If, for some strange reason, your company wanted negative PR and wanted it NOW, you couldn’t do better than a data breach.
As a SaaS CFO, it’s crucial for you to understand the importance of customers’ personal information and the negative impact that data breaches–and other security and compliance mishaps–can have on your business.
In this post, we’ll 1) Explore the role of data privacy compliance and cybersecurity in SaaS companies, 2) Review some essential data privacy and security regulations, and 3). Outline seven metrics that can help ensure SaaS data security, and best practices that go well beyond setting strong passwords. Join us as we navigate compliance and security in SaaS!
Why is data security crucial in SaaS?
There are multiple reasons SaaS CFOs need to take responsibility for protecting customer information. The first one that might come to mind is the possibility of fines and fees.
And you’d certainly be right to think about that. Data security violation fines have sometimes ranged in the hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on the scope of the situation.
There are other important factors to consider, however, such as:
- Ethical concerns: First and foremost, keeping users’ data safe is just the right thing to do. This reason leads into the next.
- Reputation management: A data breach can deal a massive blow to a company’s reputation and credibility. That’s because everyone intuitively grasps the value of privacy and data security. It can take a very long time to recover users’ trust after a data breach.
- Maintaining regulatory compliance: SaaS companies are obligated to follow a variety of different privacy regulations. These laws spell out strict requirements for the management of customer data.
What’s at stake for companies that grow complacent around security?
The risks of lackluster SaaS data security
As a SaaS CFO, you’re directly responsible for managing, protecting, and working effectively with huge volumes of customer data.
A lot of that is personally identifiable information (PII), which is data that can be directly linked back to a customer’s identity.
SaaS CFOs who fail to take proactive security measures for PII and other company data risk suffering negative downstream consequences.
We discuss a few of them below.
Increased frequency of intrusion attempts and unauthorized access.
Many business owners and CFOs mistakenly believe that if they’re targeted by hackers once, they’re in the clear as soon as the issue is resolved.
However, many businesses that experience an intrusion attempt often suffer another within 12 months. A false sense of security can lead to real damage being done while your guard is down.
This means it’s imperative to prioritize ongoing data security in your SaaS organization.
Potential loss or theft of important business assets or other internal materials.
Startups and SaaS companies internally circulate a lot of valuable business assets and other data. Be aware that business emails are a common target of hackers.
If your company relies on email chains for forecasting, budgeting, and other important workflows, you’re taking a sizable risk.
Many SaaS CFOs have found that cloud financial management helps them combat these problems.
Hefty non-compliance fines or even legal action in some instances.
You should see non-compliance fees as a big deal. For one thing, even small fines can add up over time. A large penalty, however, can seriously impact your free cash flow, putting restraints on product development and expansion efforts.
If your company’s infraction was serious enough, you might even become the target of legal action. That introduces a whole new layer of potential complexity.
When it comes to compliance, “Better safe than sorry” is always a great motto. And your SaaS metrics can help you maintain that standard at all times.
How can metrics enhance SaaS data security?
The true power of SaaS metrics is in the strategic clarity they offer. That’s true for your SaaS finance and accounting metrics, and it’s true for your data security metrics and cybersecurity KPIs as well.
The metrics we’ll be covering in this post can help you:
- Assess how rapidly your organization can detect cyber attacks
- See how quickly threats are eliminated once detected
- Track how often your company is targeted by hackers, and more
We’ll dive into six data security KPIs for SaaS companies in just a moment. But first, we need to discuss the link between cloud tech and data privacy.
We’ll also share some data privacy regulations you should be aware of, and discuss common cyber attack methods to be on guard against.
Cloud security for modern SaaS leaders
For SaaS CFOs, maintaining optimal cybersecurity standards can be daunting.
Where do you even start?
Safeguarding against insider threats with proper access management? Finding an alternative to email for sensitive digital assets? Ensuring visibility into your company’s current threat status? These all matter significantly, as does the way companies choose to handle them.
Cloud software with AI can help you take care of all those potential threats simultaneously while also eliminating human error.
Internal vulnerabilities are continuously secured through rigorous yet flexible access controls. And real-time algorithmic threat detection keeps your response time as low as possible in the event of a cyber attack.
