The Definitive Guide

SaaS Security Checklist & Assessment Questionnaire

A security assessment is vital for businesses looking to implement new SaaS, which can be completed using a detailed SaaS security checklist.

► Find out how to evaluate SaaS applications!

Introduction

Performing a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) security assessment is a vital part of any company's quality assessment protocol when evaluating potential vendors. Data stored through SaaS is not stored on-premise, which means sensitive and confidential data becomes more at risk from security breaches from the outside. It is important that all new SaaS in your portfolio meets the regulatory standards of your company.

A SaaS security questionnaire will ask where the data will be stored, what security measures are in place to ensure data safety, and make sure the vendor is up-to-date with data protection rules and certificates – along with various other questions.

Following general SaaS security best practices and a well-defined checklist will guide this assessment.

 

SaaS security checklist

A SaaS security checklist is necessary when a company is evaluating the security of a new SaaS solution, and procurement should not move forward unless a proper SaaS risk assessment has been conducted and received the approval of the internal security teams.

It is a separate process to a technology risk assessment that evaluates application risks, reduces costs, and increases agility. A SaaS security application checklist is created and completed by the external supplier before moving forward with a company. An important part of this process is ensuring end-to-end encryption is in place, which guarantees data will not be shared with third parties or can be accessed by the provider.

General information

The first part of the SaaS security questionnaire will contain general information about the vendor before moving into more detailed questions regarding the security of the vendor. General information includes the contact details as well as how long the vendor has been in business. Here is the full list of questions in the general information section of the SaaS security checklist:

  • Date completed
  • Vendor name
  • Service(s) / Product(s) provided
  • How long has the vendor been in business?
  • What year was the vendor founded?
  • Supplier location(s) and headquarters
  • Supplier website domain(s)
  • Completed by
  • Title
  • Email
  • Telephone

 

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Information security

This section and the subsections within go much more into detail regarding the security information of the product. Each subsection of the SaaS security checklist will assess whether the product is fit for its purpose and in line with your company’s security protocols.

Organizational security

This subsection of the SaaS security checklist outlines who is responsible for information security and what policies have already been implemented to ensure the security of the data between the company and the supplier. The questions are as follows:

  • Does the supplier have a designated leader responsible for information security?
  • What is the name of the Information Security leader? Title? Role?
  • Policy for information security implemented 

HR security

Much like organizational security, human resources security covers who the company will be working with and what kind of access they have to sensitive information. This part of the SaaS security questionnaire asks whether the vendor has sufficient onboarding and offboarding processes, if they perform background checks and whether they receive security training.

  • Have all personnel with access to your company information signed the Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) of the Supplier?
  • Is there a personnel onboarding and offboarding process?
  • Does the supplier perform background verification checks for all its personnel?
  • Is regular security training for all personnel implemented? Please confirm whether these are imparted at the time of onboarding and if a refresher is conducted annually.

Physical site

This part of the SaaS security questionnaire will outline where on the physical site the servers will be kept, and what kind of physical security is in place to protect sensitive company data.

  • Please state the locations of data centers/server rooms
  • Location where the backups are stored
  • Do you have a physical and environmental security policy that covers both data center and vendor premises?

Application and network security

During this subsection of the SaaS security checklist, the company is asking whether the applications and network are regularly tested for security breaches, and what kinds of countermeasures are in place to stop that from happening. 

  • Do you perform application and network-level penetration tests?
  • Please share countermeasures for network risks (e.g. firewall, HIDS, etc.)
  • Are there password selection and management controls in place for accessing your company information?
  • Are there Identity and Access management (IAM) controls in place for access to your company information?

Asset management

How are the assets managed within the company, and how are each of the supplier’s clients’ data and information stored to ensure it is kept separate from each other? This part of the questionnaire will also require the vendor to outline a risk management methodology.

  • Is there a policy in place to handle your company information as confidential?
  • Is your company information processed and stored logically separated from suppliers’ information and from that of other customers?
  • Do you have a risk assessment/risk management methodology?
  • Upon conclusion or termination of vendor's work for your company, will supplier sanitize and securely destroy (or at your company's election return to your company) all copies of all your company information, including all backup and archival copies, in any electronic or non-electronic form?

System acquisition, development, and maintenance

This subsection of the SaaS security questionnaire will cover how the applications mitigate risk, and what processes are in place for development, testing, and operations. The vendor is required to share software development methodology and what security measures are incorporated as part of the application development life cycle. 

  • Are development, testing, and operational environments containing your company information separated from each other?
  • Does the application offered to your company mitigate risks as specified in OWASP Top 10 2017 list? 

