min read
Mar 12, 2024

Understanding SaaS Security Risks: Essential Insights & Mitigation

SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions have come to define the modern workplace, especially in today’s landscape of flexible, remote, and hybrid working. These applications, which are based in an organization’s cloud, allow employees to access a company’s tools, solutions, and even sensitive data, from anywhere.

It’s clear that SaaS provides huge benefits to organizations in terms of flexibility and streamlined  access to business-critical information and tools for employees, but there are also significant risks that come along with these environments. 

Common SaaS Security Risks

There are a number of SaaS security risks that companies often encounter.

Data Breaches

Many SaaS apps simplify the process for employees who want to share and collaborate on internal data, making it easier for teams to access the information they need in order to do their jobs. But that convenience also means that it’s more likely than ever for data to be fraudulently obtained or leaked, which can spell disaster for organizations. 

Data breaches are both embarrassing and costly for businesses. There are serious consequences to data breaches originating within your SaaS environment, including the loss of consumer and investor trust. 

Your business could also face punitive fines for not maintaining proper controls around data, coupled with client hesitancy to continue working with you. This could result in severe, irreparable financial damages to your organization.

Compliance Violations

Common regulatory standards for data privacy include the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) which applies to all organizations operating in Europe, and the American HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) standard, which specifically covers health-related businesses. These laws lay out your company’s responsibilities towards safeguarding your clients’ private data.

If you don’t adhere to these geographic or sector-specific data privacy regulations, you could be found to be out of compliance. That comes with a range of consequences, including tarnishing your brand reputation, financial penalties from the authorities, and customers no longer wishing to work with you. 

This risk is particularly serious for companies operating in highly regulated sectors, such as finance or healthcare.

External Threats

Cybercriminals are continuously honing their strategies, fine-tuning the most effective ways to obtain your company’s sensitive information. Here’s a breakdown of the most common external threats that create serious SaaS security risks.

Malware and Phishing Attacks

Malware attacks are becoming increasingly commonplace and difficult to detect, as bad actors’ strategies evolve. Your employees can be fooled into clicking on a suspicious link - often disguised as a legitimate company communication - which then installs malware on their computer. This malware is used to penetrate your company’s cloud-based apps, giving the cybercriminals full access to your organization's systems.

Phishing attacks also pose a major challenge. In this type of attack, bad actors may use sophisticated impersonation methods to pose as a senior executive at your organization, or even as a trusted co-worker, in order to trick an employee into handing over login details or other sensitive information. Cybercriminals can then use those credentials in order to breach your company’s SaaS environment.

Preventing malware and phishing attacks starts with educating your employees around best practices for data security. When in doubt regarding a seemingly innocuous email, they should trust their gut and verify that the communication is legitimate before clicking on a link or installing software.

DDoS Attacks

DDos (denial-of-service) attacks occur when bad actors attempt to disrupt normal traffic to a website or online service by flooding its resources with a massive number of requests. The sheer number of requests leaves the target unable to respond, forcing it offline.

Mitigation techniques for protecting against DDoS attacks are based in threat detection and analysis of typical behavior and activity, so that you can quickly understand if traffic to your site is suspicious. Anti-DDoS tools can help you filter out questionable requests via blacklisting, rate limiting, connection tracking, and more.

It’s critical to note that when performing a SaaS security risk assessment, you should take both external and internal threats into account.

Data Loss and Leakage: The Basics

There are numerous root causes of data loss and leakage in SaaS environments, but they primarily stem from a lack of clear policies and protocols in place for maintaining a secure environment. 

Whether it’s due to end-user error, a brilliantly executed phishing attack, or the exploitation of a loophole via a third-party connection, your organization must be prepared for all scenarios and put safeguards in place within your SaaS environment that establish firm guidelines for data protection.

Data encryption and access controls are two key best practices your company needs to implement in order to safeguard your data. Ensuring that access to your data is limited to a “need-to-know basis” and rolling out MFAs (multi-factor authentication) to confirm the identity of privileged users is critical. 

Using the most advanced data encryption available can also help you keep your most sensitive information safe, and even render it unreadable to a bad actor in the event of a breach.

Your company should also have backup and recovery strategies in place to mitigate data loss in the event of a breach. This could look like always maintaining a copy of critical data on an external server or in multiple locations, and a “doomsday” plan which can be swifty launched to cut off immediate access to your SaaS environment if a breach occurs.

Insider Threats in SaaS Applications: What You Need to Know

These types of SaaS security risks come from within your organization. Insider threats can often come from well-meaning employees who aren’t sufficiently trained on risk management. This leads to them making decisions which appear harmless, but can actually jeopardize your company. 

One example of an insider threat could be your employees using their own personal emails, such as Gmail or Outlook accounts, to login to your company’s SaaS apps. If those personal emails get hacked by cybercriminals, those bad actors will then gain access to your organization’s internal systems.

Sharing sensitive information in docs via public links, or continuously granting access to these assets to third parties or external contractors outside of your organization, is also a major concern. Without clearly-defined protocols around sharing your business’ information, you may have data exposures across thousands of assets - and have absolutely no idea. A SaaS security risk assessment can help you locate these vulnerabilities within your organization.

In order to mitigate insider risks, you should invest in employee education programs that break down best practices for data security within your organization. Consider how you can incentivize your teams to use a zero-trust approach towards sharing sensitive information.

However, even the most solid employee training initiatives can’t provide total security regarding your data exposures and the security of your SaaS environment. For a big-picture, total understanding of all your potential data exposure points, you’ll need a SaaS-specific security solution.

DoControl: Your Key to Solving SaaS Security Risks

DoControl’s industry-leading SaaS Security solution offers your business complete visibility, threat detection, and remediation for sensitive data exposure and insider threats. Tailored for SaaS data scale and speed, our solution modernizes CASB and DLP capabilities to ensure protection across major SaaS ecosystems, including Google Workspace, Slack, Microsoft 365, Salesforce, and Box.

Our lightning-fast threat remediation and near real-time alerts for unusual or suspicious activity within your SaaS environment mean that nothing slips through the cracks. You’ll always be notified when there’s a potential attempt at a breach, empowering you to act fast.

Get in touch with us today to learn more about how our solution can help you mitigate SaaS security risks, detect vulnerabilities in your SaaS environment and protect your cloud, safeguarding your business-critical data and brand reputation.

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