NIST Cybersecurity Framework: Keeping Your Business Safe in an Unsafe IT Ecosystem

The Rising Strategic Risk of Cyberattacks

As the world continues to embrace technology and its many advantages, business also has begun to rely more and more on technology, storing large amounts of sensitive data electronically. The ease at which computers can store and access information is a major reason for the shift toward massive electronic storage and with the efficiencies that computers bring to the market, a new area of risk has been inadvertently created.

Evidently, cyber criminals today are increasingly leveraging malware, bots and other forms of sophisticated threats to attack organizations for various reasons – financial gain, business disruption or political agendas. In many cases, they often target multiple sites and organizations to increase the likelihood of an attack’s initial success and viral spread. With new variants of malware being generated on a daily basis, many companies struggle to fight these threats separately and the majority of attacks are often left undetected or unreported.

Cybercriminals are also no longer isolated amateurs. They belong to well-structured organizations with money, motivation and goals, often employing highly skilled hackers that execute targeted attacks. Such organizations can deploy considerable threat intelligence, time and resources in order to execute attacks that can cost cybercrime victims significant amounts of money. Unfortunately, this trend is only growing more complex as businesses experience a surge in internet use, mobile computing and the cloud, creating more channels of communication and vulnerable entry points into the network.

Cybersecurity – A Global Business Concern 

More and more business value and personal information worldwide are rapidly migrating into digital form on open and globally interconnected technology platforms. As that happens, the risks from cyberattacks become more and more distressing.

Based on 2014 McKinsey and World Economic Forum Research, companies are continuously struggling with their capabilities in cyber risk management and believe that they are losing ground to attackers as visible breaches incessantly occurs in growing scale and severity.

Their findings show that 70% of executives from financial institutions believe that cybersecurity is a strategic risk to companies and considered internal threats (their employees) as big risk as external attacks.  Similarly, product companies such as high-tech firms see the leaking of proprietary knowledge about production process as more damaging than leaks of product specifications given the pervasiveness of “teardown” techniques and the legal protections afforded to product designs. Service companies on the other hand, are more concerned about the loss and release of identifiable information on customers and about service disruptions.

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Confidence on the Cloud – A New Cloud Privacy Standard (ISO 27018)

The Cloud Today

The growing marketplace of cloud computing.

Cloud computing’s growth in use and popularity has been soaring at a great pace! According to Gartner (2013), the marketplace for cloud computing will grow ~20% to USD 131 billion in 2017 from USD 111 billion in 2012.

What’s more?

2016 will be a defining year for cloud as this cutting-edge technology will just get more sophisticated in the next few years.

The Cloud Landscape

Cloud computing started as an in-house infrastructure established by companies such as Microsoft, Google and Amazon to serve their individual business needs. This consists of a set of technologies and service models that focus on Internet-based use and delivery of IT applications, processing capability, storage and memory space.

But now it has evolved into a platform that most part of our daily life is dependent on. While public and private cloud offers one means to differentiate the infrastructure sharing options, SaaS (Software as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service) and IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) have come to define the extent and level of control held by the cloud service provider (CSP) vs. the cloud user.

According to National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the “cloud” is composed of five essential characteristics.

  1. the on-demand self-service which implies that a customer can order service via the web or some other method at any point in time, to become immediately available for his or her use.
  2. the broad network access, in the sense that services are available over the network and are accessed through standard mechanisms (mobile phone, tablet, laptop, etc.).
  3. Other characteristics are the rapid elasticity of the cloud capabilities and the fact that it is a measured service – means additional capacity remains available and accessible on an ‘as needed’ basis and customers are automatically billed for their consumption.
  4. Last but not least, resource pool, meaning the provider’s computing resources are pooled to serve multiple consumers using a multi-tenant model, with different physical and virtual resources dynamically assigned and reassigned according to consumer demand.

The Confidence for Tomorrow – ISO 27018

The massive courses of data across cloud computing services are becoming ever more complex. Identifying and protecting personal data in those flows is becoming a daunting issue for many cloud service providers and cloud users. Given the substantial data protection risks, cloud computing measures need to be undertaken in order to mitigate their effect to the benefit of the cloud computing industry and its clients.

While there are several laws and regulations around it, a common benchmark or standard was lacking for some time. ISO 27018:2014 – Information technology — Security techniques — Code of practice for protection of personally identifiable information (PII) in public clouds acting as PII processors is the first set of international privacy controls launched.

Following and using the privacy controls foreseen in ISO 27018 offers greater assurance for service providers that they are doing the right thing and doing everything recommended to protect customers’ personal information. This mechanism also offers beneficial effect for both cloud providers and cloud users – if a consumer is buying cloud services, it can help them to identify the requirements for selecting a cloud provider and in defining contractual clauses and for cloud service provider, it can provide them with a unique selling proposition to potential clients because as more clients become familiar of the standard, the more that they will see it in their request proposal.

