5 Simple Steps to Carry Out a Successful SaaS Security Audit


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Monday, May 16, 2022

Evaluating your SaaS solutions for any security weaknesses is essential in a cloud-first environment. But how should you go about this?

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5 Simple Steps to Carry Out a Successful SaaS Security Audit
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Cybersecurity is a vital concern for all businesses, and as more firms cede a degree of control over their data by embracing cloud technology, the risks grow. It’s been predicted that cloud service providers could be the next big target for hacking in the next year, so all businesses need to take a closer look and assess the security of their cloud solutions.

That's where a full security audit comes in. This activity is an essential step in making sure you have an objective, qualitative and quantitative overview of the risks and security implications of your system.

Why you need to conduct a SaaS audit

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is one of the most familiar types of cloud computing, with some estimates suggesting it's used by 99% of firms. But this can be a problem in itself.

With the tools so ubiquitous and easy to access, you'll need to make sure the solutions you've chosen meet your security needs. In many cases, large organizations may not even be aware of how many SaaS services they're running or have evaluated their suitability for enterprise use, so an audit is vital in identifying any risks such as shadow IT.

Auditing your solutions helps you develop a full understanding of your tools and identify any weaknesses before they become a problem. But it goes beyond that - a security audit also helps build confidence in your business and ensures you’re complying with required security protocols.

5 steps for an effective SaaS audit

A good audit will show your relative strengths and weaknesses, security policies, user access control systems and can help prevent security issues before they happen.

So what are the steps you need to take to conduct a successful SaaS security audit? Here are five key things to be aware of.

1. Determine the type of audit you need

An early step is whether you're going to conduct an internal or an external audit. Internal audits offer a quicker and cheaper way to get started. External auditors, meanwhile, may be an expensive option, but the unbiased eye and deep expertise they provide is often invaluable.

You should also decide whether to do a manual or automated audit. With manual processes, the auditor will interview employees, conduct security and vulnerability scans, evaluate physical access to systems and analyze your applications. It's lengthy, but typically very thorough. Automated tools, on the other hand, use software to analyze your infrastructure, and can give you a better idea of where any technical weaknesses lie.

2. Evaluate your users

It's important to assess how aware of security your employees and other service users are, as well as what practices they're using when interacting with cloud services. This ranges from the type of passwords they have to where and how they access sensitive resources.

Adopting policies such as the principle of least privilege - where users only have permission levels for activities that are strictly necessary to do their job - and Multi-Factor Authentication for SaaS applications is a must to keep data safe.

3. Review your data security policies

Making sure your data is protected is the core focus of a good security audit. Having a close overview of your entire data range lets you track access, monitor usage and minimize risk. This should cover questions such as how data is protected both at rest and in transit, who has access and what backup and recovery plans you have in the event of a breach.

Knowing which aspects of data security are the responsibility of SaaS providers and which your business is accountable for is also a must. For example, many firms may believe it's up to the cloud provider to encrypt data at rest, yet this is typically a 'shared responsibility' that requires customers to take ownership of issues such as key management. What's more, it will always be up to you to ensure that data is sanitized and validated on entry to prevent threats such as injection attacks.

4. Check your providers' compliance

Creating a checklist of all the required compliances creates a great framework to build your audit on. It’s a necessary step for many businesses and allows you to provide a guarantee to your customers that your cloud systems are backed up by recognized standards and practices.

Establishing what certifications your cloud providers have is a vital first step within this, but you shouldn't just take their word for it. Make sure you can see proof of key standards, and also ask how often suppliers run activities such as penetration testing and incident response drills.

5. Check your coding

A good audit should focus on ensuring the code you use to connect to SaaS applications is reliable, secure and efficient. Secure coding practices should make security a priority right from the earliest stages to ensure the application is protected against threats, and not something to be left to testing phases.

When auditing the quality of your code, security is just one factor to consider, however. You also need to look at reliability, efficiency and maintainability to make sure your solutions are working as effectively and securely as intended.

Further Reading

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