The Consensus Assessments Initiative Questionnaire (CAIQ) is a security assessment provided by the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) for cloud consumers and auditors to assess information security capabilities of cloud providers.

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Who Created the CAIQ?

The CAIQ was created by the Cloud Security Alliance Consensus Assessments Initiative (CAI). CAI performs research, creates tools, and forms industry partnerships to enable cloud computing assessments.

CAI's goal is to create an industry-accepted document that outlines what security controls exist in cloud environments, such as infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and software as a service (SaaS) offerings.

CAI is part of the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA), a leading organization dedicated to defining and raising awareness of secure cloud computing best practices.

You can learn more about the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) at

Why Was the CAIQ Created?

The CAIQ was created to address one of the leading concerns that organizations have when moving to the cloud. Namely the lack of transparency into what technologies and tactics cloud providers implement, relative to sensitive data protection and risk management.

The goal of the CAIQ is to create commonly accepted industry standards to document security controls in IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS offerings.

By standardizing the questionnaire, vendor risk management teams can reduce costs and increase efficiencies without exposing their organization to unnecessary cybersecurity risk.

Additionally, cloud providers can use the CAIQ to outline their security capabilities and security posture to customers, publicly or privately, in a standardized way using well-understood terms and descriptions.

What are the Components of the CAIQ?

The CAIQ provides a set of yes or no control attestation questions a cloud consumer or cloud auditor may want to ask cloud providers to ascertain their compliance with the CSA Cloud Controls Matrix (CCM).

The questionnaire can be customized to fit an organization's needs and use cases, and is intended to be used alongside the CSA's Security Guidance For Critical Areas of Focus in Cloud Computing and Cloud Controls Matrix (CCM).

Cloud Controls Matrix (CCM)

The CCM is a cybersecurity control framework for cloud computing composed of 133 control objectives structured across 16 domains. These domains cover all key aspects of cloud technology.

The 16 CCM domains are:

  1. Application and Interface Security (API security)
  2. Audit Assurance and Compliance
  3. Business Continuity Management and Operations Resilience
  4. Change Control and Configuration Management
  5. Data Security and Information Lifecycle Management
  6. Datacenter Security
  7. Encryption and Key Management
  8. Governance and Risk Management
  9. Human Resources Security
  10. Identity and Access Management (IAM)
  11. Infrastructure and Virtualization
  12. Interoperability and Portability
  13. Mobile Security
  14. Security Incident Management, E-Disc & Cloud Forensics
  15. Supply Chain Management, Transparency & Accountability
  16. Threat and Vulnerability Management

The CCM can be used as a tool for the systematic assessment of cloud implementation, while providing guidance on which security controls should be implemented by which actors within the cloud supply chain.

The controls framework aligns to CSA's Security Guidance For Critical Areas of Focus in Cloud Computing, and is considered a de-facto standard for cloud security assurance and compliance.  

Additionally, the controls in the CCM are mapped against industry-accepted security standards, regulations, and control frameworks including ISO 27001/27002/27017/27018, NIST SP 800-53, AICPA TSC, ENISA Information Assurance Framework, German BSI C5, PCI DSS, ISACA COBIT, NERC CIP, and many others.

The CCM can be leveraged to:

  • Strengthen information security control environments: The CCM delineates control guidance by the service provider and consumer, differentiating according to cloud model type and environment.
  • Reduce audit complexity: Controls map onto multiple industry-accepted security standards, regulations, and control frameworks. Fulfilling the CCM controls also fulfills it for the accompanying standards and regulations it maps onto.
  • Normalize security expectations: The CCM provides shared cloud taxonomy, terminology and security measures implemented in the cloud.

Security Guidance For Critical Areas of Focus in Cloud Computing

The rise of cloud computing brings a number of opportunities and challenges. The Security Guidance for Critical Areas of Focus in Cloud Computing is designed to provide guidance and inspiration to businesses that need to manage and mitigate the risks associated with the adoption of cloud computing technology.

It covers 14 domains:

  1. Cloud Computing Concepts and Architectures
  2. Governance and Enterprise Risk Management
  3. Legal issues, Contracts, and Electronic Discovery
  4. Compliance and Audit Management
  5. Information Governance
  6. Management Plane and Business Continuity
  7. Infrastructure Security
  8. Virtualization and Containers
  9. Incident Response
  10. Application Security
  11. Data Security and Encryption
  12. Identity, Entitlement, and Access Management
  13. Security as a Service
  14. Related Technologies

Security Trust and Assurance Registry (STAR)

The Security Trust and Assurance Registry (STAR) houses completed Consensus Assessment Initiative Questionnaires for popular cloud computing offerings, like Google Cloud or Amazon Web Services. This allows them to publicly document the security and privacy controls they have in place. Completed CAIQ’s can be submitted by CSPs to the CSA Star Registry.

