Software as a Service (SaaS) is a software delivery model in which cloud providers host applications and make them available to end users over the Internet. It is common for independent software vendors (ISVs) to contract with a third-party cloud provider to host their applications. In some cases, the cloud provider is also the software vendor.
SaaS security, a subset of cloud security, is a set of practices and tools designed to protect Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications and the sensitive data they hold. It involves establishing strong access controls and secure configuration for SaaS applications, ensuring least privilege access, and protecting data via encryption or other methods.
SaaS security is not the sole responsibility of organizations using cloud services—SaaS is based on a shared responsibility model. The SaaS provider is typically responsible for securing their systems and infrastructure (including any aspect not directly managed by the customer), and provides security features that customers can use to secure their applications and data. It is the SaaS customer’s responsibility to correctly set these configurations to ensure SaaS applications are secure.
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Although SaaS applications have unique security concerns, keep in mind that all SaaS applications are also web applications. This means they are susceptible to all common web application vulnerabilities, including the OWASP Top 10.
Some of the severe threats facing SaaS applications include:
Authentication mechanisms help ensure only authorized users can access SaaS resources. However, each SaaS provider offers different authentication options. It is critical to investigate how the vendor handles authentication before committing to the service.
Some cloud providers allow integration with identity providers, such as Azure Active Directory (AD) using Security Assertion Markup Language, OpenID Connect, or Open Authorization. Some providers offer multi-factor authentication (MFA), and if so, it must be enabled to reduce the chance of account compromise.
Data encryption is a standard mechanism for protecting information. Most SaaS applications use TLS to encrypt data in transit, and most providers offer an additional encryption mechanism for data at rest. Some SaaS providers offer encryption as a default feature, while others require customers to explicitly enable this functionality.
The SaaS model enables you to deploy applications quickly. It offers great scalability but also may expose you to risks. Monitoring unexpected usage can help manage this risk, using manual data gathering and automated tools to monitor usage and maintain a reliable services inventory. Ideally, your inventory should help learn who uses which service across the entire organization.
Cloud access security brokers (CASB) enable you to add a layer of security controls that extends the SaaS provider’s built-in offerings. It helps extend your visibility and control beyond the scope offered by your SaaS provider. CASB services offer various deployment modes, such as proxy or APIs, allowing you to choose the option that suits your architecture.
SaaS security posture management (SSPM) solutions provide automation and security capabilities that extend visibility into the security posture of a SaaS environment. These solutions help remediate security concerns in SaaS environments more easily. Here are key SaaS security aspects covered by SSPM solutions:
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