How to Evaluate Your SaaS Stack for Security


There are four SaaS security challenges that every business owner faces with the shared responsibility model: applications mostly fall outside the purview of security and IT systems, SaaS application configurations are complex, regularly changing user access, and data exposure via third-party integrations. 

To combat such challenges, you must have a vendor evaluation process. You can avoid the common SaaS security issues by taking the measures described in this article.

Many businesses still aren’t tracking how the SaaS tools are used by the employees. This might backfire with increasing endpoints and sophisticated hacking techniques that can be used to access your organizational data. 

With the growing concerns around SaaS sprawl, there isn’t a better time to evaluate your SaaS stack security to minimize your organizational risks. 

Using SaaS platforms means giving up on certain security controls because SaaS works on a shared responsibility model. As SaaS buyers, you don't have access to hardware and instances where the data is stored.

Hence, it is also important to evaluate SaaS providers for security while buying SaaS

The two most common measures IT teams can take in this regard are:

  • Involve the security and risk team (if any) in the procurement process from the beginning. 

  • Ask for security details directly from the SaaS providers. Most vendors will provide security testing results when requested. 

Let's discuss the questions you must ask your vendor during software procurement.  

1. Check Their Security Audits Reports 

Check Their Security Audits Reports

When selecting your next SaaS vendor, it’s important to ask them about policies that help in security and compliance management. IT and procurement teams often believe in what they are told or see on websites. 

If they are compliant, your vendor should have the necessary documentation on what they are doing to meet the security requirement. 

Here are five security certifications that your SaaS provider should have-

  • ISO 27001. ISO 27001 is an internationally recognized standard relevant to any organization across industries, but they act as a gold standard for SaaS providers. To get ISO 27001 certified, SaaS vendors have to set up an Information Security Management System (ISMS) to establish policies, procedures, and standards to handle risks according to your risk appetite, client’s obligations, and relevant laws. 

  • SOC 2. SOC2 is a well-respected audit framework that provides your clients with the assurance of a standard security system for your SaaS solution. Under SOC 2, your SaaS vendor can be audited against five trust principles of Availability, Security, Processing Integrity, Privacy, and Confidentiality. Qualifying SOC 2 demonstrates that your organization maintains a high level of information security. 

  • OWASP ASVS. The OWASP Application Security Verification Standard (ASVS) focuses on application security at a very detailed level. It’s not a formal “certification” but provides you with a detailed report that verifies that your application is highly secure. The OWASP ASVS uses levels to help SaaS vendors see real-world application security needs. 

  • CSA Star. CSA Star is a third-party audit program that measures the security efficiency of cloud service providers like SaaS vendors. The accreditations combine the security requirement of the ISO 27001 management system and Cloud Control Matrix (CCM) to score the security procedures opted by the SaaS vendor. Your SaaS provider first needs to qualify for ISO 27001 certifications or have it parallelly with CSA Star certification to get CSA Star certified. 

  • ISO 22301. Many SaaS providers lack appropriate frameworks that offer little or no downtime, resulting in increased security vulnerability for businesses. The ISO 22301 is an international certification provided by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to manage business continuity in case of disruptive events like natural disasters, artificial disasters, etc. 

Achieving such certifications shows how serious your SaaS vendor is about your information. Plus, having a dedicated security team with defined roles indicates that the SaaS provider is committed to offering premium security features. 

2. Compatibility with other SaaS tools

The next viable thing to do is to check the compatibility status of your Saas solutions. Your enterprise will have hundreds of users accessing your SaaS tool, so you will need to adopt certain security tools to safeguard your company’s information. Some of these tools can be-

Single Sign-On (SSO): Single Sign-On is a quick way to access multiple services by just using a single username and password. Here, the SSO encrypts the initial login and saves it so that users don’t have to submit their username and password again. There are various benefits to this approach-

  • No password sharing with third-party service providers

  • Reduction in cost because there will be fewer forgotten password requests

  • The saved password expires after a certain period but can be easily revoked

  • Users are prevented from using the same password for various devices, minimizing the risk of security attacks. 

The SSO helps get a detailed report on which login is provided with what access for SaaS subscriptions. The SSO providers specially developed this capability to cater to the IT Security & Compliance requirements. Plus, the GDPR compliance requires you to maintain a Record of Processing Activity for every user. All of these regulatory requirements get met by the SSO vendor. 

