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Does Using SaaS Make My IT Environment More Secure or Less Secure?

Richard Bailey
by Atlantic.Net (111 posts) under VPS Hosting
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As modern businesses turn to cutting-edge SaaS applications to improve business capabilities and save costs, the security of cloud-based workloads is a primary requirement.

SaaS platforms introduce significant benefits to digital business, but one big question remains; does using SaaS make my IT environment more or less secure?

It’s a difficult question because security is an outstanding experience for most SaaS subscribers. Unfortunately, several high-profile security breaches against SaaS platforms have raised concerns around the SaaS ecosystem and asked questions about the threat to the downstream supply chain.

In this article, we will learn about the security outlook of SaaS, investigate the significant data breaches, and discover how you can defend against SaaS security threats.

What is SaaS?

There are countless SaaS applications on the market, and you will likely use at least one of these products professionally or personally. Google Docs (G Suite), Microsoft Office 365, Salesforce, Slack, Teams, and Zoom are just a few. Over 11,000 SaaS companies are operating worldwide, and 85% of businesses will be utilizing SaaS platforms by 2025.

Software as a Service typically involves the digital delivery of an online software product, usually from a cloud provider. Users access the software over the internet after subscribing to the service. Upon purchase, you are given an account; you log in and start consuming the service.

SaaS products are usually business applications paid for via a monthly subscription. This opens the door for businesses to consume expensive enterprise-grade applications on an affordable pay-as-you-go model. In addition, SaaS deployments use cloud servers to power the application, and the user only requires a moderately powered laptop or PC to use it.

SaaS platforms are prevalent. For example, there are 345 million active subscriptions to the popular Office 365 Suite. This figure includes business and personal accounts. Microsoft has 75% of the biggest global companies on their account books for Office.

Popular SaaS platforms must be at the forefront of security best practices to defend against sophisticated cyber attacks. Unfortunately, SaaS platforms are a popular target for hackers due to their popularity.

SaaS Data Breaches

In July 2021, Kaseya, a tech company that sells SaaS solutions, was targeted by ransomware. Their customers are typically small businesses or managed service resellers. The ransomware affected Kaseya VSA, an all-in-one suite for end-to-end IT infrastructure management, point-of-sale systems, servers, laptops, patching, and monitoring.

This cyberattack was a watershed moment because although Kaseya was targeted, the customers were the real victims. After all, their systems were breached, many experiencing days of agonizing downtime, all because of weak security within Kaseya.

Another significant SaaS data breach happened to Zoom. The video conferencing software saw astronomical growth during the pandemic, but the company that quickly became the target of hackers. Vulnerabilities were discovered in April 2020, and over 500,000 account credentials were stolen and auctioned on the dark web soon after.

Other significant breaches include Office 365 accounts being compromised by deception and social engineering tactics. Although an isolated incident, the business that owned the account was evicted entirely from it as the hackers took control.

SaaS Cybersecurity Challenges

What is the cause of these successful attacks? There are several ways in which hackers compromise SaaS services. Here are some of the most common:

  • Cloud Misconfiguration: The number one cause of a data breach is a result of incorrectly configuring the application, typically by sharing confidential information publically. Pushing a database to public cloud storage or incorrectly configuring user permissions are common examples.
  • Third-party risk: When outsourcing to a SaaS provider, there is an element of risk that their employees may inadvertently give access to hackers. That’s what happened in the recent Office 365 attack.
  • Supply chain attack: The Kaseya attack highlights how vulnerable the supply chain becomes if a critical service provider is breached. Potentially all downstream users could be a victim. We saw this in the Solarwinds breach when big business and government institutions were targeted.
  • Zero-Day Vulnerabilities: 0-Day exploits are a genuine concern for SaaS providers because they typically offer proprietary applications as their primary service. Rushed code can equal weak security, but it’s something SaaS providers invest a lot of time and money into.
  • Unclear responsibilities: All SaaS platforms come with shared responsibility requirements that define what is managed by the provider, what is managed by the customer, and what responsibilities are shared. The confusion here can result in misconfiguration further down the line.

Does Using SaaS Make My IT Environment More Secure Or Less Secure?

In most cases, yes, using a SaaS platform does improve your security posture. However, it’s essential to realize that security requirements are ever-changing, so your cybersecurity policies must be kept relevant. In addition, remember that SaaS platforms typically offer an excellent all-around experience for the customer. The application delivery is streamlined to provide a superb experience for the subscriber, but be mindful that no service is 100% secure, and a zero-day exploit is a real possibility.

Adopting fundamental cybersecurity initiatives now will ensure your business is in the best position in the event of a SaaS security event affecting you. Observe the best practices discussed in the article that promote enhanced authentication, data encryption, data integrity vetting, and security awareness training. Then, reevaluate your security posture by ensuring the SaaS service is configured as per the provider’s security best practice.

With the right technology and best practices in place, SaaS can be far more secure than any other on-premise application. Businesses can retain control over the security infrastructure, such as encrypting customer data, and ensuring they meet necessary compliance standards.

How to Reduce the Risk of a Data Breach

One of the best ways to reduce the risk of a breach is to outsource critical IT systems to security-conscious VPS hosting providers like Atlantic.Net. Our architecture is built to exacting standards. MFA is implemented across the business, and our engineers follow the principle of least privilege, ensuring that every user has only the required permissions to do the task.

When outsourcing services to third parties, ensure that extra due diligence is performed on each vendor to understand the risk of a supply chain attack. Identifying all aspects of risk and writing down an actionable plan will create a baseline for the company’s required and desired security aspirations.

If you would like to learn more, please reach out to the team. Contact Atlantic.Net at 888-618-DATA (3282) (toll-free) or +1-321-206-3734 (international) or by writing to us via the Contact Page, and we will be happy to assist you.

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