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Understanding Security Considerations in IaaS/PaaS/SaaS Deployments


Knowing how to select and position security capabilities in different cloud deployment models is critical to comprehensive security across your organization. 

Implementing the right pattern allows you to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of cloud data assets. It can also improve incident response to security threats. 

Additionally, security teams and cloud security architects no longer have to rely on pre-set security templates or approaches built for on-premises environments.

Instead, they must adapt to the specific security demands of the cloud and integrate them with the overall cloud strategy. 

This can be accomplished by re-evaluating defense mechanisms and combining cloud-native security and vendor tools. 

Here, we’ll break down the security requirements and best practices for cloud service models like IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS. Do you have cloud security architects on board? We’ll also cover their roles and the importance of leveraging native security tools specific to each model.

Managing Separation of Responsibilities with the Cloud Service Provider

Secure cloud deployments start with understanding responsibilities. Where do you stand, and what is expected of you?

There are certain security responsibilities the cloud security provider takes care of and those that the customer handles. This division of responsibilities means adjusting focus and using different measures to ensure security is necessary. 

Therefore, organizations must consider implementing compensating controls and alternative security measures to make up for any limitations in the cloud service provider’s security offerings.

Security Considerations for SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) Deployments

The specific security requirements in SaaS deployments may vary between services. However, it’s important to consider the following areas:

Data protection

During cloud deployments, protecting data assets is a tough nut to crack for many organizations.

As a SaaS provider, ensuring data protection is crucial because you handle and store sensitive customer data. Encryption must be implemented for data in transit and at rest. 

Protecting data at rest is the cloud provider’s responsibility, whereas you are responsible for data in transit.

The cloud provider implements security measures like encryption, access controls, and physical security to protect the data stored in their infrastructure.

On the other hand, it’s your responsibility to implement secure communication protocols like encryption, ensuring data remains protected when it moves between your SaaS application.

Additionally, best practice solutions may offer you the option of managing your encryption keys so that cloud operations staff cannot decrypt customer data.

Interfacing with the Cloud Service

There are a number of security considerations to keep in mind when interacting with a SaaS deployment. These include validating data inputs, implementing secure APIs, and securing communication channels. 

It’s crucial to use secure protocols like HTTPS and to ensure that the necessary authentication and authorization mechanisms are in place. You may also want to review and monitor access logs frequently to spot and address any suspicious activity.

Application Security in SaaS

During SaaS deployments, it’s essential to ensure application security. For instance, secure coding practices, continuous vulnerability assessments, and comprehensive application testing all contribute to effective SaaS application security.

Cross-site scripting (XSS) and SQL injection are some of the common web application cyber-attacks today. You can improve the application’s security posture by implementing the right input validation, regular security patches from the SaaS provider, and web application firewalls (WAFs). 

Cloud Identity and Access Controls

Here, you must define how cloud services will integrate and federate with existing enterprise identity and access management (IAM) systems. 

This ensures a consistent and secure access control framework. Implementing strong authentication mechanisms like multifactor authentication (MFA) and enforcing proper access controls based on roles and responsibilities are necessary security requirements. 

You should also consider using Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) tools to provide adaptive and risk-based access controls.

Regulatory Compliance

Using a cloud service doesn’t exempt one from regulatory compliance, and cloud architects must design the SaaS architecture to align with these requirements.

But why are these stringent requirements there in the first place?

The purpose of these regulations is to protect consumer privacy by enforcing confidentiality, integrity, availability, and accountability. 

So, achieving compliance means you meet these regulations. It demonstrates that your applications and tech stack maintain secure privacy levels. 

Failure to comply could cost money in the form of fines, legal action, and a damaged reputation. You don’t want that. 

Security Considerations for PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) Deployments

PaaS security considerations during deployments will address all the SaaS areas. But as a PaaS customer, there are slight differences you should know.

For example, more options exist to configure how data is protected and who can do what with it. As such, the responsibility of user permissions may be given to you.

On the other hand, some PaaS providers may have built-in tools and mechanisms for managing user permissions.

So, what are the other key areas you want to address to ensure a secure environment for PaaS deployments? We’ll start with the application security.

Application Security

The customer is responsible for securing the applications they build and deploy on the PaaS platform.

Securing application platforms is necessary, and cloud architects must ensure this from the design and development stage. 

So, what do you do to ensure application security? It all starts from the onset. From secure coding practices, addressing application vulnerabilities, and conducting regular security testing.

You’ll often find that most security vulnerabilities are introduced from the early stages of software development. If you can identify and fix potential flaws using penetration testing and threat modeling practices, you’re on your way to successful deployment.

