Cloud Security: Are Adopters Asking the Right Questions?

December 28, 2016
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2 min read

The cloud platform market is a competitive landscape, with well-established incumbents facing off against disruptive newcomers looking to secure their own market shares. This competition drives cloud service providers (CSPs) to focus on adding new features to differentiate themselves, potentially at the expense of cloud security.

Asking The Right Questions About Cloud Security

Naturally, consumers will look to evaluate CSPs based on these functional capabilities. This means they typically ask potential providers questions such as:

  • How quickly can I build my cloud-based offering?
  • How much money can I save by leveraging a CSP?
  • Which provider offers the best high-availability solution?

These are key factors when selecting a solution. Given the number of high profile data breaches that have occurred recently, however, cloud-savvy customers should rethink how they measure CSPs.

CSPs must be ready to react to a renewed focus on cloud security. The most successful providers will be those best equipped to answer the following questions:

These questions arise from a lack of understanding of how CSPs manage critical business assets. To bridge this gap, providers must look to build trust with their consumers by creating transparent and open communications.

Juggling Compliance Standards

To start, providers must aim to achieve well-known and trusted certifications, such as ISO 27K. These independently certifiable standards will assure consumers that the expected levels of IT security are in place.

CSPs should also consider adopting cloud-specific compliance initiates, such as the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) Security Trust and Assurance Registry (STAR), which aims to demystify the growing number of IT-related compliance standards.

Transparency Transformation

As companies continue to adopt multicloud and hybrid models at an increasing rate, the roles and responsibilities of consumers, providers and subcontractors must be clearly defined. CSPs should move away from jargon-heavy terms and conditions and embrace a collaborative approach to ensuring the overall security and compliance of the offerings they host.

CSPs should also make attestation reports, such as the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (CPA)’s Service Organization Control (SOC) reports, publicly available. They can also share their incident response plans with customers in the event of a security breach.

Auditing Frameworks

The traditional approach to point-in-time audits against recognized security standards help customers gain confidence in CSP practices. The dynamic nature of cloud services, however, will drive consumers to look for greater real-time transparency into the security posture of upstream providers.

CSPs will have to consider ways to give consumers increased visibility while protecting their intellectual property and business reputations. Frameworks for continuous auditing are being defined by research and cloud advocacy groups, but these frameworks will require the participation of CSPs to be successful.

Cloud security is a differentiating factor for CSPs. As cyberattacks continue to increase in volume and scope, it will become even more important for CSPs to answer customer concerns and take the necessary steps to build trust.

Richard O'Mahony
Senior Engineer, IBM Security

Richard is a Senior Engineer within the IBM Security unit. His responsibilities include developing and securing the cloud platforms hosting the IBM cloud sec...
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