SaaS is playing a pivotal role in the digital transformation of thousands of businesses, but it also brings in some security concerns. We will address those concerns and talk about important SaaS security requirements in this article. We will also discuss the security best practices that can help both SaaS providers and users.
We subscribe to nearly everything nowadays, be it Youtube channels, or OTT platforms like Netflix and Prime among a myriad of other services. So what if we were given an option to subscribe to software as a service? Well, that is the literal definition of SaaS.
SaaS or software as a service is exactly what it sounds like, the applications are secured in an outsourced data center while the end-users pay for monthly subscriptions to make use of it. Since the applications are stored off-premise, it comes as no surprise that SaaS customers would want to ensure the safety of their applications hosted in the SaaS vendor’s data centers.
Here enters SaaS security which are measures set in place to protect the SaaS vendors and customers from any adverse effects like hacking and data theft. With the recent growing popularity of platforms based on SaaS, it comes as no surprise that stricter security measures and rules issued by industry regulatory bodies and federal agencies all focus on safeguarding data.
There are some SaaS security requirements that every SaaS provider and customer needs to be aware of and should be met by every SaaS security provider.
What Is SaaS Security?
As mentioned above, SaaS security is all about securing the privacy and data shared and or stored within the SaaS cloud platform from any adverse external influences. As a SaaS provider, you can use SaaS security solutions to fulfill the security requirements.
Since SaaS applications have users in large numbers, it stands to reason that this opens the platform up to various kinds of security threats. Some of the major SaaS security concerns that every SaaS provider and the user should be aware of are mentioned below.
Major SaaS Security Concerns
This section will do a deep dive into the areas of major concern with regard to SaaS security in order to better understand the SaaS security requirements. A lapse in any of these regions within a SaaS platform can leave it vulnerable to attacks by hackers through phishing, malware, ransomware, and other forms of attack all of which could lead to data theft and misuse of client information.
These are lapses in SaaS security that occur due to defective setting up of the security measures leaving the SaaS provider and customer vulnerable to attacks. They can lead to cloud leaks, i.e leakage of data from the cloud server, external hacking through phishing and other activities as well as unknown threats within the platform itself. It could also occur due to the complex hierarchy within the cloud infrastructure which inadvertently raises the chances of misconfigurations.
A common and well-known example of such a misconfiguration is the misconfiguration found in 2019 within JIRA a project tracking software founded by Atlassian. Due to the misconfigurations, a lot of private data from major companies including NASA staff details were found.
Another flaw that is commonly found comes from access management. With SaaS, it often comes as a worry to customers that all their data is stored off-premise and with a third party. It, therefore, stands to reason that SaaS customers have to worry about the risks associated with storing their data with a third party and the subsequent exposure to data access.
Without proper access management, any user regardless of eligibility can access confidential data stored in the cloud. Such mishaps can lead to identity theft planned by malicious actors who aim to take advantage of this loophole to gain access to private data to delete or leak it.
SaaS vendors not having a well-planned disaster recovery or an incident response plan in place can put a damper on the SaaS customer’s revenue if an adverse scenario should happen. From natural calamities to data breaches, any of these can result in hefty damages.
If all the lost data can not be retrieved or takes a long period of time to be obtained back, it could damage the vendor’s reputation and the SaaS application’s reliability. Other factors that could worsen the scenario are if there is a lack of transparency and a layer of secrecy in informing the concerned parties regarding the safety and well-being of the confidential data they have stored.
This is another common occurrence that could happen if the data isn’t secured properly with encryption both during transit and at rest. It could also happen if access management protocols aren’t placed properly and if there are misconfigurations within the security system in place to protect the SaaS platform and the data.
Not knowing or enquiring about the security of one’s data, or the identification and recovery steps in place within a SaaS platform can leave it vulnerable to heavy exposure and loss. Not doing the due diligence required to vet a SaaS platform in the get-go and on a regular basis can result in such issues.
Data Storage And Retention
It is also relevant for a SaaS customer to enquire about where their large amounts of data are actually going to be stored, some SaaS providers are vague about this or maintain secrecy, but as a rule, you have a right to know where your data is being stored.
Not having a data retention policy in place can also be a risk a lot of data will be stored for longer periods of time than necessary i.e. longer than the period that is lawfully legal. This is a major necessity for compliance that if overlooked can lead to heavy penalties and loss of reputation.
If the SaaS vendor or customer is non-compliant with the regulatory standards set, it often leads to heavy losses due to the fact that there is a lapse in the security system and it is not up to the standard set by government and federal regulators.
