Executives are increasingly facing the task of balancing the advantages of productivity gains against significant concerns about security and compliance as enterprises move their applications and data to the cloud. Security in the cloud is nothing like the security in your corporate data center. When you have no real physical control over the infrastructure you’re trying to secure, you’ll have to familiarize yourself with new rules and cultivate a different way of looking at things.

Consider application security scanners or looking to companies providing application scanning services, during your development and testing process. You could also use source code scanners as a part of nightly builds. These tools and services are automated, providing you with a quick, detailed analysis of security issues. Moreover, you don’t have to be a security expert to run and use these tools. And if you happen to be running short of budget, there are enough free, open-sourced tools available. Now before we get to the best practices for securing your SaaS application, let’s talk about the security challenges.

Security Challenges for SaaS
Today, enterprises are even looking at data and business processes like transactions, records, pricing information, etc. as strategic and guarding them with access control and compliance policies. Your enterprise data, along with the data of other enterprises, in the SaaS model is stored at the SaaS provider’s data center. Now, if your SaaS provider is leveraging a public cloud computing service, all this enterprise data, is possibly being stored along with the data of other unrelated SaaS applications. Additionally, the cloud provider might be replicating the data across countries at various locations to maintain high availability.

Most enterprises are comfortable with the traditional on-premise model, where their data resides within their enterprise boundary, subject to their policies. So of course, there is a great deal of discomfort with the lack of control and understanding of how their data is being stored and secured in the SaaS model. All this gives rise to substantial concerns about data breaches and application vulnerabilities, which could lead to financial and legal liabilities.

Securing SaaS applications
1. Secure Product Engineering:

You’ll find most product leaders rushing to meet the market release deadlines. And therefore, product security often takes a backseat. This leads to buggy software, prone to security vulnerabilities. We all understand the magnitude of loss, leakage of sensitive data due to security exploits can result in, along with the potential liability issues and lost credibility the SaaS vendor has to deal with. Start treating security as a part of your product engineering lifecycle. At every phase of development, be it architecture, design or coding, a security review must be performed. This will help you identify security issues faster and lower the rework costs for any security fixes which need to be implemented. Rework on your coding and testing guidelines while keeping security considerations in perspective.

2. Secure Deployment:

SaaS solutions are either deployed on a public cloud or hosted by a SaaS vendor. In a self-hosted deployment, you’ll have to ensure adequate safeguards are adopted to protect yourself against network penetration and DoS attacks. On the other hand, dedicated cloud providers like Amazon and Google shoulder the responsibility of securing SaaS applications by providing infrastructure services aiding in ensuring data security, data segregation, network security, etc. If you choose to deploy your SaaS application on public clouds, make sure the security settings are conforming to the best practices recommended by the public cloud vendor.

3. Don’t compromise on rigorous compliance certifications.

One of the two most essential certifications you should concern yourself with is the PCI DSS. For this certification, a SaaS provider will have to undergo detailed audits to ensure sensitive data is stored, processed and transmitted in a completely protected manner. The is indeed a multifaceted security standard including requirements for security management, procedures, policies, software design, network architecture and other critical protective measures. Now the SOC 2 Type II is helpful when it comes to regulatory compliance oversight, internal risk management processes and vendor management programs. The SOC 2 certification ensures a cloud service is mainly designed and conscientiously managed to maintain the highest level of data security. Both these certifications offer useful comparative information about the cloud service providers you’re considering.

4. Data in transition must be encrypted end to end.

To ensure the highest level of security, all interaction with servers must happen over SSL transmission. Only within the cloud service provider network should the SSL terminate. For data at rest too, encryption is essential. Ideally, field-level encryption is also provided by your cloud service provider. You should be able to specify the fields you want to encrypt, be it credit card number, SSN or CPF.

5. Ensure your vulnerability testing is rigorous and ongoing.

Make sure the vulnerability and incident response tools provided by your cloud service vendor are industry-leading ones. The solutions offered by these incidence response tools enable fully automated security assessments, which test for system weaknesses, dramatically shortening the time between critical security audits. Varying from device to device and network to network, you will be able to decide how often a vulnerability assessment is required. Further, you can schedule or perform scans on demand.

6. Ensure your organization defines and enforces a data deletion policy.

As specified in a customer contract, after a customer’s data retention period has ended, the customer’s data must be programmatically deleted.

7. User-level data security

To ensure compliance with internal and external data security standards of your organization, with user-level data security, add protective layers. Your cloud service vendor will provide role-based access control (RBAC) features, allowing you to set user-specific access and editing permissions for your data. This system enables an access control-based, fine-grained, enforced segregation of duties within an organization.

8. Make use of a virtual private cloud and network.

Rather than leveraging a multi-tenant instance, your SaaS provider should be able to facilitate a cloud environment meant only for you, in which you have entire control over the data. This is referred to as a virtual private cloud (VPC) by Amazon Web Services (AWS). Clients can securely connect to your corporate data center, all traffic to and from instances in their VPC is routed to their corporate data center over an industry standard encrypted, Internet Protocol security (IPsec) hardware VPN connection.

The significant benefits offered by the Software as a Service (SaaS) model, such as improved operational efficiency and reduced costs are reason enough to adopt this model. However, to overcome your concerns about application and data security, ensure the vendor you go with is addressing these issues head-on. When we come down to it, these concerns generally stem from our lack of control and visibility into how our data is being stored and secured by SaaS vendors.
The adoption of SaaS security practices, from secure product engineering, deployment, GRC audits, to the regular SaaS security assessment, is vital to securing SaaS solutions and addressing our fears. These measures will help identify any security issues upfront and ensure the safety of our data. The points mentioned above are just some of the key security provisions any cloud service provider should build into its cloud service. In-depth defense is traditionally a matter of strict design principles and security policies, practiced across departments and areas of expertise.

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