Conducting Vendor Risk Assessments Using the Cloud Security Alliance CAIQ

July 02, 2018

Developing a vendor risk assessment process tailored specifically to the risk level of your vendors is vital to ensuring your organization’s data remains secure and uncompromised by outside vendors in which your organization conducts business. But the world of cloud vendor assessment questionnaires can be downright overwhelming. And when discussions around the various types of industry questionnaires come up, it adds yet another layer of complexity. In a previous post, we shared a few of the top vendor risk assessments available to your organization, including:

  1. Cloud Security Alliance — Consensus Assessments Initiative Questionnaire (CAIQ)
  2. Center for Internet Security — CIS Critical Security Controls (CIS First 5 / CIS Top 20)
  3. National Institute of Standards and Technology — NIST (800–171)
  4. Shared Assessments Group — Standardized Information Gathering Questionnaire (SIG / SIG-Lite)
  5. Vendor Security Alliance — VSA Questionnaire (VSAQ)

Over the next several weeks, we’ll provide a deep-dive look into several of these assessments so that your organization can confidently choose the right questionnaire for your third party risk management program — whether you decide to build your own or use a one of these pre-built assessments. In this article, we’ll take a look at the Cloud Security Alliance’s Consensus Assessments Initiative Questionnaire (CAIQ).

What is the CAIQ Vendor Risk Assessment and Why Was It Created?

For organizations — regardless of whether cloud-based or on-premise — the lack of security control transparency is one of the leading reasons that organization’s cite for not adopting cloud services, according to the Cloud Security Alliance. The Cloud Security Alliance Consensus Assessments Initiative (CAI) was launched to perform research, create tools, and develop industry partnerships to enable cloud computing assessments. Out of this initiative came the Consensus Assessments Initiative Questionnaire (CAIQ).

So what exactly is the CAIQ (often pronounced “CAKE”) and what types of organizations or needs does the security assessment address? In today’s cloud-based era, there are many, many opportunities for alarming security gaps — especially when third party cloud vendors, such as SaaS, IaaS, or PaaS organizations are involved. The CSA is focused on providing industry-accepted ways to document what security controls exist in these offerings with a mission of providing security control transparency.

This assessment set — created to be used along with CSA Guidance and the CSA Cloud Controls Matrix — is a simplified distillation of the issues, best practices, and control specifications from the Cloud Security Alliance’s Guidance and Controls Matrix. The purpose of the risk assessment questionnaire is to help organizations like yours build assessment processes to adequately assess processes of potential cloud providers before entering into an agreement, or to assess their protocols prior to a subscription renewal to their SaaS, IaaS or PaaS product. The CAIQ assessment was developed and is maintained and updated by a “Working Group” that has deep industry expertise. The risk assessment effort is integrated with and will support other projects from the Cloud Security Alliance’s research partners.

Interested in reviewing the questionnaire? You can download the CAIQ here. As you proceed through the vendor security review, you’ll notice that the questions are in “Yes/No” format that your organization, a cloud consumer or auditor, should ask of your current or potential cloud providers to determine their level of compliance.

How Whistic Makes it Easy to Complete and Assess CAIQ Questionnaires

With Whistic, your InfoSec team can save countless hours (or more likely, days) developing a vendor questionnaire from scratch for your cloud vendors. Simply use the already-available CAIQ questionnaire within Whistic to assess your cloud-based partners. Whistic licenses the latest CAIQ content from the Cloud Security Alliance and makes this available to Whistic customers via the platform.

Additionally, your InfoSec team can efficiently and securely respond to any CAIQ assessments that come your way by using your Whistic Security Profile. Whistic’s vendor assessment platform allows teams to intelligently allocate limited resources by assigning questions to specific subject matter experts across the organization and provide due dates and reminders along the way. The ready-to-use CAIQ online questionnaire — inherently available in Whistic’s platform — provides the ability to add comments and documentation to substantiate responses.

Whether sending the assessment to cloud vendors or responding to the CAIQ as a cloud vendor yourself, Whistic’s process allows your InfoSec team to be confident that no security issue will slip through the cracks.

Ready to Learn More?

Check out our resources below for more third party vendor best practices and insights on how your organization can effectively approach security assessments.


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