Cloud Security

Cloud Security Standards: Top 12 Standards

In this swiftly digitizing era, cloud security has emerged as a critical pillar for businesses around the globe. Cloud technology has ushered in substantial benefits such as scalability, cost-effectiveness, and accessibility. Nonetheless, with these perks comes an escalated exposure to risks and vulnerabilities. Therefore, the importance of safeguarding data within a cloud environment is beyond […]

Mahendra D.

Written by Mahendra D.

July 27, 2023 | 9 min read

In this swiftly digitizing era, cloud security has emerged as a critical pillar for businesses around the globe. Cloud technology has ushered in substantial benefits such as scalability, cost-effectiveness, and accessibility. Nonetheless, with these perks comes an escalated exposure to risks and vulnerabilities. Therefore, the importance of safeguarding data within a cloud environment is beyond doubt.

This blog post discusses the details of Cloud Security Standards, which act as the touchstone for preserving data integrity and security within the cloud. We’re going to delve into the heart of what cloud security entails, understand why these standards hold such paramount importance, and delve into the top 12 cloud security standards that every business ought to consider.

Table of Contents:

What is Cloud Security?

At its core, cloud security involves various pieces – from strategies, guidelines, and processes, to tech innovations – all aimed at one thing: safeguarding the data, applications, and systems that make up cloud computing. The target? Protect the data stored in the cloud from potential risks – theft, leaks, and unwanted deletion – all while staying within the boundary lines of regulatory requirements.

Achieving this target isn’t a one-step process. It requires many tactics, such as ensuring data transfers are secure, validating the identity of users, and constantly checking for security weak spots and protecting them.

Human factors play an equally crucial role in cloud security. We’re talking about following established rules and regulations, educating users about potential risks and how to avoid them, and regularly performing system checks and audits. Why? Because the threats to cloud security can come from anywhere – from a cyber-attack in the external world to a simple mistake or a harmful action within the organization.

What are Cloud Security Standards?

Cloud Security Standards – what are they all about? These standards are rules, best practices, and guidelines created by industry organizations, global entities, and governmental bodies. Their main goal is to create a foundational level of security for cloud services. They play a critical role in the protection of cloud data, privacy safeguards, ensuring regulatory adherence and risk management related to cloud computing. They’re vast in scope, tackling everything from data protection to access control, identity verification, incident response, and even encryption protocols.

But the emphasis of these standards isn’t solely on the technology. They also incorporate operational and organizational elements of security, touching on aspects like risk management, security in human resources, supply chain security, and the formulation of security policies. The aim is to provide a holistic approach to creating a secure, reliable cloud environment.

However, cloud security standards are not universally applicable. Different organizations or specific use cases may require different standards. Certain standards are designed specifically for handling specific types of data – healthcare, financial, or government, for example. Therefore, understanding cloud security standards and their relevant use cases is vital for organizations to choose and implement the ones that cater to their specific needs and regulatory requirements.

Why are Cloud Security Standards Important?

Cloud Security Standards are more than just beneficial—they’re crucial in today’s escalating cyber threats. They serve several key purposes that make them indispensable for organizations.

These standards offer a structured path for companies to secure their cloud-based data and services effectively. They act as a blueprint for constructing sturdy security infrastructures capable of fending off numerous threats, from data breaches to DoS attacks. Importantly, as these standards evolve, they help organizations keep pace with the newest security best practices.

Compliance is another area where cloud security standards shine. Strict data protection and privacy regulations bind industries like healthcare, finance, and government. Organizations can meet these regulatory demands and avoid the heavy fines linked with non-compliance by sticking to the appropriate cloud security standards.

Moreover, these standards build credibility among stakeholders, such as customers, partners, and regulators. They assure these parties of an organization’s dedication to data protection and secure cloud environments, thereby fostering trust and confidence. In a marketplace where a data breach can spell disaster in terms of reputation and customer trust, not to mention financial losses, this can serve as a significant competitive edge.

