Awesome Jerry Explains Common Threats in SaaS: Malware Propagation

Jul 28, 2016
3 minutes
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Hi everyone! I’m Jerry, and I work in IT. You may have seen my recent video introducing the benefits of using Aperture SaaS security service from Palo Alto Networks to safely enable SaaS applications.

The video did a great job of introducing the benefits of Aperture, but I want to share more details about the common risks that SaaS applications pose across the organization when used.

SaaS applications have revolutionized the way data is stored, and shared, and have dramatically improved the way organizations collaborate. These applications are designed by SaaS providers themselves and, once your data is stored, that data is no longer within your network perimeter and sits in another vendor’s cloud. This leaves your data, and your organization, vulnerable to attacks.

So how do you secure your data and protect against incoming threats? You need to understand what the threats in SaaS applications are. This blog post is the first in a series where I discuss the three most common threats in SaaS applications: malware propagation, accidental exposure and malicious data exfiltration.

Malware Propagation

Malware propagation is a prominent threat in SaaS applications. With SaaS applications essentially being storage clouds, they become an effective distribution medium for malware.

There are several characteristics of SaaS applications that leave them vulnerable to threats. First and foremost, SaaS applications automatically sync across devices and users, making it very easy to distribute malware. Additionally, these application connections are encrypted, using SSL connections to talk to the application, making it harder for an intermediary to break the connection and inspect the data. This setup has created a completely encrypted medium for malware distribution and removes the possibility for a middleman to remove the malicious data. This minimizes visibility into the application and, ultimately, prevents IT from monitoring the application, assessing risk or preventing attacks.

In utilizing SaaS applications, a cybercriminal wouldn’t need to send spear-phishing emails that have links for victims to click. All they would have to do is upload a file that contains malware to the SaaS application. In fact, Unit 42 recently observed this tactic being used in the wild. Once the file is uploaded to a shared folder, it is automatically synced across the users, deploying the malicious payload throughout multiple devices.

With the rapid growth in usage of SaaS applications like Dropbox, Box and Office 365, it is important to understand the threats and take measures to protect your applications. To learn more about protecting your SaaS applications, read 3 Steps to Taking Control of SaaS Applications.

Stay tuned for my second post, where I go into the risks of accidental exposure.

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