And when you manage your financial and customer data with cloud software, everything is centrally stored for you. This eliminates the need to use email chains for budgeting, forecasting, and other confidential business processes.
And if anything were to happen, your data would be easily recoverable thanks to automatic backups.
To help you better understand the importance of cyber security in SaaS, let’s review some prominent cyber threats SaaS companies face.
Cybersecurity threats to SaaS companies
SaaS CFOs face various cybersecurity threats that can dramatically compromise data privacy and security.
Risks include data breaches, internal or external unauthorized access, and data exfiltration.
Code injection attacks are also common. They involve hackers piercing your system like a needle pierces the skin and then pumping your system full of malicious computer code.
From there, anything could happen. Your data could start self-deleting, or anything else the hacker had programmed their code to do. It’s a scary thought.
Additionally, you need to be on guard against:
- Cyberattacks like ransomware, phishing attempts, and spyware
- Vulnerabilities in company or employee mobile devices
- Compromised business email accounts
- DoS attacks that can cause lengthy downtime
- Security weaknesses in cloud infrastructure
It’s important to note that, despite our last point above, cloud products are the most safe and effective way to protect against the cyber threats we just listed.
Still, not all cloud tools have the same degree of sophistication or functionality. When selecting a cloud service provider, be sure to compare the relative robustness of rulemaking, analytics functionality, and other
Exercising caution in selecting a cloud provider is still advisable, even though the switch to cloud software for CFOs is a no-brainer in itself.
Cloud planning ensures regulatory adaptability
One of the hardest things about SaaS security and compliance is that the landscape is constantly evolving.
This can make it tremendously difficult to keep up with all the laws and regulations you could be fined for violating, without even knowing they exist.
Cloud software with AI can make sure you’re always in the know. Cloud planning tools monitor regulatory changes in real time, delivering instant notifications if a relevant update occurs.
Additionally, if your company has the bandwidth, consider establishing your own internal “privacy protection agency” to oversee data security initiatives.
This team can bring accountability and transparency to an issue of company-wide importance. It can also help oversee the general state of user privacy in your organization.
Some data privacy and security regulations to know
We can’t overstate the importance of data privacy and security regulations.
You might be tempted to consider compliance an inconvenience, but go back to the question we began this post with.
How would you feel if your financial, medical, or other personal data were freely accessible to hackers?
The regulations discussed below contribute to a safer and more secure digital environment for individuals and businesses alike.
California Consumer Privacy Act
The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is a data privacy law that provides Californians with certain rights regarding their personal data.
It applies to businesses that meet specific criteria, such as having annual gross revenues exceeding $25 million or collecting PII from at least 50,000 consumers.
The CCPA imposes various compliance requirements, including:
- Notifying consumers about data collection practices
- Providing the right to opt out of the sale of consumer information
- Responding to consumer requests and queries regarding their sensitive information
Non-compliance with the CCPA can result in significant penalties, with potential fines ranging from $2,500 to $7,500 per violation.
California voters also passed the California Privacy Rights Act in 2020. The CPRA is a legislative amendment further strengthening the provisions outlined above, highlighting the seriousness of consumer rights in the minds of modern customers.
General Data Protection Regulation
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a crucial regulation for SaaS companies that deal with PII.
It applies to all 27 member states of the EU or companies that do business in those areas.
Among other stipulations, GDPR compliance calls for:
- Continuously monitoring the use of sensitive personal information
- An explanation of the data being collected, the reason for its collection, and its intended destination. If it’s going to third parties, those groups must be GDPR-compliant
- Companies must also keep detailed consent records. In other words, you must be able to furnish proof that each customer explicitly approved the processing of their data
What other regulations do you need to be mindful of?
Service Organization Control Type 2 (SOC 2) is a cyber security regulation in the United States. The standards it contains were developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).
SOC 2 audits evaluate organizations based on five criteria concerning their PII management:
- Processing integrity
During a SOC 2 audit, expect a comprehensive review of your internal controls and data management practices.
Now, let’s explore six crucial data security KPIs for SaaS CFOs.
