What's the biggest challenge facing security teams? It's not preventing breaches, meeting compliance demands, or even vying for executive attention. It's managing complexity, our InformationWeek 2012 Strategic Security Survey finds. Now, we've been running this study for 15 years, and security has never, ever been simple. But over the past decade the threats have piled up; we have too many fancy technologies to deploy and long-winded policies to enforce--with no guarantee that any of them will reduce risk.
So let's break it down. Prioritize the threats most likely to affect your company. If you try to block every conceivable attack, you'll stretch your people and resources so thin that something is bound to break. Stop worrying about what you can't control or predict and focus like a laser on where you can make an impact. That includes tried-and-true basics like strong access control. It includes taking a hard look at potential cloud providers' security claims, and writing Web apps and business software with an eye toward reducing vulnerabilities. It means being prepared for when a salesperson leaves an iPad in a taxi or has her phone snatched out of her hand.
We'll provide guidance on these areas in this article and go into more depth in our full 2012 Strategic Security Survey report. We'll also delve into what 946 business technology and IT security professionals from companies with 100 or more employees told us in our latest in-depth look at the security landscape.
What's In That Cloud, Anyway?
Our 2012 State of Cloud Computing Survey shows adoption of public cloud on a consistent upward pace; just 27% of 511 respondents from companies with 50 or more employees aren't in the market for these services. Unfortunately, in 2011, only 18% of our Strategic Security respondents actually assessed the security of cloud providers. This year, that number jumped to 29%. However, another 14% rely on the self-audit reports vendors provide. An example is the SSAE 16, a widely used set of auditing standards that providers say attest to controls they have in place.
We don't recommend blindly accepting these reports. One reason is that SSAE 16 attestations contain different sets of scope and system descriptions, so one provider's SSAE 16 may be dramatically different from another's. A better bet? The Cloud Security Alliance explicitly lays out a set of security best practices for cloud providers across a variety of domains, including encryption, data center management, cloud architecture, and application security. The CSA's guidelines are much more prescriptive, and the group offers the Security Trust and Assurance Registry, a free, publicly accessible registry that documents the security controls inherent in various cloud offerings. All providers can submit self-assessment reports that document compliance with CSA-published best practices.
When it comes to cloud computing risks, the most prominent concern among our survey respondents is unauthorized access to or leak of customer information. That's unchanged from 2011. Other top concerns include worries about security defects in cloud technology and the loss of proprietary data.