SaaS in the Real World: How Global Food Chains Can Secure Their Digital Dish - Adaptive Shield

SaaS in the Real World: How Global Food Chains Can Secure Their Digital Dish

Arye Zacks, Sr. Technical Content Specialist

The Quick Serve Restaurant (QSR) industry is built on consistency and shared resources. National chains like McDonald’s and regional ones like Cracker Barrel grow faster by reusing the same business model, decor, and menu, with little change from one location to the next.

QSR technology stacks mirror the consistency of the front end of each store. Despite each franchise being independently owned and operated, they share subscriptions to SaaS applications, or use multiple tenants of the same application. Each app is typically segmented by store. Corporate IT and Security has access to the entire database, while each franchise has visibility into its own data.

These SaaS apps cover everything from CRMs to supply chains to marketing and HR. The data within is used to understand consumer habits, improve marketing campaigns, and manage employees. Like every other industry, QSR SaaS apps contain a wealth of data that needs to be secured.

At the same time, we’re seeing food chains come under attack. While it is unclear whether the recent breaches at fast food chains involved SaaS applications, what is clear is that threat actors are increasingly turning their attention to restaurant chains. QSRs have unique challenges and should take specific, significant security measures to protect their SaaS applications.

Franchising Poses a Unique SaaS Challenge

Like all businesses, QSRs need to prevent their data from falling into the hands of threat actors. In addition, QSRs have a secondary concern that few other businesses experience.

Burger King has about 7,000 franchises in the United States. These individually owned and operated restaurants often compete with each other. The different franchises may store data within the same SaaS applications. However, the data is segmented to prevent stores from seeing intra-chain competitor data.

Segmenting data so that the corporate CISO team has a full view of their applications, regional management offices have access to aggregated data within their region, and individual franchises are only able to see their data requires sensitive configurations through role-based access tools.

If misconfigured, data can easily be exposed within the chain. System administrators must constantly monitor their configurations to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Securing Multiple Tenants of Applications

In addition to sharing segmented applications, many QSRs use different tenants of the same application. Each tenant must be secured separately, with its configurations following the guidelines of the chain.

Some stores may have instances of applications that are highly secure, while others may have poor security posture. Ensuring that each branch maintains strict security standards in this type of environment is a monumental task.

Identity and Access Governance is Crucial in a QSR SaaS

Another unique challenge for today’s QSRs stems from the fact that they have been one of the major players affected by COVID-19 and the great resignation. Many restaurants have cut back hours, reverted to drive-thru only, or operate with skeleton crews trying to serve their customers.

The employee shortage means that more employees are given access to systems that would have been controlled by managers in the past. The shortage is also driven by employees staying at the job for short periods of time. These employees are not “cyber-trained,” and are far more susceptible to social engineering attacks like phishing. Furthermore, they tend to be younger, and don’t always appreciate the repercussions of sharing their login credentials with friends and social networks.

As a result, onboarding and deprovisioning employees from thousands of chains across the globe is more important than ever before. Former employees need their access revoked as quickly as possible to limit the likelihood of data leaks, breaches, and other cyber attacks.

Protecting Against SaaS Threats

To battle these unique challenges, a SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM) can come into the picture. SSPMs help restaurants manage the settings that separate data by store. It also compares different tenants, letting the corporate CISO team know which stores, regions, and countries have secured their applications, and which have misconfigurations that could result in data leaks or breaches.

Furthermore, SSPM alerts restaurants when they have connected high-risk third party apps to the core hub, or if their employees are accessing the SaaS application with low-hygiene devices. It governs users and access, ensuring that security tools like MFA are in place, and reviews user activity to detect threats that could lead to breaches.

When security settings are misconfigured, it lets app administrators and security teams know when configuration drifts have made data accessible to other stores, and offers remediation guidelines to help them reseal the data wall between franchises.

With an effective SSPM tool in place, QSRs can manage their restaurants using SaaS applications with confidence that their data is safe.

About the writer

Arye Zacks, Sr. Technical Content Specialist

Arye takes complicated concepts and makes them easy to understand. A gifted storyteller with a marketing background dating back to the 90s, he knows how to engage readers with stories that address the challenges they face. Oh, and he is beloved for his skills on the grill and smoker.