Many industry experts agree that cloud security has to be a shared responsibility between cloud providers and the businesses that use these services to host and manage their data and applications. But there's less agreement is over just how much responsibility each side has for ensuring data security in the cloud.
The Ponemon Institute, sponsored by Armor Defense, recently polled 990 IT and non-IT executives in the US and UK on cloud security-related topics and found a considerable disconnect on the issue of shared responsibility.
For starters, barely 16 percent of those polled even believe ensuring the security of cloud-hosted applications is a shared responsibility. Some 31 percent rely entirely on their cloud provider to keep SaaS applications safe, while 20 percent say businees end-users should be most accountable for it. A mere 15 percent say IT organizations should be most responsible for securing enterprise data stored in the cloud.
Interestingly, IT and non-IT respondents have different views of the role that technology organizations should play in cloud security. Nearly a quarter of the non-IT executives that Ponemon polled feel IT has a lead role to play in securing cloud hosted applications. But barely 13 percent of IT security executives share that same opinion.
The numbers become somewhat easier to understand when taken in the context of some of the other findings of the survey. For example, the survey results show that IT organizations continue to be largely in the dark about the use of SaaS and infrastructure as a service within their organizations. Most of the selection and vetting of cloud providers is being done by procurement teams and directly by the business groups that want the service.
The survey results suggest that corporate IT groups and information security organizations have a minimal role to play in either electing cloud vendors or in ensuring that they are adequately vetted.
When asked who was responsible for ensuring that cloud providers are secure and compliant with applicable privacy and security requirements, 43 percent of the respondents in the Ponemon/Armor survey point to their procurement organization. About 40 percent say business groups that make these decisions. Only 22 percent say corporate IT is responsible for this task, while an even smaller 17 percent say it's their IT security organization.
A surprising 62 percent of the survey respondents say their information security team is rarely or never involved in helping choose cloud providers.
The apparent lack of IT involvement in major cloud decisions is not the only issue.
Despite continuing concerns over the security of cloud-hosted enterprise data and services in many organizations, a substantial proportion of the respondents in the Ponemon survey appear to be doing little proactively to mitigate risk.
For example, more than 50 percent do not evaluate cloud applications and infrastructure for security vulnerabilities prior to deployment. Some 52 percent of organizations that use offshore providers, or whose data might be hosted at an offshore location, do nothing to ensure the vendor is in compliance with relevant security and privacy requirements. Less than four in 10 leverage security tools to protect enterprise applications and data in the cloud, while only 22 percent have the ability to inspect cloud-hosted data.
“It continues to surprise me that there seems to be an agreement in the industry that security is important and continues to be a major concern in the cloud,” says Wayne Reynolds, vice president of security at Armor. “Yet more than half of the respondents are unwilling to pay a premium to ensure [that] security.”
The cloud provides an opportunity for enterprises to gain great flexibility, agility, and scalability for sensitive workloads, Reynolds says. But to do this securely requires the right blend of technologies and security personnel.
“For those enterprises without large security staffs, a fully managed security provider might make the most sense given the ability to take on more responsibility for securing a greater part of the IT stack,” he says.