Top 10 SaaS Security Risks and How to Mitigate Them

SaaS, an acronym for Software as a Service, is a software distribution model that enables organizations to access and utilize ready-made software solutions.

Rather than developing and customizing software in-house, businesses can select from a range of pre-built options that suit their particular needs. This approach can save organizations time and resources, allowing them to focus on other core aspects of their operations.

The service provider securely stores and processes all of the information for the application utilized by the consumer on their cloud-based server.

It is a very important part of the cloud computing market. With the flexibility of using an app off the shelf comes various vulnerabilities, which we are going to discuss in this article. 

The article will also discuss how these SaaS security risks could be mitigated later.

What is SaaS security?

Ensuring the security of critical and sensitive data during its transfer, storage, and processing is crucial when utilizing cloud-based data management by vendors and mobile apps by users. This level of protection is made possible through the implementation of SaaS Security measures.

It includes various best practices, policies, and newer technology to safeguard data, increase the SaaS application’s throughput, and decrease SaaS security risks.

There are various ways to achieve complete security against SaaS security risks, such as Encryption of data, Better authentication of data, Continuous Monitoring, and the use of tools to prevent SaaS access points.

DoControl’s 2023 SaaS Security Threat Landscape Report [Download] finds that 50% of enterprises and 75% of mid-market organizations have exposed public SaaS assets.

Table of Contents:

Introduction
What is SaaS security?
How to identify Risk factors in SaaS security
SaaS Security Risks and its Mitigation Methods
1. Data Breaches
2. Account Hijacking
3. Lack of Identity and Access Management (IAM)
4. Malware and Ransomware Attacks
5. Misconfiguration
6. Insufficient API Security
7. Insider Threats
8. Phishing Attacks
9. Insecure Interfaces and System Vulnerabilities
10. Control Over Shared Technology

Top 10 SaaS Security Risks and How to Mitigate ThemFeatures
1. Data BreachesAccess without permission
Access to data
Theft of data
Invasion of privacy
Internet attacks
Effects on money
2. Account HijackingSecurity is broken.
Use without permission
Invasion of privacy
Attacks by phishing
Control without permission
3. Lack on Identity and Access Management (IAM)Weak proof of identity
Not enough permission
Few people can see
Not enough rules about passwords
No more than one way to log in
Bad control of access
4. Malware and Ransomware AttacksVectors for phishing
Putting a code on files
Demands for ransom
Getting money by force
Spreading like a worm
Delivery of payload
5. MisconfigurationMistakes in setting up
places that are weak
Not enough safety
Flaws in access control
Credentials by default
info made public
6. Insufficient API SecurityAPIs that are weak
Access to data
API mistakes
Access without permission
API keys can be seen
Attacks on API
7. Insider ThreatsLinks to Bad Sites
Fake connections
Engineering Society
Impersonating a brand
Theft of Credentials
Targeted Phishing
8.Phishing AttacksChanges to versions
How to Handle Patches
How to do backups
Policies on Security
Evaluations of vendors
Plans for handling an emergency
9. Insecure Interfaces and System VulnerabilitiesPermissions Setup Wrong
Hardware that is old
Turn on ports
Security updates not being done
Vulnerable plugins and extensions
Access Controls That Don’t Work
10. Control Over Shared TechnologyChanges to versions
How to Handle Patches
How to do backups
Policies on security
Evaluations of vendors
Plans for handling an emergency

How to identify Risk factors in SaaS security

The key to identifying SaaS security risks lies in the type of risks itself.

Such as If the SaaS application’s API is showing more information than requested or maybe giving more headers while handling requests.

Then, there may be a data breach or insufficient API Security. 

Risk assessment is a process that most organizations use to identify SaaS security risks.

In this process, the organization’s security team verifies that all the security measures taken by the app stand up to industrial standards.

The most essential and crucial step is for the organization’s security team to be aware of every SaaS application used, which is majorly overlooked and causes more than one entry point for attackers. 

SaaS Security Risks and its Mitigation Methods

After Identifying SaaS security Risks with the help of risk assessment, the next step is about how to mitigate them and make the organization more secure.

Some high-level and basic ways to mitigate these risks are Governing your SaaS apps, ensuring data encryption and privacy, and saving money on your SaaS resources.

Other aspects that can enhance the identification of more SaaS security Risks are the use of AI, Self-learning technology, regular checks, and more frequent risk assessments.  

1. Data Breaches

It is possible that when you use a SaaS application, there could be situations where your data is accessed by individuals who are not authorized to do so.

This could result in potential security breaches and compromise the safety of your sensitive information. It is important to remain vigilant and take necessary precautions to safeguard your data while using such applications.

And since the data handled by these SaaS applications is critical and huge. Leakage of any data may harm the organization’s credibility and result in financial compromise of users or the organization as a whole.

