Regulatory Compliance in the Cloud

AHEAD’s Stephen King provides an analysis of several key components of cloud compliance frameworks, considerations and tools.

Many organizations across the world have moved their technology infrastructure to the cloud, hoping to optimize their business agility and decrease their hardware expenses. They focus so much attention on the technological aspects of incorporating cloud platforms into their business management that regulatory compliance gets set somewhere in the background.

Technology leaders need to also focus on regulatory compliance in the cloud and understand what the considerations for should be staying in compliance. Achieving cloud compliance generally requires going further than implementing basic technology security measures. Here we will examine the key components of cloud compliance frameworks, considerations, and tools. Let’s start with understanding cloud compliance.

What is Cloud Compliance?

Cloud compliance consists of the practices and procedures that a cloud environment complies with governance rules. In simplest words, when you build a compliant cloud environment, your environment must conform to one or more specific sets of privacy and security standards. Those standards could be established by the government agency, as in the case with compliance frameworks, such as California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) or the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

They could also be the industry standard, such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Apart from these, they could be internal governance policies that an organization establishes for itself. Each compliance framework consists of a unique set of rules. In general, the requirements include a mandate, such as encrypting sensitive data, ensuring reasonable security for workloads, demonstrating your organization performs regular audits for identifying and addressing potential security threats and issues.

Leading Cloud Compliance Frameworks

Cloud compliance refers to the need for companies and cloud computing service providers to comply with applicable regulatory standards of cloud usage established via industry guidelines and national, international, and local laws. Examples of such compliance requirements are:

  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
  • Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act of 2002
  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
  •  National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

Let’s take a closer look at each.

1.  Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA) Act of 1996 is a federal law that requires the development of national standards to protect and secure sensitive patient health information from disclosure without the patient’s knowledge or consent. The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued privacy rules to implement the HIPAA requirements.

These rules address the disclosure and use of individuals’ health information by entities subject to the privacy rule. HIPAA Privacy Rule also consists of the standards for individuals’ rights to understand and control the usage of health information. A HIPAA-compliant cloud storage service incorporates all the required controls to ensure integrity, confidentiality, and availability. The covered entity is responsible for developing procedures and policies that cover the use of HIPAA secure cloud storage.

2.  Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act of 2002

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 was passed by the US Congress on July 30 to help protect investors from fraudulent financial reporting by organizations. It mandated strict reforms to existing security regulations and implemented tough penalties on lawbreakers. This act came in response to financial scandals in the early 2002s involving publicly traded organizations, such as Tyco International plc, Enron Corporation, and WorldCom.

By ensuring that the organization complies with the rules, SOX protects the American public from corporate wrongdoing. Any organization falling under the jurisdiction of SOX should only work with cloud providers employing SSAE 16 or SAS 70 auditing guidelines. NIST compliance requires the assistance of professional cloud experts who understand the regulations and interpret them in the cloud efficiently.

3.  General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

The General Data Protection Regulation is one of the most stringent security and privacy laws in the world. Drafted and passed by the European Union, it imposes obligations on companies who gather data related to the people in the EU. Looking to the supplant, the EU Data Protection Directive of 1995 has agreed to implement new GDPR rules.

With the GDPR rules, Europe is signing its firm stance on security and data privacy at a time when organizations are entrusting their data with cloud services, and data breaches are a daily occurrence. The compliance regulation itself is far-reaching, large, and fairly light on specifics that make GDPR compliance a daunting prospect. Under GDPR, cloud service providers are required to understand their obligations towards privacy and data protection to accordingly adapt their services, processes, and contracts.

4.  National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

The NIST framework provides a common methodology for managing security risks and helps guide key decisions regarding risk management activities via different organization levels from senior executives to process levels and implementation. The standards are based on the best practices from various security documents, publications, and organizations. As the framework is designed to be outcome-driven, it works for industries of all sizes.

Therefore, whether you are getting started in establishing a cybersecurity program or you are running a mature program, the NIST framework can provide value by acting as a top-notch security management tool. NIST has developed security guidelines and drafted them into a formal publication available for cloud adopters. These include a roadmap for companies transforming their current IT infrastructure to the cloud.

Cloud Compliance Tools

Smart security and compliance regulation starts with robust endpoint protection and extends to the security of cloud workloads. Here are some tools that IT leaders and senior executives can use and recommend for cloud compliance.


The Regulatory Compliance module in the Sysdig consists of a validator tool that checks the selected controls from several compliance standards and the reports it complies with. Moreover, new standards are being added regularly. Sysdig proactively protects public clouds including serverless and container-based workloads. Checks are provided against specific controls in PCI DSS, ISO, HIPAA, GDPR, and more.

Apart from these, Sysdig provides continuous cloud security posture management and cloud threat detection. It lets you gain consistent visibility of cloud security risks by detecting suspicious activities and misconfigurations. With Sysdig, you can validate compliance against PCI, CIS, GDPR, NIST, HIPAA, and ISO.

Prisma Cloud

Prisma Cloud delivers compliance and security in under five minutes, with no required agents. It dynamically discovers sensitive data and cloud resources to detect risky configurations and network threats and identify suspicious user behavior, network threats, data leakage, malware, and host vulnerabilities. Moreover, Prisma Cloud allows you to view, assess, monitor, report, and review cloud infrastructure health and compliance posture.

IT experts can also create reports containing a summary and comprehensive findings of compliance and security risks in their cloud environment. Prisma Cloud monitors the resources deployed on different cloud environments, such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure, and Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.

CheckPoint CloudGuard Dome9

CheckPoint CloudGuard Dome9 automates governance across multi-cloud services assets and services, such as virtualization and assessment of cloud posture, enforcement of compliance frameworks and security best practices, and misconfiguration detection. It allows you to

  • Visualize and monitor the security posture of cloud environments
  • Protect workloads actively that run in the public cloud, such as serverless and containers
  • Detect and remediate vulnerabilities and misconfigurations
  • Model and enforce security governance policies efficiently
  • Manage compliance and implement compliance automation

CloudGuard Dome9 is an innovative service enabling organizations to manage the security and compliance of their cloud environment at any scale. It offers technologies to access and visualize security posture, model and actively enforce gold standard policies, detect misconfigurations, protect against attacks and insider threats, and comply with regulatory requirements and best practices.

Final Words

Cloud adoption increases compliance challenges, but it does not need to be an invincible obstacle to a successful cloud implementation. Technology executives should be familiar with the main cloud compliance issues and their potential solutions to provide robust security. Cloud compliance tools can help you detect misconfigurations and vulnerabilities in the cloud environment. When considering all the compliance frameworks the correct tooling is essential for maintaining security in the cloud environment.

Contributing Author: Stephen King


Subscribe to the AHEAD I/O Newsletter for a periodic digest of all things apps, opps, and infrastructure.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.