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5 Key SaaS Security Testing Strategies to Secure Your SaaS Application

Priyansi Vaghasiya
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Priyansi Vaghasiya
  • May 13, 2024
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    9 min read
5 Key SaaS Security Testing Strategies to Secure Your SaaS Application
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Today's organizations are adopting cloud-based services at a rapid pace, with Software as a Service (SaaS) applications setting the standard. Although these web apps are adaptable and may expand along with your company, they also present new security risks. It’s important to remember that keeping these applications safe is a team effort between the service provider and the user.

The Rising Tide of Security Risks Recent studies indicate a surge in security incidents related to SaaS application misconfigurations, with 43% of organizations experiencing such breaches. The average company has over 4,000 user accounts without multi-factor authentication, presenting a significant security gap.

Understanding SaaS security testing

SaaS systems frequently deal with a variety of security risks, such as compliance problems, illegal access, and data breaches. These difficulties harm firms' reputations and financial stability, in addition to putting confidential information at risk. Here are some common concerns:

  • Multi-tenancy: This increases the attack surface by allowing several users and organizations to share the same underlying infrastructure.
  • Data breaches: Since sensitive data is often transferred and stored on the cloud, hackers attack it frequently.
  • Insecure APIs: APIs act as gateways to application data, and vulnerabilities within them can be exploited.
  • Insider threats: Malicious actors within an organization can leverage their access to compromise the SaaS application.

Our responsibility as testers for SaaS security

As SaaS testers, we play a really crucial role in safeguarding these applications. Security testing allows us to proactively identify vulnerabilities before they can be exploited in a real-world attack. Additionally, the dynamic nature of SaaS applications necessitates continuous testing, as updates and changes can introduce new security risks.

SaaS applications are constantly evolving, with regular updates and feature enhancements. Thus, continuous testing is essential to keep pace with these changes and ensure that security measures remain effective over time. If you are more to learn about the SaaS performance metrics to measure business performance.

5 SaaS security testing strategies for secure App

Here are five essential security checks every SaaS tester should integrate into their testing process for SaaS products:

5 SaaS security testing strategies for secure App

Access control testing

This guarantees that some functionality and data inside the program may only be accessed by authorized users. The first line of defense against unwanted access and data breaches is strong access restrictions. Put more simply, it verifies that only authorized individuals have access to the appropriate data.

Real-life use case

A university’s grade management system where students can view their grades but only administrators can change them. A tester’s job is to make sure students can’t access the admin functions to alter grades.

Testing requirements

  • Multiple Test Accounts: Separate accounts for students and administrators are required to simulate real-world user scenarios.
  • Web Browser Developer Tools: These built-in browser features allow you to examine data transferred between the application and the server, potentially helping identify vulnerabilities (with caution and proper permissions).

Step-by-step guide for access control testing

  1. Student Account Testing
    • Login and view grades: Log in with a student account and confirm you can see your grades as intended.
    • Examining the page elements: Right-click anywhere on the page and select "Inspect" (or a similar option depending on your browser). Navigate to the “Network” tab.
    • URL modification test (test with caution!): Carefully observe the format of the URL used to access grades. For instance, the URL might resemble https://grades.university.edu/student/grades?studentId=12345. Try cautiously modifying the student ID in the URL (e.g., changing it to an administrator ID) and see if it grants unauthorized access to edit grades.
  2. Administrator Account Verification
    • Login and Edit Grades: Switch to an administrator account and confirm that you can successfully edit grades. This confirms the basic functionality works as intended.
    • Testing User Management (if applicable): If the system allows administrators to manage user accounts (e.g., create new student accounts), try creating an account with an administrator role using your student account.

Outcomes of access control testing

  • Weak credentials verification
  • Unauthorized access restriction
  • Granular role-based access control
  • Secure URL structures
  • Session timeouts

Data encryption testing

Data encryption scrambles sensitive information like credit card details, personal identifiable information (PII), and intellectual property, rendering it unreadable even if intercepted by attackers. As a tester, verifying that the data encryption is implemented effectively is crucial for protecting user data and maintaining application security.

Imagine a briefcase containing confidential company documents. A regular lock might deter casual snooping, but a determined thief could break it. Encryption acts like a high-security lock, making it extremely difficult for attackers to access sensitive data.

