How to Secure Your SaaS Sandbox

When creating a sandbox, the mindset is usually such that the sandbox is seen as a place to play around and test and has no impact on the production or operating system. Therefore, people don’t actively think that they need to worry about his safety. This way of thinking is not only wrong, but extremely dangerous.

When it comes to software developers, their sandbox version resembles a children’s playground – a place to develop and test without interrupting any production flow. Now, in the cybersecurity world, the term “sandbox” is used to describe a virtual environment or machine used to run suspicious code and other items.

Many companies use a sandbox for their SaaS apps – to test changes without disrupting the production SaaS app, or even to connect new apps (similar to a software developer’s sandbox). This common practice often leads to a false sense of security and, in turn, a lack of thought about the security implications. In this article, you’ll learn what a SaaS sandbox is, why it’s vulnerable, and how to secure it.

Learn how to gain visibility and control over your SaaS sandbox and app stack.

Cybersecurity basics and SaaS sandbox

A Internet security Sandbox allows the protected assets to be separated from the unknown code, while programmers and app owners can still see what happens after the code runs. The same security concepts are used when creating one SaaS Sandbox – duplicates the main instance of SaaS including its data. This makes it possible to play around with the SaaS app without affecting or breaking the operational SaaS – in production.

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Developers can use the sandbox to test the API, install add-ons, connect other applications, and more—without worrying about it affecting the organization’s actual users. Admins can change configurations, test SaaS features, change roles, and more. This allows the user to better understand how the changes to the SaaS will proceed before implementing them on an operational and critical SaaS instance. This also leaves time to create policies, train employees, create workflows, and more.

All in all, using a sandbox is a great concept for all software and SaaS usage. But the problem, like all great things in the world of SaaS, is that there is a major security risk lurking in it.

Sandbox Security Real Risks and Realities

A large private hospital accidentally leaked data from 50,000 patients while creating a demo site (i.e., sandbox) to test a new appointment-scheduling system. They used the medical center’s real database and left the patient details open.

Often a sandbox is created with real data, sometimes even a full clone of the production environment with its customizations. In other cases, the sandbox is connected directly to a production database. If an attacker manages to break into the sandbox due to lax security measures, they gain access to a wealth of information. (This information leakage can be problematic, especially if you are an EU company or process EU data under the GDPR. If you process medical information in the US or for a US company, you may be in breach of HIPPA.)

Learn how an SSPM can help you automate security for your SaaS sandbox.

Even organizations using synthetic data, which is recommended for all businesses, can still be at risk of attack. An attacker can use the reconnaissance sandbox to gain insight into how an organization sets up its security features and its potential vulnerabilities. Because the sandbox reflects to some extent how the operating system is configured, an attacker can use this knowledge to break into the production system.

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How to secure your SaaS sandbox

The solution to the insecure sandbox problem is pretty simple – secure the sandbox step by step as if it were a production system.

Step 1. Manage and control access to a sandbox and restrict user access to the sandbox. For example, not every user who has access to production should also have access to the sandbox. Controlling which users can create and access a sandbox is the first step in keeping your SaaS environment secure.

Step 2. Implement the same security settings configured in the operating system for the sandbox version; from requiring MFA to implementing SSO and IDP. Many SaaS apps have additional security features tailored to that specific SaaS app that should be mirrored in the sandbox. For example, Salesforce has unique security features like: content sniffing protection, default data confidentiality levels, authentication via custom domain, and so on.

Step 3. Remove production data and replace it with synthetic (i.e. made up) data. Sandboxes are typically used to test changes to configurations, processes, flows (like APEX), and more. You don’t need real data to test changes – any data with the same format can be sufficient. Therefore, avoid copying the production data and use Data Mask instead.

step 4 Keep your sandbox in line with security improvements in the production environment. Often a sandbox is neither updated nor synchronized on a daily basis, leaving it vulnerable to threats that were mitigated in production. To reduce risk and ensure your sandbox is doing its job, a sandbox should be synced every day.

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Automate your SaaS security

Security teams can also implement and leverage SSPM (SaaS Security Posture Management) solutions to automate their SaaS security processes and address the challenges outlined above to monitor and prevent threats from entering the SaaS sandbox.

An SSPM like Adaptive Shield comes into play to enable security teams to identify, analyze and prioritize misconfigurations in the sandbox and across the SaaS app stack, as well as provide transparency to third-party apps with access to the core device-to-SaaS user attitude management and more.

Learn how to automate security for your sandbox and SaaS app stack.

Note: This article was written by Hananel Livneh, Senior Product Analyst at Adaptive Shield.

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