What is Cloud Security Audit [Complete Checklist]

Anwita

Anwita

Jul 06, 2023

Cloud security audit

Malicious actors target sections where the bulk of data reside. As more processes, applications, and information sit on the cloud, it inevitably attracts cybercriminals. A cloud security audit can help to accelerate response and mitigation capabilities. 

This article covers what cloud security audit means, its objective, what to ensure to be audit ready, its challenges, and how to solve them. 

What is a cloud security audit?

A cloud security audit is an evaluation of the security controls used to protect data and other assets in the cloud infrastructure. Typically conducted by a third-party auditor, the process involves analyzing policies, inspecting controls, and gathering evidence on the observations. 

What is the objective of a cloud security audit?

Cloud security audits aim to test the effectiveness of the selected controls and how well those align with your organization’s security goals.

It is meant to check if the controls work as intended to – how well it is implemented, if it works sufficiently against threats, and how well it meets best practices.

The bottom line is to examine if the physical, administrative, and technical safeguards of an organization protects the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of assets deployed in the cloud.

Cloud security audit checklist (How to get started)

Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) helps organizations with a cloud security auditing checklist to ensure best auditing practices. We have compiled a list of to-dos to help you get started. 

Create, communicate, maintain, and evaluate the processes for the checklist below. Document every process, change, or system you implement and review or update them at least once a year.

Here’s a 9 step cloud security audit checklist:

1. Internal audit

Independent audits can provide an accurate perspective of the current status of your security posture. An independent audit and risk assessment that as per the organizational policies offers useful insight into readiness level against the standard requirement. 

The auditing process should support security control assessment, remediation strategy, report generation system, and risk analysis. Cross-check with all applicable standards and regulations to avoid missing out on any important requirement. 

2. Business continuity management

Security incidents, if not contained immediately, can infect multiple systems as it spreads. Even the smallest incident has the potential to cause irreparable damages. This creates the need to devise effective business continuity plans. 

Identify your key assets and resources that support crucial business operations. Next, determine the level of impact each would have if compromised. Backup these assets to prevent data loss, create a recovery plan to prevent business disruptions, and develop a risk treatment plan to continue operations. Conduct tests on its effectiveness annually. 

3. Encryption and key

No matter where your data is deployed – on premise or on the cloud, encryption is one of the most effective ways to prevent data theft of sensitive information. 

Identify where the data is stored and how it flows to implement encryption algorithms based on the type of data. The strength of the key should match the industry or standard requirements. 

Allocate roles to implement and manage cryptographic keys and gather evidence to ensure that management as per the organization’s policies. Restrict the use of keys to appropriate individuals.

4. Access control management

Role-based access to systems and files reduces the risk of data leakage and unintentional disclosure. 

Implement strong password policies, two-factor authentication, and the principle of least privilege. Update access levels as frequently as required. Implement technical measures to manage privileged access control for each role such as encryption key management, logging capabilities, and administrative data access. These technical measures should also identify logging trails through unique IDs. 

5. Human resources

As new employees join the workforce and others exit an organization, it is crucial to implement policies that help to secure confidential trade information. 

Human resources should conduct background verification, maintain policies or procedures, develop contractual agreements, regulatory laws, and more for new employees. 

Every employee should undergo training sessions. The policies should specify practices around the handling and usage of confidential data. When an employee exits, permission to the system and tools should be revoked and updated.

6. Threat and vulnerability

Protect critical systems against security threats and vulnerability exploitation using appropriate technical measures. 

Set up scheduled and emergency threat response capabilities based on the type and severity of the attack. 

Update malware tools regularly to detect non signature based threats and conduct penetration tests to test these measures.

Develop a process to track and report vulnerability identification and remediation that keeps relevant parties in the loophole.

Also read: Cybersecurity risk management

7. Logging and monitoring 

A detailed log of activities and real time surveillance helps to analyze and troubleshoot the root cause of issues. 

Implement technical measures to retain audit logs and restrict the access to this data to authorized personnel only. Monitor security events for applications to detect suspicious behavior or abnormal patterns. 

Use a system to generate alerts and notify appropriate stakeholders. Use a defined system to review incidents and take actions against anomalies. 

8. Incident management 

Security incident management helps to prevent operational disruptions, reduce revenue loss, and secure data integrity. 

Evaluate and maintain a thorough response plan and test and update it at least on an annual basis. 

Adopt technical measures to help the IT team triage security incidents. 

Define a process to report breaches as per the regulation requirement and maintain contact of legal or jurisdictional authorities. 

9. Endpoint management

The steady adoption of remote work culture has introduced new security challenges to the endpoint environment. Identify all endpoints that store or process data to maintain an inventory. 

Validate device compatibility with operating system or application, enforce access control, and encrypt data in transmission. 

Configure endpoints to automatically lock after a certain period of inactivity and enforce techniques to prevent third intrusion by third party devices with access to the company assets. Implement anti malware solutions, data loss prevention (DLP) technology, and firewalls. 

Benefits and challenges of cloud security auditing

Operating a cloud environment has ups and downs. On one hand, you leverage a plethora of benefits, and on the other it comes with its own set of challenges. 

Let’s quickly summarize these. 

BenefitsChallenges
Helps to stay compliant as per industry standards, government regulations, or voluntary frameworks. Lack of sufficient transparency between third party cloud hosting services and client requirements. 
Helps to protect the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of customer data and sensitive business information. Lack of sufficient transparency between third-party cloud hosting services and client requirements. 
Helps to ensure business continuity and prevent operational disruptions due to security incidents. Businesses can encrypt data on-premise before sending it to the server or send raw data and allow the provider to encrypt.
The second option gives the provider complete access which is not secure, but encrypting on-premise makes accessing difficult. 
Helps to manage, mitigate, investigate, and respond to threats that can otherwise compromise the overall security posture and damage brand reputation. 
Helps to analyze and manage the effectiveness of security controls, risk remediation plans, and anti-malware tools. 

Want to get cloud audit ready?

Ensuring cloud audit readiness is a lot of work – compiling documents, tracking processes, ensuring no gaps against framework requirements. Manually done, this is not just time consuming, but prone to error. 

Sprinto makes auditing challenges a cakewalk – by automating the entire process. It collects evidence, scans for malicious activities, shows control-wise status, flags unauthorized activities, and notifies relevant stakeholders about issues. Additionally, it trains your staff to implement security best practices and allows you to manage or add custom requirements from a single dashboard. Connect with our experts today!

FAQs

What are the categories of cloud security?

The main types of cloud security are Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS). 

How much does cloud security auditing cost?

The cost of cloud security auditing can go up to $10,000 a year depending on the number of controls, amount of data, and size of the organization. 

Anwita

Anwita

Anwita is a cybersecurity enthusiast and veteran blogger all rolled into one. Her love for everything cybersecurity started her journey into the world compliance. With multiple certifications on cybersecurity under her belt, she aims to simplify complex security related topics for all audiences. She loves to read nonfiction, listen to progressive rock, and watches sitcoms on the weekends.

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