IT And Compliance Managers Differ On Cloud Security

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Information security managers and compliance specialists take conflicting views on cloud security

IT staff and compliance officials do not see eye-to-eye on cloud security issues and on their organisation’s policies, according to a recent report from Ponemon Institute.

In a survey of more than 1,000 professionals in the areas of IT, information security, compliance and privacy, there was some disagreement over who was responsible for defining, implementing and enforcing cloud security requirements for the organisation, researchers from Ponemon Institute wrote in a report. The survey included 613 IT and information security professionals and 405 compliance and privacy professionals.

Cold-shouldering responsibility

The report revealed a “gulf” between the two groups about service provider controls, top security measures and roles and responsibilities within an enterprise to ensure cloud security.

Approximately 21 percent of compliance professionals in the survey said they were responsible for defining the requirements for their company, while 22 percent of IT staff felt the responsibility should fall on the business unit leaders. Both groups said that business unit leaders are responsible for enforcing the requirements and no one group was responsible for implementing cloud security.

Ownership for cloud security is often “splintered,” according to Richard Gorman, CEO of encryption provider Vormetric, who sponsored the study. “This makes it extremely difficult for organisations to implement an enterprisewide data security strategy that incorporates protection for sensitive information in the cloud,” Gorman said.

Companies still assume that cloud services are less secure than on-premise computing, especially when it comes to data stored in the infrastructure-as-a-service environment, the report found. However, both groups perceived software as a service as being more secure.

Feeling of IaaS security

Nearly half, or 49 percent, of the compliance professionals in the survey said infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) providers were as secure as the organisation’s internal, on-premise data centres, but only 33 percent of the IT professionals felt the same way. While 42 percent of compliance experts felt their firms had sufficient policies and procedures to enable IaaS security, only 34 percent of the IT staff agreed.

IT respondents were “more concerned” about security in the cloud than compliance respondents, the researchers found. Despite concerns about security, evaluating the cloud provider’s security measures were considered a low priority, or not at all, for 59 percent of IT professionals in the report. In contrast, 56 percent of compliance officials said it was very high, or high, priority.

Organisations are “at risk” because of the lack of vetting and monitoring of cloud providers, the report found. More than half of the respondents said their companies’ internal audit review processes did not provide feedback on the cloud infrastructure’s security.

Surprising differences

Researchers were “surprised” by the different attitudes toward cloud security among IT practitioners and compliance officers, according to Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute.

The two groups also disagreed on the types of security measures that should be used to protect data stored in the cloud. IT practitioners said data should be encrypted to make sure the information was unreadable by cloud service providers. Compliance officers felt the primary goal of encryption should be to enforce a separation of duties to prevent IT administrators from accessing data they do not need.

Regardless of the purpose, it does not seem as if businesses are following through, since less than one-third of respondents said their organisations encrypt data and files in the cloud. Most of the companies in the survey used firewalls, antivirus software and identity and access management tools to protect information in the cloud environment, according to the report.

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