The STAR program encompasses key principles of transparency, rigorous auditing, and harmonization of standards. Companies using STAR are indicating they follow best practices.

The three CSA STAR levels are:

  1. Self-Assessment: Organizations submit one or both of the security and privacy self-assessments. For the security assessment, organizations use the Cloud Controls Matrix (CCM) to evaluate and document their security controls. The privacy assessment submissions are based on the GDPR Code of Conduct.
  2. Third-Party Audit: Organizations that wish to have a third-party audit can choose from one or more of the security and privacy audits and certifications. An organization's location, along with the regulations and standards it is subject to have the greatest influence in determining which third-party is appropriate.
  3. Continuous Auditing: Organizations that automate the current security practices of cloud providers. Providers publish their security practices and customers or vendors can retrieve and present this information in a variety of contexts.

Additionally, each STAR level has a continuous auditing option that allows cloud providers to increase their transparency:

  1. Continuous Self-Assessment: A cloud service provider who uses a CAIQ to achieve Self-Assessment can use a Continuous Self-Assessment to demonstrate the effectiveness of controls over a period of time to achieve STAR Continuous Level 1.
  2. Third-Party Continuous Assessment: A cloud service provider who holds a third-party audit can achieve STAR Continuous Level 2 by adding a Continuous Self-Assessment. This allows them to quickly inform customers of changes to their security policies instead of waiting until the next audit period.
  3. Continuous Certification: A cloud service provider is the most transparent through a continuous, automated process that ensures security controls are monitored and validated at all times.

Security management practices such as zero-trust provide greater protection for cloud customers beyond conventional security controls, such as firewalls.

Code of Conduct for GDPR Compliance

The CSA Code of Conduct for GDPR Compliance was created by industry experts and representatives from the European Union's national data protection authorities to help companies adhere to the EU's GDPR data privacy regulation.

The CSA Code of Conduct for GDPR Compliance includes all requirements a cloud service provider has to satisfy GDPR regulatory compliance.

How is the CAIQ Different From Other Vendor Risk Assessment Questionnaires?

The CAIQ is designed to assess the risk of a specific third-party vendor, namely IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS providers.

Other security questionnaires, such as HEVCAT and the Vendor Security Alliance Questionnaire, are industry-specific or are more general in nature. Read our full guide on vendor security questionnaires here.

Other well-known, respected security questionnaires include:

Get our free vendor risk assessment questionnaire template here.

Why You Should Consider Using Security Ratings Alongside the CAIQ

Security ratings provide risk management and security teams with the ability to continuously monitor the security posture of their vendors.

The benefit of security ratings alongside security questionnaires is they are automatically generated, updated frequently, and they provide a common language for technical and non-technical stakeholders.

The key thing to understand is that security ratings fill the large gap left from traditional risk assessment techniques like the CAIQ. Sending questionnaires to every third-party requires a lot of commitment, time, and frankly isn't always accurate.

Security ratings can complement and provide assurance of the results reported in security questionnaires because they are externally verifiable, always up-to-date, and provided by an independent organization.

According to Gartner, cybersecurity ratings will become as important as credit ratings when assessing the risk of existing and new business relationships…these services will become a precondition for business relationships and part of the standard of due care for providers and procurers of services.

Read more about why security ratings are important here.

UpGuard is one of the most popular security ratings providers. We generate our ratings through proprietary algorithms that take in and analyze trusted commercial and open-source threat feeds, and non-intrusive data collection methods to quantitatively evaluate cyber risk.

We base our ratings on the analysis of 70+ vectors including:

If you are curious about other security rating services, see our guide on SecurityScorecard vs BitSight here.

How UpGuard Can Help You Automate Security Questionnaires

UpGuard Vendor Risk can minimize the amount of time your organization spends assessing related and third-party information security controls by automating vendor questionnaires and providing vendor questionnaire templates.

For the assessment of your information security controls, UpGuard BreachSight can monitor your organization for 70+ security controls providing a simple, easy-to-understand cyber security rating and automatically detect leaked credentials and data exposures in S3 buckets, Rsync servers, GitHub repos and more.

Watch the video below to learn how UpGuard streamlines risk assessment workflows.

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