Global cloud computing

Concerns about cloud service provider security have become counterproductive, and are distracting CIOs and CISOs from establishing the organizational, security and governance processes that prevent cloud security and compliance mistakes. In fact, Gartner predicts that, through 2020, 95 per cent of cloud security failures will be the “customer’s fault.”

The naive belief that cloud providers are entirely responsible for their customers’ security means that many enterprises are failing to address how their employees use external applications, leaving them free to share huge amounts of often-inappropriate data with other employees, external parties and sometimes the entire internet.

Virtually all public cloud use is within services that are highly resistant to attack and, in the majority of circumstances, represent a more secure starting point than traditional in-house implementations. Only a very small percentage of the security incidents that have affected enterprises using the cloud have been due to vulnerabilities on the part of the provider.

The cloud business model provides huge market incentives for cloud service providers to place a higher priority on security than is typical for end-user organizations. Cloud service providers can afford to hire experienced system and vulnerability managers, and their economies of scale make it practical to provide around-the-clock security monitoring and response.

Organizations should not, however, assume that using a cloud service means that whatever they do within that cloud will be secure. The characteristics of the parts of the cloud stack under customer control can make it easy for inexperienced users to adopt poor cloud practices, which can lead to widespread security or compliance failures.

Ultimately the responsibility lies with the organization to exert control over cloud. Secure and regulatory-compliant use of public clouds requires that enterprises implement and enforce clear policies on usage responsibility and cloud risk acceptance processes.

Organizations that don’t take a strategic approach to the secure use of cloud computing could find themselves in an unsecure, inflexible or uncompetitive situation.

Jay Heiser is a Research Vice President specializing in the areas of SaaS and public cloud risk and control, including cloud security.

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