5 Cloud Compliance Best Practices You Need To Know

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The cloud is all about agility. It enables you to scale up to foster more innovation in your organization. But the more environments in play, the more data you have to protect.

Sixty-five percent of organizations state that the cloud makes true data encryption challenging. So, it’s not surprising that staying compliant can sometimes feel like an uphill battle.

After all, security and compliance aren't one and the same. Even if you’re taking measures to secure your cloud assets, there are best practices you need to follow to also ensure compliance. To understand why we need these, let’s take a closer look at cloud compliance and its challenges.

What is cloud compliance?

Cloud compliance is the need to meet cloud usage standards and laws specific to industry and location. It's made up of frameworks that organizations must follow to conform to data privacy standards. Failure to meet these can result in damage to your reputation, hefty fines, and even criminal charges.

The challenges of cloud compliance

Migrating to the cloud affords greater agility and innovation. But when businesses don’t have an operating model in place, compliance can suffer.

  • Poor data visibility: Migrations are often driven by a department and not the organization as a whole. This can mean the piecemeal adoption of services across the company over time. And this makes it difficult to keep track of what assets you have, and where they reside.
  • Overwhelming alerts: Cybersecurity tools generate alerts when they detect something suspicious. In the DevOps space where teams run various technologies, it can be next to impossible to respond to all alerts in good time.
  • More chance of breaches: Even if you’re confident in your security, the cloud infrastructure is complex. As such, organizations can overlook necessary security measures and expose critical data.

This is where cloud compliance comes in. Using regulatory frameworks will help you address the risks that working with third-party cloud providers raise. They will also help you update your policies and change the way your teams work to match your new expanding cloud environment.

Let’s take a look at the cloud compliance best practices to follow.

1. Catalog your assets

You can only protect the assets you can see. But gradual cloud adoption and the spinning up of environments within the cloud make it easy to lose track of data.

Creating a catalog of your assets will make finding them easier. This will then enable you to apply the necessary compliances according to the data they store and protect them more easily as a result.

2. Establish a baseline

What industry you’re in as well as where you’re operating from will dictate the compliances you need to meet. Companies that handle Personally Identifiable Information (PII) in the US might choose to use the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) framework. And if you’re taking payments by card from anywhere in the world, you must meet the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).

That said, being compliant and getting recognized as compliant aren’t one and the same. The PCI DSS, for instance, requires you to fill out a self-assessment, but they may follow up with their own audit and report. In cases like this, having a catalog of your assets becomes particularly useful.

3. Apply controls

Even though you use a cloud vendor to run your applications and store your data, the security of these assets is not their responsibility. And if you’re using multiple clouds or operating a hybrid cloud model, achieving compliance becomes even more complex.

Cloud security controls will enable you to approach your cybersecurity and compliance in a structured way. These include taking measures such as applying access controls and monitoring your systems for [Indicators of Compromise (IOCs)](https://www.techtarget.com/searchsecurity/definition/Indicators-of-Compromise-IOC#:~:text=Indicators of Compromise (IOC) are,on a system or network.).

Financial controls will also give you more command over your expanding environments. You can achieve this by implementing an authorization process for cloud service purchases.

And yet it doesn’t stop there. To maintain compliance, you need to continually monitor and test these controls to make certain that they’re working as they should.

4. Leverage automation

Firewalls, anti-virus software, vulnerability scanning tools—they all generate alerts when they detect something suspicious. As such, the sheer number of alerts can be overwhelming. And an event can go undetected until it’s too late.

Automated workflows will trigger responses to certain alerts, deploying applications to investigate. This will reduce the time it takes to detect real threats and enable you to meet your compliance policies more easily. You can also integrate these into your CI/CD pipeline to automate your security throughout the development process.

Moreover, you can automate auditing and reporting for more intelligent insights into your posture. You can even automate triggers to spin up new environments to support your threat investigation.

And since your compliance standards will likely evolve as your business grows, you can implement automated operational controls to enforce compliance at scale. That said, regulations are always changing to address new technologies and vulnerabilities. So regularly reviewing the frameworks relevant to you remains crucial.

5. Review and improve

2021 was a record year for zero day exploits, some costing upwards of a million dollars. Then there’s the fact that many threat actors now use standard protocols to access networks, making them even harder to detect.

As the attack surface continues to expand, you need to constantly review your operating procedures, updating standard behaviors and team configurations for the cloud. After all, while your teams may be enjoying its increased agility, it’s important to ensure you’re not trading off compliance as a result. Instead, you can learn to combine them and meet regulatory standards more easily.

Where innovation and compliance meet

“Cloud services let smart business leaders respond quickly to opportunities — or threats. Businesses that successfully exploit cloud computing will have a competitive advantage, and it might even determine whether they survive.” - Paul Delory, Senior Director Analyst at Gartner.

Businesses that move to the cloud do so to enhance productivity and innovation. They can also take advantage of a variety of intelligent security tools to protect their assets and maintain compliance. But without a structured approach, it’s not so straightforward.

Whether you’re cloud-native, multi-cloud, or operating a hybrid cloud model, a cloud security strategy is crucial. This should cover everything from cataloging your assets to responding to threats, so you can manage compliance easily across your entire estate.

Follow our five best practices for cloud compliance and you’ll soon be able to focus more time on innovation. And if you need any further guidance, just reach out.

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