What is the CAIQ?

The Consensus Assessments Initiative Questionnaire (CAIQ) is a survey from the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) to help assess cloud service security.

The Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) conceived of the CAIQ to create industry documents that outline the security controls that should exist in different cloud services, such as infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS) products.

When was the CAIQ founded? 

The CSA was founded in 2008 as an authority that defines standards, best practices and certification to ensure secure cloud environments worldwide. As the world’s leading authority on cloud best practices, the CSA is dedicated to providing essential knowledge and resources designed to benefit cloud clients, vendors, entrepreneurs, governments and any other groups that use, provide or work with cloud-computing services.

As dependence on the cloud has continued to increase throughout the new century, the CSA recognised that this burgeoning technology could introduce major security flaws if implemented without any form of regulation. The CSA took it upon themselves to create and share documentation of commonly accepted industry standards and security controls for cloud-based services (IaaS, PaaS and SaaS). The CAIQ provides organisations with essential transparency into the tactics, technologies and policies that are used by cloud vendors to protect sensitive data and manage risk.

The CAIQ is essentially a survey. Version 3.1 (the most updated version available) consists of 295 yes/no questions directed at cloud providers. These questions are designed to give cloud consumers and cloud auditors insight into how well the provider complies with established regulations and best practices. Another version, referred to as CAIQ-Lite, provides an easier, slightly less-thorough assessment using ~70 questions, designed for cybersecurity professionals and cloud-procurement models.

Simply put, vendor risk management teams, by using a standardised questionnaire, can reduce costs while increasing efficiencies. The CAIQ helps protect cloud-adopters from becoming exposed to unnecessary cybersecurity risk. CAIQ provides an essential service to cloud providers, as well. Vendors can use CAIQ to inform their security, and effectively showcase those offerings to customers using a standardised set of terms and concepts.

Working with third-party cloud vendors always entails some risk. In trusting vital data and processes to groups outside of the controlled environment of the business organisation, cloud users lose the ability to directly ensure adequate security implementation. Even the most-trusted cloud providers may fail in certain areas, and organisations need to understand where those failings are likely to occur, and what weaknesses might be inherent in the vendor’s cloud solutions.

CAIQ assesses the security of cloud providers, and aims to create common and accepted industry standards for documentation. This offers a way for organisations to understand and evaluate cloud providers, and their security posture, before entering a business agreement.

As previously mentioned, the complete CAIQ consists of 295 questions that a cloud consumer or auditor may wish to ask a provider to gather information on their compliance with the Cloud Controls Matrix (CCM). Consumers may wish to tailor the questionnaire to better fit their needs and address their concerns and specific use cases, revising or cutting out questions where needed.

What is the Cloud Controls Matrix (CCM)? 

CCM is a control framework for cybersecurity used for cloud computing. It is composed of 133 objectives structured around 16 domains. The 16 domains are:

  • Application and Interface Security 
  • Audit Assurance and Compliance 
  • Business Continuity Management and Operational Resilience 
  • Change Control and Configuration Management 
  • Data Security and Information Lifecycle Management 
  • Datacentre Security 
  • Encryption and Key Management 
  • Governance and Risk Management 
  • Human Resources Security 
  • Identity and Access Management 
  • Infrastructure and Virtualisation 
  • Interoperability and Portability  
  • Mobile Security 
  • Security Incident Management, E-Disc & Cloud Forensics 
  • Supply Chain Management, Transparency & Accountability 
  • Threat and Vulnerability Management


How is CCM used?

CCM can be used as a tool to systematically assess cloud implementation, by providing guidance on which security controls should be implemented by which actor within the cloud supply chain. The controls framework is aligned to the Security Guidance v4 and is currently considered a de facto standard for cloud security assurance and compliance. With CCM, providers can do the following:

  • Strengthen information security control environments:
    Describes guidance by service providers and customers, which differentiates based on cloud-model type and its environment.
  • Reduce audit complexity:
    Controls map into industry standard security regulations, control frameworks, and standards. Fulfilling CCM controls fulfils the accompanying standards and regulations where it maps.
  • Normalise security expectations:
    Provides a shared cloud taxonomy, security and terminology implemented in a cloud.

Security, Trust, Assurance and Risk (STAR) is a registry accessible to the public that documents privacy controls and security cloud computing programmes. It encompasses the principles of auditing, harmonisation and transparency of standards as outlined in CAIQ and CCM.

Organisations show customers, both current and potential, their compliance and security postures and their adherence to regulations, standards and frameworks. Ultimately, this reduces complexities and alleviates the need to fill out multiple questionnaires.

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