Accountability and Transparency: Keys to Security in the Cloud - Page 3

By Phil Lieberman (Profile)
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Wednesday, May 19th 2010
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Auditors, too, share a responsibility to verify that client organizations are able to track the usage and control of their data and resources inside the cloud. In keeping with major regulatory mandates, auditors are obligated to confirm segregation of duties and the enforcement of “need to know” and “need to access” policies.  And, potential cloud customers should ask what provisions have been made to provide the required trail of access to the user’s auditors on demand – and what provisions are in place to allow the sharing of privileged control between cloud vendor and user for appropriate reporting and verification.

Because today’s cloud vendors offer literally no transparency and little information, don’t be surprised if you don’t like the answers you get.  Most cloud vendors would say that for security purposes, it’s on a “need to know” basis and you don’t need to know. Others state that they’re SAS 70 compliant, but that’s really just a self-certification. And because each measure of security adds to cloud vendor costs, it is appropriate for consumers of cloud services to demand to know precisely what measures are in place – and what auditing processes are supported – as part of the service agreement.

Be persistent. What kind of security does the cloud service provider have in place to protect your privileged accounts and most sensitive data? Do they have Privileged Identity Management technology in place? How do they control privileged accounts used in cloud infrastructure to manage sensitive systems and data?  How do they manage cloud stacks at the physical layer and application stack layers? What is your access to audit records?

Whatever regulatory standards your organization must meet, so too must your cloud vendor. So if you think that by venturing into the cloud you’re saving yourself from regulatory headaches, think again. 

Conclusion

Security is the greatest barrier towards adoption of the cloud, and it’s no great surprise that cloud security was a major theme at this year’s RSA Conference.  Unfortunately, improvements in cloud security won’t be seen as a priority until a major breach has a significant impact on one or more cloud service vendors and their customers. This needs to change. When it comes to cloud security, it is the end-user’s duty to understand what processes and methodologies the cloud vendor is using to protect the customer’s most sensitive assets.