Originally published on the Msys Technologies blog

If you’re a SaaS entrepreneur or you’re looking to build a SaaS application, in that case, you may already be aware of the fact that there is a new economy that has evolved around SaaS (Software as a Service). Core business services are offered to the consumers as a subscription model via pay-per-use in this SaaS market. Studies have revealed that Software as a service (SaaS) enterprises are evolving at a sky-rocket speed. They are becoming the first choice due to their simple up-gradation, scalability, and low infrastructure obligations. Per Smartkarrot.com, the SaaS industry’s market capitalization in 2020 was approximately $110 Billion and is expected to touch the $126 billion mark by the end of 2021. And it is expected to reach $143 billion by the year 2022.

However, security is one of the primary reasons why small and medium businesses hold back from taking full advantage of powerful cloud technologies. Though the total cost of ownership was once viewed as the main blockage for possible SaaS customers, security is now on top of that list. The anxieties with SaaS security evolved with more and more users embracing the new technology, but is everything all that bad as reviews and opinions hint? Here are 7 SaaS security best practices that can help you in curbing SaaS security risks, that too cost-effectively:

1. Use a Powerful Hosting Service (AWS, Azure, GCP, etc.) and Make Full Use of their Security

The biggest cloud providers have spent millions of dollars on security research and development and made it available worldwide. Leverage their infrastructure and the best SaaS cybersecurity practices that they have made available to the public and focus your energy on the core issue(s) your software resolves.

a. API Gateway Services

b. Security Monitoring Services

c. Encryption Services

2. SaaS Application Security — Reduce Attack Surface and Vectors

a. Software/Hardware – For example, do not define endpoints in your public API for admin related tasks. If the endpoint doesn’t exist, there is nothing else to secure (when it comes to SaaS endpoint protection)!

b. People – Limit the access people have to any sensitive data. If required, for a user to access sensitive data, log all the actions taken and, if possible, make it necessary to have more than one person involved in accessing the data.

3. SaaS Security Checklist — Do not Save Sensitive Data

a. Only capture data you absolutely need. For instance, if you never use a person’s national ID number (e.g., SSN), don’t ask for it)

b. Assign a third party for sensitive data storing.

In this, for example, your system never holds possession of any credit card number, so you don’t have to worry about protecting it.

4. Encrypt all your Customer Data — Adopt the Best SaaS Security Solutions

a. Data at Rest: When any data is saved either as a file or inside a database, it is considered “at rest.” Almost every data storage service can store the data when it is encrypted and then decrypt it when you ask for it. For example, SQL Server enables you to turn on a setting to encrypt the stored data with their Transparent Data Encryption (TDE) feature.

b. Data in Flight: When data is read from storage and transferred out of the currently running process, it is called “in-flight.” Sending data over any networking protocol, be it FTP, TCP, HTTP, is data that is “in-flight.” Network sniffers (if attached to your network) can read this data, and if it is not encrypted, it can be stolen. Employing SSL/TLS for HTTP is a typical example.

5. Log All Access and Modifications to Sensitive Data — Opt for a Robust SaaS Security Architecture

There’s no guarantee that your system’s security will never be breached. It is more of a question of “when will it happen” rather than “if it will happen.” For this very reason, it is crucial to log all changes and access to stored sensitive data and adjustments to user permissions and login attempts. When something actually goes wrong, you have an audit log that can be used to solve how the breach occurred and know what needs to change to stop any further similar security breaches.

6. Implement Two-factor Authentication

Social engineering is the most common way which hackers use to breach any system. Make social engineering hacks more complex by asking users to have a second step to authenticate with your system. Implement a system that needs at least two of the following three types of information:

  • Something the user knows (e.g., username/password)
  • Something the user has (e.g., phone)
  • Something the user is (e.g., fingerprint)

Sending a code to a user’s phone or email is a simple yet effective way to implement two-factor authentication. To balance the added security with the demand for usability, give your clients the option of choosing if they would like to use the phone or email and an option for the code validity for the device being used.

7. Use a Key Vault Service

Key Vaults allow the stored sensitive data to be accessed only by applications that have been given access to the Key Vault, removing the need for a person to handle the secrets. A Key Vault stores all secrets to encrypt data, databases/datastores access, electronically signed files, etc. Cloud platforms like Azure and AWS offer highly secure and configurable Key Vault services.

For extra security, use different key vaults for different customers. For advanced security, allow your customers to bring their keys.

Takeaway

There are several reasons why businesses must take advantage of cloud computing to enhance their operational efficiency and reduce their costs. Nevertheless, security concerns often hold back businesses from placing their valuable data in the cloud. But, with the right technology and best practices, SaaS can be far more secure than any on premise application, and you can have numerous options for retaining control over your security infrastructure and address the security issues head-on with your respective provider.