SaaS security checklist for CISO

SaaS Security Checklist for IT and Cybersecurity Professionals

SaaS is taking control of the online ecosystem and is booming in the business world. However, many SaaS-based applications and web services are vulnerable to data breaches and security issues. A SaaS security checklist will help you find out which items should be performed, and which objectives should be achieved. 

Read the following sections if you would like to find out more about the following concepts:

● What to look for in SaaS security?

● What should be included in the SaaS security policy?

● What frameworks are there to implement and secure SaaS applications?

● Should I design my own SaaS security checklist or use an existing framework?

● What are the security risks of SaaS for businesses?

● Is vCISO a trustworthy option for SaaS security?

● How to ensure SaaS security is at the desired level in my company?

SaaS Security Checklist: What Does It Mean?

A SaaS security checklist for CISOs consists of security standards and best practices that secure SaaS platforms and cloud-based applications. Such checklists are defined, designed, and implemented to help ensure your organization complies with security frameworks and is protected against data breaches and exposure.

A SaaS security checklist could be designed based on an existing framework, or a company may shift to using a completely customized checklist. So, it’s up to your business and your cybersecurity objectives. Overall, a reliable SaaS security checklist should include some essential components, which we’re going to explain in the next sections.

Existing Checklists or Personalized Checklists?

Should you create a SaaS security checklist from scratch? Well, it’s important to have a cybersecurity checklist for all types of online businesses. However, not all of them are under an obligation to spend a lot of time reinventing the wheel.

In short, there are a lot of engineered security frameworks that put security, productivity, and efficiency first and provide you with peace of mind in this case.

● If you want to create a highly personalized SaaS security checklist that covers all the requirements, you can use these security frameworks as well.


NIST looks at cloud technology as a model of convenience, but it makes cloud security an essential requirement for those cloud-based online businesses. The NIST framework provides recommendations for optimizing cloud security, and SaaS organizations can use them to safeguard their cloud-based apps and web services.

NIST is separated into 4 different components, including cloud-specific security controls:

● General security considerations

● Cloud-specific security considerations

● Provider management

● Audit and compliance


Organizations and businesses are moving more and more of their workloads to cloud platforms. In this ecosystem, OWASP plays an important role in offering one of the most reliable cloud security practices of all time.

This project helps SaaS organizations by outlining the top 10 critical vulnerabilities and risks. OWASP is coupled with expert recommendations and includes authentication management, data loss prevention, and litigation issues.

Here are vital parts of OWASP for SaaS security management:

● Accountability and data ownership

● User identity management

● Regulatory compliance

● Business continuity

● Privacy and usage of data

● Data integration and protection

● Physical security

● Incidence analysis and forensic support

● Cloud infrastructure security

● Security in non-production environments


Security issues exist all the time, but Oracle provides a modern solution for securing your cloud-based assets against those issues. The job of keeping business data, especially SaaS data, has become a concern that persuades tech leaders like Oracle to offer a complete checklist ensuring a high level of SaaS security.

There is an 8-step process offered by Oracle in terms of SaaS security for cloud-based organizations and SaaS providers:

● Multiple cloud services management

● Application performance

● Advanced security resources

● Data centers and data residency

● Audit readiness

● Understanding data and managing breaches

● Global access control

● Company-level responsibilities

Essential Elements of a SaaS Security Checklist for CISOs

Access Control and User Permissions

A lot of companies use IdP or SSO practices. In this case, making employees use the IAM method is important as it allows security teams to better manage SaaS risks.

Nowadays, modern SaaS solutions are equipped with all these practices, and it’s no longer a good idea to use only traditional SaaS security approaches.

Data Encryption and Privacy Measures

Whether you’re launching a new cloud product or rolling out a new feature, it’s important to consider how your data will be handled and encrypted. Data encryption is a reliable approach within the cloud industry, and there should be defined privacy measures to prevent risks.

Encryption should be the top priority, and it should be implemented in every layer of your technology stack.

With multiple leaks recently, customers and businesses are increasingly concerned about their data privacy, so it should be a permanent part of every SaaS security checklist.

Network Security and Firewalls

Network security for SaaS is an area of cybersecurity focused on minimizing the chance of malicious actors trying to gain access to assets. Although the strategies are somehow similar to those for on-premise infrastructures, there is a need to design better tactics and practices for cloud-based platforms.

Note that in such environments, security teams need to make much effort to manage everything and secure SaaS systems completely.

