Securing Digital Transformation: How to Minimize Risk in the Cloud

SaaS businesses have seen countless benefits since migrating to the cloud — lower costs, improved usability, streamlined processes, and more efficient operations. As roughly 73% of companies are projected to have transitioned SaaS-based solutions for their software by the end of 2021, more organizations are bound to realize the advantages of SaaS in the months and years ahead. But the one thing that most companies often don’t consider is the increased security risk that comes with storing large amounts of sensitive data on the cloud. 

The Dark Cloud Over Cloud Migration: Information Exposure

In the first half of 2021 alone, more than 98.2 million people were affected by attacks on businesses across various sectors such as healthcare and automotive, with 3 out of the 10 largest breaches targeting tech companies. 

Here are steps you can take to ensure that your SaaS business remains secure and resilient against attacks, especially as your systems migrate to the cloud.

  1. Manage identity and access controls.

Identity and access management is your first line of defense against attacks launched from within your network. A single sign-on for multiple apps ensures security, as fewer credentials are required while still maintaining ease of access for users. Here’s an example of how Intel IT implements their SaaS security controls for IAM: 

  • Identity management — using multi-factor authentication to filter out inside actors from legitimate users; internal security providers for employee access, and external ones for third-party entities accessing the same apps
  • Access management and controls — verification codes or OTPs for smartphones and desktops; audio authentication through voice-call
  • Application and data controls — a hybrid encryption model for structured and unstructured data; DLP controls such as proxy-based real-time detection and offline repository inspection
  1. Determine your ideal SaaS provider.

Choosing the right SaaS provider may be a lengthy process, but one that’s worth effort, as far as security is concerned. The following are some key issues to consider when picking a SaaS provider:

  • Efficiency and Reliability. The ideal SaaS provider delivers a high application performance, has a foolproof incident response plan in place, and has an infrastructure stable enough to cater to distributed users in different network configurations.
  • Migration Services. A SaaS provider must be able to offer support across all of the data migration stages, from planning and assessment, to code refactoring, all the way to the final migration and post-migration testing. 
  • Compatibility. A distributed workforce would benefit from a SaaS platform that provides cross-platform compatibility across multiple work environments, regardless of operating system.
  • Security. None of the points mentioned above matter if your SaaS provider isn’t secure. It is important for CISOs to gather information about a SaaS provider’s security infrastructure and measures, data encryption policies, and security certifications to ensure compliance to regulations and best practices.
  1. Adapt to technology’s pace.

As more companies are expected to undergo a digital transformation, security teams are expected to take on increased responsibilities in safeguarding data as the SaaS model evolves over time and risks increase. 

Flexera’s 2021 State of the Cloud report revealed that 82% of 750 companies surveyed are using a hybrid cloud strategy, ensuring that the most sensitive data remains inaccessible while still offering the efficiency and flexibility that comes with the cloud. CISOs and CIOs are advised to implement a dynamic, unified trust and threat mitigation system, and move away from outdated legacy systems that integrate poorly with hybrid cloud environments and increase risk.

Achieving Least Privilege: A Top Challenge for CISOs

A recent study by IDC reported 80% of respondents are “not able to identify excessive access to sensitive data in cloud production environments,” making the practice of least privilege a top challenge for many CISOs. This is due to the fact that there is often little visibility into user activity within a network. Human error is not solely to blame, however — achieving least privilege has become more difficult because of a variety of technical measures, as well.

The only way to curb attacks after identifying where the breach came from is to limit access privileges among users within your network. This circles back to having robust IAM measures and policies in place, in addition to the practices listed below:

  • Manage access privileges by placing users into groups (job roles, departments, etc.) and conduct usage audits
  • Implement an account usage scheduling scheme and location restrictions if applicable
  • Apply machine-based restrictions
  • Secure your configurations — no default passwords; use multi-factor authentication

Final Thoughts

Leveraging cloud-computing platforms is more than just making your processes and operations efficient; it’s also about ensuring that the SaaS vendor you’ll partner with gauges the right metrics and has robust security protocols in place to safeguard all data. 

That said, we also have a guide on how a zero-trust model can reinforce your SaaS security stack. Read it here » 


Photography by Sajad Nori via Unsplash.

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