03.25.21

Google Cloud Compliance: A Complete Guide

By JP La Torre
Google Cloud #Compliance: A Complete Guide

From a business perspective, compliance is a vital subject. Compliance ensures that your business operates under the regulatory laws. As such, maintaining compliance helps you build trust with your customers. Compliant organizations thrive in their businesses and have significantly lower legal expenses by avoiding costly fines and damages. 

Osano, one of the world’s most trusted data privacy software platforms, discovered that companies enabling compliance technology can save on an average of $1.45 million in their compliance costs. An internet threat study from Symantec reports that hackers were able to steal 70 million data records as a direct result of poor cloud configurations. 

If you are working with cloud providers, cloud compliance is business-critical to the lifespan and success of your company. For robust virtual infrastructure, it’s important to remember core security capabilities related to identity and access management connected to your authorization encryption and corporate policy. Think about launching systems in regions and places where you don’t operate to mitigate risk. Such considerations in the development lifecycle are critical to managing business risk and compliance in the cloud. The challenges you face relate to how you set up and operate your cloud environment over time. This business rationale is why continuous monitoring strategies across your environments will ensure that you have critical data to act on in real-time. As you start to scale, the complexities of environments will continue to grow over time, leading to the need for dynamic changes and dynamic compliance evolutions.

Google Cloud is one of the best cloud providers with multiple compliance offerings and the platform sees a lot of traction because of its strong compliant regulatory standards and certifications.  So, let’s dive into cloud compliance.

What Is Cloud Compliance?

Put simply, cloud compliance means complying with laws and regulations that apply to using the cloud. Most organizations move to the cloud for the many business advantages that come with its adoption. When moving to the cloud though, it is important to know in which countries your business and client data will be stored or processed, what laws will apply, and what impact they will have. Being compliant is about acting on this information and following a risk-based approach to comply to their regulations. 

The challenge in compliance lies in the many different kinds of laws; data protection laws, data localization laws, and data sovereignty laws. You also need to consider interception laws or access to information laws, which may enable governments or others to access your data in the cloud.

You can say cloud compliance is a critical combination of dealing with regulatory standards by local, national, international laws and industry guidelines. A few popular compliance bodies that your business might be sensitive to are Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA), General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

What are GCP Compliance Best Practices?

Google Cloud Platform is incredibly serious about ensuring all its products and services act in compliance with all the major standards and compliance controls. Here are best compliance practices for working in GCP:

  1. It’s important to define a hierarchy of resources used in Google Cloud
  2. Use Google account for authentication and access management in Google Cloud. Use Google accounts in your corporate domain through cloud identity.
  3. Use identity and access management for granting permission to use Google Cloud resources
  4. Assign IAM roles to groups in Google Cloud and add users to groups, rather than assigning roles to individual users
  5. Use VPN and subnets in your network to isolate the resources
  6. Create firewall rules particular to your VPCs to manage the traffic
  7. Use VPC service controls to secure your applications and data
  8. Verify the user identity to grant the access requests using Identity Aware Proxy (IAP)
  9. Use cloud logging and cloud monitoring to ensure the cloud remains healthy
  10. Use cloud audit logs to set up an audit trail for all the Google Cloud resource usage by the developers and the IT teams
  11. Regularly export logs to BigQuery, Cloud Storage, Pub/Sub as the logging stores the logs for a limited period of time
  12. Break the silos between the teams working on Google Cloud projects by embracing DevOps and exploring Site Reliability Engineering
  13. Plan migration strategies beforehand using the migration tools provided by Google Cloud
  14. Use Google Cloud managed services to reduce the total cost of ownership and overall operational burden
  15. Set up high availability for the apps running on Google Cloud to stay functional and responsive despite few failures
  16. Create strategies for disaster recovery, which helps in recovering from major natural

How to Reach GCP Compliance Standards?

To reach GCP compliance standards, you need to follow all the above Google Cloud best practices and ensure your business is certified accordion to the necessary compliance and standards depending on the industry that you operate in. Google Cloud is compliant with a lot of standardization bodies across several regions and various industries. For example, if you are operating in the healthcare vertical in the US, you need to pass HIPAAscurity rules, a federal law enacted to safeguard individuals’ protected health information (PHI).

Other popular compliance offerings are ISO/IEC compliance offerings, SOC audit standards, Independent Security Evaluators (ISE) Audit, etc. You can use the Google Compliance Reports Manager to understand the critical compliance resources which Google Cloud uses on-demand and free of cost.

Is Google Cloud GDPR Compliant?

GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation and it is a European data protection legislation that replaces the 1995 Data Protection Directive. The GDPR helps to strengthen personal data protection in Europe and impacts the way we all do business across the globe with EU citizens. The GDPR seeks to unify data protection laws across the European Union.

Compliance with the GDPR is a top priority for Google Cloud and its customers. Google Cloud helps customers to meet their data protection obligations globally, including the requirements set forth by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by offering helpful products and tools, by building robust security and privacy protections into our services and contracts, and by providing certifications and audit reports.

Is Google Cloud HIPAA Compliant?

HIPAA, which stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is a very important US compliance that governs the privacy and confidentiality of protected health information (PHI).

We need to talk about the HIPAA BAA when talking about HIPAA. Customers need to sign a business associate agreement (BAA) with Google if they want to use G Suite with PHI and are HIPAA compliant. The Business Associate Agreement is the contract that formalizes the requirements between the service provider, the business associate, and the covered entity, generally, the insurance plan, the provider system, or the health care information clearing party. As well as formalizing the relationship, the BAA states that both parties agree to the exchange of HIPAA data in this contract and there are security requirements that are in place to govern the use, protection, transmission of that health care data.

It is important to note that Google Cloud is one of the few providers that offers a rigorous enterprise-grade BAA that covers a large number of GCP services. And even more than that, the platform does it at no additional cost to the customer because they believe that health care security is not optional. So, all of their protections in the BAA are there by default, there is no upcharge. And specifically, it includes any region, any instance size that covers all the services in the BAA and has all the protections around breach notification and encryption by default.

How Secure Is Google Cloud?

Google employs privacy and security professionals that include some of the world’s foremost experts in information security, application security, and network security. This team maintains the company’s defense systems, develops security review processes, builds the security infrastructure, and implements Google security policies in general. So, G Suite and Google Cloud Platform undergo independent third-party audits regularly to provide independent verification of security, privacy, and compliance controls. 

Conclusion

Google Cloud is one of the most trustworthy and secure cloud providers and the platform provides in-depth compliance standards and certifications. The platform:

  • Makes sure that your data belongs only to you and nobody else
  • Notifies you immediately in case there is a data breach
  • Gives you enough access controls and tools to manage the data access across your organization
  • Provides you with an audit report of each and every touch point on the GCP projects
  • Has a dedicated privacy team to validate the privacy of all the products they launch
  • Encrypts all the data in transit automatically, you can add additional encryptions over the data if you want

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