Incident Response and Disaster Recovery Plans

An incident response plan acts as a rulebook that your IT team follows in the event of a disaster, and there is a need for unique plans in the case of SaaS platforms.

If you don’t have a response plan in place at the moment, you need to create one as an important part of the SaaS security checklist.

It defines how your IT team should act and recover from a cybersecurity attack and how you can analyze, find, and patch the related issues that caused that specific attack.

Regular Security Audits and Assessments

SaaS security audits are conducted by third-party teams, so your systems and IT infrastructure are analyzed by industry professionals and experienced security teams.

To ensure that the data on your SaaS platform is safe and protected, regular security audits are a good option to put on the SaaS security checklist.

What are the SaaS Security Risks: Find Out More

Cloud platforms make it easy to build and develop SaaS solutions, but it could be risky to use those platforms if security is not maintained.

Based on the numerous benefits cloud computing offers, it’s no longer an optional need; It has become a mainstream trend aiming to streamline business processes at all levels.

However, there are some cybersecurity risks for SaaS businesses that should be prevented by an error-free SaaS security checklist:

Data Breaches and Unauthorized Access

Data breaches are one of the main risks for cloud computing, and they can cause critical problems. A successful data breach can damage your online business financially, and it can damage your brand’s reputation.

Moreover, there are a lot of legal consequences and penalties for those SaaS businesses that don’t have a proper data breach handling strategy.

Account Hijacking and Credential Theft

When using SaaS platforms, organizations might face an increased risk of account hijacking and credential theft. Due to the fact that software-as-a-service solutions are highly exposed to the internet, these platforms are more likely to be targeted by brute force attacks or other credential-based attacks.

Accordingly, authentication and authorization management are essential when it comes to preparing a trustworthy SaaS security checklist.

SaaS providers should always be on alert in this case and take advantage of MFA and SSO solutions to get rid of account takeover issues.

Malware and Ransomware Attacks

In recent years, unknown malware tools and zero-day attacks have been spreading through file storage and sharing services. Such attacks on SaaS platforms could become difficult to identify and stop, and a lot of people have no information on how these malicious tools should be stopped and removed.

One of the best solutions to managing these types of risks is to adopt a proactive monitoring strategy and let users know about the issues by sending them alerts and notifications.

Insider Threats and Data Leakage

In SaaS security, employees are the weak link in most cases. Insider threats aren’t always bad actors, and they don’t have malicious intent.

Some employees might take part in data leakage accidentally, a major risk for businesses of all sizes.

Unfortunately, some may exploit their authorized access to cause critical damage to an organization and intentionally harm or exfiltrate information.

API Vulnerabilities and Integration Risk

APIs are links between different software services, and they’ve become a vital part of the software development industry. Without using APIs, a lot of tasks, such as checking the weather or paying bills online, couldn’t be performed.

SaaS platforms are widely using APIs as a helpful tool for streamlining tasks. Third-party and integration risks are inevitable in this case, and every cybersecurity checklist for SaaS should consider API security as an essential requirement nowadays.

Our Approach: How to Secure SaaS Applications and Web Services?

SaaS platforms help businesses achieve vital objectives, and they offer even more. Cost reductions and faster time-to-market when launching a product are the most popular benefits of SaaS tools these days.

Frankly speaking, there may be many other risks associated with a SaaS application or web service other than just data access or identity theft.

● What happens when an attacker gets access to your client’s credentials or data? What about your own credentials and login information? Without a doubt, these issues can impact your business critically, so you need a well-structured SaaS security checklist according to best practices.

vCISO Advantages for Securing SaaS Applications

A vCISO brings multi-faceted experience to your company and offers senior-level expertise, ensuring your SaaS platform will be protected against cybersecurity risks.

vCISO services offer comprehensive security consulting with a focus on the following:

● Defining the best possible security plan for your organization

● Developing a compliance program to cover all the requirements

● Filling the security gaps in your organization

● Enhancing productivity and efficiency in cybersecurity-related tasks

● Providing expert support with less cost and hassle

To find out more, Let’s read about the great benefits of security frameworks and know how they can secure SaaS applications and web services.