Sub-contractor relationships

What does the relationship between the vendor and third-party subcontractors look like? This is important to outline who the subcontractors are, and what processes they use. This part of the SaaS security checklist should list all subcontractors.

  • Will the vendor use any Third Party Sub-Processors? If Yes, Which ones?

Incident management

Incidents can always happen, so this section of the SaaS security questionnaire will require information on what incidents have occurred in the last year, and what incident management processes are already in place. The vendor must share their incident management policy. 

  • Is there a documented security incident management process in place to detect and handle incidents?
  • Have you had any material events or incidents on the service provision in the last 12 months? Please provide the information on the response times.
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Business continuity management

The supplier must outline both their Business Continuity Plan (BCP) and Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) to ensure that they have protocols in place in the event of a breach or other possible issue that may occur. 

  • Does the vendor have a documented Business Continuity Plan (BCP) and Disaster Recovery Plan?

Operations security

This section of the SaaS security checklist reveals what kind of operations security is in place; what malicious software protection is deployed? Are audit logs retained and reviewed? This is important for monitoring and logging anything unusual during day-to-day processes.

  • Are systems provisioned with sufficient capacity to ensure continued availability in the event of a security incident, such as a denial of service attack?
  • Is malicious software protection deployed on all systems (e.g. servers, laptops, desktops) and kept up to date?
  • Are audit logs retained and reviewed for all privileged user actions?
  • Are audit log records stored for at least 90 days?

Backup and restoration

Here the vendor will be responsible for outlining what backup and restoration policies are in place in case of a server breach or crash. This could directly impact the continued use of the SaaS service and put company data at risk.

  • Does the supplier have a backup and restoration policy in place?

Cryptography

In this section of the SaaS security checklist, the vendor must outline what data encryption policy is in place. This is highly important, as it will determine how well the supplier safeguards an organization's data and information from potential threats. 

  • Is data encrypted at rest and in transit?

Data disposal

How is sensitive data disposed of, both physically and through the service? The supplier must outline what data disposal policies are in place and also ensure that all paper is securely destroyed and computer hardware wiped according to good industry practice.

  • Does the supplier have a data disposal policy? Please detail your processes for secure disposal of papers and computer equipment to protect sensitive and / or confidential data.

Change management

In this subsection of the SaaS security questionnaire, the vendor must outline what change management process is implemented. This ensures that if the system undergoes any changes the service will remain secure.

  • Do you have a change management process implemented? Please explain.

Information security standards

This final section of the SaaS security checklist makes sure the SaaS provider has all external certificates and meets important assessments concerning the security of the company. They are asked to provide recent proof. 

  • Are audits and/or assessments concerning security and privacy performed regularly by trained Personnel? Please include the most recent external audit report (e.g. SOC I, SOC 2, ISO 27001, etc.) if available.

 

Conclusion

Following the completion of the SaaS security checklist, the company will then assess whether the answers to the questions are sufficient and effectively ensure the security of data and sensitive information. If so, they can then move on to the next stage of the SaaS implementation process.

A successful quality security assessment is essential after a shadow IT discovery and provides peace of mind to companies implementing new SaaS solutions and is vital for a successful relationship between both parties.

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Answers to frequently asked questions on SaaS security checklist

How do you assess SaaS security?

The best way to assess the security of a SaaS provider is through a SaaS security assessment which usually includes the completion of a well-defined questionnaire. This questionnaire seeks to outline what security protocols are in place, making sure the answers successfully meet the regulatory security standards of the company. Once complete, the SaaS software can be implemented.

What is data security in SaaS?

Data security is a vital part of SaaS. SaaS software stores a huge amount of sensitive data in cloud-based applications which are vulnerable to threats from the outside if they are not properly secured and encrypted. When looking for a new SaaS software, potential customers need to make sure their important and sensitive data is secured by the SaaS supplier. 

What is a SaaS security checklist?

A SaaS security checklist is a comprehensive list of questions and considerations posed by a company looking to onboard a new SaaS software. It helps the buyer assess whether the vendor meets the security needs of the company.

What is a SaaS security audit?

A SaaS security audit is completed to ensure the safety, security, and privacy of data stored in SaaS software. SaaS security audits help to identify vulnerabilities and areas of improvement to prevent hacks and strengthen the overall security of SaaS software. 

How can you conduct a SaaS security audit?

To conduct a SaaS security audit you must assess all areas of the platform, including employee security habits and compliance with industry best practices and standards. This can be done through the successful completion of a SaaS security evaluation. This audit will evaluate the security of the physical environment, applications and software, network vulnerabilities, and make sure all standard and federal regulations are met. This audit will usually be done in the form of a SaaS security checklist.

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