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

The work-from-home mandate due to the spread of COVID-19 increased the demand for SaaS applications markedly. And what makes work from home different? One of the important aspects is that office corporate networks provide a considerable part of enterprise security.

SaaS providers should pay greater attention to security features in order to maintain customers’ trust. That is nothing new, but it is still a top 1 reason that prevents broader SaaS model adoption.

So, in this article, we wanted to share a SaaS security guide created by our expert team. Also, we will discuss security standards for software‑as‑a‑service applications.

What makes a SaaS app?

SaaS, or software-as-a-service, is not an entirely new thing or just a buzzword but a technology tested by time. Since the early days of SaaS history in the 1980s, 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.

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

  • Quick setup and loading;
  • Easy updates;
  • Enhanced flexibility and scalability;
  • Cost-effectiveness;
  • Strong security.
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 servers, vendors do their best to protect users’ data from different threats, like SQL injections.

The goal for vendors is to ensure quality services and provide all the SaaS advantages to their users. To this end, they should guarantee the maintenance and security of all the layers that form SaaS architecture. They are as follows:

  • Infrastructure;
  • Network;
  • Software.

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

Facts about SaaS security

Sources: History of Information, Forbes, Statista, Symantec

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

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

SaaS security issues

In 2020, SaaS security issues constitute a threat of vulnerabilities and data breaches that may cost you $3.86 million on average. Moreover, McAfee’s report says that the number of threats targeting cloud services has increased by a huge figure of 630%.

In cybersecurity related to SaaS, there exist common threats and those issues that are inherent to cloud computing. And most of the risks here 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.

  • Security misconfiguration. Open Web Application Security Project states that it is the most common web 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 used and also to upgrade them on time.

  • Cross-site scripting (XSS). It is the second most common vulnerability, affecting nearly ⅔ of all applications. This type of attack means 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.

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

Explanation of cross-site scripting (XSS) as the common SaaS application security threat

Source: Sqreen

  • Identity theft. The online credit card payment method that is frequently used in SaaS products might pose the risk 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. It is a must to check electronic audit logs for unauthorized and potentially malicious 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 losses. Mind that the costs of a data breach are higher for small businesses. Security concerns have a huge impact on the cost for building a SaaS app. Below, you can see the infographics on security costs.

The costs of software security cost

Sources: Symantec, IBM

Now that we have learned about the main safety threats, we are ready to proceed to best practices on SaaS security.

SaaS security checklist

Step 1. Develop a detailed SaaS security guide

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

  • Evaluate your software environment and detect security vulnerabilities and risks. You may find it useful to check the Security Knowledge Framework by OWASP.
  • Understand how to define and eliminate risks.
  • Create a checklist with both internal controls and security standards for software‑as‑a‑service applications.

Direct your attention to the most demanded SaaS security standards: GDPR, PCI DSS, HIPAA/HITECH, NIST 800-171, CIS, SOX, ISO/IEC 27001.

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

  • Create onboarding / offboarding checklists that will regulate security-related issues. For example, usage of password managers, computer encryption, and basic information for employees.
  • Employ centralized user management that controls the dataflow within your application ecosystem.
  • Establish public and internal security policies and inform your SaaS app users about the data you collect and process.
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 whole development lifecycle. It includes secure coding methodologies, vulnerability analyses, threat modeling, and penetration tests.

Thus, the SaaS security issues can be detected in each development stage and fixed before production.

Step 3. Ensure secure deployment

The next point of our SaaS security guide concerns deployment safety. Below, you can find two main options available.

Cloud deployment. Vendors provide services that assure SaaS data security, data segregation, infrastructure hardening, etc.

Self-hosted deployment. It is your responsibility to prevent DoS (denial-of-service) and network penetration attacks. Best practices for solving this problem include continuous integration, delivery, and deployment. Also, it is recommended to automate the deployment process as much as possible.

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

Step 4. 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.

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

Step 5. Implement security controls

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

What are the security controls that every provider must implement? You can find the SaaS security checklist below.

  1. Data encryption and tokenization;
  2. Advanced malware prevention;
  3. Data loss prevention;
  4. Proxy-based real-time detection;
  5. Offline repository inspection;
  6. IAM (identity and access management):
    • Password policy creation;
    • Two-factor authentication (2FA) usage;
    • Access controls implementation;
    • Privileged access management.
  7. Logging and monitoring controls.
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Final words

We hope that this SaaS security guide will help you build a fully-protected 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.

Codica team helps our clients build robust and efficient software that customers like to use. If you need any assistance in SaaS development or migration, you can contact us right now. Our expert team is always ready to accept new challenges.