Nordic Defednder vCISO

Security Compliance Frameworks with a Focus on SaaS Platforms

There are a handful of security compliance frameworks with a focus on controls and measures to cover the security needs of cloud-nature businesses, especially SaaS models across various areas, domains, and asset types. Here are three examples:

CIS for SaaS Security

Securing CIS compliance is one of Nordic Defender’s main services and consists of different parts. CIS models have evolved over time, and they can be applied to different platforms, such as:



● SaaS

● FaaS

We design our approach around a consistent model to be able to analyze, deploy, and maintain all CIS controls for a SaaS business.

SOC2 for SaaS Security

A SOC2 certification provided by the AICPA, helps SaaS businesses achieve a high level of security. SOC2 is an independent audit, and possession of such a certification is considered a competitive advantage for your industry.

SOC2 matters for SaaS platforms or service providers since they may store, collect, and process users’ sensitive data over time. This certification provides enough assurance that the SaaS platform has the necessary controls and security standards in place to safeguard that data.

SOC2 is based on 5 different criteria called TSCs by which a cybersecurity team can deploy the required security controls and secure a SaaS business against cybersecurity issues.

● Security

● Privacy

● Confidentiality

● Processing integrity

● Availability

The final report shows:

● You’ve implemented the controls defined by SOC 2

● The controls align with the TSCs

● How the third-party auditor conducted the process

● How your company has implemented the security controls

Get more information on SOC 2 for SaaS HERE.

GDPR for SaaS Security

We will ensure your SaaS platform’s security by implementing GDPR compliance. Nordic Defender is one of the certified companies offering GDPR-compliance services to SaaS businesses and cloud-based platforms.

GDPR defines some requirements based on data processing, third-party vendor compliance, and security. The main aim of this security framework is to ensure users’ sensitive data remains safe and protected.

Note that if your SaaS business collects, handles, or processes the data of individuals in the EU, you need to take the necessary steps to ensure compliance with the GDPR.

GDPR helps your SaaS business:

● Gain full visibility into all SaaS applications and web services

● Evaluate compliance

● Prioritize and mitigate risks

How to Ensure There is a High Level of Security in SaaS Platforms?

Implementing the tasks defined by the SaaS security checklist is not enough or satisfactory. In fact, there is one more step to take after creating and implementing a security checklist.

This step involves consistent monitoring and analysis of IT systems and networks so that we can make sure there is no emerging issue in time. There are 2 main procedures, as follows, that will help a cybersecurity team reach these goals.

Bug Bounty Programs

Lawless criminals are always looking to make use of any bug and vulnerability. In such a situation, many companies take advantage of bug bounty programs to persuade cybersecurity professionals to find these vulnerabilities before they can cause problems.

Bug bounty programs are a great tool for ensuring security and compliance on SaaS platforms.

A well-defined bug bounty program helps your team in:

● Detecting vulnerability

● Reducing costs

● Simulating realistic attacks

● Securing the SaaS platform

Penetration Testing

Penetration testing is an important part of every cybersecurity strategy, as it helps organizations find critical gaps and security holes that are hidden in their IT infrastructures.

Your security team will define a pen testing plan before taking any steps, and different parts of your IT infrastructure and SaaS tools will be analyzed.

A structured pen testing helps your team:

● Detect vulnerabilities

● Plan for or modify policies

● Achieve compliance 

● Establish confidence and trust

Wrapping Up

A SaaS security checklist consists of key elements covering security considerations such as configuration management, access control, and regulatory compliance management. You can create your own SaaS security checklist or use a security framework according to your industry and business-specific needs. Feel free to contact our team if you want to come up with a comprehensive checklist and offer your business a high level of cybersecurity.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is vCISO a reliable approach for securing SaaS applications?

● vCISO offers all the services of an in-house CISO, along with a list of additional benefits. Virtual CISOs provide a wide range of ready-to-use cybersecurity services at affordable prices, and they’re certified professionals that focus on productivity and efficiency.

What are the key components of a SaaS security checklist?

● Virtual CISOs focus on 5 essential elements, including access management, regulatory compliance, misconfiguration, data breaches, and disaster recovery.

What should be included in the SaaS security checklist? What is the critical point?

● SaaS security should consist of policies that control access and encryption. These are critical, and mishandling them could result in disasters on SaaS platforms.

What is the best strategy in the case of SaaS security for CISOs?

● Proactive security monitoring, management, and modification is the best approach that ensures the implemented framework works well and all the new issues are discovered and treated at the right time. 

What are the main tools that help us ensure SaaS security?

● After implementing the steps defined by the SaaS security checklist, pen testing and bug bounty programs help us better manage and maintain IT security. 

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