Safeguarding your SaaS business

Amit Ashwini
Amit helps top companies build remarkable web & mobile products via Zibtek

The software as a service (SaaS) market or SaaS business is expanding at an impressive speed across the globe. It is a powerful driver for technology innovation, helping businesses stay ahead in this digital era. Gartner projects that spending on SaaS tools will grow to $85 billion in 2019. Enterprise leaders are predicting that in the coming years their company and customer data will probably be stored in third-party applications.

With the increasing amount of data getting stored in the cloud, it is the responsibility of SaaS business owners to create an environment that protects servers and systems against theft, data breaches, crashes, and internal failures. According to IBM 2018 Cost of a Data Breach Study more than 500 companies suffered a data breach and the average cost to the company was $3.9 million. To protect your SaaS business from these breaches, you should have:

  • Strong adherence to security protocols;
  • Powerful protection and back-up plans from threats;
  • Consistent performance and intelligent layers of security to prevent unauthorized access to your customers’ data.

For better security in this growing SaaS-based environment and to provide the right amount of security support to your customers, here are some of the most important strategies to consider for your business.

Safeguarding your SaaS business With SOC 2

As companies increasingly leverage the cloud to speed-up their businesses, there is also a rising threat of security and data breaches. For business security in cloud-based SaaS applications, SOC 2 is the most common technical auditing procedure. It enables SaaS business owners to securely manage their data and maintain the privacy of their clients.

Other standards such as the Privacy Shield program or certification by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) can be essential as well, but SOC 2 is specifically designed for SaaS business owners storing customer data in the cloud.

SOC 2 certifications prove that:

  • Your organization has identified and evaluated risk with best practices and tools.
  • Your organization’s systems are properly protected against unauthorized access.

This trust is a powerful tool for growth in building customer relationships.  

Before proceeding further, let’s understand what exactly SOC 2 is and how SaaS business owners create SOC 2 reports.

What is SOC 2?

SOC 2 is a report that is developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). The purpose of an SOC 2 report is to:

  • Assess and analyze information security systems, specifically in its security, processing integrity, availability, confidentiality and privacy. These trust principles are briefly defined as:
    1. Security: Defense against unauthorized access or changes.
    2. Availability: Assures that the system is running as required.
    3. Processing integrity: Performing transactions accurately.
    4. Confidentiality: Ensuring that the information in the system is properly protected.
    5. Privacy: Personal data is managed and secured properly.
  • Ensure information security measures are aligned with the parameters of cloud requirements.

Types of SOC 2 reports

Type I report –

  • It evaluates your current setup to determine if it is adequate.
  • It’s a starting step that establishes what kinds of controls you have.
  • It illustrates if these controls are suitable to meet trust principles or not.
  • It determines how often you perform certain activities.

Type II report –

  • It has everything that is described in Type I report, but it also looks at the operational effectiveness of the system design over a period of time.
  • It describes how security is managed in the current systems.
  • It shows how the SaaS business owners are performing those activities over a period of time.

Each report type takes several months to provide documented answers to many difficult questions.

How do SaaS business owners create SOC 2 report?

  1. Pick an auditor.
  2. Coordinate with the auditor to specify the principles and provide the auditor with attestation of designs and controls in order to meet each principle.
  3. On-site meetings are conducted to demonstrate and document the collected details accurately.
  4. The auditor provides a report after data gathering.
  5. Management authenticates the information provided by the auditor.

Important things you need to know about SOC 2 to safeguard your SaaS business

SOC 2 compliance certification evaluates every aspect of your business, including:

  • Physical access to the building,
  • Employees’ devices,
  • Data management of the cloud,
  • Server network monitoring,
  • Employee onboarding,
  • Continuous training.

Here are some of the key points you should learn about SOC 2 to ensure security in your SaaS business:

Embrace the known

An important principle of Saas businesses is that you can’t manage what you can’t measure. According to IDC, businesses have spent $1.67 trillion on technology (hardware, software, and services) in 2018. Of these expenditures, approximately 50% of that came from the budgets of technology buyers outside of IT. This creates new instances of applications that need to be administered and managed across the enterprise. Also, if these applications are not properly evaluated, the organization’s security could be jeopardized.

While undergoing SOC 2 Type I process:

  • First, analyze every software application in your business;
  • Then, eliminate the software applications that don’t meet the security criteria.

To evaluate your SaaS application with a compliance focus, you should consider the following to assess risk factors:

  • Identify applications that store sensitive data;
  • Know where those data are stored;
  • Look for protections and back-up plans in case something goes wrong.

You should undertake this process to create a new threshold for your business.

To maintain the integrity of your governance structure, you should choose only vendors or solutions providers that possess an equal or higher certification rating than your own.

Every detail is essential

When the focus is on creating excellence for every detail, the results will demonstrate this. This philosophy indeed resonates with SOC 2 certification in the security aspect.

Consider and plan every tiny detail, including who can access the office, which system will observe and alert if an unusual transaction occurs, how to add additional security layers for every business app, while keeping the best security outlook in mind.

While building an SOC 2 plan and delivering this new information to your employees, you should:

Contextualize information in person – It is always better to contextualize information vocally, presenting these communications as part of orientation and training sessions.

Define your own standard – By defining the standards according to your company’s culture, you can avoid having a third-party impose their set of standards. On the other hand, it will also reflect your team effort that requires personal ownership for every member.

Strengthening security needs to be the norm, not the exception

A sustainable security culture enables an organization to manage risk and implement integrated security for enterprise business architectures. The organization must instill the concept that security belongs to everyone. Business leaders should plan a security awareness training for every employee in a way that encourages employees to remain alert to security issues in their daily work.

To incorporate security into your vision and mission, you should:

  • Have a Secure Development Lifecycle (SDL) to build security in your application and services.
  • Make security training fun and engaging by going beyond simple PowerPoint presentation and videos. You can try gamification or a fun theme.
  • Build a security community to have weekly or monthly meetings to discuss current security-related problems in the organization.