How to Ensure Compliance in the Cloud

How to Ensure Compliance in the Cloud

In recent years, the cloud computing industry has been plagued by news of security breaches that have affected cloud users large and small. As a result, compliance has become a major focus for those who rely on the cloud for data and application storage. There are now countless regulations and standards that govern the way that cloud users maintain sensitive data on their cloud servers.

Complying with these guidelines isn’t always easy. Fortunately, there are a number of steps that you can take to ensure compliance in the cloud. The following is a look at each.

Know your regulations

Cloud compliance will mean nothing to your organization if you don’t approach it by first reviewing the various guidelines and regulations that govern your work. Businesses of all kinds must abide by standards at the state, national, and international levels. If your company handles customer payments, for example, then you must guarantee compliance with the Payment Card Industry Security Standard for Merchants and Processors. These 12 requirements govern the processing and management of customer payment data.

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Regulations can be even more stringent for companies in the health care industry. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA, is one such guideline that applies to health care entities, requiring certain levels of protection for sensitive patient information.

Design policies around compliance

Strong regulatory compliance depends on the security policies that your organization implements. Start by assessing the various risks that come with housing certain types of information in the cloud. What would occur should an unauthorized user access or modify your cloud files? What if your data became exposed to threats? Answering these questions will help you lay a more solid foundation for security, which includes the various controls you will need to set to mitigate risks.

Your organization’s compliance policies should address three types of interactions: sensitive intellectual property, other data, and end users. To this end, you must establish guidelines for the types of data and applications that you will store in the cloud. You will then need to define the types of interactions that you will allow with each data point and app, so there is no grey area when it comes to security.

Implement access controls

Access control is the most reliable way to designate the types of interactions that your end users may have with the information you store in the cloud. Depending on their role within your organization, users should have access only to the information they need to do their work properly. Giving all end users the same level of access to data can leave sensitive files and proprietary information vulnerable to inside and outside threats alike.

You can streamline your user interactions by using access controls such as multi-factor authentication. Requiring each employee to input both a password and another type of authentication (such as a unique token or code) will help to ensure that no one will gain access to the files that you don’t want them to see.

Follow the shared responsibility model

Cloud vendors leverage their own tools to ensure their compliance with cloud regulations and to help you align more closely with your own guidelines. However, you should not go into a cloud agreement with the belief that, once your organization’s data is in the cloud, your vendor will maintain all responsibility for its security and compliance.

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The cloud actually follows a shared responsibility model, wherein both you and your provider must do your own part to protect your data and applications. Therefore, it is imperative that you gain a clear understanding of what your responsibilities are in the cloud. Many providers will take steps to uphold compliance while also providing some volume of security features to their tenants. In cases such as these, you must make sure to implement those features to guarantee your own compliance. In other cases, your vendor may require you to handle the security of entire stacks of data or applications.

Vet your provider

In developing your cloud compliance policies, you must thoroughly review your provider for their ability to help you meet these regulations. Each cloud provider uses their own security model to protect client data, so you must find the one that aligns most closely with your own needs. For instance, you should always go into a cloud agreement with knowledge about the location of your provider’s data centers. Geographical constraints may govern the way you are able to store your data in a cloud environment.

To this end, you should approach prospective choices with a list of questions about the security policies they follow. You will know they are trustworthy if they are open to conversation about your security needs. In addition, you should look to other sources for verification about their compliance efforts. Reaching out to other customers or looking at online reports will give you a firsthand account of the provider’s efficacy at helping clients adhere to security regulations.