What Is The Cloud Security Alliance CAIQ and Why Should I Care?

CLOUD TRANSPARENCY & ASSURANCE

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Two of the biggest challenges that organization’s are quickly discovering when migrating to the cloud is transparency and assurance.

With new blindspots and lack of physical access to data and infrastructure, companies are now forced to rely on new tools and methods to ensure their assets are safe and protected. This is where Cloud Security Alliance’s CAIQ comes into play and you should understand it and be up to speed on what it matters.

CAIQ is an acronym for the Consensus Assessment Initiative Questionnaire. This questionnaire is a downloadable spreadsheet of yes or no questions that correspond to the controls of CSA’s Cloud Controls Matrix (CCM).

The CCM is CSA’s cybersecurity controls framework for cloud computing. An IaaS, PaaS, or SaaS cloud service provider (CSP) can use the CAIQ to document what security controls exist in their services. This increases security control transparency for potential customers, who can then determine if the CSP’s cloud services are secure enough for the customer’s purposes.

You can also use the CAIQ as an internal self-assessment tool to ensure your organization has thought about all of the relevant controls for your specific application or system.

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MORE JARGON EXPLAINED

CCMSTARCCSKCCAK – the Cloud Security Alliance has a lot of acronyms that you may not be familiar with. Hang in there and in the sections below, I will get you up to speed.

CAIQ vs. CCM

The CAIQ and the CCM are two CSA resources that are very closely tied. As stated previously, the CCM is a cloud security controls framework, or list of best practices. These best practices come from CSA’s Security Guidance for Cloud Computing.

If you use the CCM in conjunction with CSA’s Security Guidance for Cloud Computing, you are well on your way to ensuring you have the right controls in place for your cloud solution. These valuable tools ensure you are looking at the right things and the best part is, they are free!

The CCM provides guidance on cloud security implementation for both providers and customers, and outlines which security controls should be implemented by which actor within the cloud supply chain.

The questions on the CAIQ are based on the best practices listed in the CCM. These questions break up each CCM control into clear actions that indicate whether a CSP is adhering to that control. Therefore, the CAIQ is frequently used for documentation and auditing, as well as performing self assessments.

CAIQ and STAR

Cloud Service Providers can submit their self-completed CAIQ to the CSA STAR Registry, which is CSA’s cloud security assurance program, to earn STAR Level 1.

When a CAIQ is posted on the STAR public registry and updated on a regular basis, cloud customers can easily monitor a provider’s ongoing compliance postures. This also encourages due diligence on the part of the CSP and leads to a higher quality procurement experience.

One common misconception is that the CAIQ itself is a certification. This is not true – CAIQ is a questionnaire in the form of a spreadsheet, which the STAR program uses as a self-assessment for CSPs to document compliance. However, CSA does have a separate STAR certification for CSP organizations, which is a requirement for STAR Level 2.

Read CSA’s blog post to learn more about why cloud providers should consider submitting a CAIQ, and why cloud customers should require their cloud providers to submit one.

Introducing CAIQ v4.0

CAIQ v4 includes new features that are expected to increase the value for its users – both cloud service providers and customers. These features include:

  • 261 questions instead of the 310 found in v3.1
  • Structural changes that offer the user the possibility to show additional accountability and transparency about their security and privacy practices
  • Columns about the Shared Responsibility Model

Learn more about CAIQ v4 in this blog.

CAIQ-Lite

CAIQ-Lite is a shorter and condensed version of CAIQ that allows cloud customers to more easily engage with their service providers. CAIQ-Lite contains 71 questions compared to the 261 found in the CAIQ, while still addressing all 16 of the CCM’s control domains. This is a great option for a fast-paced cloud provider environment that isn’t suited to a more thorough questionnaire like the CAIQ.

Download CAIQ v4 here or visit the Consensus Assessments Working Group page to learn more about CSA research for vendor assessments.