Cloud migration and the popularity of AWS, Azure and other Infrastructure-as-a-Service providers have created myriad new data security challenges for today’s businesses. Cloud security compliance is the overarching practice of maintaining data security within this context.
Cloud services have helped businesses become fast and flexible. Yet trusting sensitive data to third-parties requires some guardrails. By incorporating cloud security compliance standards — or a cloud compliance framework — organizations can help ensure that they maintain adherence to regulations and keep their clients happy.
The Need for Cloud Compliance Management
Securing data in the cloud comes with some key challenges, including:
- You have to rely on your vendor’s security standards
- You give up visibility and control of your data
- Identity and Access Management may see changes
- The risk of a breach may rise due to insecure access points
To manage these risks, organizations can rely on cloud policy compliance to ensure that they way their data is handled is aligned with the regulatory requirements (such as HIPAA, GDPR etc.) under which customers operate.
While services such as AWS and Azure have baked in security measures protecting data centers/hardware, configuring and enforcing compliance controls for each virtual machine is the responsibility of the user, not the cloud services provider. This is referred to as the Shared Responsibility Model.
Creating a cloud security framework using cloud compliance tools is the first step toward maintaining strong data security. The core components of this framework include:
- Governance – These controls that help you define configurations to prevent vulnerabilities, assign cloud structure, ownership and responsibility and define financial controls for authorizing purchases and usage.
- Monitoring Changes — Identity and Access Management controls are subject to frequent changes in the cloud, and poor change control can create misconfigurations. Organizations should get rid of dormant accounts, operate on the Least Privilege principle and continuously monitor root accounts.
- Monitoring and Logging Activity — Creating an audit-ready trail of activity is the cornerstone of good compliance. Remember to protect all logs with encryption.
- Managing Vulnerabilities — Constantly searching for vulnerabilities via automated software, rather than relying on episodic testing, plays an essential role in protecting sensitive data.
- Reporting — Reports create an historical record of compliance. Make sure that all reports are kept for an appropriate amount of time (based on regulatory requirements or customer needs) and ensure they are backed-up in the event of a natural disaster or another unforeseen event.
By following these steps, organizations can practice effective cloud compliance management — and maintain good standing and customer trust.