8 SaaS Security Best Practices to Keep Your Tech Stack Secure

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February 14, 2024
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How is your organization's SaaS security holding up with all the applications in use? Does your IT team have a SaaS security strategy to deal with the dangers of data breaches, unauthorized access, and other compliance issues? Are you constantly worried about these questions?

When SaaS usage grows in organizational settings, the primary challenge often revolves around effectively managing the SaaS platforms while maintaining robust security measures for the organization.

As per a study, companies estimate that 70% of the business apps they use today are SaaS-based, and by 2025, this number will grow to 85%.

As organizations increasingly use cloud-based apps, implementing top SaaS security practices is crucial to safeguarding customer data and financial information stored within these apps.

This article discusses eight SaaS security best practices you should follow in 2024 to secure your SaaS portfolio.

What is SaaS security?

SaaS security refers to the practice of safeguarding user privacy and data within subscription-based cloud applications.

These applications host substantial amounts of sensitive data and are accessible from various devices by different users, so they present inherent privacy and data security risks.

SaaS security ensures that the information you store and access through these online applications remains safe from unauthorized access, data breaches, or other cyber threats.

It involves various strategies, such as encryption, user authentication, access controls, and regular security updates, to keep your data and applications secure while using cloud-based services.

Why should you pay attention to SaaS security?

According to BetterCloud, IT professionals' top concerns about using SaaS are data security and protection against cybercrime.

The data carried by SaaS apps - ranging from financial information and client records to intellectual property - is invaluable and must be protected. Failures in security can lead to data breaches, financial losses, and reputational damage.

Companies can limit these risks with proper knowledge of the risks and appropriate security measures for their business.

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7 Common SaaS security threats

You never know when your organization might encounter security threats, so it's crucial to remain vigilant and aware of occurrences within your organization that could create cloud security vulnerabilities, such as:

1. Unauthorized access

Unauthorized personnel, including former employees, having access to SaaS apps could cause data breaches and misuse of sensitive information. These breaches can lead to theft, manipulation, or exposure of confidential information, potentially causing significant harm to individuals or organizations.

Also, insider threats can result from malicious actions, negligence, or lack of awareness about security best practices. These threats stem from individuals within the organization, such as employees or contractors, who intentionally or accidentally compromise security.

To avoid these security lapses, you must implement SaaS security best practices, such as auto-deprovisioning, to prevent unauthorized access.

2. Shadow IT

Controlling shadow IT is an ongoing struggle for organizations. This is compounded by the common use of SaaS on personal devices or via unsecured networks, further elevating security risks.

Employees using unapproved SaaS apps without authorization from the IT team create security risks, data breaches, and increased app spending. These unapproved apps can pose security threats like data leaks or malware infections.

3. Scattered platforms and applications

SaaS ecosystems often comprise multiple applications from different SaaS vendors. This fragmentation complicates the implementation of a cohesive security strategy, leaving potential gaps in defense and making threat monitoring across platforms difficult.

Cybercriminals exploit these vulnerabilities, as evidenced by numerous high-profile data breaches.

4. Intricate custom configurations

While SaaS platforms offer flexibility for organizations to tailor configurations, this customization can increase complexity and the risk of oversight in security settings. Misconfigurations, a common occurrence, have become a leading cause of data breaches in recent times.

5. Poor compliance and regulation

Using non-compliant SaaS providers can result in compliance violations, legal consequences, and reputational damage. Compliance violations may result in legal actions, fines, or penalties imposed by regulatory authorities.

Additionally, failing to meet compliance requirements can damage the company's reputation, eroding trust among customers and stakeholders.

6. Cloud misconfiguration and evolving environments

Improper cloud system configuration could pose security risks. Even minor misconfigurations can have serious implications, compromising the security of your entire infrastructure.

Additionally, in SaaS environments, users have the flexibility to access applications from diverse devices and locations, which creates a challenge for IT security teams.

Balancing secure access with user productivity while managing dynamic user roles, permissions, and authentication requirements without compromising security measures remains an ongoing task for IT professionals.

To better understand SaaS security risks and how to minimize them, please read our article on SaaS security risks.

8 SaaS security best practices to follow

To stay ahead of emerging threats, ensure you have built a robust security framework with SaaS security best practices in place. This SaaS security checklist includes:

1. Use a SaaS management platform for complete app visibility

A study by Resmo notes that only 26% of organizations have embraced automation for monitoring SaaS application security.