Let's Get Hands-on: Testing Data Encryption

While the specifics of encryption algorithms might be outside a tester's core competency, we can still perform valuable tests to assess the overall data encryption posture of the application. Here's a practical approach:

  1. Documentation Examination
    • Investigating the encryption strategy: Begin by thoroughly reviewing the application's documentation or security whitepapers. Look for any mention of data encryption. Key details to seek include:
      • Encryption standards used (e.g., AES-256, the industry gold standard).
      • Whether data is encrypted at rest (stored on servers) and in transit (between application and user devices).
  2. Network Traffic Analysis (if allowed)
    • Examining Encrypted Communication (with Caution): This step might require specific permissions or tools from the development team or SaaS provider due to potential security implications.
      • If allowed, use packet capture tools (e.g., Wireshark) to analyze network traffic between your browser and the application server.
      • Look for signs of encrypted data transmission, such as:
        • HTTPS protocol usage (indicated by a lock symbol in your browser).
        • Unintelligible data packets in captured network traffic (encrypted data appears scrambled).
  3. Limited Access Testing (if applicable)
    • Simulating User Behavior: If the application allows different user roles (e.g., standard user vs. administrator), log in with accounts from each level.
      • Try to access or download sensitive data that should only be accessible to higher-level accounts.
      • In a well-designed system, even if you download the data, it should remain encrypted, preventing unauthorized users from viewing the actual information.

Expected results

  • Documentation clearly outlines data encryption practices (at rest and in transit).
  • Network traffic analysis indicates data is encrypted during transmission (if applicable).
  • Downloaded sensitive data appears encrypted and unreadable with limited user accounts (if applicable).

Session management testing

The technique of preserving a user's identification and activity during several contacts with a web application is known as session management. Consider visiting an online store and filling your shopping basket.  Session management ensures that information about your cart and identity persists even if you navigate to different product pages or close your browser and return later.

Real-life use case

Let’s consider a practical example of applying these session management testing principles to a real-world scenario: An e-commerce platform.

  1. Verifying session ID strength:
    • Importance of Strong Identifiers: Session IDs are unique codes assigned to user sessions. Weak session IDs (predictable or easily guessable) can be exploited by attackers to hijack someone else's shopping session.
    • Testing Methodology: You would log in with multiple test accounts and observe the assigned session IDs. Look for patterns or predictable sequences. Ideally, they should be complex and random, offering the same level of security as a high-security combination lock.
  2. Validating automatic user logout:
    • Preventing Perpetual Access: Shopping sessions shouldn't remain active indefinitely. Enforcing session timeouts automatically logs users out after a period of inactivity. This mitigates the risk of someone else accessing a cart if the user forgets to log out.
    • Testing Approach: You would fill a virtual cart with clothes and leave the browser window idle for an extended period (e.g., 30 minutes). Upon returning, you would attempt to refresh the cart page. The system should automatically log you out and require re-authentication.
  3. Examining Cookie Security:
    • Cookies: Safeguarding User Data: E-commerce platforms often use cookies to store session IDs and other user data. These cookies function like secure shopping bags, holding chosen items (data) until checkout.
    • Testing Considerations: You would examine the cookies associated with the e-commerce platform in your browser's developer tools. Secure session management involves cookies being flagged as "HttpOnly" to prevent access through scripting languages and ideally flagged as "Secure" to ensure they are transmitted only over encrypted connections.

Expected results

  • Strong session ID strength
  • Verified session timeouts
  • Secure cookies
  • Effective logout functionality

Vulnerability scanning

Vulnerability scanning is a systematic process of identifying potential security weaknesses (vulnerabilities) within a web application or system, especially in SaaS applications.

These vulnerabilities can be exploited by attackers to gain unauthorized access to data, disrupt operations, or inject malicious code. As a tester, vulnerability scanning helps you proactively identify these weaknesses before attackers do.

There are three main approaches to vulnerability scanning:

1. Select a vulnerability scanner

There are many free and open-source vulnerability scanners available. Here's how to pick the right one for your SaaS application testing:

  • Compatibility Check
    Ensure the scanner is compatible with your SaaS environment. Some scanners work best with specific web application frameworks (e.g., Ruby on Rails, Python, Django).
  • Feature Fit
    Consider the features offered by different scanners. Do you need a scanner with advanced reporting capabilities, or is a basic vulnerability detection tool sufficient?
2. Setting the scope - Configuring the scan

Defining the scope of your vulnerability scan involves specifying which parts of the SaaS application you want to scan. Here's what to consider:

  • Target URLs: Identify the specific URLs (web addresses) within the SaaS application you want the scanner to focus on.
  • Authentication Requirements: If certain areas of the application require login credentials, configure the scanner to provide those during the scan.
  • Scan Depth: Decide on the level of detail you want in the scan. A basic scan might just look for common vulnerabilities, while a more in-depth scan might delve deeper into the application's code.
3. Run the scan and analyze the results

Now that you're prepped, it's time to unleash the vulnerability scanner! Here's what happens:

  • The Scanner Goes to Work: Run the scan according to the configuration you defined in step 2. This might take some time, depending on the size and complexity of the SaaS application.
  • Results Roll In: Once the scan is complete, the scanner will generate a report listing the identified vulnerabilities.

