Third-Party Risk Management Requirements in the CSA Consensus Assessments Initiative Questionnaire (CAIQ)

The CAIQ assessment offers a standard approach to evaluating cloud provider security controls. Here's where third-party risk management comes into play.
Scott Lang
VP, Product Marketing
May 20, 2020
Blog caiq compliance 0520

As more organizations migrate business critical workloads to the cloud, adopt SaaS applications to run their organizations or outsource platform and operations management to cloud hosting providers, it is essential to ensure that these new cloud partners have the controls in place to protect access to your data and ensure system resiliency. One common mechanism for ensuring this is by using the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) questionnaire – called the Consensus Assessments Initiative Questionnaire, or CAIQ for short – for assessing security controls in infrastructure-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service and software-as-a service applications.

While not required by law to abide by the results of a CAIQ audit, the CAIQ assessment is widely utilized by organizations looking for a standard approach to evaluating the security controls of a cloud provider. This blog reviews the third-party risk management considerations in the CAIQ and examines how Prevalent’s integrated platform for assessment and monitoring can help facilitate those requirements.

CAIQ Summary

The Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) Consensus Assessments Initiative Questionnaire (CAIQ) provides a set of questions across 16 control domains that the CSA recommends should be asked of a cloud provider; for example, those that offer IaaS, PaaS or SaaS applications. The CAIQ was developed to create a commonly accepted industry standard to document security controls, and therefore provides questions that can then be used for cloud provider selection and security evaluation. As of the writing of this blog, the current CSA CAIQ standard is v3.1.1.

The CAIQ contains a series of 295 yes-or-no questions that can be customized to fit an individual cloud customer’s needs. The questionnaire is designed to support organizations when they interact with cloud providers during the cloud providers' assessment process by giving organizations specific questions to ask about the providers operations and processes. As well, cloud providers can use the CAIQ to proactively outline their security capabilities and security posture in a standardized way using the terms and descriptions considered to be best practices by the CSA.

CAIQ Assessments

CAIQ assessments have been designed to follow one of two approaches:

  1. The full CAIQ survey captures the 16 control domains across 295 questions.
  2. A CAIQ-Lite survey has been created to capture the same 16 control domains, but at a reduced scope, with 73 questions used.

The aim with this approach is to enable organizations to select the most appropriate model that best fits their needs for assessing their cloud service providers.

Meeting CAIQ Guidance for Third-Party Risk Management

For the purposes of this blog, we will not review every question that Prevalent helps organizations measure against in the CAIQ, but an examination of the requirements shows that Prevalent can help assess against at least 36 questions specific to third parties.

Prevalent has created two surveys, one representing the full CAIQ, and the other CAIQ-Lite. The full CAIQ survey has been split into individual control groups representing the 16 control domains. This is to allow for customization of the survey to suit the needs to individual customers dependent on their appetite for their assessing cloud providers. The Prevalent approach to hosting both questionnaires in our Third-Party Risk Management Platform has several benefits:

  • Simpler reporting: Results of CAIQ assessments are aligned to core security standards, including NIST, ISO 27001, CoBiT 5, so that by using the Prevalent Platform you can address multiple cloud security reporting requirements in a single assessment.
  • Tiered assessments: Questionnaires are customizable to suit the requirements of each cloud customer, with CAIQ-Lite beneficial for cloud service providers deemed “low risk” (for example based on accessibility to sensitive data).
  • Faster turnaround: The reduced question set in CAIQ-Lite allows for a quicker turnaround time for assessment completion, speeding time to resolution and focusing your team on remediating risks.

The Prevalent Difference

CSA standards require robust third-party risk management practices. Prevalent can help address the requirements in the CAIQ by:

  • Automating the end-to-end process of collecting and analyzing CAIQ surveys, speeding and simplifying assessments, compliance, and due diligence review.
  • Deliver clear reporting beyond a score, tying risks to business outcomes and helping to make better risk-based decisions, prove compliance, and prioritize resources.
  • Meet industry standards and ensure third-party risk management regulatory compliance targets for cyber risk, InfoSec, and data privacy.
  • Centralize TPRM functions, delivering a single view that provides single repository for effective reporting to satisfy audit and compliance requirements.
  • Utilize a consistent, repeatable, proven methodology, enabling a scalable, more mature vendor risk management program.

As your organization seeks to migrate more workloads to the cloud, assessing third parties will be essential. Prevalent can help by centralizing vendor assessments across a range of requirements. Learn more about how Prevalent can help with your CAIQ compliance initiatives.

Leadership scott lang
Scott Lang
VP, Product Marketing

Scott Lang has 25 years of experience in security, currently guiding the product marketing strategy for Prevalent’s third-party risk management solutions where he is responsible for product content, launches, messaging and enablement. Prior to joining Prevalent, Scott was senior director of product marketing at privileged access management leader BeyondTrust, and before that director of security solution marketing at Dell, formerly Quest Software.

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