SaaS Data Security: 7 Tips to Keep Your SaaS Data Secure
Have you ever experienced typing your data into a form on a SaaS app, hitting “Save,” and then thinking, “Hey, wait…where did my data just go?”. We’re so thrilled with the convenience, speed, and economy of SaaS applications that we forget we’re storing some of our most sensitive data in the SaaS vendor’s cloud.
Data leakage is the most common SaaS security incident for IT and security professionals, with 58% having experienced one in the previous two years. 41% percent of respondents suffered a SaaS data breach in that period.
The cloud infrastructure supporting your favorite SaaS apps is often secure. However, according to almost every SaaS user agreement and based on the Shared Responsibility Model, you still have a fair share of responsibility for protecting your SaaS data.
What is SaaS Data Security?
SaaS data security comprises the risk analysis, policies, and practices that protect data stored on SaaS apps. The specifics of any SaaS data security program will vary based on the type of organization and the data it holds on SaaS. In general, however, SaaS data security aims to reduce the risk of data breaches and other attacks that can damage or delete your data.
Not all data stored on SaaS is equally important regarding security. The big issue with SaaS data security is the difficulty in understanding which documents stored on a SaaS platform are innocuous and which aren’t.
Almost anything could be in a SaaS file drive, from patent applications to confidential legal agreements. For instance, zombie Sharepoint groups and data repositories make Sharepoint security challenging. Alternatively, a SaaS app might contain customer information subject to privacy laws, which may differ from country to country.
Access controls and integrations play a role in securing SaaS data. Keep in mind that threats can be internal, too. Employees or customers may steal or carelessly mishandle data, and the impact on data security is no less profound.
Top Challenges of Securing Your SaaS Data
Defending data stored on SaaS apps has its share of challenges, propelled mainly by the dynamic nature of the cloud. For instance, knowing who can access the SaaS app or how each user configures their security settings can be complicated.
Some of the more common and severe challenges in SaaS data security include:
- Securely managing user identities—knowing who is who and who can access what, especially as employees get hired, change roles, and depart the company.
- Safeguarding data in transit and at rest—ensuring that SaaS data is encrypted when crossing the network or stored on a disk drive.
- Integrating SaaS applications with other services—staying on top of the connections and plugins as they affect data stored on SaaS apps.
- Complying with data residency rules and other regulations—adhering to mandates like “data sovereignty,” which govern where data about citizens of a given country can be stored.
- Preventing data loss—following Data Loss Prevention (DLP) practices that help you avoid accidental deletion of SaaS data and system failures or security incidents that can affect data.
Shadow IT, particularly shadow SaaS, threatens to make these challenges even more grueling. When virtually anyone in an organization can set up a SaaS account with a credit card and start moving corporate data onto that app, security teams can struggle to keep up. Shadow SaaS creates security blind spots and increases SaaS data risk exposure.
7 Tips to Keep Your SaaS Data Secure
1. Stay on top of best practices for SaaS Security Posture
SaaS data security is—or should be—a subset of a broader commitment to SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM). After all, security countermeasures that protect SaaS apps from unauthorized access and abuse also serve to protect the data they store.
Getting serious about SSPM means conducting regular security audits, logging and monitoring SaaS activity, and using strong access controls such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) to better manage identities and how they use your resources. It also includes training employees in SaaS security and establishing (and testing) a SaaS incident response plan.
2. Know your SaaS vendor
Your SaaS vendor has a great deal of control over the security of your data. While you are responsible for your end of the SaaS data security, the vendor’s systems are where the data is stored.
Review your SaaS vendor’s data security policies carefully to ensure they comply with data privacy laws and data sovereignty regulations. For instance, if you keep data about French citizens on devices hosted inside France, your SaaS vendor must comply with all the French data regulations (and prove that they’ve done so).
Most reputable SaaS vendors willingly share their data security management and privacy policies with customers. If they don’t, maybe that’s not a vendor to use. They should tell you, for instance, if they encrypt your data at rest and in transit through end-to-end encryption or E2EE.
The good news is that several respected organizations do the heavy lifting for you in vetting your SaaS vendor. A SaaS vendor might have certifications like the Cloud Security Alliance Star Verification or have passed an audit for EuroCloud SaaS Star or SOC2 and PCI-DSS. Such certificates establish that the vendor has met specific strict standards for data security.
3. Define and implement data governance policies
It’s hard to steal data from SaaS if it isn’t there or never existed in the first place. This is the realm of data governance, whose policies can be an effective countermeasure bolstering SaaS data security.
Consider a customer intake form on a customer relationship management (CRM) solution. You can adjust these customizable forms to limit sensitive personal data that isn’t necessary for the customer relationship and avoid putting this data at risk of being breached or misused.
Disposing of old data can also help you prevent security misconfigurations in your apps. For example, you can establish a firm policy to delete data over seven years old automatically. Don’t forget to delete such data from your backups as well. This requires automated data management tools, often available on SaaS apps.
4. Know where your data is
With the average company utilizing over a hundred SaaS apps, keeping track of where users put corporate data is nearly impossible. No manual process could keep IT managers informed on where data resides in the SaaS ecosystem.
SSPM solutions like Suridata employ automated data scanning processes to identify where data is located across the SaaS environment. Suridata then alerts IT managers if it detects the presence of sensitive data in a SaaS app that is not adequately secured or subject to overly broad access privileges.
5. Regularly monitor your data security controls
It’s one thing to implement data security controls. It’s another to be confident they’re working as expected over the long term. It is a best practice to monitor data security controls regularly. For example, suppose you’ve mandated that SaaS apps only be accessed through a cloud access security broker (CASB) or established endpoint hardening standards for employee devices. You should continuously check that these policies are being enforced.
6. Implement robust security measures for accessing your data
Your SaaS data is only as secure as the password you use to access it. Of the 56 million leaked passwords in 2023, the password “123456” was used in 111,417 cases. Default passwords such as “admin,” “root,” or guest” were equally (and worryingly) prevalent.
The most straightforward measures are often the most impactful. Ensure you employ multi-layered authentication protocols such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) and strong, regularly updated passwords so that only authorized users can access the data.
7. Back up your data regularly
There is often some confusion about SaaS data backups, so it bears explaining. Most of the time, the SaaS vendor will back up its cloud instances. If they experience an outage, your data should be safe. However, the SaaS vendor’s backup does not necessarily protect you from cyberattacks and malicious data handling on a SaaS platform. If an insider decides to delete your SaaS data, you may have lost it for good.
Getting Started Protecting Your SaaS Data
SaaS apps are most likely holding a lot of your sensitive data. You should want it protected, even if it’s not in your direct control. Getting started with SaaS data security involves adhering to basic SaaS cybersecurity practices, understanding your vendor’s data protection policies, knowing where all your data is in the SaaS landscape, and implementing effective data governance policies.
Suridata can be a valuable tool for achieving your SaaS data security objectives. It monitors SaaS usage and flags suspicious activity that could signal the start of a data breach. It also monitors where your data has been stored and who has access to it in your SaaS environment. These and other functions help you establish a robust SaaS security posture, including solid data protection. Learn more or request a demo today.
Co-Founder & COO