Definition

CAIQ (Consensus Assessments Initiative Questionnaire)

Contributor(s): Linda Rosencrance and Madelyn Bacon

The Consensus Assessments Initiative Questionnaire (CAIQ) is a survey provided by the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) for cloud consumers and auditors to assess the security capabilities of a cloud service provider. The CAIQ was developed to create commonly accepted industry standards to document the security controls in infrastructure-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service and software-as-a service applications.

The CAIQ is contains a series of yes or no control-assertion questions that can be customized to fit an individual cloud customer's needs. The CAIQ is intended to be used in conjunction with the CSA Guidance and the CSA Cloud Controls Matrix (CCM). The CAIQ is part of the CSA governance, risk management and compliance stack.

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.

Cloud providers can use the CAIQ to outline their security capabilities and security posture to customers, publicly or privately, in a standardized way using the terms and descriptions considered to be best practices by the CSA.

Completing the CAIQ questionnaire usually takes a few hours and is considered only a first-level screening process; more intensive provider review processes are advised.

Sharing CAIQ data

Sharing the data/CAIQ results is done through the CSA's online registry for security controls, the Security, Trust and Assurance Registry (STAR), using STARWatch, a software-as-a-service application developed by the CSA. The application gives organizations a centralized way to manage and maintain the integrity of the vendor review and assessment process.

In addition, STARWatch includes access to more than 200 CSA STAR assessments to help organizations save time with research so they can make business decisions more quickly. CSA STAR is a program for security assurance in the cloud. STAR encompasses key principles of transparency, rigorous auditing and harmonization of standards.

STARWatch delivers the content of the CSA's de facto standards Cloud Control Matrix and the CAIQ in a database format so users can manage compliance of cloud services with the CSA best practices.

STARWatch is aimed at providing cloud users, providers, auditors and security providers assurance and compliance on demand. The STARWatch application enables the sharing and peer-reviewing of cloud services security assessments.

Benefits of the CAIQ

The CAIQ was designed to help with one of the leading concerns that companies have when moving to the cloud: the lack of transparency into what technologies and tactics cloud providers implement, relative to data protection and risk management, and how they implement them.

The CAIQ questionnaire can be customized to suit the requirements of each cloud customer and used to help organizations build the necessary assessment processes for engaging with cloud providers.

Organizations can use the information from the CAIQ to build a robust RFP (request for proposal) and verify that the answers the vendor gives during the RFP review interview are valid. Using the CAIQ, a provider can demonstrate the extent of its controls, as well as for a standard response to an RFP.

Next steps after the CAIQ

The CSA STAR program consists of three levels of assurance (self-assessment, third-party certification and continuous auditing) based on:

  • the CAIQ;
  • the CSA Cloud Controls Matrix (CCM); and
  • the CSA Code of Conduct for GDPR

Organizations should use the CAIQ as a first-level filter, because providers are only asked to provide responses with yes or no answers. After they pass that test, businesses should ask vendors to provide more specific demonstrations on controls that matter most to them.

Companies should discuss their requirements and priorities with candidate cloud providers to ensure that the security controls the vendors have in place meet their needs. These discussions should be ongoing because the needs of the business are always changing.

The CCM gives organizations the necessary structure, detail and clarity around cloud security. CCM is currently considered a de-facto standard for cloud security assurance and compliance.

The CSA Code of Conduct for GDPR Compliance was created by industry experts and representatives from the European Union's national data protection authorities to help companies adhere to the EU's GDPR data privacy regulation. The CSA's Code includes all the requirements a cloud service provider has to satisfy to comply with the GDPR.

In addition, the STAR program's publicly accessible registry provides a way to document the security and privacy controls provided by popular cloud computing offerings. Organizations should use this registry to assess cloud providers and security providers, as well as advisory and assessment services firms so they can make the best procurement decisions.

This was last updated in September 2018

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Has your organization used the CSA CAIQ to assess cloud provider security capabilities? Was it helpful? If so, how?
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I completed the CAIQ v3.0.1 for a security due diligence that was part of an RFP.  It's a cool idea and I 100% support the initiative, however, the CAIQ has a network externality problem.  Very few companies are aware of it and fewer that are aware ask for it.  It would be cool if it had wider adoption.  I found it to be incredibly helpful.  The market needs better education on the benefits of the CAIQ.    
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