6 metrics to ensure SaaS data security
As we mentioned earlier, metrics and KPIs are meant to bring clarity and efficiency to complex processes or business goals.
In the case of a SaaS metric like monthly recurring revenue, the point is to measure cash flow in order to maximize it. Your metrics help clarify your business operations so you can fine-tune and improve them.
In the same way, the goal of your data security metrics is to help you assess and improve your company’s level of cybersecurity preparedness.
By tracking these six KPIs, you can ensure that your SaaS organization stays secure and compliant.
1. Mean time to detect
A company’s mean time to detect (MTTD) represents the average time it takes to become aware of a security breach. You might also see it referred to as “mean time to discover” or “mean time to identify.”
Cloud solutions can help you keep this KPI as low as possible through 24/7 real-time threat monitoring.
To calculate your MTTD, add up all your detection times for a specific period and divide by the total number of security incidents in that same period.
2. Mean time to contain
When a security threat is detected on a network with multiple devices, there’s one more step before threat resolution: threat containment.
Your mean time to contain (MTTC) measures this process, gauging how long it takes you to isolate a compromised device and temporarily remove its access to the rest of the group.
If you don’t contain the threat before eliminating it, other network devices could be compromised.
Your MTTC is calculated in the same way as your MTTD. Add up all your containment times for a given period and divide by the total number of security incidents.
In addition to monitoring these metrics in the first place, it’s also useful to track them in relation to specific threat types. For instance, what are your MMTD, MMTC, and MMTR–covered below–for data breaches, malware attacks, or DDoS incidents?
3. Mean time to resolve
Your company’s mean time to resolve (MMTR) refers to the average time it takes from the moment of threat detection to the moment of threat elimination.
As with the previous two metrics, you’ll want to keep your MTTR as low as you can manage. The higher this metric grows, the more time hackers have to wreak havoc before getting kicked out of your network.
4. Access deactivation time
In certain situations, you’ll need to reduce someone’s access priority in your system or even deactivate their access entirely. When an employee leaves the company, for example, it’s prudent to remove their access to internal networks and data ASAP.
Your access deactivation time, an essential security KPI, monitors that process.
Sadly, not all employee relationships end well, and companies need to protect themselves and their customers. Most people would never compromise customer data after leaving a company. But some would.
Cloud planning software features robust yet flexible control architecture, allowing you to adjust access remotely and immediately for the lowest possible deactivation time.
5. Annual security incidents
Tracking your number of annual security incidents can help you keep a sense of how well your overall data security efforts are working out.
In the context of this KPI, a “security incident” is any kind of successful cyber attack.
Reducing the frequency of your security incidents will help you:
- Minimize business downtime
- Reduce your risk of fines and fees
- Set a strong internal precedent at your company
In addition to keeping track of annual security incidents at your company, security breaches should be tracked on a quarterly and monthly basis to properly assess company progress.
6. Annual intrusion attempts
In contrast to a security incident, an intrusion attempt is just that: an attempt at hacking into your network.
In terms of your KPI monitoring, an intrusion doesn’t turn into an incident until your network is compromised in some way.
Some questions you’ll always want to be mindful of when it comes to intrusion attempts include:
- What are your SOPs for notifying relevant stakeholders of intrusion attempts?
- Do you have an automated system in place for logging intrusion attempts?
- If so, who’s responsible for periodically reviewing that data?
By vigilantly tracking intrusion attempts and security incidents, you’ll be in a much better position to safeguard customer PII.
In the hyper-competitive SaaS industry, you need every advantage to win your market. Customers naturally gravitate to companies that make it clear they value security, transparency, and compliance with local and national laws.
Take control of SaaS compliance and security
As a SaaS CFO, knowing your company is fully secure and compliant can offload a massive amount of stress. That valuable mental real estate can then be put to better uses, like maximizing subscription cash flow or optimizing your SaaS pricing.
Maintaining a high data security standard is a constant effort, and the difficulties only compound as you scale. Migrating to the cloud can help you safeguard all your sensitive data, protect your users’ PII, comply with regulatory requirements, and avoid costly fines.
To learn more about how Sage prioritizes these essential aspects of modern business, visit our Trust and Security Hub.
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