Mitigation

Data leaks can be mitigated using various approaches like data encryption and better authentication like SSO; also, having a zero trust architecture may help as many other similar techniques. 

While getting a SaaS application, you must confirm with the vendor what sort of security parameters they are implementing to keep the data secure.

Implementing different levels of access is also important to safeguard and isolate any account or level of accounts from getting deeper into the system.

Features

  • Intruders are people who get into a system or network without being allowed to.
  • Hackers get information about how to log in, like usernames and passwords.
  • Malicious software is used to damage or steal data from computers.
  • Cybercriminals send fake emails to try to get people to give them private information.
  • People in a company who abuse their access to data can cause data breaches.
Document
Get a Demo

DoControl’s Zero Trust Data Access (ZTDA)

DoControl’s ZTDA solution extends Zero Trust to the SaaS application data layer, offering complete visibility for all SaaS access by every identity and entity (internal users and external collaborators) throughout the organization.

2. Account Hijacking

Both employers and consumers can fall victim to account hijacking, where unauthorized individuals gain access to sensitive information or control of the account. However, the risks and consequences can vary depending on which side is affected.

While consumer account hijacking may present lower risks compared to employer account hijacking, it can still lead to compromised personal information and financial losses.

It is important for both parties to take proactive measures to prevent and address account hijacking incidents.

In case of an employee’s account hijacking the attacker will be getting a door to the inside of the organization making it more susceptible to attacks and also a case of privilege escalation can occur.

It can cause legal and compliance issues for the organization, and sensitive data taken from the customer’s account can be used in identity theft for any other operation.

Mitigation

Mitigation to Account Hijacking can be achieved by implementing better authentication methods for user login.

The main step to properly prevent any account from being hijacked is to stop any kind of Bruteforce attacks, SQL Injection, and Broken Authentication attacks.

Which can be stopped by using SSO and Multi-Factor Authentication.

The organization should make sure to keep check of OAuth tokens because they help in bypassing the login security measures.

Features

  • The account hijacker may use the victim’s identity to perform scams or other crimes.
  • Social engineering can deceive customer service into helping attackers hack computers.
  • Some criminals try to get around 2FA so they can take over the account completely.
  • If the hacker is successful, the real person may be locked out of their own account.
  • Attackers can modify email addresses and recovery options to make login harder.

3. Lack of Identity and Access Management (IAM)

When it comes to Software as a Service (SaaS) applications, they have made everything much easier for the user by automating many processes, including adding new users to access new applications.

While this is undoubtedly beneficial, it also poses a significant risk if proper deprovisioning is not carried out. Ensuring that access to applications is revoked when it is no longer necessary is crucial for maintaining data security and preventing unauthorized access.

Failure to do so could lead to serious consequences, including data breaches, loss of sensitive information, and reputational damage. Therefore, it is imperative to implement proper de-provisioning procedures to ensure that users only have access to what they need, and nothing more.

Since IAM in SaaS apps gives centralized control over the organization, it also becomes the central target, which, if compromised, can lead to a complete organization takeover.

Without regular auditing of IAM, small problems can go neglected and cause a lot of problems around the SaaS application. 

Mitigation

Lack of Identity and Access Management risks can be compensated by properly automating the IAM processes to decrease the possibility of human error.

To stop anyone from compromising the IAM and taking over the organization, one must invest in securing the IAM and make it impenetrable. 

For the scalability issues, Identity access management must be compatible with already existing technology used by the organization such as Active Directory or Single Sign-On. 

Features

  • Organizations may break industry or data security access restrictions and auditing standards.
  • Manually adding and removing users is time-consuming and error-prone without IAM tools.
  • varied systems with varied access rules might confuse and endanger.
  • Using weak, shared, or the same password for several accounts allows hackers to access them.
  • Accounts can be hacked without MFA since passwords can be stolen or guessed.

4. Malware and Ransomware Attacks

SaaS applications, due to the critical and huge database, are prime targets for malware and ransomware attacks. Such attacks can easily cost organizations millions of dollars.

Ransomware attacks on SaaS are done by exploiting vulnerabilities like OAuth tokens, Brute Forcing, file synchronization and sometimes phishing. 

If the ransomware is able to be injected into the system, then it may be able to infect the complete organization by escalating throughout the system.

And then compromising all the data and the organization’s operation. 

Mitigation

Getting hit by ransomware is one of the critical SaaS security risks, and it can be mitigated by keeping regular checks on logs, so as to identify in the early phase.

Teaching techniques on how to fall for common ransomware applications or links can help keep your organization safe most of the time.

In case of a compromise, the company must have a cloud backup that can be replaced immediately with the compromised one, and they should have a strategy of encrypting all the data all the time so that even if it gets compromised no one can use it.

