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SaaS Security Guide: How to Protect Your Product and User Data

The work-from-home mandate due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic increased the demand for SaaS apps markedly. But what advantages stand SaaS out?

SaaS has a few major advantages while working from home. Managing on-premise infrastructure requires employees to be physically present in the data center. But even in the post-COVID-19 era, the trend for remote has not disappeared and will flourish in 2023. People are used to working from home. And just SaaS offers many services that make working from home easier.

Furthermore, SaaS is very powerful and scalable. If you have managed on-premise infrastructure, then you know when your company grows, you need more hardware. Indeed, buying and making it work also takes time, while SaaS will scale to your needs anytime. Also, SaaS is very user-friendly. Almost anyone can manage it.

When creating a SaaS app, you should pay great attention to security features to maintain customers’ trust. In this article, we will share a SaaS security checklist with best practices applied by our expert team. Using these best practices, you will protect your SaaS application and build user trust.

Adoption of SaaS: for and against

First of all, let's discuss why the adoption of new technologies is a challenging task. Harvard Business School has a great article related to modern technology adoption.

Shortly new changes bring you new challenges. Their research includes findings from many different multinational companies and large corporations. Briefly, the main reasons for new technologies rejection are the following:

  • lack of communication between the development and end-user team inside your company,
  • a lot of different risks (for example, financial risks),
  • not enough understanding of technology and reasons to adopt.

Now let's discuss why SaaS doesn’t adopt that well.

SaaS, or software as a service, is not an entirely new thing or just a buzzword. It is a method of web delivery tested by time. Since the early days of SaaS history in the 1960s, the global digitalization trend has changed the world around us and the software we use. So, the SaaS model implies that vendors host software remotely and deliver it by subscription via the Internet.

There was research by the Pacific Asia Conference on Information Systems (PASIC) related to SaaS adoption. The aim was to explore the influence of organizational factors to SaaS adoption in 15 companies. Researchers conducted interviews with IT managers, IT directors, IT supervisors and owners of companies to know their opinion regarding SaaS.

Below is a table that shows SaaS adoption statistics from this research.

SaaS application adoption statistics by different companies

Source: PASIC research

Based on interview answers, researchers distinguished reasons why different companies rejected SaaS provider services. For example, there are some quotes explaining this rejection:

  • “I simply rejected SaaS since I still have doubts concerning its security” (IT manager at the hotel company).

  • “For our company, it seems quite difficult to adopt SaaS since we have to follow a standard system set by the principal of our hotel group” (IT manager at the hotel company).

  • "We currently use 100% on-premise applications. The server is placed at our company; thus, it is always under our control. For an application with specific requirements, we prefer to develop it by ourselves” (IT director at the banking company).

But at the same time, some companies are satisfied with the SaaS model:

  • "For the long-term planning, after we did some calculations and made a comparison between maintaining our own email server or renting an email application from Google, we concluded it would be more efficient on budget spending if we choose the second option. We have 12 IT personnel, and three of them were allocated to maintain our email server, which was inefficient. After we started using Gmail, we can be more focused on our core business activities” (IT manager at the media business company).

Surely, any adoption is a great challenge for the company, and it takes a lot of time and resources. From this research, we can see that only some companies know about SaaS and its advantages. So, their unawareness influence on the no intention to adopt SaaS.

At the same time, the SaaS market share slowly grows. The image below demonstrates this growth well.

Companies running on SaaS

Source: Accelerate Agency

What are the SaaS benefits?

Users prefer SaaS apps to traditional software thanks to many pros these apps can boast of, such as:

  • Quick setup and loading;
  • Digital accessibility (you can use SaaS from any device with an internet connection);
  • Data storage quality;
  • Enhanced flexibility and scalability;
  • Platform independence;
  • Cost-effectiveness.

Recommended reading: SaaS vs. PaaS vs. IaaS: Choosing the Best Cloud Computing Model

Last but not least advantage of this approach is high-security standards for SaaS products. Since more data is stored on cloud servers, vendors are concerned about the compliance of SaaS with security standards. They do their best to protect users’ data from different security threats.

The goal for vendors is to ensure quality services and provide all the SaaS advantages to their users. To this end, vendors should guarantee the maintenance and security of all the layers that form SaaS architecture - infrastructure, network, and software.

You may wonder why cybersecurity is so important. Below you can find some interesting cybersecurity facts for your consideration.

Cybersecurity facts

Sources: History of Information, Statista, Dataport

Let’s see the SaaS security concerns that need to be addressed for reliable software development.

Related reading: How to Build a SaaS Product: Step-by-Step Guide

SaaS app security issues

In 2022, SaaS security issues constitute a threat of vulnerabilities and data breaches that may cost you 4.35 million U.S. dollars. The Snyk state of cloud report for 2022 shows us that 80% of organizations experienced a serious cloud security incident during the last year.

In cybersecurity related to SaaS, there are common security threats and those issues that are inherent to cloud computing. And most of the security risks are related to SaaS cloud security. It can be explained by the fact that the data is stored with a third-party provider and accessible over the Internet.

Let’s outline the most critical security issues for SaaS applications that security teams should be aware of.

  • Security misconfiguration. The SaaS Security Survey Report states that it is the most common SaaS applications security issue. Here, the malicious activity is caused by an incorrect setup of computing assets. To ensure SaaS application security, it is important to properly configure all the tools and upgrade them on time. For example, manually detecting and remediating SaaS misconfiguration leave organizations exposed. When businesses manually monitor and remediate their SaaS security settings, it is taxing to the security teams. This also leaves the organization vulnerable. Nearly half (46%) can only check monthly or less frequently, and another 5% don’t check at all.

