When the Software as a Service (SaaS) model was first introduced, it changed the way users thought about their software products. They could easily add cloud-based applications, and they no longer had to worry about software management and security. With the SaaS model, these responsibilities now fell to the software provider.
But is that really such a good idea? Or is putting your cybersecurity into the hands of a third party exposing you to unnecessary risk?
What Makes SaaS Different from On-Premise Software?
To understand the security risks posed by SaaS, you first need to know how it differs from on-premise software. Whereas on-premise is just what it sounds like—the software is installed on your local network or machine—in the SaaS model, software is hosted on the cloud and accessed by users through the internet.
Because of this ability to access the software online, the SaaS model does face some risk of unauthorized use. If your third-party vendor has not properly implemented role-based or attribute-based access, it’s possible that someone outside of your organization could infiltrate the software you’re using. That vulnerability may put your data at risk.
How Unsecured Networks Make SaaS Vulnerable to Security Breaches
One of the great advantages of using SaaS products is the flexibility it grants to your users. But this very attribute also makes SaaS products vulnerable. If one of your users is accessing the internet on an unsecured network (say while sipping a latte in their favorite neighborhood coffeehouse), your information may be at risk. Bad actors can exploit that unsecured network to intercept information as your own users access it, stealing your organization’s data.
Fortunately, safeguards exist to mitigate these risks. Two-factor authentication and other user-verification safeguards will go a long way. But hackers count on organizations not even knowing when they’re vulnerable.
What Are the Risks of SaaS from a Regulatory Perspective?
If you manage sensitive data, then you’re probably well aware of the regulatory standards that your organization has to meet. You may even be required to store your data in a specific geographic location.
Compliance can get complicated under the SaaS model. The reason is that your provider also has standards to meet, and they may not align with your own. For instance, perhaps your provider stores your data in a local datacenter but backs that information up in a third, more distant locale. From the provider’s perspective, that may be more secure in the event of an outage. But if it violates the regulatory standards you must abide by, you have new headaches.
How to Take Advantage of SaaS Without Risking Security
None of this is intended to dissuade you from using SaaS products in your organization. Quite the opposite: The SaaS model can offer some pretty remarkable advantages, which is one of the reasons the use of these products has skyrocketed.
Of course, with great power comes great responsibility, especially when it comes to information security. Knowing the potential risks and how to mitigate them is key to taking advantage of what makes SaaS such a great tool to begin with.
Are you concerned that your organization is at risk from too many or unregulated SaaS platforms? Finding a knowledgeable technology partner who identifies what’s in use and where you’re at risk will ease your mind. Our SaaS Ops team can give you the insight you need.
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