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SAAS & Security – Best Practices For Businesses

by Mic Johnson

Software as a Service (SAAS) has revolutionised the way we do business. Moving data and systems to the cloud has become the norm rather than the exception for enterprises of all sizes. The benefits are clear – ease of use, speed of deployment, efficiency, scalability, flexibility, stress-free maintenance and of course, savings in costs and resources. However, using SAAS can sometimes present security risks, and with high profile stories of data theft and cyberattacks in the news, it is critical the apps you use are secure and any risk to your business is minimized. In this article we discuss what risks you need to be aware of and some steps you need to take to stay secure.

What Risks Are There To SAAS Tools?

They are varied, and unsurprisingly, they can be sophisticated. To give a thumbnail sketch of the issues reveals some key concerns. The biggest single risk comes from the nature of the cloud systems SAAS tools use, where single, centralized servers hold data of large numbers of clients and huge amounts of machines. This means that if a server is hacked, it can compromise the data and machines of multiple stakeholders. Phishing attacks, where cyber-criminals try to harvest sensitive data using deceptive e-mails, are on the rise. Identity theft can also be an problem, as SAAS providers normally need credit card payments for services.  Employees can unknowingly create risks with lost/stolen laptops, poor passwords and while the ability to access SAAS apps from any location is part of the appeal, if apps are accessed from a corrupted device or on public WiFi, it can compromise the server and allow hackers in. This list is not exhaustive!

Training & Education

As mentioned above, workers can often pose great security risks, and in the vast majority of cases, they do so without any malicious intent. By 2019, the average employee was already using at least 8 SAAS apps; as companies adopt more SAAS solutions, although they’ll enjoy many new benefits, they’ll need to contend with added risk. If your employees aren’t aware of how the apps work, then how can they possibly avoid creating these security issues? As a priority, make sure your team receive thorough and up-to-date training on cybersecurity. They should understand what the apps do, how they work and how bad practises can lead to data being compromised. They need to be keenly aware of hacking methods and kept up to speed on any new developments.

End-To-End Encryption

Every SAAS system needs to have data encryption built in to manage user access and information storage in a secure manner. Interactions between the server and the user must take place using SSL connections – this prevents your data from being intercepted by unwanted recipients. You should also ensure data storage is also end-to-end encrypted. Many providers do this by default, but some don’t unless specifically requested, so don’t automatically assume you have this protection.

Give Users The Right Level Of Access

The more access users have to a system, the higher the chance of their credentials being compromised, and the deeper into systems hackers can penetrate. So, restrict the access you grant and give users only what they need to perform their job. Keep your restrictions consistent and put into place a strong admin structure to allow for ad-hoc rights escalation requests when strictly needed. It can be tricky to manage on an ongoing basis, but it is completely worthwhile as it will help protect you from data breaches.

Use Multi-Factor Authentication

Every user should have authentication credentials unique to them. Having a strong password policy is critical and all passwords should be changed every 3 months as a minimum. If possible, you should put into place extra authentication vectors for logging into apps – 2FA (two-factor authentication) should be your aim, and if you can do it, MFA – multi-factor authentication. A basic example of 2FA in action would be for workers logging in to use a password as a first step, then be sent a code to their phones to tap in to get access.

Data Deletion

If you collect data on your customers with SAAS apps, you need to ensure this is not only stored safely; but deleted at the right time. Logs should also be generated and maintained to keep track of data deletion. There are some legal obligations in place with concern to this that need to be observed, but in any event, systematic and programmatic deletion will add another layer of security to your operation.

Final Thoughts

These are just a handful of the practices you should follow. No business should let security concerns stop them adopting SAAS; the benefits of using the apps far outweigh the risks. Awareness of the issues, followed with consistent actions, will help protect your enterprise from any malicious threats. If you’re looking at using SAAS for the first time, or you’re thinking of adding some new apps to your operation, you can find all you need to know on saasgenius.

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