  • Too many controls. The leading causes of the security incidents are two related issues. There are too many departments that have access to the SaaS security settings (35%). And a lack of visibility into changes in the SaaS security settings (34%).

  • Underinvestment in SaaS security tools and staff. Over the past year, 81% of organizations have increased their investment in business-critical SaaS apps. But fewer organizations report increasing their investment in security tools (73%) and staff (55%) for SaaS security. This change means there is an increasing burden on the existing security teams to monitor SaaS security.

  • Non-use of SSPM (SaaS Security Posture Management) tools. The use of SSPM tools (Cynet, Adaptive Shield) helps reduce the timeline to detect and remediate SaaS misconfigurations. Businesses utilizing an SSPM can detect and remediate their SaaS misconfigurations significantly quicker.

  • Cross-site scripting (XSS). It is one of the most common data vulnerabilities, affecting nearly two-thirds of all applications. This type of attack means the injection of malicious code into pages viewed by end-users. This SaaS web security threat can be automatically prevented by the latest versions of Ruby on Rails or React JS.

Cross-site scripting (XSS) explained

Source: Sqreen

  • Identity theft. Data exchange, online payments, and other operations that are frequently used in SaaS products might pose risks of identity theft. To prevent this issue, you can use many security tools, such as firewalls, LDAP, or encryption at-rest and in-transit.

  • Insufficient logging and monitoring. Risk assessment and prevention are a must. You should regularly check audit logs for unauthorized and potentially malicious data access activities. Just imagine that the average time to detect and contain a breach is 280 days, and also it is more often caught by third-party services.

All those SaaS application security issues can cause substantial data breaches and business losses. Mind that the costs of a data breach are higher for small businesses. Cloud security concerns have a huge impact on the cost of building a SaaS app.

Now that we have learned about the main cloud security threats, let’s proceed to the SaaS security best practices. Besides, thanks to these practices we apply at Codica, our clients receive reliable and secure solutions.

For example, recently, we created a profitable SaaS platform for bakery businesses. It is intended for people to book confectionery easily and quickly. Using it, orderers know that their transactions are secured on the cloud. With our quality SaaS app development services, we increased users’ credibility in our client’s brand.

SaaS platform developed by Codica

You may also like: SaaS Product Development: Why Choose Ruby on Rails Framework?

SaaS security checklist by Codica’s experts

At Codica, we pay particular attention to securing our web products and data protection. Here, our experts have collected tips that will help you protect your SaaS solution from different data threats to stay secure on the cloud.

Step 1. Develop a detailed SaaS security guide

This guide will contain your cloud security strategy. How to formulate it?

  • Evaluate your software environment and detect data security threats and risks. You may find it useful to check the Security Knowledge Framework by OWASP for compliance with it.
  • Understand how to define and eliminate SaaS security risks.
  • Create a SaaS security checklist with both internal controls and security standards for SaaS apps.
  • Create a cloud security baseline and follow it.

We recommend directing your attention to the most demanded SaaS security standards. These are GDPR, PCI DSS, HIPAA/HITECH, NIST 800-171, CIS, SOX, and ISO/IEC 27001. You should check your SaaS solution for compliance with these standards.

Also, do not forget that the SaaS app security checklist should also promote a strong security culture:

  • Create onboarding / offboarding checklists and baselines for your employees that will regulate security-related issues. For example, the usage of password managers, computer encryption, and basic information for employees.
  • Configure centralized security controls that manage the data flow within your application ecosystem.
  • Establish public and internal security policies and inform your SaaS app users about the customer data you collect and process.
  • For strong security culture, always apply zero trust and least privileged principles while giving access.

Let’s proceed to the next essential step in our SaaS security checklist.

Recommended reading: How to Choose a Reliable SaaS Application Development Company

Step 2. Employ a secure software development life cycle (SDLC)

Secure SDLC implies the realization of security activities throughout the entire software development. It includes secure coding methodologies, risk assessment, vulnerability analyses, threat modeling, and penetration tests.

Thus, SaaS security issues can be detected in each software development stage. They also can be fixed before code or infrastructure changes get to production.

Related reading: Choosing the Best SaaS Hosting Provider for Your App

Step 3. Configure automated backups

Generating backups is an essential part of the SaaS security checklist as it is an unobtrusive safety measure. It takes no time or effort when configured properly. But it is excellent for dealing with business continuity and disaster recovery.

When a security attack occurs, and your data gets destroyed or deleted, data backups allow you to recover the system. So, we can name it as one of the SaaS security best practices.

Also, it’s highly recommended to keep them in a few places. So if one of your backups breaks, you still have another one.

The next part of our SaaS security checklist will lend some insights into security controls.

Step 4. Implement security controls

SaaS app security controls are measures intended to detect, avoid, or reduce security risks to different assets.

What are the security controls that every SaaS provider must implement? We have mentioned them in our SaaS security checklist below.

  • Data encryption and tokenization;

  • Advanced malware prevention;

  • Keep your cloud-based software up to date;

  • Data loss prevention;

  • Proxy-based detection in real time;

  • Firewalls and other network security software;

  • Offline repository inspection;

  • Logging and monitoring controls;

  • IAM (identity and access management):

    • Password policy creation;
    • Multi-factor authentication usage;
    • Access controls implementation;
    • Privileged access management.
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Final words

We hope that this SaaS security checklist will help you build a fully-protected cloud application.

Also, we would like to mention that it is crucial to keep in mind other aspects of building on-demand software. To get a profitable product, turn your attention to the best practices for building a SaaS startup.

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