According to the statistical data, more than 6 million data records were exposed globally through data breaches during the first quarter of 2023. Data security has become a concern of many organizations, and more business leaders are being called to help improve cybersecurity and identify threats, especially in SaaS companies.
SaaS applications must ensure high confidentiality from unauthorized access, information leaks, and intruders. Providers and users should pay particular attention to data protection, access control, encryption, and threat monitoring. Following the best practices for cyber attacks will minimize risks and ensure optimal performance.
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What is SaaS, and Why is it Vulnerable?
SaaS stands for Software as a Service. It refers to outsourced software that allows a business to implement cutting-edge technology developed by an external software provider over the Internet. Many SaaS applications, such as Google's Cloud Storage, Slack, Google Workspace, and Zoom, are being used.
Potential weaknesses that are found in SaaS applications include insecure APIs, account hijacking, Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, and data breaching. In addition, users may experience limited data control, and insider threats can impose security risks. For this, securing SaaS applications requires particular attention to data protection, access control, encryption, and threat monitoring.
These applications are used so that programs can reach more people and companies. It helps companies avoid making significant investments in hardware or licenses.However, the cloud-based nature of SaaS makes it vulnerable as it relies on internet connectivity and 3rd party servers.
Types of Cybersecurity Risks for SaaS Applications
Data breaches are a significant concern for many organziations in this technological world. Organziations face many threats and increased risk of user account takeover while using SaaS applications. Following are some of the cyber security risks associated with SaaS applications.
Data Breaches and Insider Threats
Cybercriminals can infiltrate SaaS programs and gain access to sensitive information such as login credentials or passwords, personal details of consumers, etc., stored there. One must be cautious of phishing and social engineering as falling for them can make it easy for criminals to access accounts and data.
Insecure Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)
The APIs serve as gateways to communicate with other services, but if they are not well-protected, hackers may use them to get access to applications. APIs should enforce proper authorization and authentication mechanisms to ensure unauthorized applications and users cannot access private information or data.
Malware and Ransomware Attacks
Privacy and data leakage can result in severe consequences for both the user and SaaS provider, leading to financial losses, damage to reputation, and legal liabilities. SaaS programs are not immune to malicious malware or ransomware; if they strike, they can hinder your work or result in ransom demands.
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks
SaaS providers rely on their reputation for providing reliable services. If the SaaS application experiences frequent DDoS attacks, the customer may lose confidence in the SaaS provider’s ability to protect their information or data. A sudden spike of traffic targeting SaaS provider's servers can take the applications offline for legitimate users.
Real-world Cases: Most Notable SaaS Cybersecurity Breaches to Date
Many organizations have faced cyber security issues in the past many years. Here are two of the most notable real-world cases.
Nissan North America
In 2022, Nissan North America cyber attack affected nearly 17,998 clients. The incident happened when an unauthorized person gained access to the database of a third-party software provider.
This incident most likely led to unlawful access to or acquisition of their data, including certain personally identifiable Nissan customer information. Customer names, birthdates, and Nissan Motor Acceptance Company (NMAC) numbers were among the information made public. Specifically, the reports do not mention any damages.
In 2018, a US-based hotel Marriott International data breach affected over 500 million customers' data. The hack was caused by a flaw in the organization's Starwood guest reservations database, which had gone undiscovered since 2014.
About 367 million of those affected by the data breach included their mailing address, phone number, date of birth, gender, passport number, and other information on their Starwood account.
Measures for SaaS Application Security
There are several different techniques, strategies, and measures that are used to safeguard SaaS applications. Let’s discuss some of the critical measures.
Monitoring and Detection of Threats
Threat monitoring and detection systems enable SaaS application providers to respond to potential attacks or security breaches. These systems continuously monitor application activity, network traffic, and strange behavior. They are made to react quickly to possible threats and prevent their consequences.
Centralized Application Management
Another effective measure is utilization of a centralized application dashboard from which one can view all SaaS applications. This helps keep track of user permissions, application updates, and security settings and ensures one can instantly revoke access to an application if needed.
Enhanced Authentication and Access Control
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is another security layer that can be added to the cyberinfrastructure to prevent unauthorized logins. This is especially important in remote and hybrid work environments where unauthorized users can access corporate devices.
Top Tools and Software for SaaS Application Security
Keeping in mind the discussion in the previous section, some of the widely used tools in securing SaaS Applications are as follows:
- Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) tools
- SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM) System
- Web Application Firewall (WAF)
- Identity and Access Management (IAM) System
- Encryption Solutions
The Role of Employee Education in SaaS Security
Undoubtedly, well-informed and trained employees can become the first defense against attacks, helping prevent the loss of sensitive data and safeguarding a company's reputation. Hence, organizations need to educate and train their employees via workshops, online courses, and attack simulations to test employees' knowledge and skills and make them understand the risks associated with cybersecurity.
Regulations and Compliance: Understanding Legal Requirements in SaaS Security
Regulations and compliance act as critical factors in ensuring data protection and privacy; therefore, the following essential legal requirements must be considered:
- Data protection regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the United States of America.
- Data breach regulations.
- Data retention and deletion obligations.
- User-consent laws.
- Access controls and authentication laws.
- Third-party compliance regulation.
- Record keeping and auditing laws.
- Employee training regulation.
Future Trends in SaaS Application Security
Future trends in securing SaaS applications focus on using advanced technology and methods to adequately address the ever-evolving cybersecurity risks and stay ahead of them. Here are some of the key trends.
Machine Learning and AI-based Security
In the future, AI and machine learning solutions will be more prevalent. These advanced technologies can assess potential threats, anomalies, etc., from extensive data in a short time. This will help reduce response time and enhance security effectiveness.
Zero Trust Architecture
The approach will treat every device and user as untrusted, even if they are from the same organizational network. The model will implement strict and continuous authentication to ensure access to only authorized individuals.
Using the approach, the future of SaaS security will prioritize tokenization, encryption, and data loss prevention to secure sensitive data.
Cloud-native Security Solutions
The evolution of traditional solutions to cloud environments using multiple and continuous security layers will be observed to address the safety requirements of SaaS applications.
The growing concern over data privacy has compelled several organizations to prioritize cyber security. As SaaS applications significantly handle user data, providers must adopt effective practices and strategies including monitoring and detecting threats, enhanced authentication and access control, and centralized application management.