The number of SaaS products organizational teams are using is steadily growing — and

is expected to increase in the future. As a case in point, Spendflo’s comprehensive State of SaaS Buying 2023 report reveals that large organizations use as many as 350+ SaaS applications across departments.

While adopting a cloud computing approach introduces new dynamics in productivity for service consumers, it also brings opportunities for enhanced protection and a mindful approach to managing security risks. This includes addressing potential vulnerabilities such as data breaches, access control, and secure data storage. 

These vulnerabilities, however, are not impossible to handle. With robust security protocols coupled with proactive risk management strategies, cloud computing can offer a secure and efficient platform.

In this blog post, we unveil a step-by-step guide to creating a comprehensive SaaS cloud security checklist and navigating the landscape of securing data in the cloud.

What is SaaS security?

SaaS cloud security is the exhaustive protection measures enforced to safeguard data, applications, and infrastructure within cloud-based software services. It generally involves encryption, access to cloud security controls, threat detection, and vendor compliance protocols.

In a nutshell, SaaS cloud security strives to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information stored and accessed through SaaS platforms. 

Why is SaaS security important? 

SaaS applications store sensitive customer and business-critical data on remote servers. These are accessed via the Internet, making them susceptible to various threats, such as hackers, phishing, malware, API vulnerabilities, zero-day exploits, etc. 

So, the importance of protecting SaaS platforms cannot be overstated. 

  • SaaS applications handle confidential information, from personal user data to proprietary business information. Data breaches compromise this ecosystem and severely damage the brand’s authority.
  • The interconnected nature of SaaS tools also heightens their collective vulnerability. A breach in one SaaS platform could compromise other linked applications, amplifying the impact by manifold.
  • SaaS cloud security is key in maintaining regulatory compliance. Many industries have stringent regulations regarding data handling (such as GDPR, HIPAA, etc.). Failing to meet these criteria can result in legal repercussions and financial penalties.

Recommended read: 10 security risks your business cannot afford to ignore.

SaaS cloud security checklist: Crucial elements

A comprehensive security checklist for SaaS assessment involves a layered approach encompassing various aspects of technology, processes, and people. Here's a breakdown of the Saas cloud security fundamentals:

1. Data encryption

Data encryption forms an essential layer of security within SaaS applications. It involves the protection of sensitive information both during transmission (in-transit encryption) and when stored (at-rest encryption). 

In-transit encryption uses secure protocols like TLS/SSL to safeguard data as it travels between users and SaaS servers, preventing interception by unauthorized parties. At-rest encryption ensures that data stored in databases or on storage devices remains encrypted, even if accessed physically, safeguarding it from unauthorized viewing or modification. 

2. Identity and access management (IAM)

IAM is crucial in governing user access to SaaS platforms. Access control policies, often based on role-based access control (RBAC), ensure that users have appropriate permissions based on their roles within the organization, limiting access to sensitive resources.

Deploy robust authentication mechanisms, such as multi-factor authentication (MFA), to bolster the security of user accounts by requiring multiple verification methods beyond passwords. 

Efficient IAM practices also involve streamlined user provisioning and de-provisioning processes, ensuring prompt access for new users and revocation for departing ones. This minimizes the risk of unauthorized access. 

3. Compliance and governance

Compliance and governance in SaaS cloud security encompass a set of protocols and practices essential for adhering to industry regulations and internal policies. Regular audits ensure alignment with various standards such as GDPR, HIPAA, or industry-specific regulations. 

Establish a robust policy framework to create comprehensive security policies, procedures, and guidelines. This framework serves as a guiding principle for ensuring data protection, defining user access levels, and outlining incident response procedures. 

Focus on regular training and awareness programs are important to educate employees about security best practices, fostering a culture of compliance and accountability within the organization.

4. Vulnerability management

Vulnerability management helps you proactively identify, assess, and mitigate potential security vulnerabilities within SaaS systems. Conduct routine vulnerability assessments and penetration tests to identify weaknesses before malicious actors exploit them. 

These assessments reduce the likelihood of successful cyberattacks and data breaches, enhancing the overall resilience of their SaaS infrastructure.

5. Data loss prevention (DLP)

Data loss prevention focuses on identifying, monitoring, and mitigating the risks associated with unauthorized data access or transmission. Effective DLP involves classifying sensitive data to determine appropriate protection levels. 

