As the benefits of SaaS enjoy the limelight, security is often the elephant in the room, posing a constant threat.
At one point, you would’ve thought, “Sure, SaaS is great! But what about the security branches?”
Well, you’re not wrong to think that. Research suggests that 66% of SaaS influencers believed that security is the top challenge for SaaS owners. And with data playing a central role in the success of SaaS support, companies must ensure that information security is top of mind to develop and maintain customer trust.
A SaaS business model is entirely dependent on the software distribution that is installed and configured on the cloud. Cloud contains all the data of the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools.
A security threat to the cloud means a security threat to the entire business, leading to a tarnished reputation.
But with threats come security measures.
We know why it’s essential to protect customer data from attackers and not fall victim to cyberattacks, but we also need to know the how.
Listed below are some basic security controls every SaaS provider must implement to secure data and ensure customer safety.
1. Encrypt Your Data
Encryption is the go-to data security measure. Encryption allows you to encode your data so that it can protect it from unauthorized or inaccessible users. If a hacker wants to access or steal your data, they cannot do so without decoding the encryption keys.
With this, your customers know that your product keeps sensitive information safe by communicating your encryption policies. Data encryption provides integrity, confidentiality, and authentication to your data. Most channels that SaaS applications use today employ TLS (Transport Layer Security) to protect the data in transit.
And not just the data in transit, but following these protocols with the storage data. Often, cloud service providers provide field-level encryption. It allows you to select the fields you want to encrypt, hence protecting your storage as well as transit data.
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2. Enhanced Authorization
Enhancing your authorization can be tricky since cloud providers may handle authentication in different ways. So your security teams must know beforehand what services are in use and what options are available. Security Managers can then have a better understanding of what authentication methods to choose.
Many SaaS businesses use multifactor authentication (MFA) methods to enhance authorization. It is a technique where the user is required to present at least 2 valid pieces of proof that it is indeed the user and not anyone else trying to log in. The most common type of MFA is two-factor authentication. It usually requires confirming the login via SMS or email. Other methods include QR code authentication, hardware tokens, and behavioral authentication.
Other best practices that current SaaS applications consider for security measures are Single Sign On (SSO), Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) MFA, and identity governance that enhance security and prevent account hacks and takeover.
3. Prioritize Privacy
As a SaaS business, customer engagement and satisfaction is probably the most important goal metric you have for your customer support solution. But all your efforts won’t see the light of day if you keep customer privacy at the bottom of your priority list. When a customer shares their data, they trust you with sensitive information. To follow all the security measures, you must first prioritize privacy from the ground level.
Sure, privacy is non-negotiable since security statements are required by most compliance and regulatory protocols. But you have to create a culture within your organization too. You need to educate your team and customers on handling customer data.
Bring your decision-makers into the picture and brainstorm about your security strategy and how you can integrate it into your practices. In case you need expertise, you can hire a privacy offer to guide you through setting up the security infrastructure in your SaaS business.
4. Data Backup in Several Locations
A data breach is the biggest nightmare for a business. And it’s always unexpected and unannounced. To counter this issue, backup and recovery have long been a best practice for businesses to retrieve data and the transition to the cloud hasn’t changed.
But while considering data backup for SaaS, ensure there is more than one copy on the cloud. Cloud-to-cloud backup allows you to leverage the benefits of the cloud while keeping a copy of your SaaS data in a separate, secure cloud structure that ensures data integrity, even if there is a data breach in the original cloud server.
In the cloud, it is a must for SaaS organizations to answer to compliance standards surrounding data and accessibility. Having multiple cloud backups help these very companies to pass audits by protecting their data. These audits are as stringent as backup and retention policies that companies comply with for on-premise data security.
5. Have a Security Review Checklist
Data security is an ongoing process. You need a team that regularly handles and follows the security review checklist. As mentioned, security should be ingrained in the culture of the organization. There are some ways you can do that:
- Involve management in developing strong security policies, documenting them, and enforcing them via training.
- Follow compliance rules with appropriate compliance frameworks, along with conducting regular security audits.
- Segment data by usage and sensitivity, and protect appropriately for each segmentation.
- Have different encryption keys for each client data set.
- Secure all the devices such as mobiles, computers, and storage.
- Implement detective control to gauge malicious and suspicious behavior.
- For sensitive data, enforce least privilege access.
6. Maintain Awareness and Monitor
SaaS firms must continuously monitor data security to ensure compliance with internal and external application security standards. Many cloud providers offer role-based access control that allows you to regulate user-specific access and other action permissions. The point is to give access to the right people for the right data.
It ensures accuracy and enforces control-based application security that decides who and how the users will access data in SaaS applications in an enterprise. You can also adopt real-time monitoring practices to provide you greater visibility, control, and compliance of your SaaS applications to protect data from exposure.
7. Ensure Secure Deployment
Although popular cloud providers like Google and Amazon guarantee security safety for deploying SaaS applications, you need to pay special attention if you’re deploying to self-hosted platforms.
Ensure that there are stringent security policies in place that protect applications against network penetration attacks and DoS attacks. Even if you deploy to publicly hosted platforms, follow the security protocols to avoid any security mishaps in the future. A good practice would be to implement DevOps security early in the product lifecycle, as it ensures availability and reduction in data breaches.
Leading SaaS professionals and IT leaders realize that SaaS is not just another website but a powerful online presence that requires special security, as any enterprise application should. And security protocols shouldn’t be so much of an afterthought but a priority right from product development to deployment to counter security-related challenges of a SaaS application.
SaaS is a lucrative industry, and security should not be one of the reasons that discourage you from entering it. By adopting these measures that sync with risk management measures, SaaS owners can seamlessly implement security and protect consumer data.
About the Writer
Steven Macdonald is a digital marketer based in Tallinn, Estonia. In the last 10 years, he’s helped e-commerce and B2B SaaS brands generate more than $100 million in new revenue through SEO, content and conversion optimization. Connect with Steven on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Disclaimer: The author is completely responsible for the content of this article. The opinions expressed are their own and do not represent IEEE’s position nor that of the Computer Society nor its Leadership.