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What is SaaS?

SaaS, or Software as a Service, is a software licensing and delivery model based on paying a subscription fee for access to an online application. Products that fall under SaaS have a wide range of use cases and functionality, from sales platforms and messaging apps to online office suites and file hosting. Almost all organizations use at least one SaaS solution, and some of the biggest tech companies in the world are in the SaaS business – including a number of NuHarbor Security’s breed-in-breed technology partners.

Growing Popularity of SaaS services

One of the reasons that SaaS solutions are becoming increasingly popular is due to their low upfront cost and tiered pricing models. Instead of having to purchase and set up infrastructure internally, an organization can subscribe to a SaaS that provides a similar service for a fraction of the upfront cost, and only pay for what they need. Additionally, SaaS solutions can be accessed outside of an organization’s network, allowing for increased mobility and fully remote work.

Mitigating SaaS Security Risks

Though SaaS solutions offer numerous benefits to an organization, they also come with real security concerns. Luckily, many of these risks can be mitigated with the right SaaS and security controls.

Data Breaches

Since all SaaS solutions require some form of organizational data to be handled and stored by a third-party vendor, there is always a risk that organizational data could be stolen if that vendor suffers a data breach. Trusting a third-party with sensitive data is always a risk, so make sure to evaluate this risk within your organization. Ensure that your SaaS providers are encrypting data in transit and at rest, and that transparent and robust security controls are in place to prevent breaches.

Social Engineering Attacks

Some SaaS products, particularly email services, can open the door for attackers to attempt social engineering attacks on the platform – like phishing. To gain foothold in an environment, attackers send messages to users aiming to trick them into revealing sensitive information or downloading malicious files. SaaS products that are susceptible to social engineering attacks should have mitigation controls in place to ensure that malicious messages and files do not reach users (e.g., email content filtering, file scanning, etc.). Furthermore, employees who will be using SaaS products vulnerable to social engineering attacks should receive cybersecurity awareness training to decrease the chances of a successful attack.

Insufficient IAM Implementation

Having a robust Identity and Access Management (IAM) solution in place for SaaS applications is critical to ensuring they are secure. SaaS products should have built-in IAM functionality. Keeping track of all users and ensuring they have the proper permissions and restrictions is necessary to decrease the scope and impact of a breached user account. Additionally, the SaaS should support multi-factor authentication (MFA) to mitigate attacks, such as credential stuffing. An alternative to trusting a SaaS application with authentication is to use a third-party authentication mechanism like single sign-on (SSO), which can make managing user accounts easier and improve security if the SaaS lacks features like MFA.

Lack of Logging and Monitoring Features

In today’s threat environment, the ability to monitor SaaS services to quickly identify and contain breaches is a must. Spotting a breached account or service before an attacker has the chance to gain a foothold in the network can stop an attempted ransomware attack before damage is done, or a data breach before data is exfiltrated. Ensure that SaaS logs can be forwarded and processed by your organization’s SIEM, or that the SaaS offers sufficient standalone logging and monitoring if SIEM integration is not an option.


Trusting a SaaS solution with your data comes with risk, but with the right SaaS and security controls this risk can be mitigated. To prevent security headaches down the road, before adopting a SaaS product, ensure that it addresses the risk of data breaches and social engineering attacks. Additionally, verify that the SaaS solution has robust IAM as well as sufficient logging and monitoring.

Looking to assess your organization’s susceptibility to phishing attacks, evaluate your current security posture, or just want to talk to an expert? As your end-to-end security provider, NuHarbor is here to help. Complete the form below to schedule a free consultation and learn more about our leading-edge SaaS solutions for identity security!

by: Hayley Froio

Information Assurance Team Member at NuHarbor Security

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