Tips for Better Cloud Compliance

The Importance of Cloud Compliance

As cloud security adoption has increased, compliance standards have had to evolve, as cloud platforms and services are expected to remain compliant with various international, federal, state, and local security standards, regulations, and laws. A lack of compliance to these rigid rules can lead to legal challenges, penalties, fines, and other negative ramifications.

Cloud compliance and security is more important than ever as the threat landscape becomes more sophisticated. It can’t be overlooked, ignored, or pushed to the proverbial back burner. It’s a topic that must be proactively addressed. But it’s undeniably challenging, which makes it an unattractive endeavor for organizations that already have enough technically complex tasks on their organizational to-do lists.

Part of the challenge of cloud compliance is that it exists on multiple levels, not all of which are controlled by the same parties. And with the introduction of shadow IT, it becomes even more complex. Along with standard cloud provider compliance requirements, most large industries also have specific rules and regulations about cloud compliance.

For example, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), which is used to ensure security for payments made with debit or credit cards, has specific requirements for cloud deployments. The same goes for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the healthcare industry.

And then there’s user-side compliance. Just because a cloud service provider meets international standards and industry requirements, doesn’t automatically make the user compliant. The user still must ensure that the cloud service is used in a compliant manner, as well as the rest of the deployment.

5 Tips for Better Cloud Compliance

Ensuring optimal cloud compliance requires a profound understanding of the big picture, as well as a precise understanding of the details. Here are some concepts that you might find helpful:

1. Know your Cloud

Take the time to carefully understand your cloud model, as well as your cloud service providers security responsibilities. This will help you to identify security and compliance gaps. There are stark differences and unique needs when you compare private clouds to public clouds to hybrid clouds. You can’t address cloud compliance in a meaningful way if you aren’t intimate with your setup and the unique factors facing your specific situation.

2. Embrace Responsibility

Let’s be clear on one thing: Though you might have “shared responsibility” with your cloud vendor or service provider, it’s ultimately your organization that’s responsible. You can always back out of your contract if the provider doesn’t follow the rules, but the full weight of protecting your customers’ information, employee data, corporate data, etc. falls on you. A failure to do so will land your organization in scalding hot water.

3. Get Serious About SLAs

Businesses commonly treat service level agreements (SLAs) as simple boilerplate documents that are copy and pasted into place. They typically don’t get read. And if they are, it’s a quick glance. But as important as compliance is, you can’t afford to be lax on this front.

Penalties for breaching regulations are costly and restrictive. (And remember, the onus is ultimately on you!) If you aren’t specific about what you need from your cloud service provider, you’ll almost certainly leave yourself exposed to unnecessary levels of risk.

Your SLA needs to clearly outline how the cloud service provider will segment your environment from their other customers, where your data can/can’t be geographically located, who can access data, etc.

And remember: Just because the cloud service provider has these things in writing in an SLA, doesn’t mean they’ll comply. It’s up to you to ensure that they do. Your SLA simply puts added contractual pressure on them to abide by the rules.

4. Be More Intentional With Employee Access

Access management is one of the more vital aspects of cloud compliance – specifically as it pertains to data protection. You should significantly limit which employees are able to access which applications, accounts, and data. Bolster your policies, enact need-based access rules, strengthen access expiries, and perform regular, in-depth audits to make sure there are no weak spots that are ripe for infiltration. Also, centralized visibility of your cloud platform will help enhance your compliance posture management so you can monitor status and quickly take action to prevent threats.

5. Unified Security Strategy

The security of your cloud infrastructure and therefore compliance needs to be holistic and include the elements of prevention, governance, visibility, and agility. Enable a unified security strategy that protects your application including network security, threat intelligence, network, level of access controls, visibilityData encryption is a given this day, but it bears repeating. No matter how secure your perimeter is, there will always be those who find a way in. At this point, data encryption is your best line of defense. You need to make sure you’re taking the proper measures to fully secure it. This means having data encryption at rest.

With data encryption enabled at rest, your data can’t be tampered with, even if access credentials end up in the hands of a hacker (or even an insider). With so many different types of encryption, it’s necessary to spend some time working through your exact needs so that you can implement a robust solution that yields maximum protection.