Expected results

  • Actionable insights
  • Improved security posture
  • Prioritized threats
  • Identification of a range of security issues

Multi-factor authentication

The functionalities are further secured by multi-factor authentication (MFA). It requires more than just a password; in order to authenticate themselves, users must also supply an extra element, such as a code from their phone or a fingerprint scan.

Real-life use case

Let’s take an example of a bank’s online banking platform, where MFA is integrated, and as testers, we have to validate the MFA system. The following will be our steps or approaches to validate it:

  1. Testing enrollment
    Can users easily enroll in MFA by linking their phone number or installing an authenticator app? Is the enrollment process clear and user-friendly?
  2. Verifying different factors
    Does MFA work seamlessly with various factors like SMS codes, authenticator apps, or security keys? Ensure each factor provides a strong level of security and avoids weaknesses like easily guessable SMS codes.
  3. Simulating login attempts
    Try logging in with a valid username and password. Does the system prompt for the additional MFA factor as expected?
  4. Introducing errors
    What happens if a user enters an incorrect MFA code? Test scenarios where a user might accidentally enter the wrong code or experience connectivity issues with their phone.
  5. Disabling MFA (if allowed)
    If the given bank allows users to temporarily disable MFA (not recommended for security reasons), test this functionality as well.

Expected results

  • Strong MFA enrollment
  • Seamless multi-factor verification
  • Clear error handling
  • Secure MFA disabling

Conclusion

Ensuring the security of your SaaS applications is crucial in today's digital world. By implementing these top five testing precautions, you can enhance your SaaS security and protect your data from potential threats.

Remember, the Importance of SaaS Security Testing has grown to the point that now SaaS security is not a one-time event but a continuous process. Regularly review and update your security measures to keep up with the evolving threat landscape.

Secure Your SaaS with Alphabin QA

Don't leave your SaaS security to chance. Partner with Alphabin QA to ensure your applications are safe against the latest threats. With our expertise in quality engineering and a strong focus on automation and AI-driven testing, we're equipped to handle the complexities of cloud, enterprise, e-commerce, healthcare apps, and more. Ready to elevate your SaaS security? Request a demo or talk to an expert today and take the first step towards impeccable software quality.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How often should SaaS applications undergo security testing?
FAQ ArrowFAQ Minus Arrow

Testing SaaS applications should undergo security testing regularly, ideally as part of the development lifecycle and whenever significant updates or changes are made to the application. Continuous monitoring and periodic assessments help ensure ongoing security.

Won’t security testing slow down development?
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While security testing might add some initial time, it can actually expedite development in the long run. Here's why:

  • Catching Issues Early: Fixing vulnerabilities early prevents rework and delays caused by patching issues discovered later in the development cycle.
  • Streamlined Development: Security testing can help identify potential design flaws that could lead to security problems, allowing for a more secure and efficient development process.
What are the potential consequences of skipping security testing?
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  • Data Breaches: Security vulnerabilities can be exploited by attackers, leading to data breaches that expose sensitive user information. This can damage your reputation, result in fines, and erode user trust.
  • Loss of User Trust: A security breach can severely damage user trust in your SaaS product. Customers expect their data to be safe, and a breach demonstrates a lack of security commitment.
  • Compliance Issues: Depending on your industry and target market, your SaaS product might need to comply with specific data security regulations. Security testing helps ensure you meet those compliance requirements.
What are the different types of SaaS security testing?
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Common SaaS security testing methods include:

  • Vulnerability Scanning: Automated scans identify potential weaknesses in the application code.
  • SaaS Penetration Testing: Ethical hackers simulate real-world attack scenarios to uncover vulnerabilities.
  • Session Management Testing: Ensures user sessions are securely managed and prevents unauthorized access.
  • API Security Testing: Focuses on the security of application programming interfaces (APIs) used by the SaaS platform.

About the author

Priyansi Vaghasiya

Priyansi Vaghasiya

Priyansi Vaghasiya, an experienced QA Automation Engineer at Alphabin, specializes in ensuring software quality through automated testing.

Skilled in API and UI automation, she designs and maintains efficient test frameworks to streamline processes and boost efficiency.

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