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  • Writer's pictureLincoln Heacock

How to Assess a SaaS Vendor's Security

In today's world, cloud computing has become essential for businesses of all sizes. According to a study, 83% of enterprise workloads have been migrated to the cloud. With this shift to the cloud, Software as a Service (SaaS) vendors have become a critical component of the IT ecosystem. Using SaaS applications for everything from productivity suites to customer relationship management tools can significantly improve a company's productivity and bottom line.

However, the increased reliance on SaaS vendors also presents new cybersecurity challenges. In a SaaS environment, the vendor is responsible for securing the underlying infrastructure, while the customer is responsible for securing their data and access to the application. Therefore, it is essential to research, assess and decide if a SaaS vendor's cybersecurity is reliable before entrusting them with your company's sensitive data. This blog post will outline the steps you can take to ensure that your chosen SaaS vendor is secure and trustworthy.


Step 1: Identify the security risks

The first step in researching and assessing a SaaS vendor's cybersecurity is identifying the security risks relevant to your organization. Focusing on the appropriate security risks will help your research efforts and determine which security controls to look for when evaluating vendors. Some of the most common security risks associated with SaaS vendors include the following:

  1. Unauthorized access: If a SaaS vendor's application is not appropriately secured, attackers may gain unauthorized access to your data.

  2. Data breaches: If a SaaS vendor's infrastructure is not secure, attackers may be able to steal or compromise your sensitive data.

  3. Data loss: A disaster or outage may cause critical data loss if the SaaS vendor does not correctly back up their application.

  4. Service interruptions: Your business operations may be affected if a SaaS vendor's application experiences downtime or service interruptions.

  5. Compliance violations: If a SaaS vendor is not compliant with relevant regulations, your organization may face legal and financial consequences.

Once you have identified the security risks relevant to your organization, you can start researching potential SaaS vendors to determine how well they address them.


Step 2: Research potential vendors

The next step in assessing a SaaS vendor's cybersecurity is researching potential vendors. There are several resources you can use to gather information about SaaS vendors, including:

  1. Online reviews: Look for reviews of the SaaS vendor on sites like Gartner, TrustRadius, or Capterra.

  2. Industry reports: Check out industry reports that evaluate SaaS vendors, such as the Gartner Magic Quadrant or the Forrester Wave.

  3. Vendor websites: Visit the vendor's website and look for information on their security practices and certifications.

  4. Social media: Check the vendor's social media profiles to see what they say about their security practices and any recent security incidents.

  5. Customer references: Reach out to current vendor customers and ask about their experiences with the vendor's security practices.

When researching potential SaaS vendors, look for information on their security practices, certifications, and compliance with relevant regulations. It would be best to look for any history of security incidents or data breaches and the vendor's response to them.

Step 3: Evaluate security controls

Once you have identified potential vendors and gathered information about their security practices, the next step is to evaluate the security controls they have in place. Some of the security controls you should look for when evaluating SaaS vendors include:

  1. Data encryption: Look for vendors that encrypt data in transit and at rest.

  2. Access controls: Look for vendors with robust access controls, such as multi-factor authentication and role-based access.

  3. Disaster recovery and business continuity: Look for vendors with a disaster recovery plan to ensure business continuity during an outage.

  4. Vulnerability management: Look for vendors with a robust vulnerability management program and regularly conduct security assessments and penetration testing.

  5. Compliance: Look for vendors that are compliant with relevant regulations, such as GDPR, HIPAA, or PCI DSS.

  6. Incident response: Look for vendors with an incident response plan who can respond quickly and effectively to security incidents.

It's essential to evaluate the security controls of potential SaaS vendors thoroughly. Ask the vendor for more information about their security controls if you need more clarification. Also, remember that different vendors may have various security controls in place, so you'll need to prioritize which controls are most important for your organization.

Step 4: Ask the right questions

In addition to researching potential vendors and evaluating their security controls, asking the right questions during vendor selection is crucial. Some of the questions you should ask include the following:

  1. What security controls do you have in place to protect my data?

  2. Have you experienced any security incidents or data breaches in the past? If so, how did you respond to them?

  3. Do you have any third-party security certifications, such as SOC 2 or ISO 27001?

  4. What is your disaster recovery plan, and how will you ensure business continuity during an outage?

  5. How do you handle vulnerability management, and how often do you conduct security assessments and penetration testing?

  6. How do you ensure compliance with relevant regulations like GDPR, HIPAA, or PCI DSS?

  7. What is your incident response plan, and how quickly can you respond to security incidents?

Asking these questions can help you better understand a vendor's security practices and determine whether they fit your organization well.


Step 5: Monitor vendor security

Finally, it's essential to continue monitoring the security practices of your chosen SaaS vendor even after you've selected them. Monitoring your SaaS vendor can help you identify any potential security issues early on and take action to mitigate them.

Some of the best practices for monitoring vendor security include:

  1. Reviewing security reports: Ask the vendor to provide regular security reports that detail their security practices and any security incidents.

  2. Conducting regular assessments: Conduct regular security assessments and penetration testing to ensure that the vendor's security controls are working effectively.

  3. Staying up-to-date with regulations: Stay up-to-date with relevant laws and ensure the vendor remains compliant.

  4. Updating contracts: Update contracts regularly to ensure they reflect any security practices or regulations changes.

  5. Monitoring news and social media: Monitor news and social media for any reports of security incidents involving the vendor.

By regularly monitoring the security practices of your SaaS vendor, you can ensure that your organization's sensitive data is always secure and protected.

Conclusion

SaaS vendors have become essential to many organizations' IT ecosystems in today's cloud-based world. However, entrusting your data to a third-party vendor requires careful research, assessment, and decision-making. By identifying the security risks relevant to your organization, researching potential vendors, evaluating their security controls, asking the right questions, and monitoring their security practices, you can ensure that you choose a SaaS vendor with reliable cybersecurity practices. Remember, cybersecurity is not a one-time thing; it requires constant attention and effort to secure your data. Following the steps outlined in this blog post ensures that your organization's sensitive data is always secured and protected.


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