What is SaaS Security?

5min. read

In a SaaS model—where a company’s applications and data reside on third-party infrastructure, and the company’s employees can access those apps anywhere, from any device— taking a traditional approach to security is not enough.

Software as a service (SaaS) is a model in which a vendor remotely hosts and delivers software applications as a service to customers over the internet. This form of software delivery has become increasingly popular over the past decade as it allows companies to access and use a wide variety of applications on-demand in a “pay-as-you-go” manner, instead of having to build and maintain their own technology infrastructure in-house.

This growing demand for SaaS applications is also why IDC, a global market intelligence firm, estimates SaaS application purchases will account for “more than half of all public cloud services spending through 2019.” And, Gartner, a leading research and advisory firm, predicts that by 2020, 80 percent of historical software vendors will have migrated to a subscription-based business model.


But just like with traditional technology infrastructures, adopting and using SaaS applications can pose significant risks to a company including:  

  • Security breaches.
  • Sensitive data being lost or stolen.
  • Application vulnerabilities and potentially propagating malware.
  • End users downloading and using applications that were never approved by the company’s IT department.
  • Not complying with regulations such as the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), ISO-27001, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act [SOX], the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act [HIPAA], and others.
  • Application downtime.


Thus, it’s important for a company to understand these risks, and take steps to minimize them.

SaaS Security Defined

Many years ago when a company wanted to protect its technology infrastructure and users, it simply put a variety of different security software and tools in place. But in a SaaS model—where a company’s applications and data reside on third-party infrastructure, and the company’s employees have the ability to access those applications anytime, anywhere, and from any device—just taking the traditional approach to security is not enough.

That’s because in a SaaS environment:

  • A company’s network administrators don’t have any visibility into the SaaS vendor’s technology infrastructure, or how the SaaS vendor stores and secures data. This means many of the tools IT professionals use to secure a company’s on-premise technology either can’t be extended to or won’t work for SaaS applications. Plus, even if they could be extended, it’s almost impossible for a company to ensure effective SaaS security with layered point products anyway.
  • Companies don’t have a way to monitor and control which applications are being accessed and used and by whom, or even what content is being uploaded and downloaded.

To compensate, companies need a solution that can:

  • Secure their SaaS applications, data, and users, and increase endpoint security for devices such as smartphones, tablets, desktop computers, laptops, etc.
  • Monitor and manage user behavior so they know what’s happening at all times, and minimize any potential security or “shadow IT” risks.
  • Protect any data in transit between their company and SaaS providers.
  • Ensure regulatory compliance.
  • Prevent data leakage. 


If your company is in this situation and needs to increase its SaaS security, below are a few ideas on how and where to get started.

How to Minimize Your Company’s SaaS Risks

  • Develop a solid strategy for securing your SaaS applications, data, and users.
  • Put a complete end-to-end solution in place (one that will not only ensure network and data security, but also perimeter and environment security as well).
  • Classify and manage your SaaS applications based on how much trust your company has in them.
  • Add visibility and security controls, such as identity and access management, advanced threat protection, analytics, and others, to prevent any unauthorized access and use of your company’s SaaS applications and data.
  • Create well-defined SaaS application usage policies.
  • Educate your team on your company’s policies, as well as what your company expects of them when using SaaS applications. 
  • Proactively identify and mitigate any potential security and compliance risks.
  • Immediately quarantine any users and data whenever a policy violation occurs.

Finding the Right Security Vendor

Finding the right vendor to help your company secure its SaaS applications, data, and users can take time. But it’s well worth the effort. After all, when it comes to your company’s security, you want the best SaaS security experts, professional guidance, and solutions you can get.

For more information on how to effectively bridge the SaaS security gap, visit: https://www.paloaltonetworks.com/cloud-security/prisma-saas

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