SaaS Security: Common Risks, Challenges, and Best Practices

The sobering $4.35 million is the average data breach cost, found IBM. The SaaS business model depends on cloud computing, which is the SaaS industry’s biggest issue at the same time. In fact, 38% of companies implementing SaaS solutions lack security knowledge. That number is frightening, isn’t it? However, do not let it lose trust in cloud or web services. The Brights team is here to educate businesses on implementing SaaS security and preparing IT infrastructures to detect and eliminate threats. Read on to find out.

Key takeaways

  • Most hacks in the past five years were due to an internal vulnerability. So, developing your own SaaS security department is as important as working with a reliable cloud provider.
  • Your minimal SaaS security requirements are access management, Virtual Machine (VM) management, updating VMs, network control, perimeter network control, data protection, incident management, and downtime minimization.
  • Saas security refers to implementing security measures to protect Saas applications from potential threats and ensure compliance with government regulations.
  • SaaS app security should be a top priority when developing cloud-based applications. By investing in proper data protection measures, you can ensure the app’s compliance with government standards and regulations, protect customers’ sensitive information, and increase customer loyalty and trust.

Top 7 SaaS application security risks

If you know your enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. Luckily for SaaS startups and enterprises, we have prepared a detailed guide on every possible vulnerability your IT infrastructure might have and how to prevent attackers from exploiting these vulnerabilities in the battle for your data.

Below is the list of top SaaS security risks you must consider when building a stable and secure cloud-based infrastructure and the best SaaS security best practices:

*We based the information below on the OWASP top ten SaaS security risks.

Broken access control

Broken access control, the most frequent reason for unauthorized information disclosure, malicious data modification, or destruction, has an average occurrence rate of 3.81%.
94% of SaaS applications have shown some broken access control, making it the number one vulnerability to cover.

Here is how to prevent unauthorized access:

  1. Implement server-side code or server-less APIs.
  2. Deny access by default.
  3. Minimize Cross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS) usage.
  4. Prioritize ownership of records in access controls.
  5. Enforce business-specific requirements within domain models.
  6. Ensure there are no listings or backups exposed within web roots.
  7. Implement continuous logging and monitoring of access control failure incidents.
  8. Enforce rate limiting for API and controller access.
  9. Make sure the stateless JWT tokens have a short lifespan. For longer-living JWTs, adhere to OAuth standards for access revocation.

Once you’ve ensured the broken access control vulnerability prevention measures are in place, move on to the second most frequent cause of sensitive data exposure—injection.


Like broken access control, injection shows in different forms across 94% of applications—274 thousand occurrences in total. Common weaknesses include cross-site scripting, SQL injection, and external control of file name or path.

Avoiding injection through receiving and computing untrusted inputs or unauthorized code is possible. Follow these recommendations:

  1. Use a safe API that does not include an interpreter.
  2. Make sure there is no escape syntax for that interpreter in any residual dynamic queries.
  3. Queries should always include SQL controls.

It is essential to put preventive measures in place to avoid disclosing sensitive information in case of an injection incident. It is as important to pay attention to cryptographic failures—keep reading to learn what dangers lie in cryptography-related risks.

Cryptographic failures

Сryptographic failures lead to sensitive data exposure, which could be deadly for a SaaS organization or, at minimum, extremely costly. Cryptography-related vulnerabilities include using hard-coded passwords, broken or risky crypto algorithms, and insufficient entropy.

Follow these recommendations to prevent attacks through cryptography-related vulnerabilities:

  1. Use PCI DSS-compliant tokenization for all storing purposes or dispose of sensitive data if possible.
  2. Encrypt sensitive data.
  3. Avoid using weak algorithms (SHA-1, MD5)
  4. Ensure Weak Protocols are Disabled (HTTP, TLS 1.0, TLS 1.1)
  5. Regularly update key management systems.
  6. Classify sensitive data and disable caching for the classes that contain it.
  7. Avoid FTP and SMTP for transporting sensitive information.
  8. Only store passwords using Argon2, scrypt, bcrypt or PBKDF2hashing factors.
  9. Use authenticated encryption.

Generally, update all old or weak cryptographic algorithms or protocols to cover up all cryptography-related vulnerabilities.

Security misconfiguration

Whether it is an unchanged password in a default account, an unnecessary feature, or outdated software, it all can lead to unfortunate data leaks. Security misconfiguration risks are immensely dangerous and have a high incidence level — 4%, 208 thousand cases in total. This means your application might have one of the following weaknesses, too: configuration or improper restriction of XML external entity reference.

Be sure to put in place the following standards to avoid opening up to the alternative of getting hacked:

  1. Unificate the development, QA, and production environments and automate creating a new one. This will ensure the proper configuration for every new environment you deploy.
  2. Eliminate all unused features and frameworks.
  3. Continuously update configurations as part of the patch management process. This includes not only OS patches, but also software and library updates.
  4. Automate the process of effectiveness measurement of configurations across all environments.

