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June 6, 2023
By: Inversion6

SaaS Security Challenges Due to Misconfigurations

Thanks to the increasing shift toward automation, the SaaS (software-as-a-service) market is expected to almost triple between 2023 and 2028. As of 2023, SaaS already accounts for 93% of software used by most companies and has become critical to the daily operations of businesses across a variety of sectors. However, SaaS security challenges due to misconfigurations cannot be overlooked. 

In fact, the average company with cloud-stored data has $28 million in data-breach risk due to sharing features across SaaS apps. And, in 2022, the Cloud Security Alliance found that 43% of businesses have dealt with a security breach caused by SaaS misconfiguration. 

Considering the fact that most companies average around 200 apps in their toolsets, it’s easy to see where these risks come from. Mitigating them requires a deeper understanding of what SaaS misconfiguration is, how it comes about, and exactly what organizations can do to address it. 

What is SaaS Misconfiguration? 

At the most basic level, SaaS misconfiguration is the improper set-up of securities for the portfolio of SaaS products that a company uses.  

This can come about as a result of excessive access permissions, a lack of multi-factor authentication, or too many individual sign-on accounts with unique passwords. It can also occur naturally and over time due to a lack of SaaS maintenance and management. 

For instance, the configuration settings of each SaaS app need to be updated regularly to address any changes to compliance requirements, industry standards, the status of employees, current SaaS app updates, and new apps being added to the IT ecosystem. This can be an extremely time-consuming and resource-intensive task and any improper settings can be the cause of a costly data breach.  

Common Causes of SaaS Security Challenges  

While the causes of SaaS security challenges due to misconfigurations can vary widely, there are some areas of risk that most businesses have in common: 
  • Data access permissions – Data access permissions refer to the rights and privileges granted to individuals or groups within a SaaS system or application. These permissions determine who can view, modify, or delete data, among other things. Properly configuring access permissions is crucial to mitigating confidential data exposure and security risks. However, this is often difficult, as permissions may be granted or revoked on an as needed basis and forgotten about later. As a result, the frequent and careful monitoring of permissions is essential to making sure that every user has the access they need to perform their duties. 
  • Configuration drift – Configuration drift occurs when a system’s actual configuration gradually deviates from its intended configuration over time. In the context of SaaS, this can occur when frequent but poorly-documented changes or updates are made to the application. This can lead to inconsistencies and misalignments between different systems and components. Frequent and regular maintenance is also required to prevent this. 
  • 3rd party access – Many companies rely on granting 3rd party access to vendors, partners, or contractors in order to streamline operations or enhance functionality. However, this can lead to security risks in the form of unauthorized access, data leakage, or compromised sensitive information. Again, continuous management is required to mitigate this risk. 
  • Conditional access rules – Conditional access rules are the rules put in place to determine whether a user should be granted access to a particular resource or service. This can be determined by specified user attributes, device information, location, or other preset qualifications. Conditional access rules can be an invaluable tool for ensuring that only authorized users have critical access, but updating these rules to align with other app settings needs to be done routinely. 

The Potential Cost of Not Addressing SaaS Security Challenges  

Security breaches due to SaaS misconfiguration don’t only impact the internal security of a company. Unauthorized data exposure, compliance violations, service disruptions, and account compromise can all lead to life-altering and often devastating consequences for customers and clients as well. 

Unauthorized data exposure 

SaaS security challenges due to misconfiguration pose a risk to organizations in the form of unauthorized data exposure. In fact, in 2022, 83% of organizations had experienced at least one data breach, and 45% of those breaches were cloud-based. The average cost of a data breach in the U.S. is around $9 million for businesses, but these costs also tend to be passed on to the customer, either directly in the form of personal data loss or indirectly through increased prices. 

When it comes to SaaS misconfiguration, unauthorized data exposure can be caused by improper access controls as outlined above, but can also be the result of weak authentication mechanisms or inadequate encryption settings. Cyber attackers are constantly scanning for these vulnerabilities, and a single oversight can lead to a major data breach. Whether the data is related to customer information or intellectual property, the consequences can be disastrous and expensive. 

Compliance and regulatory violations 

Businesses that operate in regulated industries like healthcare, banking, or government sectors must adhere to strict compliance standards. Healthcare and banking also happen to be two of the most targeted industries when it comes to cyber-attacks.  

Not only do misconfigured apps create vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit, but they may also inadvertently store or transmit data, putting the organization at risk of compliance violations, hefty fines, and lawsuits. 

Service disruptions and downtime 

Misconfigurations such as a misalignment between SaaS applications and on-site systems or incorrect load balance settings can be the cause of major disruptions to critical business operations. This can result in significant downtime, productivity loss, and customer dissatisfaction. Financial ramifications vary based on the industry but can range anywhere from thousands of dollars to millions per hour. 

Account compromise and unauthorized access 

Weak authentication mechanisms and improper access controls can leave user accounts vulnerable. Of particular concern are credential stuffing attacks, in which attackers use leaked or stolen credentials from one service to gain access to others.  

Misconfiguration may also lead to accounts with unnecessary access privileges or poorly monitored accounts, allowing attackers to access sensitive information within the SaaS environment, sometimes without being detected until it’s too late. 

Meet SaaS Security Challenges with Inversion6  

While SaaS applications offer a range of benefits for businesses, maintaining the proper security measures across the entirety of a company’s IT ecosystem is an arduous task.  

Staying on top of security measures like multi-factor authentication and password policies, performing frequent and regular audits of SaaS app configurations, educating and training employees, and implementing ongoing monitoring and incident response measures is a job that many businesses cannot afford to keep in-house. 

That’s where partnering with an experienced cybersecurity risk management professional comes in. 

At Inversion6, our SaaS security assessment can identify potential risks, compliance gaps, and areas where data breaches are most likely to occur in order to meet the specific SaaS security challenges of your company. From there, we offer tailored security solutions backed by the latest in innovative technologies to ensure your data remains protected and your company remains compliant with security requirements.  

SaaS security challenges can be overwhelming to address. Connect with our team today, and we’ll handle it for you. 

Post Written By: Inversion6
Inversion6 and our team of CISOs are experts in information security, storage, and networking solutions. We work alongside your team to implement technology solutions that are smart, flexible, and customized to fit your needs.

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