Data Security

PaaS cloud security deployments offer more flexibility and allow customers control over their data and user entitlements. What this means is you can build and deploy your own applications on the platform. 

You can configure security measures and controls within your applications by defining who has access to applications, what they can do, and how data is protected.

Here, cloud security architects and security teams can ensure data classification and access controls, determining appropriate encryption keys management practices, secure data integration and APIs, and data governance.

Ultimately, configuring data protection mechanisms and user permissions provides customers with greater customization and control. 

Platform Security

The platform itself, including the operating system, underlying infrastructure, data centers, and middleware, need to be protected. 

This is the responsibility of the PaaS provider. They must ensure that the components that keep the platform up are functional at all times.

Network Security

In PaaS environments, identity and roles are primarily used for network security to determine access to resources and data in the PaaS platform. 

As such, the most important factor to consider in this case is verifying the user identity and managing access based on their roles and permissions.

Rather than relying on traditional network security measures like perimeter controls, IDS/IPS, and traffic monitoring, there is a shift to user-centric access controls. 

Security Considerations for IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) Cloud Deployments

When it comes to application and software security, IaaS security during cloud deployment is similar. 

If you’re an IaaS customer, there are slight differences in how IaaS cloud deployment is handled. 

For example, while the cloud provider handles the hypervisor or virtualized layer, everything else is the customers’ responsibility. 

So, you must secure the cloud deployment by implementing appropriate security measures to safeguard their applications and data. 

Due to different deployment patterns, some security tools that work well for SaaS may not be suitable for IaaS. 

For example, we discussed how CASB could be excellent for cloud identity, data, and access controls in SaaS applications. However, this may not be effective in IaaS environments.

Your cloud architects and security teams must understand these differences when deploying IaaS. 

They should consider alternative or additional security measures in certain areas to ensure more robust security during cloud deployments. These areas are:

Access Management

IaaS deployment requires you to consider several identity and access management (IAM) dimensions. For example, cloud architects must consider access to the operating system, including applications and middleware installed on them.

Additionally, they must also consider privileged access, such as root or administrative access at the OS level.

Keep in mind that IaaS has additional access layers. These consist of access to the IaaS console and other cloud provider features that may offer insights about or impact the operation of cloud resources. 

For example, key management and auditing and resource configuration and hardening. It’s important to clarify who has access to these areas and what they can do.

Regular Patching

There are more responsibilities for you. The IaaS customer is responsible for keeping workloads updated and maintained. This typically includes the OS itself and any additional software installed on the virtual machines.

Therefore, cloud architects must apply the same vigilance to cloud workloads as they would to on-premises servers regarding patching and maintenance. This ensures proactive, consistent, and timely updates that ensure the security and stability of cloud workloads.

Network Security

IaaS customers must configure and manage security mechanisms within their virtual networks. This includes setting firewalls, using intrusion detection and intrusion prevention systems (IDS/IPS), establishing secure connections (VPN), and network monitoring.

On the other hand, the cloud provider ensures network security for the underlying network infrastructure, like routers and switches. They also ensure physical security by protecting network infrastructure from unauthorized access.

Data Protection

While IaaS providers ensure the physical security of data centers, IaaS customers must secure their own data in the IaaS environment. 

They need to protect data stored in databases, virtual machines (VMs), and any other storage system provisioned by the IaaS provider.

Some IaaS providers, especially large ones, offer encryption capabilities for the VMs created on their platform. This feature is typically free or low-priced. 

It’s up to you to decide whether managing your own encryption keys is more effective or to choose the provider’s offerings.

If you decide to go for this feature, it’s important to clarify how encrypting data at rest may affect other services from the IaaS provider, such as backup and recovery.

Leveraging Native Cloud Security Tools

Just like the encryption feature, some cloud service providers offer a range of native tools to help customers enforce effective security. These tools are available for IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS cloud services.

While customers may decide not to use them, the low financial and operational impact of native cloud security tools on businesses makes them a smart decision.

It allows you to address several security requirements quickly and easily due to seamless control integration. However, it’s still important to decide which controls are useful and where they are needed.


Cloud security architecture is always evolving. And this continuous change makes cloud environments more complex and dynamic. From misconfigurations to data loss, many challenges can make secure cloud deployments for IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS services more challenging.

Prevasio, an AlgoSec company, is your trusted cloud security partner that helps your organization streamline cloud deployments. Our cloud-native application provides increased risk visibility and control over security and compliance requirements. Contact us now to learn more about how you can expedite your cloud security operations.

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