How to ensure the security of your SaaS platform

Distributing cloud solutions and services via a proprietary SaaS platform can be a highly profitable business model. Vendors of successful platforms can earn hundreds of millions of dollars annually, following the examples of Datadog, Hubspot, Salesforce, and other SaaS market players.

However, when developing a SaaS platform, vendors have to ensure the security of data they process and store. A single data breach can ruin a platform’s reputation and discourage thousands of paying customers from using it. Additionally, the platform’s vendor can be fined by a data protection regulator. To avoid these issues, a vendor should properly secure its SaaS platform against cyber threats.

In this article, we cover the most dangerous cyber threats for a SaaS platform and provide four tips on how a vendor can mitigate them.

Key security threats for a SaaS platform

• Malware attacks

Malware is any malicious program used to penetrate and infiltrate a target cloud system or environment. According to Thales’ 2024 Data Threat Report, 41% of companies faced a malware attack last year, and cloud storage, SaaS applications, and cloud infrastructure management tools were primary targets.

SQL injection attacks, enabling hackers to penetrate vulnerable SQL servers across a cloud infrastructure, are one of the most dangerous for SaaS platforms. A hacker could use this attack to corrupt a SaaS vendor’s corporate data, steal sensitive customer information, or disrupt a SaaS platform’s work.

• DoS/DDoS attacks

A DoS attack involves sending a large number of requests to the vendor’s servers to make a SaaS platform unavailable to users. DDoS is a more large-scale type of DoS attack that involves sending a large volume of traffic from multiple compromised sources. As highlighted in the DDoS Threat Report for 2024 Q1 by Cloudflare, DDoS attacks have become 50% more frequent compared to 2023.

According to the same report, four out of ten DDoS attacks lasted more than 10 minutes, while almost three out of ten lasted more than 1 hour. Given that customers expect 99.999% uptime from their SaaS and cloud service providers, mitigating DDoS timely can be critical for a vendor to remain competitive.

• Insider threats

An insider is a person (employee, business partner, etc.) with authorized access to the SaaS platform’s vendor’s systems, infrastructure, or data. Abusing this authorized access for sabotage, espionage, or other malicious purposes is an insider attack.

The 2024 Data Exposure Report by Code42 reveals that the number of companies that faced insider attacks has grown from 66% to 76% during 2019-2024. According to the same report, a single insider attack costs a business $15 million on average.

How to make your SaaS platform secure

Implementing secure development practices

SaaS vendors can mitigate many potential security risks and vulnerabilities by implementing appropriate security measures early in the platform development. Here are some practices that can help build a more secure SaaS platform:

• Threat modeling

Threat modeling involves identifying the most dangerous threats for the future SaaS platform, assessing their potential impact, and defining the best ways to mitigate them. By using tools such as OWASP Threat Dragon or Microsoft Threat Modeling Tool, IT teams can build and visualize threat models, analyze architecture designs for vulnerabilities, and generate insights on how to avoid potential attacks.

• Software Bill of Materials

In manufacturing, Bills of Materials (BOM) are lists covering all components required to build particular product items. BOM, which allows manufacturers to maintain complete component visibility, can also be used for SaaS platform development.

A Software Bill of Materials (SBOM) lists all libraries, scripts, licenses, services, and other components in a software solution. By documenting SBOM during platform engineering, developers can ensure full component transparency and streamline a platform’s vulnerability and risk management.

In practice, SBOMs allow developers to easily track current versions of different software components, which helps prioritize software fixes and updates to prevent critical vulnerabilities. Security teams can also use SBOM to understand the scope of security incidents and identify affected components, addressing potential cyber attacks more efficiently.

• Continuous testing

Continuous testing involves implementing security checks at multiple stages of the software development life cycle (SDLC). One of the essential continuous testing approaches is shift left testing, enabling IT teams to detect vulnerabilities at early software development stages and thus eliminate potential cyber threats quicker and with fewer resources.

Ensuring ISO 27001 and SOC 2 compliance

ISO 27001 and SOC 2 are two information security standards that help SaaS vendors maintain IT security within their organizations, which in turn can contribute to the security of the solutions they provide. Although adhering to these standards helps strengthen data security, only 8% of SaaS providers have achieved both ISO 27001 and SOC2 compliance, according to Vertice’s 2023 data.

ISO 27001 focuses on establishing a reliable information security management (ISM) system, which in turn defines security controls for the software development process. For instance, if a vendor is developing its SaaS platform in-house, ISO 27001-based ISM can guide a corporate testing team on how often they should run security tests and of what kind.

SOC 2 also establishes necessary data security controls for the software development process, helping make the SDLC more transparent, traceable, and controllable. For example, it prescribes software developers adhere to specific secure coding practices, such as input validation or output encoding, to avoid vulnerabilities in the code and ensure the SaaS platform’s security.

Improving physical security across an organization

SaaS platform vendors can establish their own data centers, rent cloud storage from third-party providers, or use a hybrid data storage approach. If a vendor houses some volume of data and workloads on-premises, they must ensure that their servers and data centers are sufficiently protected to avoid an insider threat.

Implementing a video surveillance system augmented with artificial intelligence technology is one way to protect a vendor’s physical infrastructure. When installed in a server room, such a system can detect suspicious behavior of those who enter the room and alert security teams about potential threats in real time.

Resorting to managed cybersecurity services

Establishing a security operations center (SOC) to identify and prevent cyber threats is an efficient way to address DDoS attacks. However, building one in-house can be challenging for a SaaS platform vendor, as it requires hiring and training security specialists, not to mention significant equipment and technology investments.

Outsourcing security operations to third-party experts is a great way for vendors to avoid these complexities. A third-party team can act as a dedicated security operations center that monitors traffic across a vendor’s network infrastructure, detecting various security incidents, such as DDoS attacks, and timely responding to them, helping a vendor ensure 24x7x365 protection of the SaaS platform.

Final thoughts

Developing and monetizing a SaaS platform allows a vendor to earn millions yearly by selling business solutions and services to clients. Although this business model is promising, it’s also risky, as even minor cybersecurity breaches can cause significant reputational and financial losses.

Fortunately, vendors can avoid these risks by strengthening the cybersecurity of their SaaS platforms. Using secure coding practices, following ISO 27001 and SOC 2 security standards, and enhancing the physical security of servers and data centers are just some of the essential measures that can make a great difference.

Also, vendors can outsource experienced security professionals to help develop a reliable SaaS platform and then provide managed cybersecurity services, helping prevent security threats of all kinds.


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