10 SaaS Security Risks And Concerns Every User Has

What are cloud security issues?
Cloud security issues are threats associated with cloud-hosted applications and other internet-only access arrangements. The problems range from unauthorized access to confidential data and identity theft. These issues are initiated by the illegal activities of cybercriminals for wide-ranging gains.

Convenience. This is the main reason why most organizations transfer their data to the cloud. But the question is: how well are those banks of information protected? There are many other concerns that you should think of regarding SaaS security. These include data access risk, identity theft, and control over your information. It is so, even during the coronavirus pandemic.

In this article, we list the prominent issues related to SaaS subscriptions and expound on them to help you better understand what they are. After reading this, you will have a deeper awareness of IT security software and potential concerns. These will help you protect your business data as well as those of your customers.

cloud security issues

As late as the fourth quarter of 2019, large organizations were deploying digital transformation at their own leisurely pace. Then the coronavirus epidemic had them scrambling to their feet. Before the end of the first quarter of 2020, these organizations painted a vastly different landscape.

While the threat of total shutdown did its part in fast-tracking SaaS deployment, much of it is also due to the growing trust in the security capability of SaaS. In particular, this is indicated by the sharp increase in traffic at Zscaler, a top SaaS security provider, which saw an increase of 200% from the fourth quarter of 2019 to the first quarter of 2020. Over the same period, its performance perfectly synced with the increasing demand for Microsoft Teams and Zoom Meeting as the chart below shows:

Source: ARKInvest 2020

As fear about security has largely diminished in the SaaS world, large organizations threw in their vote by announcing that they would allow permanent work from home for their staff. Nevertheless, if you are thinking to follow suit, proceed with caution and take heed of the following SaaS risks and concerns first.

1. Data Access Risk

If you are leaving crucial business information and data in the hands of a third party, your first concern should be about who else gets access to your data. You know very well that these days, even top companies are no strangers to cybercriminals lurking and just waiting to pounce any chance they get, carting away information illegally and milking them for all they’re worth.

It stands to reason that you should be able to review and discuss the policies and procedures provided by your SaaS vendor of choice. Your first line of defense is the ability to define the levels of access and to whom you grant them. All providers are required to include that condition in the Terms of Agreement, but make sure to check before signing so that you can spare yourself all the troubles later.

You must be aware of the kind of privacy questions you should ask SaaS providers and do not hesitate to familiarize yourself with the technical details involved. It’s also a good practice to try the product first for free. In this way, you can see firsthand how much of your data will be hosted on the vendor’s server-side and how much risks you are willing to take.

saas facts

2. Stability

Security and stability are the true pillars of a reliable SaaS software. These services are becoming increasingly popular, which is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it means more options for users and high-quality services because it forces every single provider to keep up with the competition. On the other hand, not everyone will be able to keep up with the growing market. In the end, your chosen security provider might end up shutting down as it can no longer compete.

When this happens, you will come face-to-face with the daunting task of addressing data portability. It’s a major concern because it means that all the time and money you invested in a particular service could go down the drain, your crucial information asset, along with it. Unfortunately, it’s a risk you will have to take.

The situation is largely unpredictable. If things go south, what will happen to all your data once the SaaS provider meets some rough spots in the course of doing business? It may not be as dramatic as a complete shutdown of the service, but you may encounter changes in prices or security policy. To alleviate your worries, make sure you read the policy carefully regarding these issues before you are confronted with a potential data leak due to their protection services being no longer active.

3. Lack of Transparency

SaaS providers are often secretive. On the surface, they assure their clients that they are better at keeping their clients’ data safe than any other providers out there. At the very least, they guarantee that they are capable of securing information and files more proficiently than the customer themselves. However, it is better not to take their word at face value. There are bound to be valid concerns regarding the provider’s lack of transparency on how it actually handles its entire security protocol.

Unfortunately, the matter is up for debate. But this lack of transparency may cause distrust from customers. Both clients and industry analysts are not getting answers to several security questions. It leaves them with gaps and speculations about the service they are employing or reviewing. However, SaaS providers argue that the lack of transparency is what keeps their services secure as divulging information about data centers or operations might compromise the security of their clients. The argument may appear reasonable for numerous users, but it still leaves others with concerns.

4. Identity Theft

SaaS providers always require payment through credit cards that can be done remotely. It’s a quick and convenient method, but it opens up concerns about potential risks. The internet reveals an alarming number of cases of identity theft. So far, the year 2015 had the most cases, before it picked up again during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can, of course, acquire an identity management solution if you need one.

Source: Statista 2020

Providers often do not have a better solution for identity management than the company’s firewall. Identity theft then becomes a major concern that is often prevented only with the use of numerous security tools. This implies using additional software and perhaps payment of services that guarantee the safety of your credit card information.

It’s an issue that stems from managing access, which is famously easy for SaaS, and the fact that the strategy may change through time. This can often result in concerns, especially for first-time users who have not properly researched the provider before payment.

5. Uncertainty of Your Data’s Location

Most SaaS providers do not disclose where their data centers are located, keeping customers in the dark where their volumes of data are actually stored. At the same time, you must also be aware of the regulations placed by the Federal Information Security Management Act, which states that customers need to keep sensitive data within the country. This means that you might not have access to your data if you’re flying out of the US or that you might have other options.

Should you travel outside the country, your SaaS provider will notify you that your information has been sent to another one of their centers (in Europe, for example). This means that your sensitive data is being transferred for your convenience and access, but at the same time, it leaves you wondering where it is exactly. Some firms, such as Symantec, offer their services in over a dozen countries, but it’s not a guarantee from every provider. You probably will not know where your valuable data is at a given time.