These standards assist organizations in devising an effective strategy for responding to incidents. Regardless of the strength of security measures in place, incidents can still happen. A detailed, standard-based response plan can help limit the damage, shorten downtime, and promote quick recovery in such events.

Top 12 Cloud Security Standards

Navigating the complex landscape of cloud security can seem like a daunting task. Understanding and implementing the right cloud security standards is crucial in this journey. Let’s delve into the top 12 Cloud Security Standards to help secure your cloud data, ensure compliance, and foster stakeholder trust.

#1. ISO 27017

The ISO/IEC 27017 standard acts as a guide focusing on information security relevant to cloud computing. It suggests security controls for both parties – the cloud service providers and the customers. This standard extends the reach of ISO/IEC 27002, adjusting it to cater to the specific needs of cloud services. When organizations incorporate ISO/IEC 27017, they can bolster their cloud services’ security, dependability, and compliance, aligning with international best practices.

ISO/IEC 27017 discusses a variety of controls, like the ownership of assets, management of user access, and division of duties, among others. Defining roles and responsibilities helps in avoiding security loopholes and overlapping, making it an invaluable resource for managing and lessening risks associated with the cloud.

#2. ISO 27018

Being the pioneer international standard that deals with personal data protection in cloud computing, ISO/IEC 27018 establishes universally recognized control objectives and protocols. These controls are aimed at implementing measures to safeguard Personally Identifiable Information (PII), keeping in sync with the privacy principles stated in ISO/IEC 29100.

ISO/IEC 27018 carries immense relevance for businesses that deal with personal data via cloud-based platforms. When organizations implement this standard, it acts as a testament to their commitment to data privacy and protection, strengthening customer trust. Additionally, it aids in ensuring adherence to privacy laws such as GDPR and CCPA.

#3. Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) STAR Program

The STAR Program is an acronym for Security, Trust & Assurance Registry, a project by the Cloud Security Alliance. It leans on three pillars: transparency, in-depth audits, and bringing diverse standards together. This program offers a sturdy structure for cloud service providers to scrutinize their security protocols.

As a customer, the CSA STAR can be your guiding star when you need to evaluate how good a cloud service provider is when it comes to security. It comes equipped with two useful tools: the Consensus Assessments Initiative Questionnaire (CAIQ) and the Cloud Controls Matrix (CCM). Together, these tools form a broad security controls framework custom-built for cloud-based IT systems.

#4. SOC 2 Type II

Introduced by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), this standard assesses non-financial controls within a business, concerning key areas such as security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy – collectively known as the Trust Services Criteria.

A Type II report holds a lot of weight. Why, you ask? Well, it’s proof that an external auditor has meticulously reviewed an organization’s systems, practices, and controls. More than that, it’s evidence that these controls were properly designed and were consistently effective over a specified period. For any organization, that’s serious about showing off a gold-standard level of security assurance to customers and other stakeholders, a Type II certification is highly desirable.

#5. NIST 800-53

Crafted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the NIST 800-53 protocol is a wide-ranging list of security measures designed for federal information systems and organizations. An important thing about it is that it offers a rich array of security and privacy controls that can be tweaked to suit the unique requirements of different systems and organizations.

Although it was originally designed with U.S. federal government agencies in mind, the principles laid out in NIST 800-53 have proven universal. They can be effectively adopted by a variety of sectors and by businesses of all sizes. If you’re looking to put in place and evaluate security procedures in order to enhance your company’s overall cybersecurity stance, NIST 800-53 could be a great resource for you.

#6. PCI DSS

Ever purchased with a credit card? There’s a good chance the company you dealt with followed the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) rules. It’s not just some abstract concept; it’s a reality for businesses around the world. The PCI DSS ensures that any outfit accepting, processing, storing or zapping around credit card info keeps things under proper security.

If a company is dealing with cardholder data, they’ve got to stick to the PCI DSS. No two ways about it. Apart from making sure they stay in line with the law and avoid hefty fines, it also helps them dodge payment card fraud. Plus, in an age where data breaches are more common than we’d like, it’s a pretty neat way for companies to show their customers they mean business when it comes to security.

