The Cloud Security Alliance (CSA), the world’s leading organization dedicated to defining standards, certifications, and best practices to help ensure a secure cloud computing environment, today released Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) Governance Best Practices for Cloud Customers. Drafted by the SaaS Governance Working Group, the paper provides a baseline set of SaaS governance best practices for protecting data within SaaS environments, enumerates and considers risks according to the SaaS adoption and usage lifecycles, and finally, provides potential mitigation measures from the SaaS customer’s perspective.
The SaaS environment ultimately presents a shift in the way organizations handle cybersecurity that introduces a shared responsibility between producers and consumers. While the domain of cloud adoption and security continues to evolve, not much guidance is available regarding SaaS governance and security. This, despite the reality that increasingly, different departments within an organization (Shadow IT) are occasionally utilizing SaaS offerings to power their critical business processes and functions and often storing sensitive data in SaaS environments.
“SaaS requires a different security governance mindset. Because SaaS apps allow businesses to quickly and easily optimize business operations, adoption has come at the price of security. Few recognize how complex the configuration and permission settings of SaaS apps can be, which results in numerous misconfigurations, giving attackers the potential to access sensitive data,” said Amir Ofek, CEO of AxoniusX, the new innovation unit of Axonius, which sponsored the paper. “By following a widely adopted security framework, such as NIST CSF, coupled with the best-practices and recommendations in this document, organizations will be able to better establish SaaS governance and security processes to mitigate risk associated with SaaS usage, eliminate misconfigurations, and gain full control over their entire SaaS environment.”
“While SaaS offers tremendous opportunities for organizations to change the way they operate, consume innovative capabilities, and offload many of the operational burdens associated with both creating and maintaining applications, it isn’t without its concerns. As organizations continue to adopt SaaS-based applications and solutions, traditional organizational cybersecurity must be updated to reflect this new operating model. Failing to do so can increase the potential risk and ramifications of security incidents associated with the consumption of SaaS.”
Chris Hughes, co-founder and CISO at Aquia and project lead/lead author of the paper
The guide defines three necessary components that, when combined into a cohesive strategy, can provide integrated security for SaaS systems and solutions:
Process security. Protects the integrity of procedural activities to ensure the input and output of processes aren’t easily compromised. These are the managerial aspects, including policies and procedures, to ensure that an organization’s processes are consistent.
Platform security. Deals with the security strength of the platform and the underlying dependencies of a SaaS service. These include the SaaS infrastructure, operating systems, and its potential suppliers.
Application security. Deals with the security of the SaaS application itself. A SaaS application can only stay secure if it does not contain exploitable vulnerabilities and has implemented hardened configurations aligned with organizational and vendor security best practices, as well as compliance requirements.
The Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) Governance Working Group aims to benefit all parties in the SaaS ecosystem by supporting a common understanding of SaaS related risks from the perspectives of the cloud customer and cloud service provider. Individuals interested in becoming involved in future research and initiatives are invited to join the working group.
SaaS Governance Best Practices for Cloud Customers was sponsored by Axonius, a leader in cybersecurity asset management and SaaS management. CSA research prides itself on vendor neutrality, agility, and integrity of results. Sponsors are CSA Corporate Members who support the findings of the research project but have no added influence on the content development or editing rights to CSA research.
Axonius gives customers the confidence to control complexity by mitigating threats, navigating risk, automating response actions, and informing business-level strategy. With solutions for both cyber asset attack surface management (CAASM) and SaaS management, Axonius is deployed in minutes and integrates with hundreds of data sources to provide a comprehensive asset inventory, uncover gaps, and automatically validate and enforce policies. Cited as one of the fastest-growing cybersecurity startups, with accolades from CNBC, Forbes, and Fortune, Axonius covers millions of assets, including devices and cloud assets, user accounts, and SaaS applications, for customers around the world.
About Cloud Security Alliance
The Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) is the world’s leading organization dedicated to defining and raising awareness of best practices to help ensure a secure cloud computing environment. CSA harnesses the subject matter expertise of industry practitioners, associations, governments, and its corporate and individual members to offer cloud security-specific research, education, training, certification, events, and products. CSA's activities, knowledge, and extensive network benefit the entire community impacted by cloud — from providers and customers to governments, entrepreneurs, and the assurance industry — and provide a forum through which different parties can work together to create and maintain a trusted cloud ecosystem.