Hello, Let‘s Talk About Cloud Security Frameworks

Wondering how to protect your company‘s data and apps in the cloud? A solid cloud security framework provides the guardrails you need.

As your organization adopts cloud services, you‘re losing visibility into where data resides and how it‘s accessed. Without standardized policies and controls attuned to the cloud, you open the door to potential attacks.

Implementing a customized security framework tailored to your infrastructure and risk tolerance allows you to tap the speed and efficiency of the cloud while defending against its new threats.

In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll cover:

  • Key drivers prompting companies like yours to adopt frameworks
  • Common components that make up frameworks
  • Pros and cons of leading industry frameworks
  • Steps to customize a framework for your needs
  • Expert guidance on maximizing frameworks

Let‘s get you up to speed on protecting your cloud environments!

Why Companies Are Adopting Cloud Security Frameworks

First, what exactly is a cloud security framework?

It‘s a set of documented policies, controls, procedures and best practices organized to protect data, apps and infrastructure hosted in public clouds, private clouds or SaaS services.

Frameworks provide pre-defined controls to safeguard cloud deployments that organizations cancustomize to their needs.

By establishing a standardized approach to cloud security aligned with industry standards, companies realize several advantages:

Tighter Security Posture

Certifications earned by implementing regulations like ISO 27001 validate you‘re meeting best practices for info security.

Streamlined Compliance

Maintaining controls that satisfy PCI DSS, HIPAA and other data regulations gets easier.

Improved Risk Management

Centralized visibility into cloud risks and risk metrics help you prioritize and justify security spending.

Business Enablement

Documented diligence around security reassures customers and leadership that data remains protected.

Let‘s explore why improving cloud security posture grows more urgent.

Threat Trends Driving Adoption of Frameworks

  • Over 30 billion records have been exposed in the cloud since 2013 according to RiskBased Security.
  • Thales reports 69% of companies have experienced a cloud data breach.
  • Gartner predicts that through 2025, 99% of cloud security failures will result from preventable misconfigurations or poor access policies.

As your company adopts cloud services like IaaS, PaaS and SaaS, you take on new responsibilities for securing these environments.

But multi-cloud complexity makes this difficult:

  • 82% of organizations have a multi-cloud strategy according to Flexera.
  • IDC predicts there will be 100 Zettabytes of data in the cloud by 2025.

Without clear ownership or uniform controls and visibility across all this cloud sprawl, gaps emerge that attackers aggressively exploit.

The escalating tempo of software releases also heightens risks:

  • Over 1 million new malware threats emerge every day on average as per AV-Test Institute.
  • Gartner anticipates dev teams will deploy software over 5 times faster thanks to agile and CI/CD tools by 2023, leaving security playing catch-up.

By defining policies, rules and controls specifically for cloud in a structured framework, you can equip stretched security teams to lock down cloud deployments and prove governance over distributed environments.

Elements of a Cloud Security Framework

While approaches vary, most cloud security frameworks incorporate elements like:

Policies and Standards

These provide baseline rules and expectations for security practices across your org.

Risk Assessments

Inventories of cloud assets paired with continuous evaluations of vulnerabilities and threats.

Access Controls

Managing identities and limiting data/resource access with checks like MFA and dynamic authorization.

Network Safeguards

Tools like cloud firewalls, intrusion detection systems and microsegmentation.

Data Security

Encrypting data at rest and in transit along with monitoring for unauthorized activities.

Audits and Monitoring

Tracking operational controls and risk metrics required to prove security and compliance.

Next let‘s survey some of the most widely adopted security frameworks you could leverage.

Popular Cloud Security Frameworks

NIST Cybersecurity Framework (NIST CSF)

  • 500+ controls across identity, data, device, network management
  • Flexible structure aligned to risk management principles
  • Mapped to many regulations for easier compliance

ISO 27001/27002

  • Internationally-recognized security standard
  • Certification validates effective ISMS controls
  • Heavily focused on policies and documentation

CIS Controls

  • Consensus best practice cyber defense controls
  • Prioritized list of safeguards distilled from multiple frameworks
  • Designed to be tailored to organizational needs

Cloud Security Alliance Cloud Controls Matrix (CSA CCM)

  • Specifies cloud-focused security principles across 16 domains
  • Informs audit standards and provider certifications like STAR
  • Regularly updated framework widely supported by cloud providers

COBIT 2019

  • Governance framework touching on security strategy and management
  • Aligns business objectives with IT best practices
  • Helps manage risks and ensure regulatory compliance

Comparing Pros and Cons of Top Frameworks

Framework Pros Cons
NIST CSF Flexible structure
Maps well to cybersecurity programs
Light on tactical implementation details
ISO 27001 Internationally recognized certification Rigid, paperwork-intensive
CIS Controls Concrete cyber defense practices
Limited to technical safeguards
CSA CCM Cloud-specific controls
Informs certifications
Still maturing, less widespread adoption
COBIT Strong governance principles Not security-centric, more abstract guidance

Performing an assessment of your existing security program maturity and deficiencies when measured against a framework can help determine which is the best fit for your cloud objectives.

Selecting an Optimal Framework

Factors to consider when selecting a framework include:


If regulations like HIPAA or PCI DSS apply to your company, prioritize frameworks that incorporate related controls.

Existing Controls

No need to reinvent the wheel. Lean towards frameworks resembling security efforts you already have in place.

Business Requirements

Consider frameworks mandated by partners you exchange data with or providers you rely on.

Internal Resources

The overhead tied to certifications like ISO 27001 must be accounted for.

Cloud Models

Assess if guidance adequately covers your specific deployment models like IaaS, PaaS or SaaS.

Once selected, frameworks require further customization. Let‘s examine this process next.

