What is SaaS Security? Challenges and Best Practices

The adoption of Software as a Service (SaaS) has reshaped how organizations operate, enabling enhanced flexibility, scalability, and accessibility. However, this shift to the digital world also comes with new challenges, especially when keeping sensitive data safe and maintaining trust in the digital realm. That's where SaaS security becomes a crucial player, guarding valuable digital assets.

Beyond the traditional cybersecurity measures, SaaS security presents a multifaceted approach to safeguarding data, applications, and user interactions.

Embracing SaaS security as a priority for your business is especially critical when considering the fact that SaaS usage is on the rise, with no signs of slowing down.

In December 2023, DoControl found that the average company with over 1000 employees had a staggering 22.8 million SaaS assets. Clearly, this is a significant amount of resources and data to protect, and this is only set to grow in the coming years.

22.8 SaaS assets for an average company (over 1000 employees)

The Significance of SaaS Security

SaaS security is a multifaceted discipline encompassing practices, strategies, and technologies to protect data, applications, and user interactions in cloud-based SaaS applications. It acts as a protective shield, preserving data confidentiality, ensuring seamless service operation, and upholding user trust.

SaaS security goes beyond traditional cybersecurity in the age of cloud-based business solutions. The integrity and security of these applications are vital as they operate beyond conventional network boundaries, providing users with access from anywhere, anytime.

Organizations manage data privacy, access controls, and threat detection to secure their digital future. SaaS security is crucial for protecting data and maintaining trust, business continuity, and organizational resilience in the digital age.

SaaS Security Risks

Common SaaS security risks pose significant challenges for organizations, often resulting in severe consequences. It's essential to be aware of these risks to mitigate them effectively. Some of them include:

  • Data Breaches: Unauthorized access to sensitive data can lead to breaches, causing financial, reputational, and even legal damage to organizations.
  • Unauthorized Access: Weak access controls can lead to unauthorized personnel gaining entry to SaaS applications, jeopardizing data integrity.
  • Data Loss: Inadequate data loss prevention strategies can result in the permanent loss of critical information

SaaS Security: Areas That Require Protection

It’s clear that in today’s digital landscape. you need a robust SaaS security platform that can safeguard your organization from external threats, insider risk, and other threats. It’s critical that your SaaS data security approach covers all your bases, with an emphasis on protection for the most vulnerable elements within your Cloud.

Your SaaS cyber security strategy should be focused on protecting the following areas within your organization, leveraging an approach that’s correctly aligned with your business’ unique needs.

4 SaaS areas requires protection


While this fundamental aspect of your SaaS is often overlooked, the configurations within your SaaS solutions have a major impact on your company's overall SaaS security.

High-level application settings, which include critical elements such as user access controls, policies for viewing and sharing data, and other security protocols, can make the difference between preventing or enabling a breach.

Many organizations simply use default settings for their SaaS apps, but this approach often results in settings that are too lax to keep data secure.

For robust, effective SaaS security, you need a solution that addresses configurations and keeps you in the loop regarding settings that could potentially enable a data breach or leak.

Your SaaS security platform should perform regular compliance checks to ensure configurations meet relevant industry standards and regulations, provide you with an overview remediation of misconfigurations, as well as give you continuous monitoring and notification of configuration changes.


Your SaaS apps are a rich source of data for bad actors. Employee logins, customers’ details, and your company’s financial status are just a few examples of the sensitive data contained with your cloud. 

For companies in highly regulated industries, such as finance and healthcare, safeguarding this data is also a legal requirement. 

If a breach occurs and you’re found to be out of compliance with data protection laws for your jurisdiction, your company could face heavy punitive fines or even legal consequences.

In order to protect this critical information, you need to embrace a SaaS data security solution that ensures you are aware of all potential exposures and shares. 

An effective SaaS security tool can distinguish between sensitive data that needs to be safeguarded and low-risk information that can be shared freely.


Your company’s employees can pose a serious threat to your organization’s SaaS data security. 

Whether they’re making an unintentional mistake that results in data being shared with the wrong people, or they act maliciously to obtain data and sell it on to the highest bidder, you need to have protocols in place to mitigate the risk created by your users.

