Software as a Service (SaaS) Risks and Challenges

Software as a Service (SaaS) applications have transformed businesses over the last decade with enormous value. SaaS solutions have enabled and empowered businesses to continue operating during the pandemic with a remote workforce whose tools are cloud-based instead of office-based or desktop-based. These SaaS applications include anything from office software to communications tools. Some of the most popular business apps available include SalesforceGoogle GSuite, SlackHubspot, Microsoft O365, and Dropbox.

SaaS is rapidly gaining market share as the cloud is nearly always available from anywhere and it does not require investment in infrastructure, patching, monitoring, management, and very little administration. As mentioned, cloud solutions also benefit work from home employees too who don’t require a specialized VPN to do their day-to-day job.

The promising news is that more businesses than ever are using SaaS apps, enabling employees to maintain productivity under the most challenging of circumstances (like the pandemic). However, all these SaaS application benefits do come with some important risks and challenges to consider.

SaaS Privacy and Security Risks

One challenge companies face is adequately addressing the always-changing security risks of each SaaS app. A common problem is that no two of these applications are the same, including their specific security settings and configurations. Adding to this challenge is the constant “Agile” development of the applications which introduce new features (and risks) at breath-taking speeds. These problems are compounded when businesses use a large number of SaaS applications leading to security and privacy issues. 

Data in transit

When data is in transit, meaning it’s moving across networks as it is accessed, modified, or shared by employees, its security is only as strong as the weakest link in this chain. Each member of your team is a potential security risk as they work remotely, share files, and enable access rights for projects to SaaS applications that might never be removed.

Multiplying Apps and Team Members

Multiply data-in-transit transactions by the number of apps your company uses and the number of users in your company. If you’re doing the math in your head, you’ve probably figured out that the number is a lot. It’s a problem because every transaction is a potential opening for cyber exploits. 

Shadow IT

Shadow IT occurs when team members provision SaaS products and integrate them into their workflows without company approval. These apps are an excellent example of “what you don’t know can hurt you.” In addition to adding vulnerable transactions to your growing SaaS stack, these transactions are unknown to you and your IT security team.

Poor security practices

The convenience of using SaaS software can sometimes make companies overlook how exposed cloud solutions make them. Ignoring potential SaaS risks could lead to compliance issues or, worse, costly data breaches. Recent critical vulnerabilities may expose company data in SaaS applications that might otherwise be well protected (Log4J Critical Advisory)

What Can and Should Your Business Do?

Many companies undertake security on a reactive rather than proactive. basis. Unfortunately, this approach means security isn’t considered until something bad happens. Further adding to the problem, ad hoc or absent security policies and processes lead to a host of challenges and risks.

Below are CyberHoot’s recommendations to help alleviate the Software as a Service (SaaS) risks mentioned: 

Enable Multi-Factor Authentication

The single best thing you can do to improve your organization’s cloud security is to turn on and enforce multi-factor authentication (MFA) for all possible accounts. This practice is especially true for your primary email and collaboration platforms because it reduces the harm an attacker can cause with stolen credentials.

Enable Single-Sign-On Solution for Additional Identity and Access Management Control

Single-Sign On (SSO) solutions can greatly enhance SaaS application management, access controls, entitlements, and even helps with controlling spending. SSO enables better user management, eliminating access to SaaS solutions in a single switch when someone leaves a company and their SSO account is disabled.

Use Cloud Storage

Shared spaces for teams like G Suite Team Drives are good ways to contain data in secure spaces. For instance, Team Drives lets you add new members, and you can decide whether you want to give them full access to upload, edit, and delete files or whether you want to restrict them to specific activities at the user level. You can also set and change member permissions and remove members as needed.

Employ SaaS Security Monitoring

SaaS security monitoring is a crucial layer of security for your SaaS stack. It enables you to manage employee access to your required SaaS apps by department, consolidate licenses, and give you unprecedented visibility into your SaaS stack. Blissfully is one excellent example of a platform that can do all three and more; it’s a key SaaS security element when putting your IT stack together.

Manage SaaS Access and Passwords

Some SaaS applications cannot tie into SSO solutions as mentioned previously. For these situations, CyberHoot recommends using a Password Manager. Reputable Password Managers such as LastPass, 1Password, DashLane, or Bitwarden allow users to generate strong, unique 14+ character passwords, store credentials for websites, and store encrypted Secure Notes. These tools are also valuable as they allow users to securely share credentials or notes with trusted employees or clients. 

Additional Cybersecurity Recommendations

In addition to these SaaS protections, CyberHoot also recommends businesses take the following steps to secure their business. These measures provide a great deal of value for the cost and time investment they require (especially when delivered via CyberHoot).

  • Govern employees with policies and procedures (Written Information Security Policy, Password Policy, Acceptable Use Policy, Information Handling Policy)
  • Learn how to spot and avoid phishing and social engineering attacks
  • Be wary of public, unsecured WiFi (use a VPN if dealing with sensitive information)
  • Regularly back up your personal data using the 3-2-1 method
  • Follow the principle of least privilege 
  • Subscribe to CyberHoot’s Newsletter to stay current with the always-changing cyber threats.

By implementing these measures you’ll become more aware and more secure. You may not have perfect security but you’ll be doing what you can to reduce the risks you face. 

To learn more about Software as a Service (SaaS), watch this short video:

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