How SaaS businesses can demonstrate their commitment to application security

The pandemic has made us all increasingly reliant on SaaS applications. SaaS applications were seen as a lifeline when many businesses had to resort to remote working. Tech companies use an average of 155 applications; the government sector made the most significant gains in application use, up 45% in the last year alone (Okta). The benefits to organizations are extensive, from optimized user experiences to improved workflow and enhanced performance. According to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, “Five hundred million SaaS apps are going to get created in the next five years… that’s more apps than in the last 40 years.” 

It’s predicted that SaaS businesses will replace traditional software service providers in the coming years because of the innovative and flexible solutions they offer and how relevant their services are to today’s remote workers. But they face one inevitable stumbling block: cybersecurity. Our reliance on SaaS applications has provided cybercriminals with their biggest opportunity yet. As a result, web applications are expected to remain the most frequent cause of confirmed breaches. The Verizon Data Breach Investigation report exposed 43% of data breaches are tied to web application vulnerabilities.

How do SaaS businesses strike a balance between accelerating their go-to-market and providing their customers with the security assurances they demand?

The potential threat and severity of cybercrime are at the forefront of every business leader’s mind. The estimated average cost of a data breach is $3.6 million as of 2020. The increasing regularity and sophistication of cyber-attacks mean that no business leader can assume their organization is protected. Recent high-profile cyberattacks will attest to that. The Microsoft Exchange Server Attack saw 60,000 companies and nine government agencies in the US alone experience disruption. And the notorious Equifax data breach affected 178 million consumers and was caused by application vulnerability.

With 68% of business leaders worried about the increase in cybersecurity risks, SaaS companies need to provide their customers with security assurance to stay relevant and competitive. SaaS businesses must delve into the security fears plaguing business leaders today to meet their customers’ security concerns.

In an ideal world, most business leaders would have their IT departments perform a manual risk assessment of each SaaS application used by their workforce. But with a large portion of employees still working remotely, this isn’t realistic. SaaS businesses should demonstrate their commitment to the accountability of their users’ security. 

SaaS applications security risks to organizations fall into three categories:

  1. Operational risk – the potential to cause downtime
  2. Data loss – data leakages caused by human error or cyberthreats. 95% of cybersecurity breaches are caused by human error (Cybint)
  3. Compliance or regulatory issues

The potential harm that vulnerabilities in your app can cause to your users is staggering.

Ten things that you can do to demonstrate your commitment to your users’ security:

  1. Instill a security culture in your organization for best-in-class solutions
  2. Provide security training for all your employees
  3. Educate your users – don’t assume that they have a good security posture because they are worried about security.
  4. Develop a security review checklist that keeps everyone on the same security page, with regular reviews and updates to help prioritize application quality and security
  5. Hire the best security team for the job – security resources are essential to a fully secure application
  6. Efficient data storage and deletion strategies – this needs to be accurate and on time to demonstrate the strongest commitment to security
  7. Sensitive data protection strategies – your main application and database need to be protected and kept safe from attacks
  8. Safeguard your infrastructure to make sure business continuity is unaffected
  9. Ensure compliance of audits and certifications
  10. Be transparent! Above all else, transparency will instill confidence in your users that you understand their security concerns and are willing to help them achieve peace of mind

According to Gartner, SaaS revenue is expected to grow to $133 billion in 2021, up from $87.5 billion in 2018. The competition is steep. To find out how to secure your place at the forefront of the SaaS application race, join The Ascent Annual Conference on October 6 – 8. We will be hosting a panel discussion on Application Security & Testing. Cybersecurity experts will discuss their fail-proof strategies for striking a balance between accelerating a SaaS business’s go-to-market and safeguarding the applications that fuel its growth and productivity.


Photography by Chris Montgomery via Unsplash

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