Compliance overview

Security principles

Industry standard security principles provide a baseline for compliance certifications and attestations. If these principles are considered and referenced throughout an OpenStack deployment, certification activities may be simplified.

Layered defenses

Identify where risks exist in a cloud architecture and apply controls to mitigate the risks. In areas of significant concern, layered defenses provide multiple complementary controls to manage risk down to an acceptable level. For example, to ensure adequate isolation between cloud tenants, we recommend hardening QEMU, using a hypervisor with SELinux support, enforcing mandatory access control policies, and reducing the overall attack surface. The foundational principle is to harden an area of concern with multiple layers of defense such that if any one layer is compromised, other layers will exist to offer protection and minimize exposure.

Fail securely

In the case of failure, systems should be configured to fail into a closed secure state. For example, TLS certificate verification should fail closed by severing the network connection if the CNAME does not match the server’s DNS name. Software often fails open in this situation, allowing the connection to proceed without a CNAME match, which is less secure and not recommended.

Least privilege

Only the minimum level of access for users and system services is granted. This access is based upon role, responsibility and job function. This security principle of least privilege is written into several international government security policies, such as NIST 800-53 Section AC-6 within the United States.


Systems should be segregated in such a way that if one machine, or system-level service, is compromised the security of the other systems will remain intact. Practically, the enablement and proper usage of SELinux helps accomplish this goal.

Promote privacy

The amount of information that can be gathered about a system and its users should be minimized.

Logging capability

Appropriate logging is implemented to monitor for unauthorized use, incident response and forensics. We highly recommend selected audit subsystems be Common Criteria certified, which provides non-attestable event records in most countries.

Common control frameworks

The following is a list of Control Frameworks that an organization can use to build their security controls.

Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) Common Control Matrix (CCM)

The CSA CCM is specifically designed to provide fundamental security principles to guide cloud vendors and to assist prospective cloud customers in assessing the overall security risk of a cloud provider. The CSA CCM provides a controls framework that are aligned across 16 security domains. The foundation of the Cloud Controls Matrix rests on its customized relationship to other industry standards, regulations, and controls frameworks such as: ISO 27001:2013, COBIT 5.0, PCI:DSS v3, AICPA 2014 Trust Service Principles and Criteria and augments internal control direction for service organization control reports attestations.

The CSA CCM strengthens existing information security control environments by enabling the reduction of security threats and vulnerabilities in the cloud, provides standardized security and operational risk management, and seeks to normalize security expectations, cloud taxonomy and terminology, and security measures implemented in the cloud.

ISO 27001/2:2013

The ISO 27001 Information Security standard and certification has been used for many years to evaluate and distinguish an organizations alignment with information Security best practices. The standard is comprised of two parts: Mandatory Clauses that define the Information Security Management System (ISMS) and Annex A which contains a list of controls organized by domain.

The information security management system preserves the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information by applying a risk management process and gives confidence to interested parties that risks are adequately managed.

Trusted Security Principles

Trust Services are a set of professional attestation and advisory services based on a core set of principles and criteria that address the risks and opportunities of IT-enabled systems and privacy programs. Commonly known as the SOC audits, the principles define what the requirement is and it is the organizations responsibility to define the control that meets the requirement.

Audit reference

OpenStack is innovative in many ways however the process used to audit an OpenStack deployment is fairly common. Auditors will evaluate a process by two criteria: Is the control designed effectively and if the control is operating effectively. An understanding of how an auditor evaluates if a control is designed and operating effectively will be discussed in the section called Understanding the audit process.

The most common frameworks for auditing and evaluating a cloud deployment include the previously mentioned ISO 27001/2 Information Security standard, ISACA’s Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology (COBIT) framework, Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO), and Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL). It is very common for audits to include areas of focus from one or more of these frameworks. Fortunately there is a lot of overlap between the frameworks, so an organization that adopts one will be in a good position come audit time.