Cloud Compliance refers to the practice of assuring your data remains safe while stored or processed on cloud services, including identifying regulations and standards applicable to your business, understanding compliance requirements and implementing security controls.
Maintaining compliance can be an ongoing struggle with ever-evolving rules and standards, but Sprinto can help reduce risk with its entity-level control capabilities that enable automation.
What Is Cloud Compliance?
Cloud compliance refers to the practice of assuring cloud-delivered systems are compliant with regulatory frameworks and standards of their industries or customers they serve. For instance, businesses dealing with credit card information or medical records likely must adhere to PCI DSS or HIPAA compliance. Both regulations establish specific rules regarding where data may/must be stored as well as who has access to it.
Cloud security compliance can be a complex undertaking due to all its variables. Most frameworks describe compliance rules in general terms like “reasonable security,” but it is ultimately up to businesses themselves to assess them and figure out if and how they apply in their specific cloud environments.
Cloud security compliance also demands full visibility into all aspects of a business’s cloud usage, which may prove challenging due to its hybrid network design that utilizes various connection technologies and topologies. Achieve full compliance requires good visibility into every aspect of cloud usage for businesses to remain compliant and protect sensitive data at all times. A good compliance strategy must also ensure sensitive information remains safe and protected.
The Importance of Cloud Compliance
Cloud compliance refers to the rules and procedures an organization implements to protect their data while adhering to industry standards. Regular audits should be performed on your cloud infrastructure in order to identify any areas which might pose risks or be noncompliant.
Data encryption at rest and in transit, along with key management practices are essential components of cloud security and can help safeguard against unapproved access to your information.
Be mindful of where your data resides; certain regulations mandate servers remain within certain regions. Use tools to monitor how it’s accessed and altered in the cloud so you can detect any unwelcome accesses or suspicious activity quickly and effectively.
Finally, make sure your business has an effective disaster recovery plan in place to ensure continued operation should there be an outage in the cloud. This will allow your operations to remain uninterrupted during any disruptions in service.
Tips for Better Cloud Compliance
Make sure that the cloud policies in place at your organization comply with applicable laws, regulations, and standards such as PCI DSS for credit card data security; HIPAA for healthcare; ISO/IEC 27017/18 for information security practices.
As you make changes to your cloud infrastructure, ensure that its policies and controls meet any new requirements. It may also be beneficial to perform due diligence on vendors to make sure they comply with any standards you require (for instance if storing any sensitive data).
Determining which cloud services are responsible for what aspects of your compliance program is also key, based on the shared responsibility model of your chosen vendor. For instance, with AWS it has been determined that their security team are accountable for maintaining infrastructure while customers must secure their applications and data stored with AWS.
Challenges of Cloud Compliance
Regulatory uncertainty is a perennial challenge that businesses must contend with, which becomes further compounded when multiple regulations pertain to cloud environments.
Another challenge lies in understanding and adapting security requirements for cloud environments. Traditional security tools were built for static environments; therefore they may not work efficiently in dynamic architectures like cloud where IP addresses frequently change, resources launch/shutdown frequently, etc. Misconfigurations occur that expose cloud assets to unauthorized access/breach.
An additional challenge lies in complying with GDPR, FERPA, and other standards pertaining to data privacy. This requires creating and implementing an access policy which restricts sensitive information only to those needing permission and monitoring or alerting in the event that it violates policies – to prevent breaches.
A fourth challenge lies in creating and implementing an effective disaster recovery plan, including strategies for recovering quickly from disaster with minimal data loss or disruption to business operations. Furthermore, tracking changes to cloud architecture is important and receiving alerts when they put the organization at risk of noncompliance must also be established as procedures.
Cloud Compliance Best Practices
Businesses can utilize various cloud compliance best practices to maintain an effective security posture, including encrypting sensitive data stored in the cloud and regularly reviewing compliance to identify any gaps or potential problems.
Another key cloud compliance best practice is ensuring your organization has complete visibility of its network. This can be especially challenging when managing hybrid networks with various connectivity technologies and topologies that need to be managed, but third-party solutions like cloud access security brokers (CASBs) can provide this visibility – helping prevent data loss, control access to devices and accounts, discover shadow IT/rogue apps as well as monitoring IaaS configurations – sources of cloud security breaches.
Organizations must understand which cloud regulations and standards pertain to them individually, such as AWS’ outlined responsibilities for customers; AWS provides infrastructure that runs its services while customers are responsible for secure configuration of their data and applications in the cloud.
Common Cloud Regulations and Standards
Your industry dictates which cloud compliance standards you need to meet; for instance, handling credit card data requires complying with PCI-DSS; other standards include HIPAA which applies specifically to healthcare entities like hospitals and health insurers and requires businesses to enhance medical information security as well as report any breaches.
Step one of cloud compliance involves identifying which regulations and standards you need to follow. Most frameworks describe their requirements relatively generically; it’s up to your business to interpret those into specific tools and settings – for instance, GDPR requires “reasonable security” but doesn’t specify exactly what that entails.
Once you know which standards you must comply with, it’s important to evaluate cloud providers to ensure their compliance. Make sure your vendor resides in a country where the laws permit hosting personal data and check Service Organization Control Type 2 reports from providers for insight into how they’re meeting compliance standards.
Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard
The PCI-DSS is a set of security requirements businesses must follow to protect credit card data. These standards were developed by major payment card brands (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover and JCB).
Any business accepting credit cards must adhere to PCI-DSS compliance in order to protect themselves against cybercriminals who attempt to use this data for identity theft and fraud, while also building customer trust that could result in repeat business and enhanced brand loyalty.
PCI-DSS compliance involves meeting several different requirements. One such rule states that sensitive cardholder data must be stored safely – this includes both hard copy data as well as digital versions stored digitally – while all user IDs and passwords for people accessing cardholder information must also be unique for every person who needs access. It is also required that all systems or devices that might expose this sensitive information be regularly audited.
Shared Responsibility Model
The Shared Responsibility Model is a security and compliance framework that assigns roles between cloud service providers (CSPs) and customers to facilitate monitoring and responding to cloud environments without leaving security gaps that expose sensitive data, applications or infrastructure to attacks.
While cloud service providers (CSPs) are responsible for protecting their hardware, software and physical hosts, customers must take measures to secure their own data, endpoints, settings, applications and network controls. While specific responsibilities will vary based on cloud model and vendor, both parties should understand their roles to reduce potential risks.
Organizations should review their service level agreements (SLAs) carefully in order to fully comprehend both their own responsibilities and those of their cloud service providers (CSP). This is particularly essential when operating in multicloud environments where minor changes to SLA terms could have major ramifications. Moreover, modern tools should be utilized in order to gain visibility, control and compliance across their environment.