Failure to comply with regulatory requirements like HIPAA, GDPR, PCI-DSS, and SOC-2 can result in the product getting banned, a reduction in revenue, and even major lawsuits. Non-compliance with SaaS security regulations can put a strain on public relations, reduce data security due to increased risk exposure, and also reduce operational efficacy. It is therefore critical to maintain continued SaaS compliance and continuously assess it for the same.
What Are SaaS Security Requirements?
SaaS security requirements are requirements that should be met by all parties concerned and associated with maintaining a SaaS platform’s security. Mainly it includes the SaaS security provider, the SaaS provider, and their customers. Additionally, SaaS security testing providers can also be included in this. All of the above-mentioned parties together set forth certain important SaaS security requirements or parameters that are to be fulfilled for a well-established SaaS security system to function.
- Multiple Data Centers
Multiple data centers are one of the major SaaS security requirements by which SaaS vendors ensure their availability everywhere possible. It is always vital that customers know where their data is stored and that it is stored in a safe and secure location. It also ensures that should a natural disaster of any sort take place, the SaaS customer and vendor remain protected from the adverse effects since the response time will be very quick.
Another reason is to ensure that customers’ confidential data is stored within the country and if one’s information is sent to another country, the action must be notified to the relevant parties involved. It is therefore vital for SaaS customers to ask their providers about their data replication strategy and to understand how it works.
- Integration Possibilities
A large majority of businesses are dissatisfied with the process of integrating SaaS solutions into their security architecture. The following are some of the issues that commonly come up like the lack of connections to commonly used IAM and SIEM platforms, as well as the lack of functionality of APIs for obtaining the information required, especially log visibility at the platform level.
Differently designed APIs for products from the same vendor would be beneficial. There is a lack of trained vendor personnel to assist in API usage. Scanning critical APIs and maintaining a good security posture that respects confidentiality and integrity while monitoring continuously is crucial.
Integrating real-time monitoring provides scope for better policy management, compliance, and data protection from attacks like SQL injections and account takeovers. It also helps differentiate between malicious advances and authenticated queries thereby providing protection at an early stage making integration yet another crucial aspect of SaaS security requirements.
- SaaS Security Compliance
Ensuring compliance with certifications and regulatory body requirements like PCI-DSS, HIPPA, and SOC2 to help ensure the protection of highly sensitive data is the next important attribute in SaaS security requirements. Different certifications have different requirements with PCI-DSS SaaS providers having to conduct thorough security audits to ensure the confidentiality of data is maintained throughout transmission and storage.
SOC2 is a certification that overs see the security of the cloud platform and is maintained and monitored continuously with well-implemented protocols in place that ensure management of vendor processes, regulatory compliance, and internal risks.
Ensuring that a data retention policy is in place by the SaaS vendor can go a long way in staying compliant with the regulatory bodies. It also allows making space for essential data storage, and backups while making sure that important client information that is not relevant to the cloud server is not retained by it.
- Continuous Penetration Testing
Next in SaaS security requirements is penetration testing or white-hat hacking. It is the process of evaluating the security systems of a network, computer, application, or cloud by exploiting the vulnerabilities present while mimicking the actions and style of a hacker.
This is an essential practice to ensure that any vulnerabilities present within the security system are found before the cloud security system is compromised by hackers. It is common for SaaS providers to hire pentesters outside since pentesting companies have a better idea regarding all the latest attacks and exploits that could be carried out to find and test the vulnerabilities.
It is also crucial that such penetration tests be done regularly since a vulnerability could arise with any new update, patch, or new feature. This can also help in the CI/CD integration of your cloud application with the pentesting tool to move from DevOps To DevSecOps successfully.
Doing such penetration tests can also ensure potential SaaS customers that the SaaS vendor has a good set of security measures in place that is updated and checked regularly for any loopholes, thereby helping build a trusty vendor-customer relationship.
Once the penetration testing is complete a fully detailed report of all the scopes and assets tested, a list of vulnerabilities found, and possible remediation measures are all given to the SaaS client so that they can fix any areas of concern.
- Device Authentication
The security of your system is limited to the authentication and authorization mechanisms that safeguard it. This notion holds true for both physical devices on your network and human users. Cameras and control panels, like any other piece of security equipment, must be authenticated as well. If your SaaS provider’s technology will not allow you to do so, inquire what they are doing to ensure an equivalent degree of protection.
Authentication and Authorization are crucial aspects of SaaS security requirements for SaaS users as well. Using multifactor authentication can help with the identification and verification of a user and differentiate them from any malicious attackers.
Identity access management only allows users in once their identity verification is complete after which their credentials are verified to see the level of access they have. This along with role-based and or request-approval-based process also help in managing access and authentication.