Organizations can prevent data loss incidents by establishing policies and mechanisms to prevent breaches, including encryption, monitoring tools, and user access controls.

6. Backup and disaster recovery

Backing up data and a comprehensive disaster recovery plan are integral to SaaS security. Regularly backing up data ensures that information can be quickly restored in the event of system failure, cyberattacks, or data corruption. This minimizes disruptions and data loss. 

A well-defined disaster recovery plan outlines the steps and procedures to recover data and restore operations swiftly. Test this plan regularly to guarantee its effectiveness and readiness in emergencies. 

7. Network & infrastructure security

Network and infrastructure security begins with implementing robust firewall systems and intrusion detection/prevention mechanisms. Develop network segmentation strategies to create partitions, limiting access between different parts of the network and mitigating the potential impact of a breach. 

Additionally, enforce strong access controls, such as role-based permissions and authentication protocols, to bolster the defense against unauthorized access attempts. 

8. Virtual machines management

Managing virtual machines (VMs) within SaaS environments can help you maintain a secure system. Properly configure management to ensure VMs are set up securely and aligned with best security practices. Also, isolate and segment VMs to restrict lateral movement in case of a security breach to contain potential threats and prevent them from spreading across the system. 

Regular updates, patches, and security configurations applied to VMs significantly lessen the chances of vulnerabilities being exploited and contribute to a more secure SaaS environment.

Steps to a SaaS security assessment 

Conducting a comprehensive cloud SaaS security assessment involves several crucial steps, such as:

1. Determine the type of audit needed

Begin by identifying the scope and objectives of the security assessment. Determine whether a general security audit, compliance audit, or a more specific evaluation (such as vulnerability assessment or penetration testing) is required. 

Understand the regulatory standards applicable to your industry and ensure the audit aligns with those requirements. This sets the foundation for the assessment and helps define the parameters for evaluation.

2. Evaluate user security practices

Assess user-related security practices and behaviors. This involves reviewing user access controls, authentication mechanisms, and adherence to security policies. Monitor the effectiveness of authentication methods, like multi-factor authentication (MFA), and how users follow password policies. 

Also, examine user permissions and access levels to ensure they align with the principle of least privilege, minimizing the risk of unauthorized access to sensitive data or functionalities.

3. Review data security policies

Examine data security policies and procedures in place. This includes assessing data encryption methods, data handling protocols, and data classification practices. Evaluate whether sensitive data is appropriately classified and protected, both in transit and at rest. 

Inspect the encryption standards to safeguard data and verify compliance with industry-specific data privacy and protection regulations, such as GDPR, HIPAA, or PCI DSS.

4. Check provider compliance

Evaluate the SaaS provider's compliance with industry standards and regulations. Review the provider's certifications, attestations, and compliance reports to ensure they meet security standards. 

Consider the provider's security controls, disaster recovery plans, and incident response protocols.

Moreover, request documentation regarding their security practices, audits, and compliance certifications to validate their adherence to industry best practices.

5. Assess security resource investment

Analyze the resources allocated to SaaS security within your organization. Evaluate the investment in security tools, personnel, and training programs. Assess the effectiveness of security controls, such as firewalls, intrusion detection/prevention systems, and security monitoring tools. 

Determine if the current investment aligns with the identified security risks and if additional resources or improvements are necessary to enhance the security posture effectively.

Ensure SaaS cloud security with Spendflo

Tackle SaaS security challenges with the leading SaaS buying and optimization platform Spendflo. Leverage the highly collaborative platform for streamlined vendor security reviews—onboard new SaaS tools by quickly identifying and flagging any potential security concerns. 

Spendlo Inbox offers a “Security Hub” where you can automate vendor risk management and review past Vendor reviews that you have initiated, ensuring security and compliance.

Spendflo's Vendor Trust brings together all collaborators, from vendor account executives to stakeholders across various departments, including IT, legal, infosec, and finance. It empowers you to:

  • Seamlessly request and review essential security documents from vendors 
  • Establish clear timelines for each stakeholder, accelerating the security review cycles
  • Monitor upcoming renewals and get alerted on any changes in the security position of your vendors

With comprehensive vendor security, businesses can rely on Spendflo’s actionable recommendations to escalate concerns to internal stakeholders for faster resolutions and to navigate SaaS spending.

Curious to find out how much you can save in your SaaS spend? 

Get a free savings analysis with us today!

Guru Nicketan
Content Strategist
Karthikeyan Manivannan
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