Cloud security patches require constant attention; it is a continuous process that will never be over as long as the system is on. Keep on reading to learn about one more area to keep an eye on—design vulnerabilities.

Insecure design

Design risks are a relatively new category among SaaS security risks; however, they carry a load of vulnerabilities. Insecure design is associated with the following weaknesses: generation of error messages containing sensitive information, unprotected storage of credentials, trust boundary violation, and insufficiently protected credentials.

We must note that a perfect implementation cannot fix insecure design flaws. This is why you need the following checklist to avoid putting your SaaS organization at risk:

  1. Build a secure software development lifecycle and ensure security and privacy-related controls are in place.
  2. Keep a library of secure design components ready to use.
  3. Implement threat modeling practices for access control.
  4. Ensure plausibility checks for front- and back-end.
  5. Create integration tests to ensure all components are resilient to threats.
  6. Suggest to use Data Flow Diagrams to map out sensitive data flow and pinpoint vulnerabilities.

Server-side request forgery

One more area in SaaS application development to cover is your servers. More particularly, server-side request forgeries. Although relatively rare, server-side related vulnerabilities hold above-average exploits and impact potential rates. Even when protected by network security measures like a firewall or a VPN, attackers manage to make the web application send information to an unknown source.

Ensure the following measures are in place to avoid mass data loss:

  1. Separate remote resource access functionality into different networks to mitigate impact in case of an attack.
  2. Deny access by default unless it is an essential inter-organization traffic.
  3. Validate all input data.
  4. Eliminate HTTP redirects.

Generally, the average occurrence of server-side request forgeries is low. However, considering the damage they can cause, it is an essential front to be covered. Let’s learn about the last SaaS security risk in our guide — software and data integrity failures.

Software and data integrity failures

This risk category relates to your SaaS infrastructure and development process weaknesses. Insecure CI/CD pipelines may refer to untrusted sources, libraries, plugins, etc. It can lead to unauthorized access or can compromise your system. Software and data integrity failures carry the biggest damage threats there are. This is why protecting your development process and your IT infrastructure is your top priority. Take note of the category-related weaknesses: inclusion of functionality from untrusted control sphere, download of code without integrity check, and deserialization of untrusted data.

Here is how you prevent software and data integrity failures:

  1. Only authorize data from expected sources. Use a digital signature to do it.
  2. Ensure your libraries are source data from known repositories.
  3. Implement a review process before a new code is introduced to the pipeline.
  4. Standardize your CI/CD pipeline configuration and access control so that build and deploy environments only receive code scanned for integrity.

Remember: You should always assume you underestimate the attackers. Do not limit your cloud security measures to only “deny lists,” as they will be the first attackers to bypass. Contact the Brights team of SaaS development experts to help your team stop wrestling with cloud infrastructure and focus on driving your business.

Best security practices for SaaS apps

Below, you will find an exhaustive list of SaaS security best practices to implement in your IT infrastructure.

Data encryption

As a SaaS application developer, international data protection protocols such as GDPR and D-DPA require you to encrypt users’ data in order to give them more control over their most valuable asset—their personal information. These protocols also protect you as an organization from potential data loss and everything it entails, such as lawsuits, damage to your reputation, and financial damage.

Fortunately, there are encryption techniques that will allow you to protect the user's data while still being able to use it to analyze it. Generally, SaaS organizations use data scrambling and data substitution to protect user data while learning more about their customers.

Since SaaS organizations have an opportunity to manage user data, it is mandatory to ensure the highest level of encryption possible: symmetric and asymmetric data encryption protocols.

The asymmetric data encryption technique allows you to have one key (one session only( to encrypt and decrypt data. With asymmetric protocol, you will have a public and private key, one for encryption and another for decryption.

Tip: Ensure you use different encryption protocols for different states of data. TLS and SSL are for data in motion, SEV is for data in use, and AES is for data at rest.

Account access protection

As mentioned, use a “deny by default” access control at all times unless it is inter-organization traffic. However, account access protection does not stop there. You need to be on top of the access regulations at all times. Ensure you only issue access to certain accounts for a short time. This will help you limit unnecessary access to your applications or framework for people no longer associated with your organization.

A good rule of thumb is regularly monitoring who has access to what part of the SaaS application infrastructure and what their behavior patterns are within it. Why is it so important to ensure access control within the organization? Read in our next paragraphs on cloud providers.

Usage of strong authentication cloud providers

Most of the hacks that occurred in the past five years were due to an internal vulnerability. So, it is important you put regulations in place to prevent all SaaS application security risks within the organization. Only then can you start looking at what cloud provider will handle your data best.