- Data Security Audits
A security audit is a systemic evaluation of all the security measures that are placed on SaaS customers and their data by the SaaS vendors. Unlike penetration testing, which is a hacker-style test focusing mainly on exploitable vulnerabilities, security audits focus on every aspect of the security detail in place and combs through it.
During such an audit, it can be verified whether the SaaS platform and application are completely compliant with regulatory standards like PCI-DSS, HIPAA, and meets all the SaaS security requirements. This validates the security in place while also providing a scope for improvement in any areas of security that needs it.
Such audits should be done regularly to keep the assessments of one’s SaaS security profile updated always. This not only helps with compliance but also builds trust with potential customers.
Data security audits often focus on areas like areas of authentication, hardware, software and physical configurations, smart devices and self-owned devices used, emails, information handling, and more.
Read more on- Conducting SaaS security audits
Sound SaaS Security Practices To Follow
They refer to practices that when opted help SaaS vendors and customers alike to meet the SaaS security requirements for a holistic successful SaaS security.
- Move From DevOps to DevSecOps
DevOps refers to a set of practices, methodologies, and tools all designed to bring about efficiency within an organization to amp up their productivity in application delivery. However, with DevOps, the one area that lacked focus was addressing security concerns. This is where DevSecOp entered the scene with an equal and important focus on not just the development and operation of an application but also the security surrounding it.
Transitioning from DevOps to DevSecOps is a change that should be brought about ultimately to increase efficiency without comprising the security of the application. It can be achieved by using the right tools, practicing safe coding, educating your team on its importance, and monitoring progress continuously.
The difference between the two lies in that with DevOps, security was a secondary feature that was mostly retrofitted whereas, with DevSecOps, security is integrated into every step throughout the development process.
2. Maintain A SaaS Security Checklist
Such a checklist should be maintained and developed by every SaaS vendor, customer, and security provider to easily assess the SaaS security requirements and practices in place and to have an easier, systematic recovery procedure in place without any hassles or confusion as to what needs to be done.
A SaaS Security Checklist should be concerned about areas like security policies in place, level of compliance, authentication procedures with employees, data encryption, and tokenization for its protection along with automated backups. Securing the devices used by employees is also a crucial component of the checklist along with carrying out regular penetration tests and security audits to keep the security current always.
3. Implement Security Protocols
SaaS security protocols are steps taken to ensure the detection, avoidance, and reduction of security risks to different assets within the cloud infrastructure. The general measures to be followed are:
- Identity access management
- Data encryption
- Data tokenization
- Security monitoring
- Compliance tracking.
4. Automated Backups
This refers to periodic backing up information that is essential to the smooth running of the SaaS application. It is also an important part of disaster recovery and incident response making it one of the vital SaaS security requirements.
It plays a major role in maintaining continuity with the process while also shortening any required recovery time considerably when any data is destroyed or deleted due to natural or man-made causes.
5. Comprehensive Application Scanning for Security
It is vital to conduct regular application scans for the SaaS security and application to detect any vulnerabilities that fixing or patches that have to be done. It also keeps the security system on track with compliance and also promotes the trust clients have over their SaaS vendors.
Comprehensive scanning of the applications leads to better credibility and reputation for the SaaS vendor and the SaaS application with regards to the SaaS security requirements met by them. With new loopholes being discovered at a rapid pace, such attention, scanning, and monitoring services are required for an application to have the highest security standards.
This article has introduced and detailed the various concerns surrounding SaaS applications and their cloud platforms, and how meeting the SaaS security requirements can help alleviate all the concerns with the click of a button. A few of the best practices to opt for better compliance with SaaS security requirements have also been mentioned to build a better advantage for SaaS vendors and customers alike.
Here at Astra’s Pentest Suite, all the SaaS security requirements you need to meet to secure your SaaS application and cloud platform can be achieved with the help of expert penetration testers and innumerable resources like pentest, security audits, and easy-to-follow SaaS security checklists.
1. What is SaaS application security?
It is the process of securing confidential data from SaaS applications stored within the cloud platform.
2. How do I make SaaS secure?
SaaS applications can be made secure by making use of a SaaS security company that follows all the necessary SaaS security requirements to ensure the safety of your application. Astra’s Pentest Suite is one stop destination for all your SaaS security requirements
3. What are the security requirements for SaaS?
The general security requirements for SaaS include having multiple data centers, ensuring integration, maintaining compliance with regulatory standards like SOC2, HIPAA, PCI-DSS, and continuous periodic penetration testing and data security audits.
4. What must be enabled to ensure data safety in SaaS applications?
TLS or Transport Layer Security must be enabled to protect the data that is being transferred or at rest by encrypting it.