Last updated at Tue, 16 May 2023 19:27:53 GMT

This blog is part of an ongoing series sharing key takeaways from Rapid7’s 2020 Cloud Security Executive Summit. Interested in participating in the next summit on Tuesday, March 9? Register here!

There are two things that make data a hot topic. First, keeping track of your organization’s sheer volume of data is extremely difficult. Second, the evolving nature of the threat and threat-vector landscape can make data management and protection astonishingly challenging. We should be focused on staying compliant in the present, but also paying attention to and evolving for what's coming in the near future.

Why is it so hard to achieve continuous compliance in the cloud?

Getting it all right and continuously achieving compliance can be taxing on any security organization, and the cloud adds another layer of mobility to this. Pushing more operations into the cloud has so many “shiny” benefits that the possibility of losing direct visibility into your physical environment could be a drawback whose true impact isn’t known until the long term.

People can also be a big x-factor when it comes to cloud compliance. For years, your workforce has been trained in one area of compliance, and now you might have to take such measures as hiring new talent or retraining existing employees in proper cloud-compliance methodologies. So, it’s certainly worth it to regularly take a hard look at your existing policies, because the last thing anyone wants is for their compliance to be out-of-date and no longer addressing the right issues.

Taking these considerations into account, and given the ephemeral nature of the cloud in general, is continuous cloud compliance even achievable?

The answer is yes, but of course it depends on what you’re trying to get compliant with. You might actually meet all of the laws, rules, and regulations in your industry, but at the same time not mitigating all the risks. This means ensuring you have preventative controls in place, as well as continuous monitoring and scanning, so that you can identify threats faster and mitigate more overall risk.

Therefore, the answer will be different for each organization as goals are defined and you go about building a unique and continuous cloud-compliant solution. A more specific goal would come back to people and ensuring they work within the guardrails you set for them in your monitoring and preventative measures.

Changing the culture of blame

What happens when unencrypted data ends up in the cloud? Is the engineer to blame? The security team? Is your organization properly calibrated to share accountability with other teams, or does responsibility end with you? There is no question that continuous compliance takes constant teamwork that revolves around being solution-oriented and learning to not “point the finger.” It’s important that all players are comfortable asking for help and, in a worst-case scenario, don’t feel scared for their jobs.

Innovation comes from experimentation, and personnel should feel a certain amount of freedom to do that as well as identify when things go wrong and own it. Sourcing the right talent plays a big role in changing the culture of blame. On-premises skills are different from a cloud-based set. For instance, an engineer who is great at automation on-premises could be struggling in the cloud. It simply comes down to a new spectrum of vocabularies they have to learn. It’s key to source talent that’s eager to learn, so that the whole team can ultimately become successful in this new environment.

Constant tuning

It would be amazing if there were a big red easy button for automating compliance and just calling it done. As automation does become easier, it will still take vigilance to optimize processes as budgets are freed up and stakeholders decide where it should be spent. Consider having the conversation around spending money to be compliant at the beginning of the project or you might delay it for a long period of time, and then spend $100 million more to become compliant. Getting everyone on the same page early can save lots of red-tape cutting and, of course, money.

Want to learn more? Register for the upcoming Cloud Security Executive Summit on March 9 to hear industry-leading experts discuss the critical issues affecting cloud security today.