Implementing a SaaS management platform helps you centralize and manage all your SaaS apps on a single dashboard. It gives a 360-degree overview of your SaaS environment, including application use, spending, user access, and security.

Image shows the cost of shadow IT

Constant surveillance helps you detect and manage possible vulnerabilities and unauthorized SaaS usage and shadow IT within your firm.

Streamlined SaaS application management gives you the insight to make cost-optimization decisions and ensure that your business adheres to security guidelines and standards.

Using a SaaS management platform has become an organization's go-to SaaS security standard strategy to prevent users from purchasing unsanctioned applications.

2. Enhance your authentication with SSO and 2FA

Integrating single sign-on (SSO) and two-factor authentication (2FA) significantly reduces the risks of using weak or repeated passwords and unauthorized access to your SaaS applications.

SSO requires users to provide one-time authentication to enable access to multiple apps. 2FA provides an extra layer of protection by requiring users to provide additional verification, like a one-time password or biometric authentication.

3. Ensure that your vendors comply with security regulations

A Superoffice study claims that 60% of organizations believe that governance and compliance are their major concerns when dealing with cloud services.

Before implementing a SaaS app, assessing the vendor's security standards is critical.

Check that they adhere to industry-standard security measures and laws such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), or the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 27001.

Image of compliance certifications

Assess the vendor's security policies, data handling methods, and certifications to guarantee that your data will be safeguarded in accordance with your organization's security standards.

Do not sign a contract with a vendor lacking common SaaS compliance certifications like GDPR and SOC 2. Otherwise, you might put your SaaS data security at risk, lose valuable customer and financial data, and lose revenue.

4. Encrypt your data

Encryption is critical to ensuring the security of sensitive data handled or transmitted through SaaS applications. As per Statista, 38 percent of businesses are specifically concerned about encrypting their organizations' data.

Encryption turns data into an unreadable format that can only be accessed by authorized individuals with the decryption key. Encrypting your data adds an extra layer of security, even if there is a breach.

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Ensure your data is encrypted during transit and at rest. The channels connected with SaaS apps often use Transport Layer Security (TLS) to safeguard data in transit. Some SaaS providers provide additional encryption features for data protection at rest.

Check each SaaS service to see whether data encryption is possible by default and, if so, activate it.

5. Prevent shadow IT with centralized procurement

G2 research shows that, by 2025, three in four people believe that shadow IT will be a bigger security issue at their companies.

Shadow IT is common in organizations with a disorganized procurement process. SaaS management platforms now have procurement workflows to automate the process and provide 100% transparency with real-time progress updates.

Implement a centralized procurement process and completely eradicate the risks of shadow IT.

6. Manage user access effectively

Security Magazine says 31% of former employees still have access to an organization's SaaS applications and other sensitive information.

Another report from TechRepublic reveals that around 20% of organizations experienced data breaches by ex-employees.

This indicates the need for a streamlined user access management system. Users should be provisioned appropriately for suitable applications and deprovisioned right after they leave your organization.

Image showing CloudEagle's user module

SaaS management platforms with user provisioning and deprovisioning modules can be integrated with your HRIS systems to collect user data, access, and permission levels in each application.

With a centralized access dashboard, you can easily provision the right apps to users when they join and revoke their access when they quit, preventing security breaches by former employees.

7. Implement strong IAM policies

Implementing strong identity and access management (IAM) policies is the most fundamental aspect of SaaS security best practices. IAM policies govern user access to SaaS applications and resources, ensuring only authorized individuals can view, modify, or interact with sensitive data.

By implementing robust IAM policies, organizations can enforce principles of least privilege, granting users access to the resources necessary for their roles and responsibilities. This reduces the risk of unauthorized access, data breaches, and insider threats.

Additionally, IAM policies enable organizations to streamline user provisioning and deprovisioning processes, ensuring that access rights are promptly revoked when employees leave the company or change roles.

8. Don't overlook SaaS security posture management

One critical SaaS security standard practice is not to overlook SaaS security posture management. It involves continuously assessing and monitoring the security configuration of SaaS applications and services to promptly identify and address vulnerabilities or misconfigurations.

Regularly reviewing and updating security settings, permissions, and configurations ensures that SaaS environments remain resilient against evolving threats.