Identity and Access Management (IAM): IAM in SaaS solutions is about identifying roles and access privileges to users. The major objective of having an IAM capability is defining a single identity per individual. Once the identity is created, the user can access its account from any device, and their actions will be monitored in all places. 

The IAM comprises four basic components-

  • A directory of personal data that the system uses to distinguish each user

  • Inclusive tools for modifying and deleting data

  • A system that enforces user access 

  • A reporting and auditing system 

IAM systems contribute to security compliance by offering tools that conduct security checks and modify and access policies. Regulations such as HIPAA and GDPR hold SaaS vendors responsible for controlling access to their users. So, your SaaS tool needs to comply with IAM capability for advanced security control. 

SaaS Management Platform (SMP). The SaaS management platform became popular after the pandemic. As the pandemic has accelerated businesses' reliance on SaaS, the need for managing SaaS also grew. The major functions of SMPs include administration, policy management, IT workflow automation, spend management, and role-based access control

Zluri, an SMP, adds immense value to organizations. With Zluri, IT teams can manage SaaS applications for discoverability, optimization, automation, and security. In terms of security and compliance management, Zluri can monitor suspicious activities, offer greater visibility over SaaS usage, and automate IT tasks. 

3. Go into the technical details to see how security is weaved into their product development.

Go into the technical details to see how security is weaved into their product development

The last step is to conduct a comprehensive, detailed technical evaluation before getting that SaaS subscription. You can check the following criteria-

  • Source code or open-source. Ask your vendor if their platform is made via a unique code or open-source software. And, if the latter is true, you might have to face certain problems. Statistically, open-source security breaches have increased by at least 71% from 2014 to 2019. If we compare it with closed software, open-source is not user-friendly and safe. Being open-source means it’s free to edit, and anyone can misuse the code. 

  • Review all SaaS patching policies. Patching policies are made to reduce the risks of data breaches. This happens by ensuring that all technical vulnerabilities are quickly identified, risks are evaluated, and the required steps are taken-typically patches are applied within a timeframe. Your SaaS vendor should apply all security patches within 30 days, or if they are critical, the timeline can be reduced by 15 days. 

  • Review SaaS provider third-party audits. To get more clarity on the effectiveness of SaaS vendor security control, you can ask them for third-party audit reports, including penetration testing results. This will give you evidence of how your SaaS provider handles security issues and let you decide if you want to go forward with them or not. 

  • Data governance and information management. Businesses are required to classify data into various categories, depending upon the level of sensitivity. Every location has a different set of rules to follow for effective data management. So, while selecting a SaaS vendor, it must give the flexibility to store, process, and manage data according to the jurisdiction. 

4. Ask Them About Their Incident Management Plan

Even after taking all security measures, your SaaS tool might run into trouble. Your SaaS vendor must have a security incident plan to overcome the security roadblock. This shows how serious your provider is about security issues. Incident management processes are steps taken by the provider to resolve such threats. You can determine how secure your vendor is by asking the following questions-

How much time will it take to notify their client about data breaches? Over ten years, there have been more than 300 data breaches involving the loss of over 1 00 000 records. So, instead of praying that this doesn’t happen to you, ask your vendor for the next best thing they can do before the lighting strikes. Your SaaS vendor should be able to tell you how quickly they can notify you of the breach and the financial liability if they are declared responsible. 

What is their disaster recovery plan? Many SaaS vendors believe that taking regular backups should be your only disaster recovery plan. But we all know that's not it. So, before you hit that installation button, make sure that your SaaS vendor covers routine testing, geographic isolation, and recovery timeline. 

What if they go out of business? Not all SaaS vendors will stay with you forever, and that’s not even the saddest part. Businesses mostly make their decisions based on the circumstances they see today but fail to understand what might hit them in the future. You must ask your SaaS vendors what would happen if they go out of business. What should be your next step? And, we insist you have all these conversations on the contract so that it binds your SaaS vendor with the following terms. 

How to get started on your SaaS evaluation process?

Many times businesses do not realize the importance of conducting a SaaS evaluation to understand if the vendor provides a secure platform. Traditional security systems like proxy-based CASB are not very effective in the SaaS world. 

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