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SaaS Security Checklist: Best Practices for Protecting SaaS Apps

codicacom profile image Codica Originally published at codica.com ・4 min read

This article was originally posted on Codica Blog.

In 2020, the spread of COVID-19 made the demand for remote work greater than ever. And it comes with certain drawbacks. Above all, office corporate networks that provide a substantial part of enterprise security are not available to those who work from home.

Given the recent events, SaaS companies must pay even more attention to security maintenance in order to earn customer trust. That's why in this article, we'd like to share with you a SaaS security guide created by our team of experts.

What SaaS is all about?

SaaS, or software-as-a-service, is a technology with a long-run record since its appearance in the 1980s. This model suggests that vendors host software applications and make them available to users over the Internet via different subscription plans.

This software distribution model became widespread due to the many advantages it brings to customers, such as:

  • Quick setup and loading;
  • Fast and simple updates;
  • Increased flexibility and scalability;
  • Convenient payment options;
  • Strong security coverage.

The last-mentioned benefit is a double-edged sword for the vendors. In the SaaS approach, the demand for high security standards is bigger than in the on-premises model.

You may think that cybersecurity doesn’t concern you. However, it isn’t actually true. See some interesting cybersecurity facts we have prepared for your consideration.

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Sources: History of Information, Forbes, Statista, Symantec.

Let’s proceed to the security issues that need to be addressed in SaaS development. But if you are only starting your way in the SaaS domain, you can also begin with our detailed guide on how to build a SaaS product.

SaaS security concerns

Fresh statistics on cybersecurity from IBM suggests that in 2020, data breaches cost a company $3.86 million on average. And in fact, the threats targeting cloud service companies became 630% more frequent during the pandemic outbreak of coronavirus, according to McAfee's report.

To help you secure your SaaS app, we have prepared a list of the most crucial security issues for SaaS projects.

  • Security misconfiguration. In that case, the computing assets are set up inaccurately, leading to malicious activity.

  • Cross-site scripting (XSS). This attack implies that cybercriminals inject the malicious code into pages viewed by users. You can consider using the latest versions of Ruby on Rails or React JS to automatically prevent this issue.

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Source: Sqreen

  • Identity theft. This vulnerability affects personal banking and other information that is frequently used in SaaS products. To prevent identity theft, you can turn to plenty of tools like firewalls, LDAP, encryption at-rest and in-transit, etc.

  • Lack of logging and monitoring. Checking electronic audit logs for unauthorized and potentially malicious activities is a must for any software development.

All these security issues can lead to substantial losses for SaaS businesses. Also, data breach costs are higher for small companies. Considering that, security issues affect the cost for building a SaaS app largely. Below, you can find the infographics on security costs.

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Sources: Symantec, IBM.

Our next step will lend some insight on the best practices to keep SaaS applications safe.

Security checklist for SaaS applications

Step 1. Detailed security guide

This involves preparing the security strategy, including:

  • Evaluating the software environment and detecting risks and vulnerabilities. Check the Security Knowledge Framework provided by OWASP to find those issues that are inherent to your domain.
  • Understanding how to identify and eliminate risks.
  • Checklisting both internal security controls and standards for software-as-a-service apps.
  • Promoting a security-friendly culture.

Step 2. Secure Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)

In the secure SDLC, different safety assurance activities are performed throughout the whole development process that allows for the detection of the security issues in each stage of building a software product, even before the production.

Secure SDLC takes advantage of different techniques, such as:

  • Secure coding practices;
  • Vulnerability analysis;
  • Threat risk modeling;
  • Penetration testing.

Step 3. Secure deployment

To secure the process of deployment, we recommend opting for continuous deployment. It is a process that validates the correctness and stability of the changes to a codebase. This process provides data security, data segregation, infrastructure hardening by using different methods, such as:

  • Automated testing;
  • Usage of automated rolling deployment tools;
  • Real-time monitoring and alerts.

Step 4. Automated backups

Backup generation is an unobtrusive security measure that should necessarily be included in the SaaS security guide. Automation of the backup creation solves the issue of business continuity and disaster recovery.

Step 5. Security controls

Security controls are the protection measures designed to identify, avoid, or reduce security threats to different computing and physical assets.

We have prepared a list of proven SaaS security controls that you can see below.

  • Identity and access management (IAM):
  • Password policies;
  • Two-factor authentication (2FA);
  • Access controls;
  • Privileged access management;
  • Data tokenization and encryption;
  • Progressive malware prevention;
  • Data loss prevention;
  • Proxy-based real-time detection;
  • Offline repository inspection;
  • Logging and monitoring controls.

Conclusion

To learn more about the security measures to protect your SaaS application, check out our full article: SaaS Security Checklist: Best Practices To Protect a SaaS App.

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