Cloud-based solutions are becoming increasingly common in businesses across industries. Utilizing the cloud allows organizations to seamlessly access data across devices and users, making operations more efficient using digital transformation. However, cloud solutions also present many security concerns, increasing the need for cloud security.

Organizations that utilize cloud-based tools must prioritize cloud security to maintain a robust cybersecurity defense against vulnerabilities and cyber attacks. This blog overviews cloud security and the most popular security frameworks for securing assets in hybrid cloud environments. Also included is a free cloud security questionnaire your organization or third-party vendors can use to evaluate your current cloud security program and identify areas of improvement.

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What is Cloud Security?

Cloud security refers to policies, technologies, applications, and controls designed to protect virtualized IP, data, services, and the infrastructure of cloud computing systems. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is one of the most commonly used cloud computing environments used by a variety of organizations.

Cloud computing provides scalable and flexible resources for organizations—such as data storage, servers, data centers, automation, and software—all over the internet rather than on-premises. This digital technology offers numerous workload advantages but also presents distinctive security risks users must consider. These challenges come from data sharing and storage in virtualized environments, which may be managed and operated by third-party cloud service providers.

Cloud security includes measures and protocols that protect cloud computing environments against external and internal cybersecurity threats. These protocols foster data protection, ensure secure access to cloud services for authorized users, and protect the system from unauthorized access and other security challenges.

Key Aspects of Cloud Security

An effective cloud security program includes policies, security controls, and best practices. DevSecOps team members should prioritize key aspects of cloud security solutions, which include:

Cloud Security Posture Management Tools

Many organizations utilize cloud security posture management (CSPM) tools to secure their cloud environments. These tools are designed to enhance a cloud security strategy and reduce security threats. Using CSPM integrations is a relatively new concept, but the strategy is growing in popularity due to the increase in organizations transferring their legacy workflows to the cloud.

CPSM tools identify and remediate risks caused by cloud misconfigurations by managing cloud attack surface risk through visibility, monitoring, threat detection, and remediation workflows. This process improves the security posture of multi-cloud environments. These environments cover all parts of cloud architecture, including:

  • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)
  • Platform-as-a-Service (Paas)
  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service (Iaas)

Common Cloud Security Frameworks

Various cybersecurity frameworks guide and enhance cloud security practices, providing structured approaches for managing and mitigating risks in cloud environments. Alongside traditional regulations like the GDPR and PCI-DSS, some other common cloud security frameworks include:

Cloud Security Alliance’s (CSA) Cloud Controls Matrix (CCM)

The Cloud Security Alliance’s (CSA) Cloud Controls Matrix (CCM) is a cybersecurity control framework specifically designed for cloud computing providers and consumers. It includes security controls and guidelines tailored to protect organizations against cloud environment threats and vulnerabilities.

The CCM is composed of 133 control objects across 16 domains. Each domain covers vital aspects of cloud technology, like cloud-native application and interface security (API security), encryption and key management, identity and access management (IAM), infrastructure and virtualization, etc. The controls framework conforms to CSA's Security Guidance For Critical Areas of Focus in Cloud Computing. It is considered a de facto standard for cloud security assurance and compliance.

NIST Cybersecurity Framework

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) developed the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, widely used for managing and reducing cybersecurity risk. It consists of standards, guidelines, and best practices to manage cybersecurity-related risk and is highly applicable to cloud security.

Specifically, the NIST Cybersecurity Framework provides a high-level strategic view of an organization’s risk management lifecycle. The NIST Framework Core (Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover) can be applied directly to risks and vulnerabilities within a cloud environment. The NIST framework also emphasizes the need for continuous security monitoring and real-time assessments—which are crucial for the dynamic nature of cloud computing.

ISO/IEC 27001 and 27017

ISO/IEC 27001 and 27017 are international standards for information security management. ISO/IEC 27001 focuses on establishing and maintaining an information security management system (ISMS), while ISO/IEC 27017 provides guidelines specifically on information security for cloud services.

The comprehensive approach to security in ISO/IEC 27001 applies generally to cloud infrastructure, and security teams can take that a step further by utilizing ISO/IEC 27017’s application to cloud computing environments. This includes guidance on the implementation of security controls for cloud service providers and customers, including:

Center for Internet Security (CIS) Benchmarks and Controls

The CIS Critical Security Controls are a set of prioritized actions for cybersecurity. They provide specific and actionable best practices to mitigate the most common cyber attacks and form a defense-in-depth strategy. The principal benefit of CIS Controls is that they prioritize and focus on a small number of actions that greatly reduce cybersecurity risk.

The CIS Controls are designed to be adaptable to different cloud service and deployment models. They emphasize the importance of fundamental security practices that are essential for the dynamic nature of cloud computing. These practices include continuous vulnerability assessment and timely remediation.

In addition, the CIS Controls provide specific configuration guidelines for various technologies, including cloud services. These controls ensure that organizations can maintain secure configurations of their cloud environments. By implementing these controls and benchmarks, organizations can effectively strengthen their cloud security posture in a comprehensive and structured manner.

Free Cloud Security Questionnaire Template

To help evaluate your current cloud security posture, utilize the following free cloud security questionnaire. Our questionnaire covers key aspects of cloud security, like identity and access management, threat detection, privacy and compliance, and more. This questionnaire can also be sent to your third-party service providers, which may be useful if they utilize cloud solutions with sensitive data from your organization.

