4 SaaS Security Considerations You Can't Forget, Ever!

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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Security remains a top concern for organizations when it comes to the cloud. What should you always remember when adopting SaaS tools?

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Cloud has become a way of life for almost every business today, with the technology now an everyday part of how firms operate. Yet, despite its ubiquity, there remains widespread concern over key issues like security, especially when it comes to tools such as SaaS solutions that will be required to store and process some of a firm's most precious assets.

In an environment where security incidents are more complex, more frequent and more widespread than ever, this is understandable, especially when combined with a tougher regulatory environment that threatens large penalties for data breaches.

Indeed, nine out of ten IT pros have concerns about the security of the cloud, according to (ISC)2, with protecting against data loss and leakage (67%), threats to data privacy (61%), and breaches of confidentiality (53%) the main areas for concern.

Therefore, it's vital that businesses take steps to protect their data when using SaaS. While the protections put in place by providers will usually be very robust, companies can't depend on these partners alone to keep their data safe. After all, they’re still ultimately responsible for their own data.

With this in mind, here are four key considerations that will close any gaps and ensure your cloud tools are as secure as possible.

1. Don't depend on legacy tools

The cloud is a very different way of working for many firms, and as such, demands a different approach to security. If you try to simply transplant your existing processes and tools from on-premise solutions to this environment, you may well be in for a nasty shock.

While such tools make sense when an organization's applications are hosted in a static, centralized data center, they’re often not designed for the more dynamic, distributed virtual environment of the cloud. (ISC)2, for instance, found 84% of business claim traditional security solutions either don’t work at all or have limited functionality in the cloud.

Therefore, you need to proactively adopt solutions that have been designed and optimized specifically for the cloud. There are a range of third-party tools that you can turn to in order to achieve this, so there's no excuse for continuing to rely on ineffective technology.

2. Pay attention to your configurations

Poorly configured cloud applications are the single biggest risk facing users, and have been the cause of some of the largest cloud data breaches on record. For example, in 2017, online marketing firm and data analytics company Alteryx left information on more than 120 million US households exposed on the internet due to a misconfigured Amazon Web Services (AWS) S3 Bucket.

Yet, too many businesses still believe responsibility for this will fall on the provider - or at least be a shared responsibility - when in fact, it will all be down to the end-user. Therefore, it's important to take the time to fully understand all the nuances of a cloud system and not rely on default settings, which are often basic or non-existent. You should also follow-up with regular auditing and testing to check for any errors that could expose data.

3. Make access management a top priority

If you're storing and processing data off-site, this naturally means you're going to have to use some form of portal to log in and view it, which means identity and access management solutions are essential. These need to specify exactly who will be able to access tools and what permissions they’ll have, as well as be able to keep detailed records of what activities are performed, and flag up any anomalies.

While vendors should be able to provide a basic framework for the management of user authentication, solutions that can determine the most appropriate level of access based on factors including an individual's role in the organization, the system accessed, the data requirements, and the device used are all vital in protecting applications from unauthorized users.

4. Deploy encryption at all times

It can be easy for businesses to fall into the trap of relying solely on the encryption protections provided by service providers. But even if you're partnering with a firm that offers the most robust protections, they can only protect the data while it is stored on their servers. When data is being sent into and out of the cloud from your network, this is often when it’s most vulnerable.

Therefore, you need to ensure you put full end-to-end encryption in place for your most sensitive data that protects it both when in rest and when in transit. This is especially important if you're taking advantage of SaaS' ability to access data from anywhere, from any device. Without complete encryption, any individual or application (don't forget machine-to-machine transfers, as well as activities involving a human operator) any touchpoint poses a potential security risk.

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