Cloud Compliance: Meeting Regulatory Requirements for Web-Based Apps
Cloud compliance is one of the most crucial aspects of developing a web-based application and operating a business around that application.
According to the State of Cloud Security Report, 84% of companies only have basic security measures in place to protect their cloud infrastructure. The report also states that 79% of companies have experienced data breaches owing to a lack of security measures.
You need to understand cloud compliance requirements to help you fix the vulnerabilities of your cloud infrastructure that could result in a data breach or unauthorized use of the data. Cloud compliance covers several aspects of how web-based applications can cloud services to store, manage, and use their data. Let’s understand what cloud compliance is and why is it necessary for web-based applications.
- 1 What is Cloud Compliance?
- 2 Why is Cloud Compliance Necessary?
- 3 How Web Apps can Ensure Cloud Compliance?
- 4 Conclusion
What is Cloud Compliance?
Cloud Compliance involves adhering to regulatory standards for cloud security and usage as per relevant industry requirements as well as laws defined by different local, national, and international governing bodies.
Although each industry, nation, or international body has its own set of compliance regulations. If you want to operate your web-based in any of these territories, you need to adhere to their regulations. You also need to comply with cloud regulations to launch your web apps on certain platforms or marketplaces.
Why is Cloud Compliance Necessary?
About 60% of corporate data stays on the cloud. This includes information concerning the company as well as its customers. The companies are responsible for safeguarding the data on the cloud. The cloud compliance guidelines ensure that a company adheres to the industry’s best practices to secure information. It also ensures that the companies use the data on the cloud responsibly and ethically.
Failure with cloud compliance can lead to data breaches. This puts the company’s and its customer’s information at risk. Additionally, companies may face major losses owing to such breaches. According to the Annual Cost of Data Breach Report by IBM, data breaches led to losses of $4.35 million in 2022.
In many cases, cloud compliance is not just necessary, but mandatory. You need to adhere to government regulations to operate your web apps in certain regions. You also need cloud compliance to make your web apps eligible for different platforms, marketplaces, and third-party app integrations.
Cloud compliance can help you with the security, storage, backup, and recovery of cloud data. In the long run, cloud compliance can also help you make your operations more efficient and cost-effective.
How Web Apps can Ensure Cloud Compliance?
Below are a few ways to make sure that your web applications are compliant with applicable regulations:
Identify the Applicable Regulations
The first step is to recognize the regulations that are applicable to your web apps. The most widely recognized cloud compliance frameworks include:
- General Data Protection and Regulation (GDPR)
- Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
- Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)
- Gramm Leach Bliley Act (GLBA)
- Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)
- Sarbanes Oxley Act (SOX)
- International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 27001
- Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP)
You need to identify the applicable regulations based on your integrations, cloud usage, regions of operation, customer locations, data type, industry, and so on. Depending on these factors, you may have to ensure compliance with several frameworks simultaneously.
Pick the Right Cloud Service Provider
Cloud compliance regulations have several aspects that you need to consider. While some of these are in your control, others depend on your cloud service provider. That is why it is necessary to pick the right cloud service provider to host your application.
Cloud compliance does not only pertain to the data on the cloud, it also involves regulations concerning the location of the servers. For instance, HIPAA requires some of the data to be stored in servers within the U.S.
You need to understand the compliance offerings of different cloud service providers and pick the one that best suits your web application’s requirements. For instance, AWS supports several cloud compliance certifications such as HIPAA, PCI-DSS, GDPR, FedRAMP, and so on. On the other hand, Azure Cloud is tailored for industry-specific compliance in healthcare, media, and government services.
Understand your Responsibility
Cloud vendors like Amazon Web Services, Azure Cloud, and Google Cloud offer a model of shared responsibility. This is because several aspects of cloud usage, security, and compliance fall under your purview. You need to understand the responsibilities that you need to shoulder when choosing a cloud provider for your web application.
For instance, one of the AWS models of shared responsibility distributes security compliance between the service provider and the customer. In this model, AWS is responsible for digital security for all the services that run on the AWS cloud. On the other hand, you have to handle the security of your customer’s data.
As you are responsible for the data you choose to put on the cloud. You will also be responsible for compliance concerning that data and its security. In most cases, you cannot depend on the cloud service provider to should all regulatory requirements.
Manage Access Control
You need to understand the access points for data on the cloud. This usually depends on the cloud environment you choose for your web application. The control over hardware and data access is widely different in public, private, and hybrid cloud environments.
You need to understand the compliance requirements and risks involved in your operational cloud environment or the one you would choose for your web apps.
Then you need to identify access points for your particular cloud environment and who gets to control them. You can use cyber asset attack surface management tools to help you identify the access points to your cloud data and set criteria to permit cloud usage to various parties.
You also need to design a policy that outlines need-based cloud access rules for employees and vendors. In this policy, you also need to define the extent of access and permissions to view or update the cloud data. Alongside this, you also need to set an expiration for the access. This will help you limit each access to a timed session. These precautionary measures are necessary to ensure the security of your data, which in turn is necessary for cloud compliance.
Implement Data Classification
Data classification may not be an explicit requirement in all the cloud compliance frameworks, but it has a direct impact on several security and management aspects. These in turn are crucial parts of all cloud compliance frameworks.
You need to identify the type of data you would store on the cloud and classify it into different categories based on their confidentiality and sensitivity. You can then decide the location of different categories of data.
For instance, if the data is highly sensitive, you can hold it on your private cloud server. You can also define different security measures and access permissions for each data category. Data classification will also make it easy for you to define policies and create protocols for various circumstances.
Data encryption is crucial for meeting several cloud compliance regulations. It is explicitly stated in frameworks such as PCI-DSS and GDPR. Despite this, 83% have failed to encrypt about half of their sensitive data according to Thales Global Cloud Security Study. The study also shows that 40% of businesses fell prey to data breaches owing to a lack of encryption.
Cloud compliance requires you to encrypt all sensitive and confidential data. While many cloud service providers would facilitate you with encryption services, it is still your responsibility to protect the data. For cloud compliance, you need to consider encryption in three stages:
- Encryption in Transit: It protects the data while it is transmitted between two systems or users.
- Encryption at Rest: It prevents unauthorized access to the data for viewing or modification.
- Encryption in Use: It protects the data while it is being processed by any application.
Encryption will help you ensure data security while it’s moved or stored. It can even protect your data in case of a breach. Based on the sensitivity of the data, you can add several layers of encryption to ensure protection and thereby cloud compliance with various regulatory frameworks.
Understand Service Level Agreement (SLA)
A Service Level Agreement is a contract between the cloud service provider and the customer. This agreement defines the roles and responsibilities of each party. It defines measures of security offered by the cloud service provider.
The SLA should also have outlines for incident response execution and data breach remediation. This legal contract should also define timeframes for incident response and liabilities of both parties in case of a data breach.
The document should also mention the geographical location of your data, access permissions, and security measures. All of these are required for cloud compliance. Most importantly, you must ensure that the SLA contains the responsibilities of the cloud service provider and the repercussions of failing to comply.
You need to ensure that the terms of your SLA match the cloud compliance regulations that govern your business.
Cloud compliance is a necessity for all web applications that store data on the cloud. But, you need to understand the frameworks that apply to your web application. This depends on your industry and the geographical location of your operations and customers.
Besides regulatory requirements, cloud compliance ensures that your data remains secure and that your organization adheres to best practices for using cloud services.