Cloud Security Framework: a Comprehensive Approach to Safeguarding Cloud Environments

Blog Author
Gabriela Silk

Providing customers with additional strategy of their organization’s approach to security and instrumental in enabling providers with the ability to communicate security best practices and countermeasures, cloud security frameworks outline the policies, tools, configurations, and rules paramount to the effective adoption and security management of an organization’s cloud infrastructure.


In tandem with network, endpoint, and DLP tools, cloud security frameworks aid in providing organizations with a holistic approach to security that identifies what sensitive data requires protection, its location, and the method with which it is secured.



Cloud Security Frameworks vs. Compliance Frameworks
Which Security Framework is Best?
Cloud Security Framework Examples
What is a Cloud Security Framework Architecture
Best Approach to Cloud Security


Cloud Security Frameworks Vs. Compliance Frameworks

While similar to cloud security frameworks, cloud compliance differs in its primary concern of meeting regulatory standards applicable to data that is handled and stored by an organization. In congruence with best practices and depending on the needs of an organization, adding a cloud security framework that extends beyond the minimum mandated requirements found in a compliance framework is imperative for comprehensive and complete data loss prevention.


Generally applicable frameworks include those for governance (COBIT), architecture (SABSA), management standards (ISO/IEC 27001), and NIST’s Cybersecurity Framework, with additional specialized frameworks available depending on use case. In healthcare, an example of a specialized framework is HITRUST’s Common Security Framework.


Which Security Framework Is Best?

With a multitude of frameworks available including those of governance (COBIT), architecture (SABSA), management standards (ISO, IEC 270001) and NIST’s Cybersecurity Framework, what constitutes ‘best’ lies within the goal of the organization. Others that are higher in specialization best appropriate depending on specific use cases include HITRUST’s Common Security Framework, among others.


Cloud Security Framework Examples

An executive order established to reduce risk to critical infrastructure, the NIST (National Institute of Standards of Technology) policy framework is widely used and consists of five critical pillars:

  • Identify: Understand organizational requirements and complete security risk assessments.
  • Protect: Implement safeguards to ensure your infrastructure can self-sustain during an attack. 
  • Detect: Deploy solutions to monitor networks and identify security-related events. 
  • Respond: Launch countermeasures to combat potential or active threats to business security.
  • Recover: Create and deploy procedures necessary to restore system capabilities and network services in the event of a disruption.
ESG Survey Report: Trends in cloud-native security, technology, and automation


What Is a Cloud Security Framework Architecture?

Defined by the security layers, design, and structure of platform, tools, software, infrastructure, and best practices that exist within a cloud security solution, cloud security framework architectures describe all the hardware and technologies designed to protect data, cloud workloads, and systems within cloud platforms.


A written and visual reference on how to configure a secure cloud development, deployment, and operation, cloud security architectures provide a model that defines how an organization should handle the following:

  1. Identify users and manage access. 
  2. Determine appropriate security controls to protect applications and data across network, data, and application access.
  3. Attain visibility and insights into security, compliance, and threat posture.
  4. Cement security-based principles into the development and operation of cloud-based services.
  5. Maintain strict security policies and governances to meet compliance standards.
  6. Establish physical infrastructure security precautions.

Beneficial for organizations using multiple cloud platforms (such as Google Workspace, Slack, and AWS) or migrating legacy storage systems, cloud security architectures simplify and visually outline accompanying and in some cases multiple and varying security configurations and elements.


NIST Compliance Checklist

  • Identify CUI - A full audit of organizational systems and data flows, starting with employee computers and ending with third-party contractors, organizations must first and foremost know whether they are receiving and using CUI and where it is being stored. 
  • Classify Data - As there are twenty approved CUI categories under NIST 800-171, among them, data relating to critical infrastructure, defense, patents, privacy, and more, accurate CUI classifications are crucial as each category comes with their own set of compliance standards.
  • Perform A Security Assessment - To maintain an updated and effective and cybersecurity strategy the continual assessment of existing security measures is critical. 
  • Develop And Test Baseline Controls - Revisiting an organizations coverage of the 14 baseline control families listed in the NIST 800-171 to ensure full compliance. 
  • Regular Risk Assessments - As new threats emerge, regular risk assessments and improvements are crucial to maintaining the most up to date security posture. 
  • Document Security Plans - Documentation is essential should a data breach occur and an organization is asked to provide evidence the incident was unrelated to poor security, as well as the ability to provide descriptive proof of efforts to comply with NIST 800-171. 
  • Data Breach Response Plan - Securing a comprehensively remedial data breach response plan is paramount to addressing events, in thorough anticipation and strategic remediation that a plan provide. 
  • Raising Awareness - Ensuring employees have a thorough understanding of NIST 800-171 compliance requirements as they're broadened and updated is the sole method to ensuring full compliance and its addition to an organizations security stance. Detailing policies pertinent to each department thus also becomes imperative in the event policies change and need to be communicated.


Best Approach to Cloud Security

When deciding the best approach to cloud security, qualifiers should include the compliance standards applicable to an organization’s industry and the type of data it’s required to protect. Second to establishing an appropriate compliance framework, additional cloud security and architecture frameworks can be layered for a level of security that extends beyond minimal compliance and into the depth, scope, and strategy necessary to meet the demands and threats unique to each organization.