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CSA & ISACA Team Up on Cloud Auditing Certificate

The Certificate of Cloud Auditing Knowledge aims to fill a gap in the market for cloud IT auditing as more organizations work in cloud environments.

The Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) and ISACA today launched the Certificate of Cloud Auditing Knowledge (CCAK), a new technical credential for professionals who want to demonstrate their expertise in auditing cloud environments. 

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Both the CSA and ISACA communities had been requesting this type of program for years – at least six to seven for the CSA, says CTO Daniele Catteddu. Security practitioners, especially those who are cloud customers or part of the software-as-a-service community, want training on how to audit cloud services. Cloud providers also want to ensure customers are educated.

"They have – especially the most mature cloud service providers – all the interest in having their prospective customers better educated in the evaluation of the services," Catteddu says. CSA contacted ISACA to propose a partnership, which brought more expertise in information systems auditing and more feedback on the content and curriculum that had been developed.

The end result of their collaboration is a study guide, instructor-led training (both virtual and in-person), an online course, and a practice bank for exam questions. The CCAK consists of a two-hour online exam with 76 multiple-choice questions and a required score of 70% to pass.

The CCAK reviews the difference in auditing cloud environments versus traditional IT services and infrastructure, as well as how to evaluate cloud services before and during their provision. Practitioners learn how introducing the cloud into an environment affects existing governance policies and frameworks, as well as how the shared responsibility model affects compliance. 

Practitioners studying for the CCAK also review how to use a cloud-specific security controls framework and configure it in a way that lets them measure the effectiveness of different controls. Cloud environments don't have the same admin access as legacy IT systems, CSA notes, and the security controls are different from what traditional IT auditors are used to.

In developing the curriculum and exam, CSA and ISACA discussed the gaps in cloud security auditing at many organizations. IT auditors are well-trained in general IT controls, but cloud environments bring new technologies, new controls, and a new partner hosting the software and infrastructure, explains Shannon Donahue, ISACA's vice president of content development and services. There are several nuances and processes auditors will need to be aware of. 

"When you start looking at types of deployment models, or the types of clouds, they need to understand that if I'm in a public/private/hybrid cloud, what are all the threats and risks that are new to my organization, and how do those controls need to be designed and tested so we can ensure effectiveness and be confident our data is secure?" Donahue says. Auditors also need to consider different regulations, standards, and models outside the usual IT auditing process. 

Compounding the cloud auditing challenge is the complexity of the cloud supply chain, which Catteddu notes has been a factor in several recent security breaches and is a distinctive part of cloud security auditing.

"The number of cloud services that each company is consuming is huge, and we wanted to make sure whoever is evaluating that complex portfolio of services is in the position to scale that expertise and expand and automate their evaluation as needed," he adds.

The CCAK is intended for practitioners including external and internal assessors and auditors, CISOs, chief privacy officers, data protection officers, security and privacy consultants, compliance managers, and vendor program managers. Catteddu and Donahue emphasize that this is not a foundational certificate. Unlike the Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge (CCSK) or Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP), students are expected to have a background.

"The CCAK assumes that any student or professional that is approaching the certificate … has those foundational basics of cloud and cloud security already well-consolidated," Catteddu says, noting that "we do not cover that in detail in the program." CCAK is considered an extra layer on top of the CCSK, Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), FedRAMP 3PAO Assessor, PCI/DSS Qualified Security Assessor, and/or the ISO 27001 Lead Auditor Credentials.

It would also be helpful for candidates to have a background in the audit space, Donahue adds.

"Not having any audit background would be problematic in … having to audit not just your internal controls but now all of your trusted service provider controls as well," she explains.

CSA and ISACA plan to monitor the market and adjust the training and exam as the cloud and cloud security space continue to evolve.

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio

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