Guide to Cloud Security Risk Management

Cloud computing is transforming enterprises and e-commerce markets globally, thanks to its scalability and flexible usage. Within a short period, the Cloud has become a hub of IT and data systems. Only the future can tell how cloud computing will continue to shape new models in business strategy and technology.

The overarching reach and cost-efficiency of the cloud are compelling for businesses and institutions of all sizes. However, the migration to the cloud opens the door to data confidentiality and privacy concerns, as well as security gaps. 

For cloud computing to reach its full potential, it must work in tandem with a solid information security system. This article explains what cloud service types are commonly adopted. We touch on the benefits of cloud computing, analyze its risks, and question if the benefits of the cloud always outweigh its risks. Finally, we present a guide with concrete recommendations on how to manage cloud security risks. 

Guide to Cloud Security Risk Management

Cloud Service Models

The NIST Cloud Computing Reference Architecture lists the definitions of various types of cloud service models. Service models describe what type of service a CSP provides to consumers: an application, a platform, or a raw infrastructure of computing resources. In cloud computing, a consumer has three different service models to choose from:

  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS)
  • Software as a Service (SaaS)

Key Risks in the Cloud

Cloud computing benefits organizations broadly. The benefits are so considerable that it is almost impossible not to consider driving business operations to a cloud-based platform. Yet many organizations don’t understand its risks. Let’s analyze six primary cloud-related risks. 

  1. Data Security Risk

The risk of data leakage or unauthorized data access due to shared infrastructure between service providers and their clients is magnified in the cloud. In addition, the CSP (cloud service provider) might be using third-party services that, in turn, have access to valuable corporate data.

  1. Regulatory Risk

Regulatory risks materialize when a company is noncompliant with industry or regulatory requirements such as the GLBA, SOX, HIPAA, or the GDPR.

According to a CSA survey, the main obstacle preventing businesses from moving their systems to the cloud is the inability to enforce their corporate security policies and risking noncompliance with regulated standards.

Perhaps the most significant risk in this category is in the regulatory standard, the European GDPR, voted in by the EU parliament. The requirement requires any organization doing business in Europe, even one that is based internationally, to monitor cloud security continuously for data protection and rigorously track data. The consequences of noncompliance are steep: they include fines up to 4% of annual revenue.

  1. Technology Risk

Companies need to update their IT system in line with advancements in cloud technology. And because many companies use different cloud services for different operations, that’s a lot of innovation to track! Constantly evolving features may require more frequent reconfiguration and training as compared to more mature technologies. 

  1. Operational Risk

Integrating cloud services with existing operations can be problematic, especially for small businesses. For SMBs, it may be too expensive to make all the upgrades that private cloud innovation offers, and sometimes they’ll need to settle for suboptimal service and poor reliability and uptime. Also, cloud-based services don’t always offer customized service levels for different IT services, which forces an organization to choose an approximate service level, including those that address critical services such as availability and backup recovery

  1. Vendor and Third-Party Risk

Bankruptcy, lawsuits, regulatory investigations, and even defamation of third or fourth-party vendors can impose significant damage on an organization’s brand and reputation. 

Also included in the vendor risk category would be Shadow IT, in which employees use public cloud solutions that have not been vetted by a security team. Even with strong security controls in place, the reality is that many employees use free or subscription-based cloud services that are not part of official security policies. Shadow IT presents a true danger to system security.

  1. Financial Risk

Financial risk is associated with overspending and revenue loss. Cloud services are inherently variable and constantly developing. With a lack of experience and knowledge, businesses can incur unnecessary costs when using poorly thought-through solutions.

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Who is Responsible for Cloud Security? 

According to the Cloud Standards Customer Council (CSSC), an advocacy group for cloud users, the type of cloud service model (IaaS, PaaS, or Saas) being used determines the balance of responsibility shouldered by the CSP vs. the client. Ultimately, however, organizations are impacted by any risks incurred by using cloud-based services. Consequently, it is critical to build a structured approach to manage cloud security risks.

Cloud Security Risk Management Process

Step 1 – Security Categorization

Categorizing security assets means identifying and assigning appropriate values to data or data systems. Security categorization establishes the foundation of a risk management process by examining the level of action and rigor required to protect all data and infrastructure. The process for categorizing information and data consists of calculating the potential risk impact as low, moderate, or high as it relates to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability (CIA triad) of the information or data.

Step 2 – Choose a Cloud Security Control Framework

Cloud computing risk management frameworks are a set of security controls that protect cloud environments against vulnerabilities and mitigate the effects of cloud-related risks. Cloud security control profiles are frameworks that include best practices, procedures, and guidelines that should be followed to secure cloud environments.

Popular cloud-specific security frameworks include:

Step 3 – Select Cloud Service and Deployment Models

This choice will be motivated by the nature of the service you need, how much control you want, and the level of expertise and maturity the organization has in operating and maintaining cloud-based information system environments. Cloud deployment options include public cloud service, private cloud service, and hybrid cloud services.

Step 4 – Cloud Security Risk Assessment of CSP

Businesses presume that security is a done deal when working with brand names like we listed below, but in reality, cloud security controls and policies vary between different providers. It’s crucial to do your due diligence before choosing a provider to ensure the provider aligns with your regulatory and business needs. 

The top cloud service providers (CSP) are:

  • AWS
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Oracle
  • IBM
  • Alibaba

Step 5 – Continuously Monitor

Cloud risk management goes beyond the initial deployment. You’ll need to check that tools for continuous monitoring are in place during the operational phase of cloud services. Frequent cloud security risk assessment checklists can help you monitor security control operations over time.

Centraleyes Can Help Secure your Cloud

Cloud security is daunting. Using an automated risk management platform can streamline and simplify your cloud risk management process. Centraleyes risk management platform allows you to manage cloud security efforts and make data-driven decisions about how security controls can be improved both on the client’s and the provider’s systems. 

As organizations continue to embrace the cloud, proactive measures are critical to ensuring a successful migration to the abstract world we call “The Cloud.” With Centraleyes, you have the power to oversee the cybersecurity posture of your cloud-based vendors and ensure that their cloud infrastructure is safe.

Start Getting Value With
Centraleyes for Free

See for yourself how the Centraleyes platform exceeds anything an old GRC
system does and eliminates the need for manual processes and spreadsheets
to give you immediate value and run a full risk assessment in less than 30 days

Start building your risk management program
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