By staying vigilant and proactive in managing the security posture of SaaS platforms, organizations can mitigate risks, safeguard sensitive data, and maintain compliance with industry regulations.

Ignoring this aspect of SaaS security best practices could leave businesses vulnerable to cyberattacks, data breaches, and other security incidents, emphasizing the importance of prioritizing security posture management in SaaS environments.

5 Challenges you might face while security SaaS platforms

Securing SaaS platforms involves addressing various challenges:

1. Data privacy and compliance

SaaS platforms often handle sensitive user data, making data privacy a paramount concern. Ensuring compliance with regulations such as GDPR, CCPA, HIPAA, or industry-specific standards adds complexity to security measures.

Implementing robust data encryption, access controls, and auditing mechanisms to maintain compliance while preserving user privacy can be challenging.

2. Multi-tenancy risks

SaaS platforms typically serve multiple tenants (organizations or users) on shared infrastructure. This shared environment introduces the risk of data leakage between tenants, especially in misconfiguration or inadequate isolation cases.

Implementing strong access controls, secure authentication mechanisms, and proper data segregation techniques is essential to mitigating these risks.

3. Third-party integration security

SaaS platforms often integrate with third-party services and APIs to extend functionality. However, each integration introduces potential security vulnerabilities, such as inadequate authentication mechanisms or data validation.

Verifying the security practices of third-party providers, conducting regular security assessments, and implementing secure integration protocols are vital to preventing the exploitation of these vulnerabilities.

4. User access management

Securely managing user access is crucial in SaaS environments, where users access services remotely from various devices and locations.

Challenges include enforcing strong password policies, implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA), and managing user permissions effectively to prevent unauthorized access.

Additionally, ensuring timely revocation of access for terminated users or compromised accounts is essential to maintaining security.

5. Continuous monitoring and incident response

SaaS platforms require continuous monitoring to detect and respond to security threats promptly.

Challenges arise in identifying anomalous behavior, detecting unauthorized access attempts, and correlating security events across distributed environments.

Implementing 2FA, intrusion detection systems (IDS), security information and event management (SIEM) solutions, and establishing well-defined incident response procedures are critical to mitigating risks and minimizing the impact of security incidents.

Are you struggling with SaaS security management? - Do this instead.

When managing various aspects and expansions of your SaaS infrastructure becomes overwhelming, creating a SaaS security standard practices framework is the best solution. You can use automation tools like SaaS management platforms to create such a framework.

These tools use discovery methods to identify various aspects of shadow IT and IT sprawl. This helps eliminate unnecessary SaaS usage, ultimately saving significant time and streamlining management processes.

Moreover, they streamline compliance and security risk identification, allowing immediate action. These tools continuously monitor your organization's environment and provide regular reports, keeping you updated about your SaaS stack and ensuring peace of mind.

If you need assistance in selecting the right tool for SaaS security posture management (SSPM), we recommend CloudEagle.

CloudEagle is a comprehensive SaaS and procurement management platform with robust security management features, ensuring organizations remain worry-free.

With features covering the entire SaaS lifecycle, including procurement, user access, and compliance management, CloudEagle offers complete control, visibility, vendor management, user provisioning, and improved compliance and risk management.

All of the aforementioned features make CloudEagle a unique and powerful SaaS security management platform.

Book a demo with CloudEagle today to incorporate SaaS security best practices into your business!

‍Frequently asked questions

1. What are the most important security features of the SaaS model?

Software as a service (SaaS) security is the umbrella term for the policies and procedures to safeguard the information and programs a SaaS provider hosts. Encryption, authentication, access restrictions, network security, and data backup and recovery are crucial security elements of a SaaS model.

2. What are the key SaaS security concerns with the SaaS model?

One of the primary concerns with SaaS app security is the safety of sensitive data that the service provider stores and processes. Data breaches, leaks, theft, or loss can result in legal, financial, or reputational implications for users.

3. Why should enterprises follow SaaS security best practices?

SaaS security best practices are critical for safeguarding sensitive data, ensuring regulatory compliance, and limiting potential risks. They assist businesses in strengthening their level of security posture by maintaining the integrity and confidentiality of information in SaaS environments. And protect sensitive data against unauthorized access.

Written by
Nidhi Jain
CEO and Founder, CloudEagle
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