#7. HIPAA/HITECH

If you’re a healthcare provider or deal with health plans and you’re tossing around Protected Health Information (PHI), you’ve got to pay attention to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. We’re talking U.S. laws here, folks. They’re not optional. They’re all about making sure that PHI is handled properly.

Sticking to the HIPAA/HITECH guidelines is a big deal if you’re dealing with PHI in the cloud. It’s not just about doing the right thing; it’s also a great way to show patients and partners that you’re serious about keeping sensitive health information under wraps. Not to mention, you’re going to avoid potential legal issues.

#8. FedRAMP (Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program)

FedRAMP sweeps across the U.S. government scene, laying down the law for a uniform way to evaluate security, grant approvals, and keep a watchful eye on cloud products and services.

For those cloud service providers with dreams of mingling with U.S. federal agencies, FedRAMP authorization isn’t a luxury, it’s a must-have. But don’t be mistaken – even if your ties with the U.S. government aren’t direct, marching to the beat of FedRAMP standards is a bold statement of your dedication to top-notch security.

#9. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

GDPR is an ace up the European Union’s sleeve, setting down firm demands for safeguarding data and preserving privacy for every individual residing within the European Union and the European Economic Area. It doesn’t stop there though; it also delves into the transfer of personal data beyond these borders.

While it may not be cut from the same cloth as the usual cloud security standards, any organization that uses cloud services to process, store, or shuffle around the personal data of EU residents can’t afford to ignore GDPR. Straying from its guidelines can lead to weighty financial blows, making GDPR an unmissable stop on any cloud security strategy’s itinerary.

#10. California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)

CCPA walks a similar path as the GDPR, but it’s designed to boost privacy rights and consumer protection specifically for the people of California, United States. It arms California’s residents with the right to know what personal details are being harvested, whether these details are being sold or disclosed, and to whom.

CCPA’s influence, however, isn’t confined to the Golden State. Given the borderless nature of cloud services, it casts a wider net. Compliance with CCPA isn’t just a legal necessity; it’s a message to customers and partners that your organization is steadfast in its commitment to data privacy.

#11. Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC)

This standard operates as a unifying beacon for cybersecurity in the defense industrial network, forming the U.S. Department of Defense supply chain. It gauges cybersecurity maturity across five tiers and maps a series of processes and practices against the nature and sensitivity of the data needing protection and the array of associated threats.

If your organization aims to work with the Department of Defense, securing the right CMMC level becomes pivotal. It showcases that the company has the required controls to safeguard sensitive data, potentially encompassing Federal Contract Information and Controlled Unclassified Information.

#12. Amazon Web Services (AWS) Well-Architected Framework

Although not a traditional standard, the AWS Well-Architected Framework represents a comprehensive guide from Amazon, aimed at facilitating the creation of secure, high-performing, and cost-efficient systems on the AWS platform. It paves the way for customers to consistently assess architectures and put into effect designs that will dynamically scale over time.

For organizations utilizing AWS cloud services, embracing this framework could provide substantial benefits. It lays down best practices across five key aspects: operational excellence, security, reliability, performance efficiency, and cost optimization. This aids organizations in constructing the most secure, efficient, high-performing, and resilient infrastructure for their applications.

Conclusion

Wrapping up, navigating the intricacies of cloud security is both complex and paramount. Organizations that adhere to relevant Cloud Security Standards can safeguard their data, meet regulatory compliance, and build trust with stakeholders. That said, executing and maintaining cloud security can pose significant challenges.

This is where PingSafe, a comprehensive cloud security solution, steps in to simplify the process. Equipped with unique features such as Cloud Misconfigurations, Vulnerability Management, Offensive Security Engine, Cloud Credential Leakage detection, and Cloud Detection and Response (CDR), PingSafe empowers you to spot vulnerabilities, stay on top of threats, manage vulnerabilities effectively, and secure your overall cloud environment.

To delve deeper into how PingSafe can bolster the security of your cloud environment, reach out to us today.