The C5:2020 - A Valuable Resource in Securing the Provider-Customer Relationship for Cloud Services

KuppingerCole has accompanied the unprecedented rise of the cloud as a new infrastructure and alternative platform for a multitude of previously unimaginable services – and done this constructively and with the necessary critical distance right from the early beginnings (blog post from 2008). Cybersecurity, governance and compliance have always been indispensable aspects of this.

When moving to the use of cloud services, it is most important to take a risk-based approach. There is nothing like “just the cloud”. It is not a single model but covers a wide and constantly growing spectrum of applications, services and virtualized infrastructure.

The “wild west phase” of early cloud deployments, based on quick decisions and individual, departmental “credit card”-based cloud subscriptions without corporate oversight should lie behind us. An organization adopting a cloud service needs to ensure that it remains in compliance with laws and industry regulations. There are many aspects to look at, including but not limited to compliance, service location, data security, availability, identity and access management, insider abuse of privilege, virtualization, isolation, cybersecurity threats, monitoring and logging.

Moving to the cloud done right

When moving to the use of cloud services, it is most important to take a risk-based approach. There is nothing like one single version of “the cloud”. It is not a single model but covers a wide and constantly growing spectrum of applications, services and virtualized infrastructure all summed up as the cloud service providers. While many people think mainly of the large platform providers like AWS or Microsoft Azure there is a growing number of companies providing services in and from the cloud. To ensure the security of their customers’ data the provider of cloud services should comply with best practice for the provision of the services they offer.

Moving services into the cloud or creating new services within the cloud substantially changes the traditional picture of typical responsibilities for an application/infrastructure and introduces the Cloud Service Provider (CSP) as a new stakeholder to the network of functional roles already established. Depending on the actual decision of which parts of the services are provided by the CSP on behalf of the customer and which parts are implemented by the tenant on top of the provided service layers, the responsibilities are assigned to either the CSP or the tenant.

Shared responsibilities between the provider and the tenant are a key characteristic of every deployment scenario of cloud services. For every real-life cloud service model scenario, all responsibilities identified have to be clearly assigned individually to the appropriate stakeholder. This might be drastically different in scenarios where only infrastructure is provided, for example the provisioning of plain storage or computing services, compared to scenarios where complete "Software as a Service" (SaaS, e.g. Office 365) is provided. Therefore, the prerequisite for an appropriate service contract between provider and the tenant has to be a comprehensive identification of all responsibilities and an agreement on which contract partner within a cloud service scenario these responsibilities have been assigned to.

However, the process involved is often manual and time consuming, and there is a multitude of aspects to consider. From the start it was important to us to support organizations in understanding the risks that come with the adoption of cloud services and in assessing the risks around their use of cloud services in a rapid and repeatable manner.

Best practices as a baseline

There are several definitions of best practice including: ITIL, COBIT, ISO/IEC 270xx, but also industry-specific specifications from the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA). For a primarily German audience (but de facto far beyond that), the BSI (the German Federal Office for Information Security) created the Cloud Computing Compliance Criteria Catalogue (BSI C5 for short) several years ago as a guideline for all those involved (users, vendors, auditors, security providers and service providers and many more) in the process of evaluating cloud services.

It is available free of charge to anyone interested. And many should be interested: The readership benefits from a well-curated and proofread current catalogue of criteria. It is worth noting that the document is updated regularly, while it is openly available for anyone to learn and use.

These criteria can be used by cloud services users to evaluate the services offered. In reverse, service providers can integrate these criteria already at the conceptual phase of their services and thus ensure "compliance by design" in technology and processes.

C5 reloaded – the 2020 version

BSI just published a major update of the C5 entitled C5:2020. Many areas have been thoroughly revised to cover current trends and developments like DevOps. Two further areas have been added:

  • “Product security” focuses on the security of the cloud service itself so that the requirements of the EU Cybersecurity Act are included in the questionnaire.
  • Especially with regard to US authorities, dealing with “Investigation requests from government agencies” for European customers regularly raises questions. For this reason, the second block of questions was designed to ensure appropriate handling of these requests with regard to legal review.

The C5:2020 is clearly an up-to-date and valuable resource for securing the shared responsibility between cloud customer and cloud service provider.

Applying best practices to real-life scenarios

The process of implementing and securing the resulting technical concepts and necessary mitigating measures requires an individual consideration of the specific requirements of a customer company. This includes a risk-oriented approach to identify the criticality of data, services and processes and to evaluate a deep understanding of the effectiveness and impact of implemented measures.

KuppingerCole Research can provide essential information as a valuable foundation for technologies and strategies. KuppingerCole Advisory Services support our clients strategically in the definition and implementation of necessary conceptual and actionable measures. This is particularly true when it comes to finding out how to efficiently close gaps once they have been identified. This includes mitigating measures, accompanying organizational and technical activities, and the efficient selection of the appropriate and optimal portfolio of tools. Finally, the KuppingerCole Academy with its upcoming master classes for Incident Response Management and Privileged Access Management supports companies and employees in creating knowledge and awareness.


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