Threats SaaS Applications are Vulnerable to and How to Protect Them

Threats SaaS applications are vulnerable to and how to protect them

Known for their scalability and the ability to reduce operational and infrastructural expenditures, SaaS applications have revolutionized service delivery mechanisms. Businesses around the world are increasingly resorting to SaaS-based applications to run their organizations, offer services to their customers, collaborate with vendors and do more.

The Reality


According to statistics, close to 64% of the organisations admit to lacking confidence in their cybersecurity postures. Close to 73% of the companies that deploy SaaS have a minimum of one major (read critical) security misconfiguration. 


Not just that, SaaS applications are preferred by businesses for their security as massive volumes of confidential data can be stored on the cloud, away from the preys of hackers and intruders. Statistics also back that around 18.1% of the files that are uploaded to SaaS apps contain confidential data. Speaking of this, data loss and leakage also seem to be the two major concerns for SaaS users. 


Ironically, not many companies are even aware of the fact that SaaS applications are vulnerable to online threats and attacks. 


While the majority of such attacks are due to behavioural vulnerabilities, there’s no denying that  SaaS applications are susceptible to major breaches. 


In this blog, we are going to break down some of the most common types of threats SaaS applications are vulnerable to, so you can identify if you’re experiencing one of them and take corrective actions whenever required. 


Let’s get started.

Threats SaaS Applications Are Vulnerable To


DDoS Attacks


DDoS attacks are increasingly becoming prominent. In this, hackers or exploiters send massive volumes of service requests to a SaaS service provider. The requests are in such huge volumes that services crash or shut down. 


They are also making use of loopholes in the devices connected to an IoT environment or network to cause damage to data or achieve their desired motive. If you’re wondering what a DDoS attack could possibly do by shutting down services for a while, well, they could cost companies millions or thousands of dollars. 


Statistics show that around $1,000 to $10,000 are lost by businesses for every minute their services are shut down. This is apart from the scars such attacks leave on the reputation of a company. More complex attacks can also let hackers extract the credentials of users or help them gain access to confidential information.


Data Theft


Like you know, a SaaS portal houses a range of information including the most sensitive ones such as financial data (saved cards), customer details, intellectual properties and more. If the SaaS product is in the healthcare space, tons of personal data that is not de-identified yet also exist. Such data is always under cyber threats, where exploiters find vulnerabilities to gain access and exfiltrate the data. 


Identity Thefts


Identity theft is one of the most plaguing security concerns in the SaaS space. For the uninitiated, identity theft happens when a person disguises as another person or assumes the identity of another person and accesses content or confidential information through illicit ways. 


As far as SaaS applications are concerned, one could easily assume the identity of the actual account owner and initiate transactions from saved credit cards or credentials. Reports reveal that identity thefts were serious concerns in the year 2015 and that such instances were back during the pandemic.


To fight this, businesses are resorting to additional ways to verify users identity and details through layered encryption and validation techniques. 


Account Takeovers


Account takeovers are another plaguing security concerns in the SaaS space, where the security credentials of an employee (or employees) is obtained to intrude into systems. This happens either through sophisticated phishing attacks or illegally purchasing data from dark web resources. These carefully-planned attacks let exploiters gain access to sensitive spaces and breach the integrity of underlying data.


Data Storage And Access


This is one of the loopholes in security clauses. Most SaaS companies have offshore data centers, where they store the data of their users. Customers are often unsure of where their data is stored. Federal regulations and protocols also dictate terms, where the legalities associated with data sharing and handling are dependent on the country in which the data centre is located. 


This means, if you’re using your SaaS app from a different country when you travel, the local protocol may let your SaaS business share your information with other vendors for commercial purposes.


Password-specific Attacks


Password-based attacks are probably the most common cybersecurity concerns with respect to SaaS applications and suites. And no , this is very different from password sharing we all indulge in of our preferred streaming services. Unlike this situation, password-specific attacks happen without the knowledge or authorization of a user. 


To give you a better idea, there are three types of password-based attacks:


  • Credential stuffing – the compromised credentials after an exposure to the public are used by hackers with an intention that the users of such credentials wouldn’t have changed their passwords to login to their services.

  • Password spray – where some of the most obvious passwords are used to gain access to multiple services at different times to ensure zero lockout of accounts. Password sprays also skip the sensibilities of account owners sometimes.

  • Brute-force – where hackers use multiple combinations of passwords or usernames with an idea that one of them would be correct. Though this is difficult to pull off, hackers who have it lucky find it cheap and efficient.

SaaS Application Protection Best Practices

Regardless of whether you are a SaaS user or a manager in a company deploying SaaS products, follow these best practices to keep undesirable consequences at bay. 


  1. Understand the critical assets in your environment that could be hacked or compromised. Create a review checklist to address how you could protect them with security defense in depth. Update the checklist frequently

  2. Prioritise security in your organisation. Bring in tech experts, educate your peers and team members on cybersecurity risks, prioritise  security as part of your company culture. This will subconsciously make your team members go for a secure way in accomplishing tasks.


  3. With the rise in GDPR and protocols, now is the time to be more aware and cautious about customer data. Ensure you implement data deletion policies to safeguard the confidentiality and integrity of your customer or client data. Take measures to delete customer data when they ask you to. Maintain log files to record these instances as well.
  4. If you’re a SaaS vendor, take adequate steps to securely deploy your services. Research about cloud security practices and protocols and implement the best standards to ensure data security.


  5. One of the first steps in developing an airtight cybersecurity strategy is identifying the critical assets in your organisation. Having the basic understanding of what you need to protect will open your mindset to possible threats your organisation is prone to and come up with better ways to handle them. So, start by making a checklist of all the critical assets you have and then prioritise them on the probable severity of vulnerabilities or attacks. Then, work on adding security layers to patch the loopholes or vulnerabilities and then have a recovery plan in hand to tackle the aftermath of attacks as well.


  6. Educating your employees on cybersecurity is the next step. Have workshops or bootcamps on the importance of cybersecurity and the nature of work they are dealing with on a daily basis. Let them know about the consequences of a security breach and its impact on the organisation. Once they have this knowledge, upskill them to using the latest cybersecurity tools and empower every employee in your team to be able to independently handle attacks and threats.


  7. Deploy or integrate cloud security products such as DLP (Data Loss Prevention), AMP (Advanced Malware Protection), CASB (Cloud Access Security Brokers), email security and more. These work on diverse aspects of SaaS protection such as safeguarding of intellectual property, predicting zero-day attacks and sophisticated malwares and more.


  8. Lastly, if you feel an expert could look into your cybersecurity division and take responsibility for protecting your SaaS platforms, collaborate with a managed service provider.