Penetration Testing for SaaS Companies

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25 Apr, 2019

Penetration Testing for SaaS Companies

If you are running a SaaS company, your requirements change continuously due to a variety of factors. These factors include the agile development process at the core, responding to customer-specific queries, and adapting to regulations. For a SaaS company to succeed, customer trust is the biggest factor driving the sales. Unlike other types of services providers, cybersecurity has become a strategic component for SaaS companies. It then becomes a necessity of a SaaS company to ensure the maximum level of security possible for the services being provided.

In a highly competitive business environment, SaaS companies tend to focus on the speed of design, innovation, and usability. This focus is driven by the cost factor – faster development process will require a lesser number of working hours and eventually, decrease the overall cost of development. In turn, DevSecOps has emerged as a new practice where security is inherently incorporated in the entire development process.

How is security for SaaS companies different?

Security in SaaS companies is primarily different than other companies due to two different reasons – first, a plethora of organizational and customer data, and second, complex and regularly updated applications. Storage and segregation of data stored with a SaaS company significantly increase the complexity of security. On the other hand, most of the countries around the world now have a robust regulatory set up for dealing with data breaches. This factor is also a major driving factor for SaaS companies to be more concerned about their security.

With many regulations requiring regular testing and assessment of an organization’s technical infrastructure, this is where penetration testing comes in. When you have a well-defined procedure for identifying loopholes and vulnerabilities in your applications and systems, understanding how they can be exploited, and what can be the potential impact on your business if an attacker actually exploits an existing vulnerability, you do not need to look anywhere else.

Important Security Aspects for a SaaS Company

Why is Penetration Testing important for SaaS companies?

Reason 1: Software and applications are critical assets.

For SaaS companies, their entire business model relies on how good their applications or software actually are. Here, the definition of “good” cannot be explicitly limited to words, but it is an undeniable fact that it indeed includes security. Having efficient security controls and mechanisms in your software as well as in your organizational processes takes you one step ahead of the competition. Although many experts often classify the security as the number one adoption challenge for SaaS industry, showing security upfront in your sales pitch eliminates a major chunk of questions related to your SaaS development cycle. Or in other words, penetration test reports are eye candy for salespeople.

Reason 2: Application security matters.

Consider a scenario when your product – enterprise software for managing customer data – requires servers to be deployed in the local area network of your client. In this scenario, the security of the said local area network is important and hence, network penetration tests will be conducted. These days, on demand low-cost services, are being provided over the cloud infrastructure. This has shifted the focus from network penetration tests to application penetration tests.

Reason 3: Manual testing is still vital.

Automation has resulted in increased complexity of applications and they are now being driven by APIs while DevOps has resulted in the deployment of code faster than ever. Automated vulnerability scanners should be an option, not a default choice. It takes a team of security experts to go to lengths and breadths of an application to find serious threats which are often missed out by scanners.

Reason 4: Specialization wins.

Previously, buying a comprehensive enterprise software solution or security solution used to effectively do the job. With dynamically evolving cyberspace, an organization cannot rely on general products or employees with general skills. In order to deal with modern-day threats, an organization needs human resources with different specializations that fit in in a team to achieve the business objectives. Similarly, SaaS companies will need to hire specialized talent, or avail services of an independent expert, or choose an appropriate vendor with the required specialization for conducting a penetration test.

Reason 5: Agile development requires agile penetration testing.

If your organization adheres to principles of DevOps, then conducting traditional penetration tests will do more harm than good to your development process. Scan everything at once and perform penetration tests once a year will not do justice either. In agile development, products are regularly updated with new features and every new feature which is not tested is basically an implied invitation for the attackers. This is where DevSecOps i.e. security in DevOps will come to your rescue.