6. Paying Upfront and Long-Term

Financial security is an issue born out of your agreement to use a SaaS provider. A good majority of them require both upfront and long term payment. That’s even if you are unsure of how long you will need their service or if something in their policy will change through time. It’s a concern of investing in a potentially crucial part of the company that might not be at par and might not satisfy you as a customer. Some might even force you to pay a year ahead. Once the payment is made, your funds have been taken, and you have the service at hand.

However, that does not provide all customers with security. The service will remain, as settled by contract, but the quality and security might change. There are worries that users might end up with an application that no longer updates itself, which can affect both its use and safety. If the encryption is not kept up to date, you may open yourself to several security issues, leaving your data compromised. It’s a detail to be checked before paying the provider.

7. Not Sure What You Agreed To

Every business is required to provide terms and conditions that explain, in lengthy detail, the nuances of how their service works. However, not everyone bothers to read the wordy document that is standard practice. Even more, not all are IT aficionados with expertise in the slang commonly used in that niche. This might have them end up agreeing with a few things they do not adequately understand. And then, when problems arise, most customers are not quite sure what exactly they agreed upon when signing.

The ideal situation would be to have someone familiar with the SaaS service check the Terms and Conditions document to familiarize you with the basics and details. Or, have separate departments read different sections that might affect their activity. It’s the safest way for you to not have worries later on regarding what you signed up for and what awaits in the case of issues.

8. How Your Data Is Actually Secured

You should always know where and how your data is secured, but some explanations might not be precisely understood. Not everyone knows and understands encryption protocols or what the other fine details mean. You should be worried about certain aspects of the tech part, such as how your data can be recovered or restored regarding issues.  The very existence of restoring capabilities naturally implies that there are servers out there that are storing your sensitive data and keeping it safe. But how safe?

SaaS providers have to make sure that their customers are well informed through their Privacy Policy about how it all works. Even more, they should offer a standardized form on how they handle disaster recovery in case their servers get shut down by an outage or natural phenomenon that might cause damage. Clients may, unfortunately, have no guarantees that it will be possible, and it is certainly a worry that sensitive data may be lost forever.

9. No Direct Control Over Your Own Data

Along with concerns that the SaaS provider’s servers could shut down for good, there are risks and worries regarding the fact that your data is not really under your control. The good side is that you don’t have to configure, manage, maintain, or upgrade your cybersecurity. The downside of that is that you essentially lose some control over your data. For example, should something happen, and your data is lost, you will have to contact the service provider, wait for their answer no matter how long that takes, and only then get an answer of what might have happened.

It all depends on the level of customizability the provider offers, which, again, maybe limited. The SaaS provider is in charge of the responsibilities concerning data storage. That may be a relief, but it’s also a loss of control to a certain degree that opens users to worries and, in some cases, costs them a lot of time waiting for answers when faced with issues.

10. The Service May Not Keep Up with Modern Security Standards

Plenty of providers boast of their security credentials and prove to their users that they have excellent control over their data and security. However, most will speak of standards that are not up to date, and it does say quite a lot about how mature a service really is. It offers the possibility that while the data may be safe now, it might not be in a year or two when protocols have changed, policies have been updated, and risks have heightened. And, as mentioned above, most providers insist on long-term investment in their SaaS software.

You need to make sure that your provider stays up to date with security measures to alleviate this particular worry. However, you may rest assured that many of them need to maintain their software updated and their servers maintained. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to keep up with their competition. SaaS is always an excellent option, but there are pitfalls to the practice that haven’t been fixed yet. It leaves several users worried and possibly reluctant to continue with the subscription. However, they can all be eliminated if you tread carefully, pay attention, and treat it with the utmost care.

ManageEngine Firewall Analyzer dashboard.

The ManageEngine Firewall Analyzer dashboard shows you exactly what is happening with your devices.

System Security Is Not an Option

It may be tempting to forego system security because it can be expensive or because you have little to no knowledge of the exact nature or functions of the security programs. However, you will be opening your organization up to more risks if you ignore the need for a security solution.

What you can do is thoroughly research the IT security applications you might need. It is also important to consult with your IT professionals and let them weigh in on the matter. You may also want to meet them in the middle, in case their suggested tools are out of your budget range. Once you have reached an agreement, then it is time to get in touch with a potential IT security service provider like Airwatch or its alternatives.

You should ask all the questions you believe are relevant, especially when it comes to who has access to your data, where your data will be housed, the terms for the SLA, the security standards they have, and more. Your vendor should be able to resolve your queries and assure you of the total protection of your company’s information.

On that note, here are five questions you might want to ask:

  1. Will you store our credit card information on your server?
  2. Who owns the data if we stop using your platform?
  3. What measures do you have against security breaches?
  4. Are you up-to-date with industry requirements?
  5. How often do you review your security?

Only when you are assured of the integrity of the vendor should you make the final decision. When you have your IT security solution set up, you can look at and apply these 5 tips to improve your business’s security.

Allan Jay

By Allan Jay

Allan Jay is FinancesOnline’s resident B2B expert with over a decade of experience in the SaaS space. He has worked with vendors primarily as a consultant in the UX analysis and design stages, lending to his reviews a strong user-centric angle. A management professional by training, he adds the business perspective to software development. He likes validating a product against workflows and business goals, two metrics, he believes, by which software is ultimately measured.

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