Your SaaS security platform should provide you with ongoing monitoring of user behavior, armed with context and insights into what actions are part of everyday workflows and what should be cause for alarm. 

Ideally, your SaaS data security solution should provide education for users, explaining to them why a move is risky so that they avoid making the same mistake again in the future.

Third-party SaaS apps

Third-party OAuth apps are often integrated with SaaS applications used by your employees. This is inherently problematic, because these third-party apps haven’t necessarily been screened by your company for their security or risk factors. 

These third-party apps can provide a back door for bad actors to access your company’s internal systems and cloud data.

DoControl discovered that in 2023, the average company using Google Workspace installed 2,207 new third-party OAuth apps and issued 42,000 OAuth tokens.

2,207 new third-party OAuth apps. 42,000 OAuth tokens.

This continued explosion in the use of third-party apps and OAuth tokens underscores the importance for companies to embrace robust security measures in this area.

Your SaaS security platform should discover all third-party apps connected to your cloud, rigorously vet them for compliance and data privacy standards, as well as implement strict access controls that ensure only necessary permissions are granted.

Regularly reviewing and auditing connected apps, revoking access to unnecessary or suspicious third-party apps, and swiftly rescinding OAuth tokens in the event of security breaches or vulnerabilities are also key practices to ensuring SaaS data security when using third-party apps.

What needs to be secured Relevant
SaaS security platform functions
Configurations High-level application settings, like:
- user access controls
- policies for viewing and sharing data
- other security protocols
- perform regular compliance checks with industry standards
- alert to configuration changes
- remediate configuration issues
Data - PII
- Financials
- Business strategy
- Any other sensitive data assets
- Discover all datasets
- Accurately identify sensitive, personal or private data
- Track user permissions for each asset
- Identify and assess risk level of over-exposed data assets
- Detect unusual dataset sharing or download patterns
Users - Identities and credentials
- Prevent negligent insider activity
- Prevent malicious insider activity
- Discover all user identities
- Track user actions
- Aggregate all user data into a single identity posture
- Analyze and benchmark identity risk profiles
Third-party SaaS apps - Extent of app data access
- App activity and interactions with your assets and systems
- Discover all third-party apps
- Track permissions and usage level for each app
- Assess risk level of over-permissioned and dormant apps
- Identify malicious apps
- Detect suspicious or anomalous app activity

Saas Security Checklist

The following checklist is a comprehensive guide to ensuring the robust security of SaaS applications. It breaks down the essential elements of SaaS security, leaving no stone unturned. The checklist can help evaluate current SaaS security posture and proactively enhance it, fortifying defenses and instilling confidence in organizations and users.

Data Encryption

  • Ensure data transmission and storage are encrypted using robust encryption protocols.
  • Regularly update encryption keys and certificates.

Access Controls

  • Implement role-based access controls (RBAC) to restrict system access based on user roles.
  • Regularly review and update access permissions to match organizational changes.
  • DoControl found that in 2023, 1 out of 6 employees shared data with their personal email accounts. This marks a serious security issue, because access to data may not be revoked when that employee leaves the company. While their access via their company email will be rescinded, their ability to obtain or share data with their personal email account may go undetected.

Authentication Methods

  • Enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) to enhance user identity verification.
  • Educate users on strong password practices.

Data Backup and Recovery

  • Establish automated and regular data backup procedures.
  • Test data recovery processes to ensure they are effective.

Security Monitoring

  • Implement real-time monitoring for suspicious activities and security incidents.
  • Set up alerts and notifications for potential security breaches.

Vulnerability Assessment

  • Regularly scan for vulnerabilities in your SaaS applications and underlying infrastructure.
  • Prioritize and remediate identified vulnerabilities promptly.

Security Patch Management

  • Maintain a patch management process to apply security updates promptly.
  • Ensure that third-party integrations and libraries are also up to date.

User Education and Training

  • Conduct security awareness training for all SaaS users.
  • Promote a culture of security within the organization.
  • By the end of 2023, the average company had a staggering 2.1 million sensitive assets exposed company-wide. This is likely due to user error, as employees select sharing settings that permit anyone employed at the company to view the resource.

Incident Response Plan

  • Develop an incident response plan outlining steps to take in case of a security incident.
  • Regularly test and update the plan to ensure its effectiveness.

