The European Cybersecurity Act, proposed in 2017 by the European Commission, is the most recent of several policy documents adopted and/or proposed by governments around the world, each with the intent (among other objectives) to bring clarity to cybersecurity certifications for various products and services.
The reason why cybersecurity, and most recently privacy, certifications are so important is pretty obvious: They represent a vehicle of trust and serve the purpose of providing assurance about the level of cybersecurity a solution could provide. They represent, at least in theory, a simple mechanism through which organizations and individuals can make quick, risk-based decisions without the need to fully understand the technical specifications of the service or product they are purchasing.
What’s in a certification?
Most of us struggle to keep pace with technological innovations, and so we often find ourselves buying services and products without sufficient levels of education and awareness of the potential side effects these technologies can bring. We don’t fully understand the possible implications of adopting a new service, and sometimes we don’t even ask ourselves the most basic questions about the inherent risks of certain technologies.
In this landscape, certifications, compliance audits, trust marks and seals are mechanisms that help improve market conditions by providing a high-level representation of the level of cybersecurity a solution could offer.
Certifications are typically performed by a trusted third party (an auditor or a lab) who evaluates and assesses a solution against a set of requirements and criteria that are in turn part of a set of standards, best practices, or regulations. In the case of a positive assessment, the evaluator issues a certification or statement of compliance that is typically valid for a set length of time.
One of the problems with certifications under the current market condition is that they have a tendency to proliferate, which is to say that for the same product or service more than one certification exists. The example of cloud services is pretty illustrative of this issue. More than 20 different schemes exist to certify the level of security of cloud services, ranging from international standards to national accreditation systems to sectorial attestation of compliance.
Such a proliferation of certifications can serve to produce the exact opposite result that a certification was built for. Rather than supporting and streamlining the decision-making process, they could create confusion, and rather than increasing trust, they favor uncertainty. It should be noted, however, that such a proliferation isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes, it’s the result of the need to accommodate important nuances of various security requirements.
Crafting the ideal certification
CSA has been a leader in cloud assurance, transparency and compliance for many years now, supporting the effort to improve the certification landscape. Our goal has been—and still is—to make the cloud and IoT technology environment more secure, transparent, trustworthy, effective and efficient by developing innovative solutions for compliance and certification.
It’s in this context that we are surveying our community and the market at-large to understand what both subject matter experts and laypersons see as the essential features and characteristics of the ideal certification scheme or meta-framework.
Our call to action?
Tell us—in a paragraph, a sentence or a word—what you think a cybersecurity and privacy certification should look like. Tell us what the scope should be (security/privacy, product /processes /people, cloud/IoT, global/regional/national), what’s the level of assurance offered, which guarantees and liabilities are expected, what’s the tradeoff between cost and value, how it should be proposed/communicated to be understood and valuable for the community at large.
Tell us, but do it before July 2 because that’s when the survey closes.
Daniele Catteddu, CTO, Cloud Security Alliance
[Cloud Security Alliance Blog]