Features 

  • Malware-infected devices can form remote-controlled botnets for malevolent reasons.
  • Ransomware can be delivered using malware.
  • Ransomware encrypts files or systems, making them inaccessible.
  • A ransom note usually demands payment for the decryption key after encryption.
  • To avoid monitoring, attackers seek Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies.

5. Misconfiguration

A misconfigured portal settings on Microsoft Power Apps, a low-code app development platform, exposed 38 million end customer records in August 2021.

Misconfiguration can create a security gap and is unavoidable as the company scales higher; more apps are involved, making it harder to keep track of all resulting in more misconfiguration cases. 

Apps misconfiguration can lead to security threats like privilege escalation, a third-party-induced ransomware attack, and many more.

Mitigation

To mitigate misconfiguration, one can take the help of proper automation because personally managing all the settings for each user is a lot of work, and it is bound to have gaps.

On the other hand, with a preset of automation scripts, you can automate to some extent and then make changes to it if required; this would help in covering at least the essential steps.

The use of SAAS management tools can be very helpful in getting a centralized view of the SaaS tools that are deployed. 

Features

  • Incorrect firewall rules might allow undesirable traffic or block important services.
  • Exposing unneeded ports to the internet increases attack surface and vulnerabilities.
  • If misconfigured, cloud resources might expose sensitive data or attract attackers.
  • Not applying security patches and updates exposes systems to vulnerabilities.
  • Neglecting security best practices and industry standards may create vulnerable environments.

6. Insufficient API Security

The application programming interface is a powerful tool when it comes to a set of software working together. But how much and what information is being shown in an API is also very important to check. 

Revealing a lot of non-required information in API calls can lead to data leaks, and if the roles are not managed properly then unauthorized actions can be done using API calls, giving rise to a lot of SaaS security risks.

API’s endpoints can also lead to exploitation due to any vulnerability giving a foothold to hackers and opening a vulnerable gate in the organization. 

Mitigation

Mitigation of Insufficient API security lies in the reasons of risks like the SaaS vendor should limit the amount of information that goes in each request and also monitor it.

A role-based authentication token would be a good parameter to set to check if the request is authenticated or not.

To stop the endpoint exploitation, the SaaS vendor’s security team must do penetration testing on the API’s endpoints to check for vulnerabilities frequently.

Features

  • API error messages can reveal internal features or data structures.
  • APIs may not have enough controls to minimize request volume.
  • Without complete and current security documentation, developers may struggle to safeguard API interactions.
  • Companies may violate GDPR or HIPAA if API security is inadequate.
  • API component vulnerabilities can be exploited without security patches.

7. Insider Threats

Insider threat in a SaaS app can be very fatal as it has access to customer data, which is very sensitive and critical to an organization’s reputation, and it also has a lot of financial value.

As the risk comes from an insider, they possess the authority to enter numerous restricted areas within the system, allowing them to bypass several security protocols.

Mitigation

Ways to escape insider threats are segregation in different levels of the organization, making it easy to contain any insider threat at their level and making damage control easier. 

Some of the organizations are currently working on analytics to detect insider threats.

However, combining different analytical approaches is the best way to mitigate these kinds of attacks. 

Using least privilege approaches also helps in mitigating insider threats. 

Features

  • Certain spies install or use software or technologies that compromise security.
  • Insider attacks can bypass security protections or deceive employees via social engineering.
  • More authorized insiders could perform illegal actions.
  • Insiders may steal secret information from competitors.
  • Insiders may leak or misuse their login details, allowing unwanted entrance.

8. Phishing Attacks

Phishing attacks have always been an effective tool for attackers, and they also contribute to Saas Security risks. Which can have a significant amount of effect on the Critical Data of the customer.

These attacks can result in credential theft, account takeovers, ransomware attacks, and many more. Attackers redirect the customers to different pages, causing financial and reputational loss for the organization. 

Mitigation

The most important step in mitigating phishing attacks is educating your staff against these kinds of attacks. Email spam-blocking software can also be used to avoid those dangerous emails and links.

If possible, some restricted firewall rules can be set up to stop employees from making contact with any link other than those that are whitelisted. This is very hard to achieve as they might need to make outbound traffic from their system.

Features

  • Phishing emails may aim to get people to download contaminated documents or executables.
  • Attackers may use fake names to make visitors think they’re on a trusted website.
  • Pretending to be famous names makes phishing assaults more convincing.
  • Phishing emails can bring ransomware or keyloggers to the victim’s device.
  • By targeting individuals or groups, targeted attacks make messages more convincing and harder to spot.

9. Insecure Interfaces and System Vulnerabilities

Insecure interfaces can cause critical data to be present online without any encryption, making it very easy to read and compromising privacy.

It can also assist the attacker in fetching, updating, and deleting unauthorized data due to its insecure design resulting in harm to the organizational-level workflow. 

