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Guides 4 min read

How to Create a Cloud Security Framework

by Emily Heaslip Published Feb 01, 2021

Protecting your valuable information is a multifaceted process that requires a layering of tools, policies, and approaches to ensure proper data loss prevention. In addition to having a range of network, endpoint and cloud DLP tools in place, businesses need a strong foundation of policies, guiding principles, and rules underpinning the approach to data security. 

A cloud security framework is part of this holistic approach to protecting your information in the cloud. It works in tandem with your DLP security policy, which identifies what sensitive data needs protection, where it is located, and the method for protecting that information. 

[Read more: 6 Updates to Make to Your Cloud Security Policy in 2021] 

It’s not always clear how different policies, frameworks, and architectures work together to create a comprehensive approach to cloud security. This guide will lay out the components of a cloud security framework, how it differs from cloud architecture and cloud compliance, and how to create a framework for your company. 

What is a cloud security framework?

A cloud security framework outlines the necessary policies, tools, configurations, and rules needed to manage the security of a cloud platform. It references security standards and organizational guidelines for detecting and responding to network threats. 

Many organizations also use what’s known as a cloud compliance framework. Cloud compliance is similar to cloud security, but this framework is primarily concerned with meeting the regulatory requirements that apply to the data handled and stored by the company. Cloud security best practices mandate that security frameworks go beyond the minimum mandated requirements for data security. Cloud compliance frameworks are helpful starting points to ensure that your company is covering the basics; but, for complete data loss prevention, cloud security frameworks are a better option.  

Cloud security framework examples

There are a few cloud security best practices that you can use to create your framework. These templates integrate industry-standard and compliance best practices to make sure your approach to cloud security and data loss prevention is thorough and complete.  

The first template is from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). This template consists of five action areas that underpin your overall approach to cloud security –– guiding both the tools you deploy and the policies you establish to guide user behavior on cloud platforms like Google Workspace and Slack. 

These pillars are: 

  1. Identify: what processes are in place for regularly completing security risk assessments?
  2. Protect: what safeguards are in place to prevent attacks and keep your information safe in the event of an incursion?  
  3. Detect: what programs do you have to monitor systems and send an alert if an issue is discovered?
  4. Respond: what tools do you have in place to combat an ongoing threat?
  5. Recover: what are the procedures for restoring cloud security after an attack? 
NIST Cybersecurity Framework


By thinking through each of these action steps, your organization can come up with a thorough plan to protect your valuable information in the cloud. 

Another popular framework is the ISO 27001 by the International Organization for Standards. The format for the ISO 27001 is slightly different than that provided by the NIST: ISO is a certification in a specific set of standards for information security systems. To get this certification, your company must demonstrate that it has implemented a rigorous set of security practices and procedures to keep data protected. 

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The Center for Internet Security also has a framework that covers a wide range of cloud network security controls and defenses. This action-oriented framework lists 20 “critical security controls” on three different tiers: basic controls, foundational controls, and organizational controls. The list accounts for everything from hardware to data recovery to user permissions and even penetration tests. 

These frameworks are the starting point for planning out the structure of your cloud systems as well as your action plan for keeping data in the cloud safe. Many organizations will also establish a cloud security architecture in addition to a framework. 

What is cloud security architecture?

Cloud security architecture maps out how your organization will configure your cloud development, deployment, and operations. It can be helpful for organizations using many different cloud platforms — such as Google Workspace, Slack, and AWS — or for organizations migrating a legacy storage system to cloud storage. 

Cloud security architecture lays out the following elements:

  1. Who are the users, and what are their permissions? 
  2. What security controls are in place to protect applications, data, network, and user access? 
  3. Where are the security, compliance, and threat vulnerabilities?
  4. What policies and governance are needed to meet industry compliance standards? 
  5. What offline security is needed to protect devices and other hardware where data is stored? 

There are many cloud architecture templates you choose from to build your version. Amazon Web Services has one known as the AWS Well-Architected Framework. Some organizations prefer the Google Cloud Architected Framework or the Azure Architecture Framework from Microsoft. 

The best approach to cloud security

How do all these pieces fit together? Start with a cloud security framework that integrates the compliance standards applicable to your industry and the type of data you wish to protect. This framework will lead you to establish a cloud security policy that you review, update, and implement regularly. The framework will also help you identify the best tools needed to prevent data loss in your cloud platforms and cloud architecture. 

Nightfall is a critical piece of this cloud security approach and acts as a failsafe to scan, audit, detect and encrypt valuable information shared across IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS environments. Along with traditional network and endpoint DLP, Nightfall’s machine learning works in the background to discover, classify, and protect data based on its surrounding context. This improves accuracy and frees up your IT resources to focus on elements of cloud security that can’t yet be automated.

Nightfall also covers your GDPR, CCPA, HIPAA, and PCI-DSS compliance needs. The platform can help you first discover and classify sensitive customer data like PII, PHI, and PCI that must be protected by law. Quickly remediate security issues by taking actions to notify admins & quarantine/delete sensitive data. Your organization can better achieve or maintain compliance — avoiding fines, fees, or legal troubles associated with data loss.

Learn more about Nightfall’s approach to cloud security by scheduling a demo at the link below. 

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