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A Deep Dive into SaaS Security

A breakdown of SaaS security approach and how to ensure you utilizing the right SaaS security tools to effectively strategy to manage the risks associated.
Written by
Christina Boyer
Published on
April 26, 2024

A typical sales rep at an organization could use close to ten SaaS applications just to send an email to a prospect— retrieving customer data from a CRM integration, to using an AI email assistant tool and scheduling tool. Throughout a single day, an employees interact with dozens of different applications, and across the company, hundreds of workflows are executed using a myriad of tools. While these SaaS applications enhance productivity and are integral to modern work processes, the growth rate of SaaS apps raises important cybersecurity question, how can a business protect their data and their core operations, when so many third-party SaaS applications are being used?

SaaS Security Risks with the Transition to Cloud Services

The transition from traditional software models to Software as a Service (SaaS) has revolutionized business agility and scalability.

Over 90% of organizations use cloud computing, and SaaS providers, to achieve cost reduction, faster time-to-market, and other critical business objectives.

However, this shift has also introduced complex cybersecurity challenges and SaaS risk. As SaaS applications have become integral to modern business operations, securing these platforms against a broadening array of cyber threats has become crucial. The very characteristics that make SaaS platforms advantageous—such as rapid deployment, anytime-anywhere access, and subscription-based models—also introduce complex security vulnerabilities.

As enterprises increasingly rely on these platforms for critical operations, the stakes for securing them have escalated. Cybersecurity in the SaaS environment is not just about protecting a static set of data but safeguarding the flow of information across networks that span beyond traditional boundaries of perimeter-based networks. In this article we’ll breakdown SaaS application security, and provide an overview for how organizations can navigate building an effective toolkit to manage SaaS app security.

Understanding SaaS Security Concerns

Starting with the basics, SaaS (Software as a Service) app security refers to the practices, strategies, and technologies designed to protect applications (and the sensitive data they store) that are hosted remotely on cloud services. It addresses both the responsibilities shared between service providers and users, and the common threats such as data breaches and unauthorized access. SaaS applications are accessible over the internet, often through web browsers, making them particularly vulnerable to a variety of security threats. SaaS security focuses on safeguarding the data privacy, integrity and availability of the applications and the data they process. Let’s take a look at some of the key reasons why SaaS app security is important:

1. Data Protection & Data Loss Prevention

SaaS applications often handle sensitive, confidential, or critical business data. Ensuring the security of this data against unauthorized access, breaches, and data leakage is crucial for maintaining privacy and compliance with regulatory requirements such as GDPR, HIPAA, and others.

2. Access Controls

Since SaaS applications are accessible from anywhere on any device, managing who has access to what data is paramount. Effective SaaS security measures help ensure that only authorized users can access specific levels of data and functionality, reducing the risk of insider threats and data breaches.

3. Threat Mitigation

The cloud's complexity and the internet-facing nature of SaaS applications expose them to a wide array of cyber threats—from phishing attacks and malware to more sophisticated security breaches like ransomware or cross-site scripting (XSS). Robust SaaS security practices help mitigate these risks, protect against vulnerabilities, and maintain the integrity and availability of services.

4. Compliance and Legal Requirements

Many industries have strict guidelines on how data must be handled, processed, and stored. SaaS app security ensures that these applications comply with legal and regulatory standards, thereby avoiding potential legal penalties and damage to reputation.

5. Trust and Reliability

For businesses, maintaining user trust is essential. Effective SaaS security not only ensures the smooth operation of applications but also helps in building and maintaining trust with customers by protecting their data from potential threats.

6. Business Continuity

Security incidents can disrupt service availability and cause significant downtime, leading to loss of productivity and potentially revenue. Implementing strong security measures in SaaS applications ensures higher uptime and consistent service availability, contributing to overall business continuity.

The Role of Continuous Monitoring

IT and Security teams face a huge challenge of keeping track of what applications their users are downloading. Users are constantly signing up for new SaaS apps, making it uniquely challenging for organizations to keep track of who is using what and for what purpose. Unlike traditional software procurement processes, there is often little to no oversight or third-party involvement in these decisions, leaving organizations vulnerable to potential security risks. Adding to this risk, vendors (meaning the applications themselves) are often adjusting and changing the data and permissions associated with their apps, further leading to a lack of control and ability to manage.

The nature of this inherent chaos means continuous monitoring of SaaS applications becomes essential in maintaining visibility into what apps are being granted accesses, so that intervention can happen quickly when necessary. This monitoring spans user and administrator activities, third-party API access, and network transactions to promptly identify and respond to potential security incidents. Continuous monitoring of app activity allows a business to identify and react to high risk behaviors, including high-sensitive API access’s being granted by employees.

SaaS Security Best Practices  & Selecting the Right SaaS Security Tools

Selecting the right SaaS security tools is critical for enhancing your organization's cybersecurity posture. The tools you choose should not only fit your current needs but also be scalable to accommodate future growth and adaptable to evolving threats. Key considerations include:

Compatibility & Integration

Ensure the monitoring tools integrate seamlessly with your existing IT infrastructure. This includes compatibility with other software, platforms, and systems you are already using. It will likely be through your IdP that SaaS app data is reported, so thinking about how your existing security stack fits into SaaS app security is an important consideration.


Choose tools that can scale as your company grows. The tool should handle increased data volumes and additional SaaS applications without performance degradation.

Comprehensive Coverage

Opt for tools that provide extensive monitoring capabilities across a variety of applications and aspects of your SaaS ecosystem. This includes user activity, security posture, compliance tracking, and threat detection.

Reporting & Analytics

Advanced analytics and reporting features can help you understand what is happening, and take precautionary actions to maintain positive control over applications that are being used across the business. For instance, a tool that flags sensitive permissions that have been granted by users, will allow the security teams to proactive risk assess and respond in accordance.


It’s important understand how any SaaS app monitoring & management tool or strategy will impact users. Firstly, users don’t want to feel like their company is playing ‘Big Brother’ so a strategy that effective in communicating why SaaS app monitoring is in place is key. Secondly, a tool or strategy should not hinder employees from doing their jobs effectively. Tools are ultimately to support productive work, so getting the balance between effective risk mitigation and user-freedom is an important consideration.

A Note on Educating and Engaging Users

It’s important to remember a key principle: a security strategy or tool can only be as effective as the uptake and adoption of users within the business. While selecting and structuring your SaaS security approach based on the above criteria is important, communicating with employees to ensure they understand the significance from a security perspective of sharing access with SaaS apps is equally important.

Most significantly, its important to establish clear rules about which data can live in which apps. Take the example of PHI for HIPAA covered entities. Organizations sign BAAs in order to be able to share HIPAA data in with a provider and it cannot be shared without a BAA in place. Take a healthcare organization with a secure patient portal. If you don’t have a BAA with say, Slack, there needs to be clear rules for users that PHI cannot live in Slack, and what the acceptable alternatives are.


SaaS application security and monitoring should be an established pillar of any robust cybersecurity strategy. In an era where data is a critical asset, SaaS security is not just a technical compliance requirement but a strategic imperative to ensure uninterrupted operations and to minimize the risk of breach or data exposure. By choosing appropriate tools, implementing robust monitoring strategies, and continuously evaluating their security posture, security teams can protect their organization's critical data and operations against the increasingly sophisticated landscape of cyber threats.

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