Tailoring Frameworks to Your Needs

Rather than forcefitting an rigid one-size-fits all framework, savvy security teams morph industry standards to their organization‘s requirements. You‘ll need to:

Establish Ownership

Appoint resources to steward framework implementation and ensure stakeholder alignment on direction.

Perform Assessments

Map your infrastructure, data flows, workloads and code pipelines before analyzing risks.

Delegate Control Responsibilities

Determine the split of security duties between your company and any cloud providers based on service models.

Identify Gaps

Pinpoint areas where existing program deviates from framework guidance.

Define a Transition Roadmap

Create a priority-based rollout plan listing controls to deploy, adjust or strengthen over time.

Integrate with Operations

Embed security deeper into processes like CI/CD and procurement to increase adoption.

Leverage Automation

Reduce reliance on manual reviews by codifying policy enforcement and responses using infrastructure as code tools.

Keep Current

Revisit and update the tailored framework periodically to address new threats.

Now let‘s explore some real-world examples of security frameworks deployed by prominent companies.

How Enterprises Are Leveraging Frameworks


The software giant created its own Azure cloud security framework dubbed ASC (Azure Security Control) as an internal mandate aligned with industry standards like NIST CSF. It provides guardrails for product teams building Azure services to help them address cloud risks like data exfiltration and abuse of identities.

Samsung SDS

This IT services arm of the Korean Samsung conglomerate recently earned ISO 27001 certification for its public cloud. The internationally recognized standard verifies that its Nexcloud platform complies with best practices for info security controls and risk management.

Capital One

The financial institution relies on homegrown Cloud Custodian open source tools for public cloud security. It allows engineers to codify policies aligned with frameworks like CIS Controls and CSA CCM, then scan AWS and Azure environments for deviations. Drift discovery helps Capital One simplify policy enforcement and compliance across cloud accounts.

Let‘s peek at predictions from security leaders on where frameworks must evolve next.

Expert Opinions on the Future of Frameworks

More Focus on Identity Not Perimeter

"Frameworks will shift from network security models to zero trust approaches as mobile cloud adoption accelerates." Kartik Thakore, VP, TD SYNNEX

Automation is Key to Scaling

"To manage security at cloud speed and scale, manual controls will give way to ‘security as code‘ safeguards embedded across the entire development lifecycle." Michael Sampson, Sr. Analyst, Omdia

Watch for Supply Chain Guidance

"With software supply chain attacks gaining steam, SBOMs (software bill of materials) will become a mandated artifact to improve visibility and control." Gary Hayslip, CISO, Crowdstrike

CIAL Helps Link Capabilities to Frameworks

"Cloud Security Alliance‘s CIAL allows asset owners to map acquired cloud services to applicable control frameworks to streamline audits." Jim Reavis, Co-Founder, Cloud Security Alliance

Steps to Start Implementing a Framework

Ready to get your organization on a path to cloud confidence through frameworks?

Here is a starter roadmap:

Identify Business Drivers

Document the foremost security gaps and compliance motivators sparking this initiative to anchor focus as obstacles surface.

Scan Existing Controls

Before defining policies and technology safeguards from whole cloth, thoroughly evaluate current state security to mine any reusable mechanisms.

Find a Champion

Making frameworks endure requires buy-in from IT ops leaders all the way to the CEO. Enlist senior-level change agents who will keep motivation high.

Start Small

Executing a "big bang" rollout often backfires. Narrow initial scope to fast, achievable wins that create momentum for wider adoption.

Involve Architecture

To avoid systems that inhibit development velocity or user experience down the road, align framework direction closely with software architects and engineers.

Automate Reporting

Build visibility into framework coverage proactively. Manual assessments of security controls slow enhancement efforts and compliance audits.

Still have questions on boosting cloud protection with frameworks? Let‘s cover common FAQs security leaders have.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do frameworks guarantee you‘ll avoid cloud breaches?

Unfortunately no. Frameworks outline areas requiring safeguards but don‘t flag specific holes. Ongoing auditing and scanning for misconfigurations or vulnerabilities remains essential.

We already conform with HIPAA and PCI DSS. Why adopt another framework?

While stringent, these standards don‘t encompass all possible cloud risks. More holistic frameworks will strengthen defenses based on learnings beyond your industry.

Isn‘t requiring cloud providers to have ISO 27001 certification sufficient?

While certification indicates robust security foundations are in place, you still need internal policies and controls tailored to your deployment models and data flows.

Our org accumulates tons of cloud security posture data. How can we leverage it?

Centralizing then correlating posture metrics using a data lake approach allows you to uncover trends, find coverage gaps and improve risk quantification efforts.

How much organizational change is involved in adopting frameworks?

Obtaining stakeholder input upfront helps smooth adoption. But depending on current maturity, the roadmap may necessitate new budget, tools, skill sets, processes and executive reporting.

What are examples of "as code" safeguards we can leverage?

Policy as code solutions let you programmatically define then enforce policies for resources provisioning, configuration standards, anomaly response and access permissions.

Should every company adopt the same foundational framework?

Not necessarily. Optimization involves balancing industry drivers, geographic regulations, existing processes and architectural constraints unique to your business.

Key Takeaways

We covered a lot of ground exploring how to secure your expanding cloud environments using tailored security frameworks. Let‘s recap the key pointers:

🔐 A standardized framework creates needed visibility and control across distributed clouds

🔐 Prioritize frameworks that align with compliance obligations and in-house capability

🔐 Getting frameworks to mesh with your operating model minimizes disruption

🔐 Accept that refinement is continuous – threats, infrastructure and regulations evolve

Hopefully this primer gives you confidence in keeping your cloud data protected. Reach out if any part of your security framework journey remains unclear!