Better even, do not store sensitive information in the cloud. SaaS businesses should implement a hybrid cloud solution—store all data in the public cloud for business efficiency, except the most valuable data you should always host on a private cloud.

When it comes to cloud-related security risks, it is quite difficult to come up with the most secure cloud provider there is. Since DDoS attacks are one of the most furious enemies of the cloud, it makes sense to compare the DDoS protection in place among the big three—AWS, AZURE, and GCP.

To prevent denial of service attacks (DDOS), Azure offers their native DDOS protection solution, AWS uses a service called Shield, and Google offers Google Cloud Armor. In fact, these solutions are very similar and will not make any difference when an attack happens. This is why we recommend considering a provider based on your IT infrastructure needs.
Below is a quick overview of the core strengths of the three most popular cloud providers — AWS, Azure, and GCP.

AWS Ecosystem, access to developers, broader community support.
Azure Azure functions, static web apps, tooling integration, best free tier
GCP Cloud scheduler, containers, and Kubernetes

Multi-factor authentication

Authentication protocol-related vulnerabilities lead to unauthorized access to sensitive data. Since we gathered here to learn how to prevent it, it is essential to note that MFA (multi-factor authentication) is a standard that must be implemented to protect sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands.

Apart from MFA, an OAuth 2.0 protocol offers a solution for an easy single sign-on option.

Remember: Most leaks happen through an internal vulnerability. This is why it is imperative to implement MFA and OAuth 2.0 protocols for all employee accounts in your SaaS organization, too.

Cloud access security broker (CASB) tools

CASB (Cloud access security broker) is a tool that ensures compliance with your security policies regarding the traffic exchange between your on-premise and cloud infrastructures.

It works similarly to a firewall, protecting your IT system from suspicious apps in use, users, or malicious applications. Some of the industry favorites are Cisco Cloudlock and Microsoft Defender.

Implementing IAM controls

Identity and access management (IAM) is a way of monitoring and logging all access attempts throughout your systems. This helps organizations spot hackers at the beginning of the attack and eliminate them effectively. IAM regulations help SaaS companies set access rights based on roles, identities, or attributes.

Below is a comprehensive scheme on how SaaS organizations leverage IAM.

Having implemented the IAM regulations in your SaaS organization, you minimize risks related to unauthorized access to the company’s apps or systems.

Strict data deletion policy

In order to protect user data and comply with legal regulations, SaaS organizations often choose to set certain timelines for user data deletion. Setting up data deletion policies allows companies to avoid data clogging, lawsuits, and data loss. However, certain rules need to be applied:

Timelines: The data deletion policy should clearly state after what period the organization needs to delete user data.

Customer access rights: Customers must be able to access their data and know when it will be deleted from the company’s servers.

Data backup policies: SaaS organizations have to follow specific rules in case they need to store the data for a long time.

Data loss prevention

SaaS security practices include a DLP (Data Loss Protection) technique that monitors outgoing permissions and blocks them if necessary. IT security teams implement such data loss prevention controls with a simple text-based classification—a DPL solution designed to classify IP in both structured and unstructured forms.

DLP is particularly effective with IP protection, data visibility, and personal information compliance. In case your organization manages large amounts of intellectual property, implementing DLP practices will give you clearer visibility over data use patterns by specific users.

Certifications and audits

SaaS providers regularly go through security audits to confirm that they are equipped to store, process, and transmit user information. Certificates that indicate that a user can trust this organization include PCI DSS, ISO/IEC 27001 certifications, and SOC 2.

For more SaaS security recommendations, contact the Brights expert team. Our team is certified in ISO/IEC 27001:2013 and SOC 2 and is prepared to run a deep diagnostics and audit to help you develop robust security solutions for your SaaS infrastructure.

Tip: Organizations opt for SaaS security posture management as a way to automate security measures within their IT infrastructure. We recommend implementing SaaS security posture tools in alignment with your AppSec team advancement. can become your reliable partner and assist you with your SaaS security ambitions.

Minimum security standards for SaaS

The SaaS industry has been around since 1999 when Salesforce introduced its CRM. The SaaS community and Cloud Security Alliance have had time to form techniques and protocols you need to implement in your organization to meet the SaaS security standards. Below, you will find a checklist.

How Brights can keep your customers safe

The global SaaS market was worth $197 billion in 2023, and it is projected to go up to $908.21 billion by 2030. It could be worth much more if not for the security-associated losses.

In order to comply with all SaaS security standards and legal requirements, every IT security department needs a myriad of partners for penetration testing, auditing, consulting, etc. Your organization can find a reliable partner in Brights to accelerate your innovation in software services with DevOps, Cloud migration, team extension, or even a dedicated team for your SaaS security.

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