There is no denying that the evolution of the Software as a Service model and cloud computing, in general, has significantly influenced the development of modern organizations. Companies implementing SaaS save money and valuable resources. But SaaS, like everything, comes with its risks and challenges.
The average organization uses as many as 130 SaaS solutions, which is growing yearly. However, the more SaaS applications an organization uses, the more threats and opportunities for security breaches. That’s just one of the reasons why it’s essential to use strong password policies and encryption for your data.
While you can easily see if something is going wrong with your personal computer and there are multiple signs your phone is hacked, when it comes to SaaS, the security challenges are difficult to pinpoint and manage and can be catastrophic. Even one “small” breach can drive a company into bankruptcy due to legal and reputational costs, so having an incident response plan is definitely beneficial.
This is why it is so important to be able to not only name the challenges that come with SaaS implementation but also how to manage them.
Common Challenges of Software as a Service
1. Shadow IT
Shadow IT is a term used by IT teams and refers to all systems, applications, and devices used in a company without support and monitoring from IT teams. It includes SaaS solutions.
While allowing employees to use unmonitored applications and devices boosts morale and allows them autonomy (which is essential in the modern workplace, as no one likes to be watched at all times), it poses some risks. Also, don’t forget to talk with employees about security awareness to lower the chance of various attacks.
Since all SaaS solutions connect to the internet, they pose a risk if left unmanaged and unmonitored. Any employee could potentially accidentally expose confidential company data. That’s why all employees should also use a VPN, a firewall, and IDS/IPS systems. You can also try a honeypot system to detect potential threats and catch the bad guys.
How to manage:
Implement an organization-wide agreement in which the installation of all applications and software must be approved by the IT team, allowing periodic monitoring and security checks.
2. Access misconfiguration
Unauthorized access to SaaS solutions means an unauthorized person can access an organization's sensitive data. This can result from various errors, such as misconfiguration of the system or improper implementation of other security measures. Also, remember to stay protected against SQL injection attacks to avoid various data breaches through these misconfigurations.
Unauthorized access can also be the result of improper handling of former employees. If an organization does not deactivate all of its former employees' accounts, they may still have access to data weeks after leaving the company. Their credentials could be stolen and allow hackers to access the organization. Try to conduct penetration testing and various audits to ensure that everything is secured.
How to manage:
Develop a set of rules for the IT team to follow when onboarding new employees. Take care of former employees' accounts. Conduct periodic security audits.
3. Cloud misconfiguration
SaaS providers are doing everything in their power to ensure the security of their customers' data. Otherwise, they would go out of business. Security, however, is a shared responsibility when it comes to cloud solutions. Providers do their best, but organizations themselves must secure their ends.
This is where errors can occur.
Misconfigured access and overall implementation of SaaS services can result in data leaks and hacker attacks. Even such small things as failing to turn on two-factor authentication can result in unauthorized access to an employee's account, even if all other security measures appear to be in place.
How to manage:
Enable additional security measures, such as multi-factor authentication. Conduct regular audits and simulations to discover any previously overlooked security vulnerabilities.
4. Neglecting due diligence
Every company would benefit if it started treating its SaaS providers as another risk and potential cause of data leakage. After all – no matter what an organization does, if its cloud providers are unsafe, they are unsafe.
SaaS providers are also companies, no different from any other. This means they can suffer breaches and cyberattacks just like other businesses. A due diligence assessment is a common method of measuring the reliability of a third-party solution provider. However, this assessment must be done periodically, not just at the start of software use.
How to manage:
Conduct regular due diligence assessments with all SaaS providers and learn about their security measures and policies.
5. Unfitting retention plans
Let's say you are using a SaaS solution, and everything is going smoothly, but after some time, you decide to cut ties with the provider due to the need to lower your expenses. What happens to your data stored in the cloud?
It depends on the provider and their retention policy. Some solutions promise to delete all data immediately after you resign. Some keep it for months. However, if the provider stores sensitive information, it can cause leaks even when you no longer use their services. And if your organization's data is breached, you, not the SaaS provider, will suffer the consequences.
How to manage:
Learn all about your SaaS providers' data retention policies. Be aware of different regulations in different countries – if you use an offshore service, its data retention plans may differ from yours due to local regulations. Remember to ensure your data is securely deleted if you cancel the service and use whitelisting and blacklisting for data access.
If you follow these tips, you have a better chance of protecting SaaS applications from various threats, such as phishing attacks, malware, botnet, zero-day, DDoS, and social engineering attacks.