Third-Party Risk Management

  • Evaluate and monitor the security practices of third-party SaaS providers.
  • Ensure that they align with your security standards and policies.

Compliance and Regulations

  • Stay informed about relevant data protection and privacy regulations.
  • Ensure that your SaaS security measures comply with these regulations.

Regular Security Audits

  • Conduct periodic security audits and assessments.
  • Engage external experts if necessary to provide an objective evaluation.

Data Retention Policies

  • Establish clear data retention and deletion policies to reduce data exposure.
  • Comply with data privacy regulations concerning data retention.

Emergency Response and Communication

  • Define clear communication channels and roles in the event of a security incident.
  • Ensure timely reporting and communication with relevant stakeholders.

Continuous Improvement

  • Continuously evaluate and enhance your SaaS security measures.
  • Stay updated with the latest security threats and best practices.
Areas to protect Relevant SaaS security elements
Configurations - Security monitoring
- Vulnerability assessment
- Compliance and regulations
Data - Data encryption
- Access controls
- Data backup and recovery
- Security monitoring
- Incident response plan
- Compliance and regulations
- Data retention policies
Users - Access controls
- Authentication methods
- Security monitoring
- User education and training
- Incident response plan
Third-party SaaS apps - Security monitoring
- Third-party risk management

SaaS Data Security: Safeguarding Confidentiality and Compliance in the Cloud

Data Encryption

Data security within SaaS applications extends beyond mere information protection; it's a multifaceted approach to preserving critical assets' integrity and confidentiality. Data encryption, a cornerstone of SaaS data security, involves transforming data into an unreadable format, ensuring the information remains indecipherable even if unauthorized access occurs. 

Privacy Regulations

Privacy regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), place stringent requirements on organizations to safeguard user data, reinforcing the significance of compliance within the SaaS realm. 

Data Loss Prevention

Moreover, measures to avoid data loss include implementing robust backup systems and maintaining constant surveillance for unusual activities and possible security risks. By successfully managing these complex aspects, e.g., with the help of SaaS security platforms, organizations can unlock the complete benefits of SaaS while ensuring top-notch data security and adherence to compliance regulations, thus nurturing trust in the digital era.

SaaS Security Solutions

As threats continue to evolve, staying proactive and informed is crucial for maintaining the security and integrity of data within SaaS applications. These include:

  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Implement MFA to add a layer of security by requiring users to provide multiple verification forms, such as a fingerprint or a one-time code sent to a mobile device.
  • Security Audits: Regularly conduct security audits to identify and address vulnerabilities and risks.
  • Threat Detection: Invest in solutions to identify and mitigate threats in real time. By leveraging these proactive measures, organizations can swiftly detect anomalies and unauthorized access, minimizing the impact of security incidents.

Benefits of Strong SaaS Security

The benefits of strong SaaS security go beyond protection; it extends to compliance, customer trust, and the sustainability of an organization. A robust security posture mitigates risks and offers various benefits, including:

  • Enhanced Compliance: Staying compliant with data protection regulations ensures that your organization operates within the legal framework, avoiding potential fines and penalties.
  • Customer Trust: Strong security measures enhance customer trust, essential in a competitive and security-conscious market. This translates into stronger customer relationships, reduced churn rates, and a positive brand reputation.
  • Business Continuity: Effective SaaS security practices ensure that your operations continue uninterrupted, even in the face of cyber threats. Downtime and data loss can be costly regarding revenue and reputation, so it's a proactive stance that protects assets and contributes to long-term sustainability and growth.

Bridging the Digital Divide with SaaS Cyber Security

In a world where data is more valuable than ever, SaaS security is the first defense against cyber threats. Organizations must assess the risks, employ a comprehensive checklist for securing their SaaS environment, and foster customer trust. 

While SaaS solutions offer remarkable flexibility, scalability, and cost-efficiency, they also introduce unique cybersecurity challenges.

A dynamic intersection occurs where the evolving landscape of software as a service meets the ever-present need for robust cybersecurity measures. This synergy is pivotal and transformative in an age where digital interactions have become the norm. The intertwining of SaaS and cybersecurity is where innovation meets protection, and it's imperative to navigate this junction effectively.

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