS tools can grow along with your business and manage the increased demand, so you can scale up as and when required without having to install new software.

What is SaaS Security?

SaaS security can be defined as the process of handling confidential information and keeping it secure from unauthorized entities. It may also include securing corporate data and user privacy. Whether you are thinking about adopting SaaS applications or you are already using one, you should potentially consider implementing SaaS security practices.

How secure are SaaS applications?

Since SaaS solutions usually manage large volumes of sensitive customer data and can be accessed by many users, they might pose a significant risk to data privacy. In this context, data privacy and data protection can be considered the two biggest SaaS security threats.

However, most SaaS providers would ideally aim to ensure that their applications and services are secure and aligned with local data protection laws. In addition, businesses can also opt for third-party security assurance to identify any SaaS security issues. Third-party assurance can provide benefits such as:

  • Identify, classify, and remedy any hidden or potential SaaS security risks
  • Attestation for commercial or regulatory requirements where third-party validation is needed

Before we discuss some effective SaaS security practices, let’s first explore different SaaS security risks you should be aware of.

SaaS security risks every business should address

6 effective practices for strong SaaS security

The onus of data protection is a shared responsibility between you as a business owner and the SaaS provider. Though SaaS providers typically ensure that their client’s data remains safe and secure, in case your data gets compromised, you should probably look for another provider.

Some SaaS providers might not follow security rules sometimes, which may then lead to data breach incidents. Using a shared environment to cut costs is one example, and such practices tend to harm SaaS providers and their clients. 

Therefore —as a user— you should potentially implement the following practices to secure your data:

1. Authentication measures

Though your SaaS provider may be implementing many security measures, you should also follow some internal practices. Many approaches are available for proper user authentication, but multi-factor authentication software is an effective security solution.

Multi-factor authentication can be defined as an authentication method using which a user can access a website or an app after presenting a combination of two or more credentials to verify their identity. For example, imagine you are logging into your email account. Entering its password is one authentication factor. Another authentication factor can be a one-time password (OTP) sent on your mobile device or using your fingerprint to access emails. 

You may implement such authentication methods to secure your SaaS applications.

2. Don’t compromise on data integrity

As SaaS providers may stack the data of all their clients in a shared database, there should be proper segregation between each client’s data to ensure one client’s data is not accessible by another client. Get all the pertinent details on this aspect before you finalize the deal, and don’t commit until you find each detail to be satisfactory.

3. Ensure proper employee training

When you deploy a new SaaS application, you should ideally train your employees on how to use it. Training programs are essential because employees must know about possible cyber threats and how to avoid them. Such initiatives help employees to remain vigilant and allow your business to speed up the implementation of security protocols. Additionally, encourage your employees to use strong passwords and get them to change them every 30-90 days as a best practice.

4. Enforce a strong password policy

From emails to managing employee records and banking, passwords protect different data types. Therefore, you should ensure you have strong password policies in place so that hackers cannot crack passwords easily. An example of an ideal password could be a combination of 8 characters where you can have two letters in uppercase, three letters in lowercase, one special character, and two numerical digits. 

You may also utilize the functionality of password management software to create random secure passwords that cannot be hacked easily.

5. Keep an eye on data sharing

Make sure to check what data is being accessed by which users and how they access it. Essentially, if you don’t want your employees to access any specific feature of your SaaS application, you should potentially be able to restrict its access. 

One of the effective security practices could be to ensure that access is limited to only those who need it and can be revoked when such access is no longer required. Using SaaS management software, you can monitor and control SaaS applications and mitigate hidden access risks.

6. Back up user data in different locations

Backing up data in various locations can help you secure your data more effectively. Doing so may ensure that failure in one system cannot compromise the functionality of the entire infrastructure. Though cloud platforms usually provide such abilities, you should be diligent with checking that backup happens on a regular basis.

Think you can manage SaaS security?

SaaS providers handle many security aspects, such as securing the platform, applications, network, operating system, and physical IT infrastructure. But they are not responsible for securing customer data or any unidentified user access. Some SaaS providers might offer bare minimum security, while others may offer a wider range of security options. Make sure to do a thorough assessment when selecting the right SaaS provider and implementing effective best practices for SaaS security.

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