System vulnerabilities in an organization can give a foothold or entry point to the attacker, which can result in full-fledged attacks such as ransomware attacks, DDOS attacks, backdoors, etc. 

Mitigation

Mitigation of such SaaS security risks is very simple to achieve. An organization can put antiviruses that scan for outdated versions in the system and update them. 

Regular scans and assessments are still required to keep the systems secure from upcoming attacks. Standard security policy has to be made in order to keep check if standard rules are followed properly. 

Features

  • Attackers can spoof legitimate users via insecure session management.
  • Unsafe interfaces may not validate or sanitize user input, allowing XSS attacks.
  • Outdated operating systems, programs, and libraries can weaken systems.
  • Without security updates, systems can be exploited.
  • Attackers can exploit misconfigured services and systems.

10. Control Over Shared Technology

When using a SaaS application, organizations often share some technology with SaaS applications to be able to work with.

If there is any kind of noncompatibility that can give rise to gaps in the system. And same goes for the SaaS vendor, and because of the huge dependency on the SaaS application, the organization often overlooks minor details.

Like if the security and compliance policy of SaaS vendors matches with their own policy. This affects everything SLA, data backup, and many more. Organizations must make sure that all this aligns with their requirements. 

Mitigation

Mitigation of this kind of SaaS security Risk is very simple. One can just keep in mind to read and check all the policies of the SaaS vendor and match them with their own.

Make a Governance and compliance policy and data encryption policies, and negotiate a proper SLA. The ability to make a separate backup of data other than the SaaS application should also be considered while integrating or using any SaaS application.

Features

  • Shared technology should develop with users and adapt to demand.
  • Shared technology frequently has high availability and resilience to keep services running.
  • To prevent data loss and maintain business operations, data backups, and disaster plans are needed.
  • Strong user authentication ensures that only authorized users can utilize the sharing technology.
  • Committees, boards, or other decision-making groups may manage shared technology use, policy, and strategy.

11. Compliance Risks

Compliance risks are related to the risks that occur due to not having proper policies set up before making SaaS app-related decisions. Not consulting the IT department before adding a SaaS application to the organization may lead to risks because of negligence in reading and aligning the policies.

This SaaS security Risk also causes a lot of problems with Renewal and Support, Discovery/Visibility, Procurement and Onboarding, and many more.

One more important risk is if the data is lost due to any SaaS application you might not have a proper prosecution due to negligence in compliance policy while onboarding the SaaS app.

Mitigation

SaaS security risks related to compliance can be mitigated if standard policies are implemented like GDPR, CCPA, LGPD, etc., to ensure vendors’ jurisdiction.

Consulting appropriate personnel before any major SaaS application-related decision. 

Features

  • When organizations violate contracts with partners, suppliers, or customers, they are non-compliant.
  • Compliance may be at risk if third-party suppliers, contractors, or service providers break the law.
  • Companies that operate in multiple countries find it tougher to comply with local legislation.
  • Without compliance documents, audits and investigations might stall down.
  • Auditing, tracking, and risk assessments must identify and mitigate compliance concerns.

12. Loss of Data

The potential consequences of data loss can be immensely detrimental to an organization. Financial and reputational damage are the two major outcomes that can occur, leading to a decrease in customer base.

Therefore, it is imperative to take measures to prevent such losses from occurring leading to a decrease in customer base. Therefore, it is imperative to take measures to prevent such losses from occurring.

A lot of legal compensations are also applicable to the company, and the data of customers that is lost can give rise to many other cyber crimes. 

Mitigation

SaaS applications must keep the attack surface very small and also keep improving their security.

Having better compliance policy, decreasing human errors by educating employees, having a backup, monitoring logs, and decreasing the possibility of insider threats.

All these steps contribute to the prevention of data loss SaaS Security Risk. 

Features

  • If you overwrite data without backups or versions, you may lose old data.
  • Automatic retention policy deletion might cause unintended data loss if not handled properly.
  • Legal or legislative regulations may cause organizations to delete some data.
  • Some storage media lose data with time, rendering it unrecoverable.
  • If the framework is lost, it can be difficult to arrange and index fragmented material.

Conclusion

In conclusion, The use of SaaS applications is rising day by day. The more organizations shift to Cloud, the more the possibility of them being susceptible to these attacks.

But there are surely a lot of ways an organization can escape these vulnerabilities. The use of SaaS applications does enhance the growth of an organization giving a fair reason to invest in them and establishing proper security measures to not get hit by any cyber attack.

An organization should continuously monitor and upgrade its own security policies as well as monitor the changes in the SaaS provider’s policies to avoid SaaS Security Risks. 

Work done by a Team Of Security Experts from Cyber Writes (www.cyberwrites.com) - World’s First Dedicated Content-as-a-Service (CaaS) Platform for Cybersecurity. For Exclusive Cyber Security Contents, Reach at: [email protected]