SaaS data security is becoming increasingly important as financial services deepen their reliance on SaaS applications and cloud providers, posing new data protection and compliance challenges.
In this guide, we’ll examine the risks to data stored in SaaS applications, such as cyber threats and regulatory issues. We also explore practical strategies and best practices for companies in the financial services sector when it comes to keeping data safe and compliant by implementing SaaS data security solutions.
SaaS applications play a vital role in the day-to-day function of the financial sector, housing critical and sensitive information and data that come with their own set of risks needing diligent management.
A few examples of SaaS applications used in the finance sector include:
Considering the pivotal roles that data stored in these applications play in financial operations and business continuity, it is clear that a strategic approach to data security is beneficial and essential. Ensuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of this sensitive data is a multifaceted challenge that leads us to explore the layers of security infrastructure and policies necessary to protect these digital assets.
Far from being random, cyber attacks in the financial sector are executed through a phased approach, each designed to escalate the attacker's influence over the compromised infrastructure.
Attackers gather information on potential vulnerabilities within SaaS applications used in finance. This includes scanning for weak spots in public cloud-based accounting systems, CRM tools, and other SaaS offerings of cloud vendors that manage sensitive financial data.
Using identified vulnerabilities, cybercriminals often deploy social engineering—from generic phishing scams to highly targeted spear-phishing attacks—to gain initial access. This step may involve manipulating users or exploiting weak authentication processes despite the presence of security measures like Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) and Single Sign-On (SSO).
Once inside, attackers aim to broaden their access. They may capture session tokens or exploit SSO configurations, allowing them to store data and traverse interconnected SaaS platforms seamlessly.
At this point, attackers solidify their presence by targeting high-level users, like system administrators, through platforms like LinkedIn. They might also initiate supply chain attacks, striking at centralised vulnerabilities that ripple through interconnected systems.
With a firm grip on the systems, attackers can unleash harmful activities through such attacks as ransomware, which encrypts critical data, crippling financial operations and business processes and causing extensive damage ranging from financial losses to legal team's regulatory repercussions.
The integration of SaaS solutions in finance has its compliance hurdles. Issues like data sovereignty, data encryption, standards, and third-party risk management are at the forefront, necessitating a careful approach to ensure regulatory conformity: .
Financial institutions must understand these security issues and develop comprehensive strategies to address each, ensuring a secure and compliant SaaS environment.
A robust data governance framework is key for financial firms using SaaS and cloud applications everywhere. This involves setting clear policies on data access, usage, and storage, ensuring alignment with regulatory standards. It also includes classifying data based on sensitivity and applying appropriate controls, a critical step in managing data risk effectively.
Tightening user access controls is a vital practice. This means implementing stringent identity verification processes, like multi-factor authentication (MFA), and managing user permissions meticulously to ensure that only authorised personnel can access sensitive financial data.
Regular security audits and vulnerability assessments of the SaaS environment help identify and address potential security gaps. Financial institutions should schedule these audits periodically to ensure their cloud infrastructure and SaaS tools remain secure and compliant with evolving security standards.
Having a well-defined incident response plan for potential security breaches is essential. This strategy should include procedures for immediate response, communication, disaster recovery plans, and steps for post-incident analysis to prevent future occurrences.
Investing in regular security training and awareness programmes for employees is crucial. This ensures that all staff members know the potential security risks associated with SaaS applications and are equipped to identify and prevent security threats.
Advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms can enhance threat detection and response capabilities. This proactive approach allows financial institutions to identify and mitigate potential insider threats before they escalate.
Financial institutions should integrate Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) systems to enhance real-time security monitoring. These systems aggregate and analyse activity from various resources across the IT infrastructure, providing a comprehensive view of security events. By using SIEM, firms can quickly detect, analyse, and respond to potential security incidents, significantly reducing the impact of breaches.
Advanced endpoint protection is critical to defend against sophisticated malware and emerging threats. This involves using next-generation antivirus solutions beyond traditional signature-based detection, employing behavioural analysis and machine learning techniques. Given the remote access nature of SaaS applications, ensuring that all endpoints - mobile devices to laptops - are secured against these advanced threats is essential.
Safeguarding SaaS applications can be challenging for smaller financial organisations or those without dedicated security teams. In such cases, it is vital to leverage external resources and expertise. These organisations should consider partnering with trusted security consultants or service providers who can offer guidance and support in implementing effective security measures.
Additionally, adopting standardised security policies and frameworks and engaging the security team in regular training and awareness programmes can empower employees to recognise and mitigate potential security breaches and risks in their daily operations.
With the growing need for reliable robust data security in financial services, Metomic presents effective solutions for securing SaaS applications in the following ways:
By integrating Metomic into their security strategy, financial services firms can enhance the protection of their customer data and achieve a higher degree of operational efficiency and regulatory compliance. The combination of advanced technology and user-friendly interfaces makes Metomic a powerful ally in the quest for effective robust data security in the SaaS-dependent financial sector.
To see how Metonic can help improve your Data Security posture, book a demo with our team today.