Industry group offers certification for cloud computing security

Certificate based on existing security practice guidelines

LAS VEGAS — The Cloud Security Alliance, an industry organization that promotes best practices for security assurance in cloud computing, is establishing a user certification program for information technology professionals who work in a cloud model. With so much cloud computing going on, there was a need for a certificate to establish a baseline of knowledge about best practices for cloud security,” said CSA Executive Director Jim Reavis.

The program, announced today at the Black Hat Briefings here, is the first step toward a more in-depth program that eventually could include accreditation of professionals. At this time it is being administered by the CSA itself.

We are doing this with a Web-based testing system,” Reavis said. Should it move to professional accreditation, an independent third party would be needed to proctor the examinations, he said. The program will be available as a beta test through August, and will go live in September. Cost for certification will be $295, but it will be discounted to $195 through this year. Information about the program is available at

The certification is based on the Security Guidance for Critical Areas of Focus in Cloud Computing, a catalog of best practices first released by CSA in April 2009 and updated to version 2 in December. Most of the material covered in the certification is unique to cloud computing and not covered under other security certification programs, Reavis said.

"There is maybe 10 percent overlap with anything else out there,” he said. “This body of knowledge is unique. There wasn’t anything else out there that had it.”

Cloud computing is in the early stages of adoption, but frequently is being cited as the future of IT because it can make IT resources available on the fly to a large and geographically diverse groups of users without capital and operating expense of maintaining dedicated equipment.

However, despite widespread interest in the technology security concerns have so far slowed down the rate of adoption.

"It’s more of a business model than a new technology,” Reavis said. There is little experience so far in applying cloud computing to sensitive and mission-critical applications and the areas of compliance and governance are not yet secure. But Reavis said he expects to see a tipping point reached soon that will result in a wave of broader adoption.

In North America there is more experimentation with private clouds rather than public cloud offerings, he said. In much of the rest of the world the emphasis is on the public cloud because robust enterprise networks are not as common.

Reavis said he expected the certificate to be applicable to a broad base of IT professionals, and the core market would be software developers, security professionals and auditors.

"Several of our corporate customers have committed to training their people” for the best practices, Reavis said. He also believes that organizations acquiring cloud services will look for the certification in the providers’ employees.

“It’s fairly low cost,” for assuring a baseline level knowledge on secure best practices, he said.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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