Understanding SaaS Security for DevOps

As Software-as-a-service (SaaS) and DevOps adoption grew, new teams were formed to address emerging security challenges. Traditional solutions weren’t built to detect the new vulnerabilities in the cloud and created excessive noise for an already stressed pool of resources.

The combination of emerging zero-day vulnerabilities and an avalanche of false-positives ends up increasing security problems and slowing down DevOps projects. The good news is that recent developments in security and visibility are now increasing speed and improving visibility.

Gartner forecast spending on public cloud services would reach $396 billion in 2021 and increase by 22% to reach $482 billion in 2022. SaaS applications based in the cloud have exploded with the market growing 18% each year; 99% of organizations will be using one or more SaaS applications by the end of this year.

What does this mean for security, especially for the security of personally identifiable information (PII) and business data in the enterprise? SaaS data includes, but is not limited to, customers’ sensitive PII and payment information; SaaS applications also house mission-critical enterprise information including product plans, patent information, business and operational processes and human resource records.

The extensive data held in SaaS applications presents huge security risks and costs for organizations globally. The average cost of a data breach exceeded $4.2 million, the most in the 17-year history of the IBM Cost of a Data Breach reportand nearly half of the breaches involved compromised PII, the costliest record type to lose, at $180 stolen record—an increase from $146 per record in 2020.

SaaS Offers New Ways to Do Business but Introduces Significant Risk

Salesforce is one of the most recognizable and widely used examples of enterprise SaaS software. Recently, analyst Vernon Keenan explained how Salesforce DevOps required guardrails. “Some companies go too fast when it comes to SaaS, DevOps and security, but smart developers and implementers will respect some basic guidelines to keep their product safe.”

The same is true of other SaaS software platforms and solutions.

General purpose application security testing solutions aren’t built for SaaS software environments, and often slow down DevOps processes as well as lack the necessary visibility into SaaS environments. Instead, the patchwork of tools must be replaced with a continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) approach. Specific steps include:

  1. Check all local and remote libraries. Only checking configurations and access controls, which focus mostly on insider threats, misses application vulnerabilities from custom development or app downloads that could open up your SaaS services to external threat actors.
  2. Carefully and routinely check third-party software libraries. If you are only testing source code and ignoring third-party software libraries, you are only securing half of your software application attack surface. CVEs are publicly reported every day on commonly used open source software libraries, showing attackers a direct path to compromise those key components. Running a software composition analysis (SCA) regularly to check all your locally bundled and remotely referenced libraries is a key step in achieving a secure software supply chain.
  3. Don’t assume you’re protected from common vulnerabilities. Static application security testing (SAST) can often miss cross-site scripting (XSS) or SOQL/SOSL injection attacks on SaaS platforms.

By identifying security vulnerabilities faster and more accurately, new SaaS security tools can allow organizations to gain the promised benefits of DevOps with better visibility.

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