Securing Your SaaS-based Applications

Secure saas-based applications

With security a top issue for enterprises, read on to discover several guidelines for securing SaaS-based applications.

McAfee Cloud Adoption and Risk Report: Work from Home Edition, external attacks rendered upon cloud applications increased by 630%, an alarming figure. While the SaaS providers ensure the security for SaaS applications by securing their infrastructure, network, and platform, the customers are to do their part in implementing better security practices to help prevent any security breach

To successfully secure your SaaS application, your company must first commit to implementing and enforcing top-notch SaaS security disciplines. Obtaining the right SaaS provider is half the battle; the remaining half falls onto your company to ensure a company-wide security practice is executed and enforced thoroughly. 

Here are several guidelines that you can explore when securing SaaS applications:

Guidelines for Securing Saas-based Applications

Get the Right SaaS Provider

Vetting through and identifying the right SaaS provider for you is perhaps the first step to securing your SaaS applications, as the rest, generally speaking, flows from here. Check the SaaS provider’s security practice and methodologies by auditing its compliance with data security and privacy regulations, encryption, and cybersecurity policies.

Validate any security certifications and data access policies that the SaaS provider has. See if they have general compliance certificates such as Security Operation Centre (SOC 1/SOC 2) and ISO 27001. Take note that different industries would require their respective certifications and compliance.

Draft a Security Review Checklist

Once you have identified a trusted and reputable SaaS provider, look at your company to ensure the other puzzle pieces are in place to complete the whole picture. A good place to start would be to draft your security review checklist – your SaaS applications security strategy. 

The purpose of this checklist is to ensure your company’s infrastructure is in sync with the required security expectations. Remember to update the checklist; you need to maintain its relevance.

Management

Determine the relevant business rules, data requirements, and workflows to design and craft security policies. Such policies cover accessing, managing, and securing the SaaS applications and data based on their criticality. Ensure that these policies are adhered to and strictly carried out. You can use a Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) to serve as your policy enforcement helper.

Ensure compliance with the relevant compliance frameworks. Look into certifications such as 

Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), if sensitive data are involved. Audits need to ensure that all sensitive data is securely transacted, processed, and stored. Also, other organization operations control certification such as SOC covers regulatory, vendor management, and other related processes.

Employees

For any cybersecurity effort to be successful, employees must play their part. Training and awareness programs need to be done regularly to educate them on security best practices. Teach them better password management practices and ways to help mitigate any cybersecurity threats. 

For example, most would think using private mode browsing such as Incognito Mode would give them the expected anonymity. However, this way of browsing may not afford you the true anonymity you need; you need to install other solutions such as a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to protect you. 

Simply put, employees need to realize that security is a shared responsibility, not just the management’s alone. 

Identity and Access Management

Many take for granted the access management part of SaaS-based applications. Implementing a proper role-based identity and access management is important; you want only the right personnel in and don’t want the wrong people having access to sensitive information available to only a certain few. 

So, ensuring the proper authentication and authorization is your top priority. Remember, fewer people having access would mean reduced risks.

Implement Strong Password Policies

All credentials used to access SaaS-based applications must be managed carefully and not shared. Use unique, complex, and strong passwords. Make a habit of changing passwords often to thwart any cyber attackers. 

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Username and password alone aren’t enough, especially in business-critical applications. As such, organizations employ MFA to strengthen access controls by making users pass several authentication challenges to gain access into the system. 

One popularly used authentication challenge is the one-time code sent to mobile devices. The objective is to make sure you are who you say you are. MFA is instrumental when it comes to preventing unauthorized access by compromised identities.   

Data Encryption

Encryption encodes your data, rendering your data undecipherable. So, even if an unauthorized person gains access to the encrypted data, it is useless as they don’t have the relevant keys to decode it. Hence, encrypting your data at rest and in transit is a MUST to thwart prying eyes; this especially holds if you handle sensitive information (financial data, personally identifiable information). 

Client-side and server-side encryption segregated by various hierarchy levels are crucial to provide a higher security level for stored data. Communications between the user and the cloud, even among cloud applications, need to be secured by Transport Layer Security (TLS).

However, the more layers of encryption you use, the more connection speeds suffer. As such, it is always good to strike a healthy balance between security and speed. You can measure the connection speed to have a better idea to adjust accordingly.

Network Control

There needs to control over the traffic going in and out of the network. A firewall can filter out suspicious traffic based on a pre-configured set of rules on what traffic is allowed and permitted network addresses. You can employ security group controls across the network with Network Access Control Lists (NACL) for a more granular check. 

You can also use Intrusion Detection and Prevention Systems (IDS/IPS) to enhance the perimeter protection levels; these are useful to track and block threatening traffic and malware.

Regular Updates

Any IT infrastructure becomes defenseless with no regular updates. Although you have adopted SaaS, it is still a good practice to update your internal IT systems – operating systems, security programs, any relevant software, once any fixes come out. You’d want to plug any possible holes that can gain access to your SaaS applications on the cloud.

The same applies to your SaaS-based applications. Your virtual machines must be frequently updated to stay relevant. Your SaaS provider should cover this area. It would be good that you perform regular audits to confirm as such.

Include Real-Time Protection and Monitoring

Once your SaaS applications are running and your internal IT infrastructure securely in place, your job does not end here. Regular monitoring is crucial to pick up anything amiss before it blows out of proportion. As such, include real-time monitoring strategy in your securing SaaS application; this helps to keep you on your toes while giving you greater visibility and control. Then only can you effectively eliminate any security risks by promptly taking suitable measures.

Most of the time, SaaS providers cannot provide the full suite of security required by every company. As such, you can look into implementing CASB to have additional controls. Also, have proper governance and incident management to capture issues and track closure.

Securing Saas-Based Applications in a NutShell

IT security must not be an afterthought in any organization. Everyone must play their roles and learn from one another to stay digitally safe. The same applies to SaaS security which should be prioritized for any SaaS adoption in any organization. There’s no one-size-that-fits-all approach when it comes to securing your SaaS-based applications. 

However, there are guidelines (listed above) that every organization can explore to help you secure your SaaS-based applications. Make sure you follow through with them from start to end; you don’t want anything to backfire on you and cause irreparable damages. 

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Jason Chow

Jason Chow

Jason Chow has been fascinated by the latest technology especially those related to Internet security and online business. He spends most of his time reading topics related to cybersecurity. With more than 8 years of experience in the industry, his passion lies in helping small and medium businesses grow their digital presence safely.