SaaS Security

Top Critical SaaS Application Development Security Considerations

Businesses are adopting software-as-a-service or SaaS applications at an astounding rate. Gartner’s 2020 I&0 Leaders Survey Data also confirms the increasing popularity of SaaS technology. According to Gartner, “almost 70% of organizations are currently investing in SaaS and public cloud offerings and will continue to do so.”

Why SaaS Model has Emerged as a Game-changing Technology for Businesses

  • 24/7 Accessibility: SaaS apps are highly accessible via an internet browser or app from any device.

  • Cost Effectiveness: No need for in-house data centers and servers; SaaS business users pay based on the usage or number of individuals using the software.

  • Scalability: Resources can be scaled up and down in tandem with the ever-changing business needs.

  • Data Storage: All the information and sensitive data is stored in the cloud (geographically distributed data centers).   

  • Seamless Operational Management: With SaaS, businesses don’t require any installations or updates and thus can focus more on their core business activities.

However, the incredible benefits of employing SaaS solutions also entail a variety of risks and threats, especially from the cybersecurity aspect. Phishing, data breaches, malware injections, and account takeovers are some of the most common cyberattacks which can wreak havoc on the financial health of an organization. So, it is imperative for the SaaS vendors as well as SaaS application development companies to restrategize their entire approach towards SaaS security.

Security as Design is the Need of the Hour 

In all these years, security has been looked at as a mere add-on and not something that needs a lot of attention and thinking. It’s time to bring everyone together - the design team, the development team, the operations team, and the IT or security team. It’s time to discuss every possible security threat and risk that the app being designed can face once it is delivered and make appropriate provisions for its safety. At this very stage, SaaS vendors can also rope in a professional SaaS application development company to seamlessly integrate new & emerging SaaS security tools in the app itself.

Overlooking security solutions early on can lead to administrative and technical debt as well as stretch budget and delivery timelines. DevOps teams must also consider alert management and response tactics while turning on native cloud security controls.  

Incorporating Real-time Protection Capabilities into the Code   

Integrating real-time monitoring into the code can help business users distinguish between genuine queries and malicious attacks such as SQL injections (SQLi), Cross-Site Scripting (XSS), and account takeovers. Through protection logic, the SaaS users can easily determine the nature of the queries and take appropriate security measures well on time. It is also important to build the app to be flexible enough to easily incorporate third party security features.     

Designing the App to be Highly Compatible with Data Encryption Methods

The stored data in the vendors’ databases can be of critical importance for the SaaS business users. So, the data at rest, and not just data in transit, needs a lot of protection. That’s where database encryption comes into the scene. Database encryption allows SaaS vendors to encrypt the data stored in their database. By implementing a variety of encryption techniques and technologies, the stored data is turned into ‘cipher text.’ The data, thus, becomes meaningless or incomprehensible for those who do not have access to its encryption keys. So, SaaS vendors and their partner SaaS application development services providers must not overlook this important aspect of app or data security while building the foundations of a SaaS app.

In-built Intelligence for Governance and Incident Management

Logging and monitoring are essential practices to ensure an effective governance and incident management across the app ecosystem. When logging is integrated with monitoring, the causes behind the problems or errors in the applications can be discovered in less time and with more accuracy. It is also  imperative for an organization that certain incidents are effectively captured and reported and tracked to closure. Now this aspect of app security must be considered right in the app development life cycle, preferably in the very beginning of the app design process. This will ensure that business users don’t experience any challenges while integrating their chosen or recommended governance and incident management solutions with their SaaS applications. 

Compatibility with WAF, UTM, ZTNA and Other Third-party Security Solutions

For a world-class SaaS and cloud protection, the application should be built to be highly compatible with third-party security solutions such as Web Applications Firewall (WAF), United Threat Management (UTM),  DNS layer security, and Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA). A strategic combination of these security solutions will ensure that malicious apps are blocked at the point of entry. And even if they succeed in breaking the defense system of the SaaS ecosystem, the security features are powerful enough to block their lateral movements. 

Build SaaS Apps to Increase Your Eligibility for Reputed Certifications  

  • PCI DSS - Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard certification recognizes the security capabilities of the SaaS companies or businesses that store, process, and transit payment card data. To claim the certification, SaaS vendors must satisfy its 12 standards that largely call for greater security features in the SaaS ecosystem. 
     
  • SOC 2 - Developed by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), SOC2 certification is issued to the SaaS companies or businesses that do well on the trust principles laid down by the institute. These trust principles are Security, Availability, Processing Integrity, Confidentiality, and Privacy.
     
  • ISO 27001 - It’s a globally recognized certification that acknowledges an organization’s ability to secure the customer data that it holds. To achieve this international certification, SaaS vendors, or for that matter any business, must put in a comprehensive information security management system (ISMS) that can help them manage risks and threats associated with information assets. 
     
  • OWASP ASVS - In comparison to other certifications and associated  bodies, the OWASP Application Security Verification Standard (ASVS) takes application security more seriously. In fact, it provides a basis for testing technical security controls and also a complete set of requirements for developers to ensure a more secure development. 
     
  • CSA STAR - The Security, Trust, Assurance, and Risk (STAR) consists of three levels of assurance, namely, self-assessment, third party audit, and a continuous monitoring program (this is under development). An increasing number of cloud companies are either CSA STAR certified now or in the process of achieving the certification to demonstrate their security capabilities to their stakeholders, primarily investors and business users. 

     Conclusion

    Digital transformation is driving businesses towards SaaS applications. The future is looking very promising. SaaS companies, however, must work towards implementing a secure software development life cycle (SDLC). SLDS ensures that security is at the core of app design and development right from the beginning. And any potential vulnerabilities or weaknesses are identified in the early stages so that appropriate measures could be taken. It’s also crucial to design the app in a way that it could seamlessly accommodate a variety of app and data security tools and technology. Partnering with a leading SaaS application development company can make the entire app design and development process more seamless and results-oriented.