Cloud Security Essentials: What Is the Shared Responsibility Model?


August 9, 2023

In an era where data breaches are more common than cat videos on the internet, robust cloud security measures are indispensable for maintaining the integrity, confidentiality, and ready availability of your data. This is, after all, how you’ll protect your data and the systems you host in the cloud – systems and data that are central to the success of your business and the trust of your customers. 

One concept all business leaders and their employees should get familiar with is the Shared Responsibility Model. This model outlines the security responsibilities shared by cloud service providers and their customers, and it is an essential component of effective cloud security. To ensure you’re up to speed on what the Shared Responsibility Model means for your IT security, we’ve developed the comprehensive guide below. Read on for an easy breakdown of the intricacies of the Shared Responsibility Model, including what it is, how it works, and why it’s crucial for your cloud security strategy.

What is the Shared Responsibility Model in Cloud Computing?

As briefly mentioned in the introduction, the Shared Responsibility Model is a framework that delineates the security responsibilities of cloud service providers (CSPs) and their customers. The aim of the model is to ensure cloud environments remain consistently and reliably secure. 

If you’re thinking that all the responsibility for cloud security should lie with the CSP, this is completely understandable. You are paying them for this service, after all. However, it’s crucial to consider the fact that even the most robust security measures can only do so much if the system’s users are taking risks and failing to follow best practices. The unavoidable reality is that both parties – the CSP and the customer – have a role to play in maintaining cloud security.

Of course, your CSP will do the lion’s share of the work. They will be responsible for all the technical elements of cloud security, including protecting your data centres, your IT infrastructure, and the basic cloud components. Your responsibilities will centre around good cyber hygiene practices such as access control management and data protection. 

When these core roles and responsibilities are clearly delineated, you benefit from far more robust defences against security threats in the cloud. This is why the Shared Responsibility Model is so powerful. With all this in mind, let’s go through each party’s responsibilities in more detail. 

Your Cloud Service Provider’s Responsibilities

Your CSP’s responsibilities centre on the security of the cloud services and their underlying infrastructure. This encompasses:

  • Physical security: Securing the physical infrastructure of the data centres where the cloud services are hosted.
  • Network security: Ensuring the network connecting you to your cloud service is secure.
  • Infrastructure security: Protecting your cloud infrastructure at the storage, computing, and network service layers.
  • Proactive security measures: Providing both responsive and proactive security protection.
  • Reliability: Adjusting the strategy where needed to ensure your infrastructure and security measures are consistently sturdy and reliable.

With a good CSP on your side, your data centres will have protection not only from unauthorised physical access but also from threats like natural disasters. You’ll also have perfect peace of mind that the foundational cloud components – storage, database, and networking – are secure and able to withstand the latest cyber threats.

A proactive CSP will also ensure you have a robust disaster recovery plan. They’ll be committed to helping you avoid downtime and prevent data loss. On the defensive front, they should work with cutting-edge intrusion detection systems, firewalls, and DDoS mitigation strategies. 

Your Responsibilities as a Customer 

As a customer, your responsibilities are far less complex. However, that doesn’t mean they’re less important. Indeed, as we’ve learned from many of the recent cyber-attacks, humans are often the weakest link in the cyber security chain. Whether it’s a poorly protected password or failure to recognise a phishing attack, we’re generally far more likely to slip up than our security systems are. 

With this in mind, the Shared Responsibility Model outlines a series of responsibilities customers should take on board if they wish to protect the data and systems they have hosted in the cloud environment. Customers should be responsible for:  

  • Data defence: Participating in the protection of their data in the cloud, using data encryption, integrity, and authentication.
  • Cyber hygiene: Practicing proper cyber hygiene and training employees to do the same. To ensure you’re getting this vital step right, check out our complete guide to cyber hygiene for Australian businesses.
  • Access control management: Ensuring only authorised users can access sensitive data and applications.
  • Cloud resource configuration: Securely configuring cloud resources such as the operating system, network, and firewall.
  • Platform management: Participating in the management of platforms, applications, and access management systems.
  • Compliance: Ensuring compliance with all relevant industry regulations and standards (though IT providers like Invotec do assist with this).
  • Incident response: Maintaining an up-to-date incident response plan to respond effectively to any threats that arise.

Of course, a good CSP will help you with these responsibilities. For example, Invotec has highly trained teams specialising in a range of industries. This means we can pair you with IT consultants who know your industry and can help you maintain compliance. Invotec also helps with the regular audits and risk assessments that are vital in identifying vulnerabilities and addressing them promptly. Follow this link to learn more about our security audits and risk assessments

Benefits of the Shared Responsibility Model

Following the Shared Responsibility Model will deliver numerous benefits to you as a customer. These benefits extend beyond the obvious improvement in your cloud security. With your responsibilities clearly delineated from those of your CSP, you’ll know precisely what you need to do to maintain the integrity of your cloud security. As all good business leaders know, poorly defined roles and responsibilities are a recipe for disaster. So the clarity provided by this model is truly invaluable, ensuring no aspect of cloud security is ever overlooked.

By taking responsibility for the security of your cloud-based system, you also empower yourself and your employees to be active custodians of your system rather than passive participants. Your security knowledge and practices will improve, and the benefits will extend throughout the business and into your personal lives. 

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you’ll always have the expertise and resources of your cloud service provider on hand whenever you need to draw on them. Your CSP should have access to advanced security tools. They should also connect you with a team of experts who are dedicated to maintaining and improving your IT security. With these powerful resources backing you up, you should have no trouble covering your side of the Shared Responsibility Model. 

Navigating the Shared Responsibility Model with Invotec

Navigating the Shared Responsibility Model may seem like a complex task, especially if you don’t currently have a dedicated IT security team. Invotec understands this, which is why we’ve designed our managed services in a way that helps clients fulfil their responsibilities with ease. We provide guidance and support every step of the way, reducing the risk of oversights that could lead to vulnerabilities.
Our team can help you put the latest security trends and best practices into action, giving you peace of mind that your cloud environment is secure. With Invotec on your side, navigating the Shared Responsibility Model will be a simple and manageable endeavour. Ready to tap into the cloud’s capabilities and outshine your competitors? Get in touch with Invotec today for a commitment-free discussion.

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