Cybsersecurity for Saas Applications

Today we require internet for even the most basic of activities. Through the reach of the internet, it is possible to obtain access to even highly sensitive data, anytime and anyplace.

However, all is not roses and sunshine when it comes to the online world.

Cyber crimes like unauthorized access, malicious attacks, data breach, and so forth are rampant.

According to statistics, Cyber criminals earn $3 billion a year exploiting social platforms.

And SaaS-based IT environments are susceptible to a higher complexity to threat detection and response efforts. User activity on SaaS accounts can also be quite varied, occurring on multiple endpoints and from a range of locations. It is further complicated by the fact that the responsibility is not on the SaaS provider to secure user data in case an account is compromised. As a result of these, SaaS applications require continuous and meticulous monitoring.

Let’s discuss this in detail:

Why do SaaS-based startups need stringent cybersecurity?

There are a variety of reasons why SaaS-based startups need stringent cybersecurity. Apart from potential data theft, there is a motley of challenges that could further disrupt operations at the company.

1. Protection against unwarranted lawsuits

Lawsuits are a huge problem that can affect any company and any industry. It is easy for large MNCs to take it in their stride and continue their business as usual, but this is extremely difficult for small and medium scale companies. They do not have deep pockets to deal with the ensuing cost, which could well increase to the tune of several millions of US dollars.

Despite being the one who has been hacked, you might end up bearing the brunt for alleged negligence. Apart from a big blot on your image, it may well mean the end of your funds and goodwill as well.

2. Startups are easy targets

There are several reasons why hackers attempt to glean money off start-ups. A start-up is usually cash-rich, as there will be cash-on-hand due to investor funds flowing in. It’s an easy target for hackers.

Another reason is that, setting up security takes time. A startup is only getting used to things and slowly beginning to gather ground. It is at this moment that it is at its most vulnerable stage, and thus, easy to attack and get away with.

3. Enemies within

A cyber-attack is not necessarily carried out by external infiltrators. Sometimes, the enemy is within your own organization.

Here are some of the reasons why you might be under threat due to your employee’s negligence:

Startups are not always equipped to properly safeguard the company in case of an intrusion. Data compromise can occur due to something as unintended and straightforward as an employee opening a suspicious email attachment on a company computer without first scanning it for viruses.

What is more, many ill-intentioned employees can identify and exploit gaps and lapses in data security protocols. This is because cybersecurity installation requires time, as it is quite a lengthy process. The short window of opportunity in between has the perfect environment for data hacks.

Cybersecurity Checklist for monitoring SaaS applications?

A majority of SaaS applications have to monitor tons of event data from all stakeholders like the user, administrator, and application back-end activities. These reach up to several gigabytes. They need to be monitored day and night without even the slightest break. Any break in this activity can become a potential window for a deadly cyber-attack to take place.

The following is a list that attempts to identify some of the central security-related SaaS activities that must be continuously monitored, along with their association with the type of incidents that might be indicated.

1. Anti-virus updates

Companies must ensure that anti-malware programs are set to check for updates frequently. Pre-determined scans on the device must be set on a schedule in an automated fashion. On top of that, any media that is inserted (USB thumb and external hard drives) into a workstation should also be protected at all costs. In fact, they should not be allowed in the workplace, in the first place. In larger companies, workstations should be configured in such a way that they can report the status of the antivirus updates to a centralized server which can churn out updates automatically when required.

2. Tracking company equipment diligently

There must be documented knowledge of issue and return of company mobile devices, thumb drives, backup systems, and cloud locations. There should be a strict company policy in place to restrict access to firm resources to only those staff that absolutely need it. Use of inventory tags and verifying assigned are methods to track firm-owned devices.

3. User access

To detect the continuous threat that users and administrators of companies are under, they must take care of certain facets, including:

  • Login success
  • Failure to login
  • Logins segregated by time
  • Logins by device type and attributes
  • Repeated login failures, followed by login success
  • Logins segregated by location
  • Simple sign-on and active directory activity

Single sign on (SSO) and Active Directory (AD) are important considerations here.

  • Single sign on (SSO)

    It is a property of access control consisting of multiple related, but independent software systems. With SSO, a user logs in once, and gains access to all systems without being prompted to log in again at each of them. This can cause potentially an unnoticed breach of security and unprotected data compromise.

  • Active Directory (AD)

    It is a directory service that provides a central location for network administration and security. Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) is used to query and make changes to directory service data. Hacking this has severe ramifications.

4. Behavior of administrator

The damage that can be inflicted once cybercriminals obtain administrator credentials is unthinkable. It can have far-reaching consequences on the very existence of the company. Data can be stolen, altered, and even destroyed.

Security experts, therefore, must monitor:

  • Continuous user deletions
  • Data deletions
  • Addition of privileged users
  • Privileged users leaving
  • Changes to network permissions
  • Changes to audit data upload configuration
  • Sudden changes in policy controls

5. User behavior

Organizations need to constantly monitor internal threats as well. It can lead to the identification of insiders with hostile intent. In these cases, prevention is better than cure. They must constantly monitor:

  • User file activity including but not limited to download, delete, print, copy, move
  • Sharing files with external collaborators
  • Creating open/shared links with unprotected public access
  • Unauthorized/unsanctioned mobile device activity
  • Network traffic activity

Wrap Up

With the onslaught of cybersecurity crimes, the demand for cybersecurity professionals is also on the rise. Most of the credible cybersecurity professionals have attained a master’s certificate in cyber security, which helps them fight this menace.

Data breaches have far-reaching consequences and can spell the doom of companies. In recent times, several large-scale cyber-attacks have affected major companies such as Target, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Home Depot. The data breaches may have compromised bank records, credit card numbers and other private information, including usernames, passwords, emails, phone numbers, and addresses.

If such established companies with extensive deep pockets can suffer from data compromise, start-ups are directly in the line of fire. It is thus indispensable in case of start-ups to have cybersecurity protocols in place.

Tim Ferguson is a writer and editor of Right Mix Marketing blog. He enjoys writing about SEO, content marketing, online reputation management, social media, AI and Big Data. When he is not writing and editing for Right Mix Marketing, he spends time on learning more about content marketing and getting better at it. You can follow him on Twitter at @rightmixmktg