The benefits of organizations moving some or all of their IT workloads to the cloud are well known and numerous. There are several challenges to successfully adopting the cloud, but one of the most important is compliance. Whether your use case in the cloud is low-cost data storage, or the scale of your infrastructure for critical business applications or disaster recovery, this article helps you get informed and overcome cloud computing compliance issues.
Why compliance is important in the cloud
Various industry regulations regulate how organizations should manage and protect sensitive data. Depending on the industry and type of service in your business, you may need to comply with regulations such as HIPAA, GDPR, PCI DSS or SOX.
These rules enforce guidelines, practices, and policies that help protect sensitive data from people and improve information security. If you comply, you want to audit your IT security processes, software, and workflows so that they comply with relevant regulations.
Failure to comply with the regulations may result in fines, lawsuits and significant damage to the reputation of the organizations. The COVID-19 pandemic and its changes in the way people work have caused even the most prudent companies to move some services to the cloud. Adoptions of Quickfire clouds, either by COVID or by an urgent desire to scale IT services, often cost compliance negligence.
Knowing the key issues of cloud computing compliance and how to overcome them better equips your business to benefit from a successful and secure cloud deployment.
1. Data security responsibility
There are three main models of cloud services delivered to businesses over public or private Internet connections. These are:
- IaaS: Accessible storage, networking or virtualization as payment services.
- PaaS: Hardware and software packaged and delivered as a stack of solutions over an Internet connection where developers can build and manage applications.
- SaaS: Entire applications delivered as a service using a web browser.
Some organizations think that the shared responsibility model means that responsibility for compliance is also shared. The most important thing to keep in mind is that while the responsibility for the security of applications, platforms, and infrastructures differs between different service models, data security is always your responsibility. Your business as a cloud customer must take responsibility for compliance, as compliance is ultimately about ensuring confidential customer information.
- More awareness: All IT decision makers should be aware of the organization’s ongoing responsibility for data security and compliance, even when using computer resources that belong to a cloud provider. Aside from awareness of responsibility, key stakeholders must also understand the relevant regulations that an organization must comply with.
- Advanced compliance planning: Basing all infrastructure decisions on the cloud with memory compliance rather than doing so later will ensure that responsibility for data security is not neglected.
2. Various implementations in the cloud
The diversity of cloud services available from multiple providers often results in a diverse implementation in the cloud. Flexera’s 2021 Cloud Status Report found that companies use an average of 2.6 public clouds and 2.7 private clouds. A multi-cloud deployment adds to the complexity of ensuring compliance because there are more moving parts.
- Cloud monitoring: A cloud monitoring platform or tool can provide the transparency and level of control needed to track sensitive data and maintain compliance within a multi-cloud deployment.
- Encryption: A complex multi-cloud configuration is susceptible to problems with unencrypted data in transit. Therefore, it is critical to always apply the encryption of moving data (and data at rest).
3. Inadequate access controls
There are many breaches of compliance regulations due to inadequate access controls. This usually happens when a wrong person has access to confidential data, for example, or when credentials are shared among many users.
- I AM: A robust Access and Identity Management (IAM) solution enhances data security in the cloud, giving you precise control over who and what interacts with your data from a single dashboard.
- Less privileges: Users of a cloud system should only have access to the data they need to do their job. A key part of avoiding compliance issues is limiting who can access sensitive data regardless of where it is stored.
4. Ambiguity and overlap of regulation
Anyone who has been in charge of understanding the regulations and implementing their recommendations knows the problem of ambiguity. Added to this ambiguity is the fact that some regulations overlap, and many companies have to comply with various regulations.
Regulatory ambiguity and overlap can cause confusion and fatigue due to compliance. This fatigue is amplified when you add the cloud to your infrastructure.
Ironically, PCI DSS demands that its controls “be implemented in activities as always (BAU) as part of the entity’s global security strategy.” A natural response to this mandate is for IT stakeholders to ask themselves how to keep the business going as always while trying to comply with various overlapping regulations.
- Reduce scope: Not all data has compliance requirements. It makes sense to store sensitive data on fewer systems and locations to reduce the burden of implementing compliance controls in a complex multi-cloud configuration.
- Automated compliance: Automated compliance monitoring and testing enables organizations to reduce compliance fatigue by automating the processes and checks needed to maintain data security.
Cloud adoption amplifies your fulfillment challenges, but it doesn’t have to be an insurmountable hurdle for a successful cloud deployment. Familiarity with the main cloud compliance issues and their possible solutions provides a good foundation.
Another useful tool in your cloud compliance arsenal is a configuration management solution. Tripwire Configuration Manager helps you detect misconfigurations in multi-cloud environments. You can learn more here: https://www.tripwire.com/products/tripwire-configuration-manager/worry-less-about-cloud-security.
About the author: Ronan Mahony is a freelance content writer focused primarily on cybersecurity issues. He likes to break down complex ideas and solutions into attractive blog posts and articles. He is comfortable writing about other areas of B2B technology, including machine learning and data analytics. He graduated from University College Dublin in 2013 with a degree in actuarial science, but pursued his passion for writing and became a freelance writer in 2016. In his spare time, Ronan enjoys hiking, traveling solo and cook Thai food.
Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article by the guest author are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.