People often speak of the cloud while using vague hand gestures that seem to imply that the cloud is simultaneously everywhere and nowhere at the same time. We get it; it’s a complicated concept. At the end of the day, no one has the time to figure out how it works as long as it works, right?
Many businesses utilize the efficiency of cloud provider services for most (or all) of their IT requirements. However, there’s a common cloud compliance trap that many organizations fail to see until it’s too late. What’s this trap? Allow us to put up a warning before you continue your compliance journey. It will read: “Businesses Beware: Your cloud provider is not solely responsible for your information security compliance!.”
But you know us; we wouldn’t simply give a warning and leave you to fend for yourself. So, here’s what you need to know about cloud provider compliance and why it alone isn’t enough.
What is a cloud service provider?
Cloud service providers are companies that establish public clouds, manage private clouds, or offer on-demand cloud computing components like Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Software-as-a-Service(SaaS). Cloud services can reduce business process costs when compared to on-premise IT. This allows businesses to get the most out of their business model without becoming software and IT experts. Once adopted, cloud service providers (CSP) enable businesses to migrate all (or part) of their IT functions to an external third party specializing in that area.
As a result, cloud service providers have become the standard for modern business processes. Businesses are free to choose the right provider for their business based on the providers’ ability to simplify their unique IT solutions. But what about their unique compliance needs?
In a nutshell, businesses use a CSP for three core reasons:
- To streamline and optimize processes
- To simplify systems
- To protect data
However, it’s the latter that can be easily misinterpreted and that often needs clearing up. Sure, a CSP may be compliant, but what does that have to do with your compliance?
Compliance risks and the cloud
Cloud service providers pose what is known as a third-party risk to compliance. Although it may address immediate business needs and have a robust security framework, its security measures form only a tiny fraction of the overall security compliance for a business.
Although a CSP compliance can improve your security controls and mitigate third-party risk, they are not responsible for your compliance. Hence, businesses need to consider whether or not their CSP protects their data, services, and reputation appropriately but still need to focus on their own compliance.
The overarching idea of cloud compliance involves the procedures, policies, and practices that monitor data in the cloud and ensure that this cloud environment complies with governance and regulatory requirements. Organizations deal with customers from all over the globe, all of whom are governed by different regulatory requirements, such as GDPR, NIST, SOX, and many others.
Businesses must better understand where their data is stored as a starting point for cloud compliance. The biggest pro? Storing data in the cloud is possibly the safest way to store data when following best compliance practices. So, for something known as the safer bet, why is your cloud provider compliance alone not enough? Let’s take a look at just some of the reasons.
Over-reliance on your cloud system provider
Many businesses rely heavily on their cloud service provider to stay operational. Which IT tool, service, or platform is used most regularly in your organization? How would it impact your organization if you were to remove it for the day? It will most likely prove to be a significant roadblock. Most CSPs have a reputation for being consistent and stable to ensure minimal disruption to operational activity. However, businesses are encouraged to have a system in place to restore and protect any sensitive data in the event of a functional failure.
Your cloud service provider may have the most robust security controls in place, but your organization is only as strong as your team’s ability to navigate your own best practices. Most compliance frameworks, such as ISO 27001 and SOC 2, require a business to implement security awareness training to stay compliant. Within the cloud, your team members may have access to sensitive data or cause accidental data breaches and threats due to negligence.
This is a prime example of how even though your provider may have the required security controls, it does not mean that your business is compliant. Your team needs to adopt security best practices and security culture to ensure that the provider’s compliance bolsters its own security efforts without the risk of believing that it can ever replace it.
Another compliance risk that occurs without the proper business security controls is data leakage. Although your cloud service provider ensures that your data is stored safely, data leakage can arise in other ways within your organization. However, this can be mitigated with the right encryption, security controls, and restrictive access within the business.
Cyber threats and account hijacking
Account hijacking and unauthorized access are still a real threat to businesses with compliant cloud service providers. Cybercriminals can still easily obtain login information or exploit vulnerabilities within the user’s network. This risk is amplified by organizations that do not implement security measures regarding password encryption and/or control.
Compliance and cloud security
Ultimately, businesses must understand that the responsibility for compliance cannot be outsourced and always falls right on the shoulders of each organization. As part of this due diligence process of ensuring compliance, organizations are also responsible for ensuring that their cloud providers meet current security and compliance standards. If there is a data violation, non-compliance, or breaches – consequences will most likely fall squarely on the business (not the cloud provider). Unless, it is specifically a cloud provider issue alone.
The cloud provider is only responsible for undergoing the process of compliance regarding the underlying infrastructure and service they provide. This compliance does not transcend to its users or how they decide to utilize the cloud or follow security best practices.
How to evaluate cloud service provider security
As an organization migrates to a new cloud service provider, it’s responsible for ensuring that the provider meets the standard security requirements for security compliance. However, to do this, it’s also essential that they choose a provider that aligns with their current security practices. Here’s how organizations can ensure cloud service provider security.
Identify the data
Which data will be migrating to the cloud? Identifying the type of data the CSP will obtain and store is essential. Depending on the cloud system or service, the data type will differ. Types of data that can migrate to the cloud include:
- Customer data
- Staff details
- Email data
- Intellectual property
The security measures and compliance expectations will somewhat differ depending on the type of data that migrates to your CSP.
Conduct a risk assessment
Risk assessments are pivotal in any compliance framework, and most security standards consider it an obligatory step in ongoing compliance. Once you’re aware of the type of data collected and used by your CSP, the next step is to conduct a risk assessment.
A risk assessment aims to identify any security risks or gaps that could cause non-compliance. This specific risk assessment delves into the data that is now (or will be) handled by the CSP. This includes an in-depth analysis of the providers’ processes and any risks posed by entities the providers connect with, such as hardware support personnel, helpdesk staff, or software developers.
Run a security assessment
As an organization, you should be aware of your specific compliance requirements. However, seeing if they overlap with the technical controls of a CSP requires in-depth knowledge of your organization’s intricate security and technical controls, as well as a thorough vendor review. Needless to say, this is a much more daunting task than simply skimming over the terms and conditions of each provider.
A security assessment ensures that the cloud service provider you are using meets an organization’s specific compliance needs and follows industry best practices.
Your cloud provider won’t do it, but Scytale will
Are you currently unsure how your cloud provider affects your overall compliance? Or if you need to be compliant with SOC 2, ISO 27001 or even HIPAA? We’ve got it covered. Ensure security across your organization with Scytale’s cloud compliance management. Streamline your journey to compliance and ensure that your business (including your CSP) doesn’t leave any room for risks.