Cloud Security Compliance Checklist

Security Features
April 15, 2024
Min Read

Cloud security compliance is a must-have for organizations utilizing cloud services. Configuring and securing new infrastructure can be challenging; ensuring proper adherence to cybersecurity regulations and standards is essential.

Hefty consequences await those who shirk such responsibilities:

  • Data breaches: Connecticut’s health insurance exchange, Access Health, suffered 44 data breaches in a span of just three to four years, owing to a string of compliance failures and lax internal controls. Access Health failed to report the 44 breaches to the state comptroller, abused ‘extremely broad’ procurement policies, and neglected to submit annual reports to the governor as directed by state law. 
  • Financial penalties: In 2022, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) fined Chase $125 million due to insecure practices, such as using WhatsApp and personal email to conduct official business, thus not adhering to SEC record-keeping requirements. Morgan Stanley, meanwhile, paid $60 million to settle a lawsuit that alleged the bank had exposed the personal data of more than 15 million customers by failing to retire old computer equipment.
  • Declining trust: According to findings from a 2021 survey by CyberRisk Alliance Business Intelligence, 91% of 250 U.S.-based IT and cybersecurity decision-makers reported a security incident stemming from a third-party business partner in the past year. Fifteen percent of respondents reported 20 or more partner-related incidents. With statistics like these, it’s easy to understand why companies are finding it difficult to entrust sensitive data and other proprietary assets to third parties.

The Cloud Compliance Checklist

While these consequences are concerning, securing the cloud to comply with HIPAA, GDPR, FedRAMP, PCI-DSS, and other regulations is easy with the right policies, protocols and tools. Below, we’ve outlined a list of ‘must-do’s for achieving compliance with cloud security mandates.

#1: Define policies

The first step is to define policies that serve the organization’s compliance needs. By defining such policies, organizations can establish consistent rules for how assets should and should not interact with the policy — such as enforcing strong password controls, setting up application access permissions or eliminating weak encryption configuration. Organizations don’t have to start from scratch, though. The latest compliance management solutions have built-in libraries of the most extensively used policies and government mandates that can be imported directly into the compliance framework. While mandate-specific controls are fixed to ensure compliance, other security policies can be modified depending on the need. 

#2: Mandate-based reporting

The ability to generate compliance reports is essential to measuring the compliance status of cloud-based assets. Reports help security executives and information security stakeholders understand the context for changes in assets over time, including both historical data and the status of assets in real-time. Organizations should strongly consider using a policy compliance dashboard, which can present a ‘scorecard’ of the overall compliance status of assets across all defined policies in the account — and then rank these assets through various metrics (such as technology type, asset group tags, or by criticality).  

#3: Automatically assess and remediate

Manual methods for cloud security compliance management do exist. However, they are not ideal for organizations planning on experiencing growth. Automated, browser-based tools provide organizations with an opportunity to manage the security of their cyber infrastructure with ease while also ensuring that compliance with relevant security standards is meted out.  Organizations can detect, prioritize and track remediation of configuration issues across their environment – and automate the evaluation of their compliance with security standards. A compliance-oriented workflow promotes continuous tracking of exceptions – and demonstrates a repeatable and auditable compliance management process that prioritizes resolving the most critical violations first. Cloud Agents, such as those used by cloud security vendor Qualys, can automatically and continuously monitor assets even when they’re offline, providing constant intelligence on asset performance and security. 

#4: Discovery of assets

The complete discovery of assets is critically necessary to cloud security compliance. Assets need to be identified, enumerated and inventoried for successful adherence to virtually all modern cybersecurity compliance standards. Fortunately, many vendors now offer centralized browser-based platform tools that can automatically discover all IT assets, no matter where they reside: on-prem endpoints, clouds, storage containers, OT and edge sensors. This allows security teams to identify online assets, running services, installed software, as well as licenses, vulnerabilities and misconfigurations. By benefiting from uninterrupted visibility into cloud activities, organizations can easily pinpoint which cloud assets are at risk of non-compliance.

The article 'Cloud Security Compliance Checklist' was written by Daniel Thomas