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Protecting Cloud Applications: A SaaS Point of View

Protecting Cloud Applications: A SaaS Point of View


With several Cloud computing platforms emerging in the last few decades, many companies have adopted the Software as a service (SaaS) model to easily implement software solutions. A custom Software Development company in Dallas Texas or a software development company from any other state can easily implement a SaaS solution for your business without the need of hiring an entire team to scale and manage servers as was the case in the past. This eliminates some threats to security but vulnerabilities could still exist and potentially be exploited if your SaaS platform is poorly developed and implemented.

Protecting cloud SaaS against some common security threats:

There are several threats that your SaaS application could be exposed to that it may be difficult to identify every single one. It is good practice to try and identify them through the stages of the System development life cycle depending on the nature of services you are offering. Let us highlight some of the most common ones.

SQL injection

This is a technique used to send malicious SQL statements through an input field which is executed on a database server and finally returns potentially valuable data. One of the best ways to protect against SQL injections is to ensure user input is validated and sanitized before being sent to the database for querying. However, sanitization is not 100% full proof. There are many ways. Using PDO as opposed to MySQL procedural when working with PHP and SQL databases is also better as the PDO has the prepared statement which can be used to sanitize queries.

Authentication and session management

User authentication, authorization, and session management are common in most SaaS applications. Together, they form a complex process of managing user credentials. Vulnerabilities arise when managing user sessions, and trying to ensure persistence. Whether through the use of JSON Web Tokens or Cookies, some data needs to be stored on the client-side to facilitate features such as auto-login. This could, therefore, be a gateway for malicious people to obtain user credentials to access their accounts even for a short time. If authentication seems too complex for your team, some third-party free authentication providers can be used such as Firebase Authentication. The main objective is to ensure that you follow authentication protocols and standard procedures when implementing authentication or authorization in your system.

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Phishing attacks

Phishing is the process through which attackers try to gain personal information such as passwords by disguising as a trustworthy entity through means such as sending a fraudulent email. Your employees and customers should be informed on how to avoid phishing attacks. They should avoid opening suspicious emails and accessing unauthorized sites while in your organization’s network. Companies should also have standard equipment that can only be used for work by employees such as designated laptops and desktops. This can help prevent sensitive information from being obtained by attackers as opposed to when employees use the devices for both personal and work purposes. Attackers could send fraudulent emails to your employees which may contain malicious information embedded in the attached documents. This is one of the most common ways through which systems are breached. The attackers could also link to a fake site where they could potentially try to social engineer information from visitors. In short, the best way to protect against phishing attacks is the creation of awareness.

Cross-Site Request Forgery

A CSRF attack is usually initiated via a compromised link that seeks to hijack user sessions or cookies to send fraudulent requests to the server. There are several techniques used to prevent XSRF attacks. Here we highlight the first. Avoid sending requests that perform critical operations through the GET request method. This doesn’t guarantee complete security but it does add a layer of abstraction. Synchronizer Token Patterns are explained in detail in a blog post by Angel Irizarry, Tinfoil Security.

Ensures that data came from a form submit action by checking for headers hidden from the user but are sent when the user clicks the submit button on a form. Abbreviated as XSRF or CSRF is a vulnerability designed in such a way, that when a user clicks on a compromised link an unauthorized action can be performed. This attack takes advantage of login persistence and cached data to send requests to the server without having to bypass the restriction. It is difficult to trace and common on poorly developed systems.

Cross-Site Scripting

This is a vulnerability that enables hackers to inject scripts on a webpage being viewed by another client. The best way to avoid this is a validation of external input by ensuring that strange characters that aren’t typical of query or form data are removed to avoid the server-side code from being compromised. This is an attack whereby a malicious user submits code through form data, or search queries to execute it on the client side. The malicious person can then send this to unsuspecting users and as a result obtain their cookie or session details.

Software Library and Framework vulnerabilities

It is necessary to ensure that your codebase stays up to date. This is because common vulnerabilities are usually patched with version updates and upgrades of most software libraries. The development of software generally relies on open-source libraries that are publicly available. Many exploits are usually present in such libraries and as a result, they could lead to your system being compromised.

Data Storage

Best practices in data storage such as password hashing should be followed to avoid compromising customer security in case of a security breach. User privileges should be given with caution even within the organization to reduce the risk of internal breaches. System breaches could originate from within or outside of the organization therefore security measures need to be put in place to control data storage and access.

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There are many potential security threats and those your SaaS may be exposed to depending on the implantation details of your application. To implement security for your SaaS application, you could seek a local software development company such as Houston custom software development and request cybersecurity services.

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