This questionnaire utilizes key components of the frameworks outlined above and is a great starting point for identifying vulnerable areas in your cloud security program. Adjusting this questionnaire to meet your business and cloud environment may be necessary as every organization differs.

Organizational and Infrastructure Security

General Information

Do you have a dedicated cloud security team?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Have you implemented a formal cloud infrastructure risk assessment process?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Is your cloud infrastructure exclusively managed by internal staff?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Are all cloud services and applications documented and inventoried?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Have you established a clear cloud service provider (CSP) selection criteria?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Policy and Compliance

Do you have a written cloud security policy?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Are all cloud services compliant with applicable industry regulations?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Have you conducted a legal review for cloud compliance issues?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Is there a regular review process for cloud security policies and procedures?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Are employees regularly trained on cloud security compliance requirements?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Data Security and Privacy

Is data encryption or zero-trust enforced for all cloud-stored data?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Are there policies for data classification and handling in cloud storage?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Do you have mechanisms to prevent unauthorized data sharing in the cloud?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Is there an established protocol for reporting and responding to data breaches?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Are data privacy impact assessments conducted for all cloud services?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Identity and Access Management

Is a robust identity and access management (IAM) solution in place?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Are user access rights regularly reviewed and updated?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Is multi-factor authentication mandatory for cloud access?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Are all user actions within the cloud environment logged and monitored?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Do you perform regular audits of IAM policies and procedures?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Network and Infrastructure Security

Do firewalls and intrusion detection systems protect all cloud services?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Is network traffic to and from the cloud encrypted?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Do you conduct regular network security assessments?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Are there procedures for the immediate isolation of compromised network segments?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Is your network infrastructure regularly updated to mitigate vulnerabilities?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Threat Detection and Management

Monitoring and Incident Response

Do you have real-time monitoring in place for cloud services?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Is there an established incident response plan for cloud-based incidents?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Are security incident logs retained and regularly reviewed?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Do you perform periodic security incident response drills?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Is there a dedicated team for handling cloud security incidents?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Vulnerability Management

Do you conduct regular vulnerability scans on your cloud infrastructure?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Are automated tools used for continuous vulnerability assessment?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Is there a process for timely patching of identified vulnerabilities?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Do you have a process for tracking and resolving reported vulnerabilities?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Are cloud service providers required to disclose their vulnerability management practices?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery

Resilience and Redundancy

Do you have a cloud-specific business continuity plan?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Is data regularly backed up in multiple geographically dispersed locations?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Are disaster recovery drills conducted at least annually?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Do you have failover mechanisms for critical cloud services?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Is there a process for regularly updating disaster recovery plans?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Testing and Evaluation

Do you regularly test cloud-based applications for security vulnerabilities?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Are cloud disaster recovery plans tested under simulated failure conditions?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Do you conduct third-party security assessments of cloud services?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Are cloud service providers' security measures regularly audited?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Is there a feedback mechanism for improving cloud security post-testing?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Vendor and Third-Party Management

Cloud Service Provider Assessment

Do you assess the security posture of all potential cloud service providers?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Are cloud service providers contractually obligated to adhere to security standards?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Do you perform regular security audits on third-party vendors?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Are vendor security practices aligned with your organization’s standards?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Is there a process for regularly reviewing and updating vendor security requirements?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Data Sovereignty and Geographical Considerations

Are data residency requirements considered when choosing cloud providers?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Do you have mechanisms to ensure compliance with cross-border data transfer laws?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Are data sovereignty issues addressed in vendor contracts?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Do you restrict the geographical location of data storage and processing?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Are employees trained on the implications of data sovereignty and geography?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

End-User Education and Awareness

Training and Awareness Programs

Is there a mandatory training program on cloud security for all employees?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Do you conduct regular awareness campaigns on cloud security risks?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Are users tested on their cloud security knowledge periodically?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Is there a clear reporting process for employees to report cloud security incidents?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Are cloud security responsibilities clearly defined for all users?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Feedback and Improvement

Do you regularly solicit feedback on cloud security practices from users?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Is there a mechanism for continuous improvement of cloud security measures?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Are lessons learned from security incidents incorporated into future planning?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Do you benchmark your cloud security practices against industry standards?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Are cloud security policies and practices reviewed and updated regularly?

  • Yes
  • No
  • [Free Text Field]

Enhance Your Organization’s Cybersecurity Posture with UpGuard

Cloud security is one part of an organization’s overall cybersecurity strategy. A top-notch attack surface management tool is paramount if your organization wants to enhance your security posture. BreachSight, by UpGuard, is an all-in-one attack surface management platform that provides organizations visibility across their entire organization and scalability options, revealing valuable insights that build cyber resilience.

BreachSight helps you understand the risks impacting your external security posture and ensures your assets are constantly monitored and protected. Our user-friendly platform makes it easy to view your organization’s cybersecurity at a glance and communicate internally about risks, vulnerabilities, or current security incidents. Other features include:

  • Data Leak Detection: Protect your brand, intellectual property, and customer data with timely detection of data leaks and avoid data breaches
  • Continuous Monitoring: Get real-time information and manage exposures, including domains, IPs, and employee credentials
  • Attack Surface Reduction: Reduce your attack surface by discovering exploitable vulnerabilities and domains at risk of typosquatting
  • Shared Security Profile: Eliminate having to answer security questionnaires by creating an UpGuard Shared Profile
  • Workflows and Waivers: Simplify and accelerate how you remediate issues, waive risks, and respond to security queries
  • Reporting and Insights: Access tailor-made reports for different stakeholders and view information about your external attack surface

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