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Growing SaaS Misconfiguration Threat
The 2021 SaaS Security Survey Report by Tel Aviv-based security company Adaptive Shield showed that SaaS misconfiguration is one of the top threats faced by today’s enterprises.
Adaptive Shield’s 2021 SaaS Security Survey, which surveyed 300 InfoSecurity professionals from North America and Western Europe in companies of 500+ employees, found that cybersecurity professionals recognize SaaS misconfiguration as the number 3 cloud risk, following account hijacking (number one) and data leakage (number two).
What is SaaS?
SaaS, short for software as a service, is a software that’s being delivered as a service over the internet. Traditional software needs to be bought, installed on the user’s computer, and must be maintained and updated.
SaaS, meanwhile, runs on the provider’s servers and the SaaS provider does all the maintenance required for security, making the software available to users, and improving the performance of the software. In SaaS, all that’s required from the user is to access the software over the internet.
SaaS misconfiguration is a product of human error: leaving the SaaS account accessible over the internet by everyone without authentication or adequate security.
Deeper Problems Behind SaaS Misconfiguration
SaaS misconfiguration threat is even greater as other cloud risks such as account hijacking and data leakage can also be the result of misconfiguration.
Adaptive Shield’s 2021 SaaS Security Survey showed that 85% of companies recognize SaaS misconfiguration as one of the top threats. The survey found that only 12% of companies with 50-99 applications check these apps on a weekly basis, showing that the more apps a company has, the less time they will check on security settings and permissions for misconfigurations.
The survey also found that 52% of companies delegate the task of securing the app to SaaS users, such as staff in the Sales, Marketing, or Product departments – individuals who are unlikely to be trained in SaaS security and compliance.
The survey also found that one in four companies reports that departments outside of IT security have access to SaaS app security settings. “Any human error by the SaaS owner, who is often not trained in security, can lead to an increase
in SaaS security misconfigurations,” Adaptive Shield said.
Prevalence of SaaS Misconfigurations
In a January 2019 disclosure, security researcher Avinash Jain found in NASA Jira a misconfiguration issue that caused the leakage of internal sensitive information of NASA, including internal user details, project details, employee names, and employees mail id.
Jira is a task tracking system/project management software used, not just by NASA but also by Fortune 500 companies and over a hundred thousand companies and organizations worldwide.
In an August 2019 disclosure, Jain said NASA wasn’t the only organization that leaked its data due to Jira misconfiguration. Jain said thousands of companies using JIRA inadvertently exposed their internal user data and internal project details.
“When the filters and dashboards for the projects/issues are created in JIRA, then by default the visibility is set to ‘All users’ and ‘Everyone’ respectively, which instead of sharing with everyone of the organizations (which people think and interpret), it shares them publically,” Jain said. “There is also a user picker functionality in Jira which gives a complete list of every user’s username and email address. This information disclosure is the result of an authorization misconfiguration in Jira’s Global Permissions settings.”
According to Jain, anyone with the link can access the exposed critical data over the internet and because said data are being indexed by all the search engines, anyone can easily search online these critical data with some simple search queries.
In another example of SaaS misconfiguration, in an April 2019 disclosure, Citrix said that it was contacted by the FBI, saying that they had reason to believe that cybercriminals gained access to the internal Citrix network.
Citrix added that the FBI has advised them that the hackers likely used a tactic known as password spraying. “Once they gained a foothold with limited access, they worked to circumvent additional layers of security,” Citrix said in a statement.
In password spraying, attackers acquire a list of usernames or accounts and attempt to sign into all of them using a set of the most popular or most likely passwords until they get the correct username and password combination. In the blog post "Protecting your organization against password spray attacks,” Diana Kelley Cybersecurity Field CTO at Microsoft said password spray is a popular tactic among attackers as they only need one successful password and username combination.
“Once they have it, they can access whatever the user has access to, such as cloud resources on OneDrive,” Kelley said. “Or use the exploited account to do internal reconnaissance on the target network and get deeper into the systems via elevation of privilege.”
Cybersecurity Best Practices
The COVID-19 restrictions imposed in different parts of the world prompted many companies and organizations to adopt SaaS with little consideration for security. Here are some of the cybersecurity best practices in preventing and mitigating the effects of SaaS misconfigurations:
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Steve E. Driz, I.S.P., ITCP