ISO 27018 has taken into account as a public policy from around the world as it integrates input from many regional regulators. A cloud service provider and it’s conformation to the standard makes the whole job of compliance to particular legislation in one country or region that much easier. The standard provides a common set of guidelines for the whole industry and adds needed protections to improve PII security and defiance in an increasingly cloud-based information environment.

ISO 27018 – Quick Overview

Key Elements of the Standard

ISO 27018 is a standard out forward by Internal Organization for Standardization (ISO) that seeks to create a common set of security categories and controls that can be implemented by a public cloud computing service provider acting as a data processor. In order to fulfill the standard, cloud service providers must understand the following key elements:

  1. Personally Identifiable Information (PII) instead of Personal Data

Scope of “personal data” is not only about the information that “can be used” or “linked” to a PII principal/ data subject, but “any information” relating to an identifiable natural person 

  1. Cloud Providers as Data Processors

In ISO/IEC 27018 the client is regarded as PII controller and the cloud service provider is the PII processor.

  1. Personal Data Protection Principles

The ISO/IEC 27018 contains a comprehensive set of controls regarding:

  • Information security policies
  • Organization of information security
  • Human resource security
  • Asset management
  • Asset control
  • Cryptography
  • Physical and environmental security
  • Operations and communications security
  • System acquisition, development and maintenance
  • Supplier relationships
  • Compliance
  • Information security aspects of business continuity management.

As the PII processor enables the cloud service client to comply with its regulatory obligations (data protection), through this controls, PII processor conforms to its own obligations, either legal or contractual.

  1. Accountability and Certification

Elements of the principle of accountability are incorporated into the standard, in particular the data breach notification, privacy by design, audits and certifications. In general, the standard may be seen as an instrument that assists the PII processor to comply with the principle of accountability requirements. Key to the demonstration of compliance in the context of the principle of accountability is third party certification. The cloud service provider that implements the new standard may ask for a conformity assessment, in order to be certified for complying with the standard.

In order to comply with the standard, participating cloud service providers must provide transparency in the following practices:

  • only process personal data in accordance with the customer’s instructions;
  • only process personal data for marketing or advertising purposes with the customer’s express consent;
  • be transparent around the use of sub-processors (which will include providing the names of, and any possible locations where the data may be processed by, any sub-processors);
  • ensure that staff who have access to personal data enter into confidentiality agreements and receive appropriate staff training;
  • make required disclosures to law enforcement authorities and/or regulators only when legally bound to do so;
  • assist cloud customers to comply when individuals assert their access rights; and
  • help cloud customers comply with their notification obligations in the event of a data breach.

Top 10 Things to Know about Cloud Security and ISO 27018

Way Forward

The current landscape for cloud security standard is best characterized as immature but emerging. ISO 27018 provides a transparent guidance for cloud service providers to establish privacy protection and allows businesses to make careful decisions about the cloud. But even with the present guidelines that ISO 27018 provides, it can also serve as reference point for standards’ future improvement. As the first international standard dedicated for cloud privacy, it initiated CSPs interchange of ideas on providing the best practice on data privacy and security.  ISO 27018 is an important step to protecting PII in the cloud, it emerges from previous ISO guidelines and it will continue to evolve along with cloud service providers’ technology to provide more secure services for the growth and success of businesses.


ECC International is a leading process improvement solutions provider in Southeast Asia, focused on process consulting, automation solutions and learning outsourcing services. We help companies achieve performance excellence by assisting them implement management systems and international standards/best practices across multiple domains and industries.

Our partnerships with nest-in-class technology companies help drive sustained excellence for our customers. As a solutions provider with instructional design capability and subject matter expertise in niche areas, we help organizations implement learning strategies and design learning content for improved performance.

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Our sole aim is to promote performance excellence among professionals. We help our customers achieve greater success through effective, experiential and result – oriented training delivery.

Empowered with a strong pool of expert trainers and facilitators having expertise in a niche array of domains and a strong regional presence, we provide an extensive portfolio of excellent industry specific and functional programs coupled with high quality training materials to provide best –in – class services for professionals around.

We are a market leader when it comes to Information Security and Risk Management solutions (in the form of training, consulting and GRC solutions- www.metricstream.com) in SE Asia.

To learn more about cloud security, ISO 27018 guidelines and requirements, correlation with existing standards such as ISO 27001 and EU Data Protection Laws, join us at the Confidence on the Cloud- Data Security Best Practices based on ISO 27018 training program.

Sources

  1. http://www.bishopfox.com/blog/2015/05/iso-27018-the-long-awaited-cloud-privacy-standard/
  2. http://www.kemplittle.com/site/articles/kl_bytes/iso-27018-a-new-cloud-privacy-standard
  3. http://www.iso.org/iso/isofocus_108.pdf
  4. http://www.brusselsprivacyhub.org/Resources/BPH-Working-Paper-VOL1-N2.pdf