How Security and Compliance Teams Can Collaborate and Thrive in the Cloud

Compliance and security share a great deal in common, but there are key differences. Both deal with organizational safety and security, minimize risk, protect consumer data, and experience regular changes and innovations on a yearly basis.

However, the two are far from the same.

Compliance is needed to establish and document adherence to various regulations and laws. In contrast, security teams are tasked with the design and maintenance of systems that form the comprehensive protection of critical digital assets, preventative measures to avoid attacks, and the rapid response to incidents in-progress.

Here’s what organizations and AWS cloud-based developers need to know on how to better secure and streamline their security and compliance efforts.

Compliance Is About Regulatory Requirements; Security Is About Protection, Prevention, and Response to Cybersecurity Incidents

The difference between compliance and security is simple. Compliance is about adhering to rules set out by regulatory bodies, with notable examples including HIPPA in healthcare, FFIEC for financial institutions, CSA for global cloud security controls, among many others. Of course, organizations must follow a range of requirements, depending on the industry, so most are subject to more than one regulatory body.

  • Compliance teams also manage risk, though they’re tasked with something broader: physical, legal, and financial.
  • Compliance mainly takes a snapshot of an organization’s security efforts, comparing them with their particular requirements. Compliance teams communicate, audit, interview, and report.

In the end, their efforts still amount to a concrete plan towards protecting the business.

And where security teams deal in technical systems, compliance teams deal in legalese. They’re in charge of understanding and interpreting the rules they’re subject to, then creating policies that effectively help staff follow these rules and shield businesses from the above-stated compliance risks.

Compliance teams are also, importantly, responsible for the proper implementation of security controls created by cybersecurity teams. While security teams make sure they function correctly, compliance needs to show proof to regulators that such functions are in place and working correctly at all times.

Compliance standards are developed by government agencies to set a minimum standard for cybersecurity practices, particularly to safeguard customer data. While it’s true that following regulations may benefit your organization’s cybersecurity posture, they aren’t designed to be comprehensive or fool-proof. They also tend to trail behind the latest technology and techniques.

Meanwhile, security comprises the systems run by technologies, techniques, best practices, and processes that protect networks from entry, defend critical assets, and respond rapidly in response to an attack.

Overall, security can be seen more as a goal, while compliance is the mandated minimum effort towards that goal. Given the legal imperative, enterprises need separate plans and teams for each.

Security shouldn’t be the primary goal of compliance efforts, nor should security efforts build comprehensive security strategies based on compliance requirements.

The two must work hand-in-hand.

How to Make Security and Compliance Work Together in Cloud-Based Development

Now, merely because compliance and security aim towards meaningful, different ends, doesn’t mean that such efforts don’t largely overlap. Creating a systematic process of collaboration between both security and compliance efforts is the most effective and efficient manner of accomplishing both. The following are our best practices for collaboration, which includes advice on defense, interdepartmental communication, workflow automation, and security-by-design principles.

Defense Posture

The security team’s job is to install systematic controls to protect digital assets. But compliance, meanwhile, must validate their proper functioning. Above all, this ensures that all the required documentation is accessible, ensuring that security controls and processes don’t degrade over time.

To define your cloud-operating model, you must work with internal consumers and stakeholders to set a common goal and strategic direction. Organizations often employ the following three lines of defense.

  1. The first line of defense: operational managers, responsible for the execution of risk and control procedures a day-to-day responsibility.
  2. The second line of defense: Risk management and compliance functions, designed to assist in the construction and monitoring of controls from the first line.
  3. The third line of defense: Internal compliance auditors work with senior management and the governing body to present a complete assurance of security controls. These efforts should be conducted as independently and objectively as is possible.


What’s more, communication plays an outsized role in the effective and efficient collaboration between security and compliance teams. It’s of critical importance that compliance teams communicate the following:

  • Requirements: Developers aren’t always adequately informed of compliance requirements, which creates confusion, rework, and interdepartmental tension. Communicate requirements in detail, and open a communication channel for developers to get quick answers. Also, be sure to communicate requirements with as great of specificity as is needed for a layperson to understand. Be sure also to include the frequency with which reporting is due.
  • Reporting Details: Compliance departments will ultimately depend upon security teams to help collect the evidence needed for documentation. The details of this should be specified as well: which formats do auditors prefer, reports, screenshots, policy documentation. The smoother this process is, the easier it will be to ensure everything is in-hand once deadlines or on-site auditor visits occur.


Just like good communication can boost productivity, the employment of automation tools can also increase efficiency, improve collaboration, and ensure strict adherence to regulation.

Organizations should seek out automation tools that assist in security, compliance, and governance in all cloud-based efforts across the organization.

For those looking for assistance in meeting various regulatory guidelines, and establishing proper processes and procedures, Amazon Web Services offers an array of compliance programs to help customers stay compliant.

AWS packages regulatory guides, including best practices, necessary security controls, and security management software – all designed to help organizations meet regulatory requirements and establish firmer security practices and technologies.

AWS cloud security is considered a joint responsibility between Amazon and the client. Customers are tasked with effectively securing the content uploaded to AWS or connected to AWS infrastructure, which includes:

  • Content stored and processed in AWS storage or other AWS services.
  • Applications on their compute instances, and the guest operating system, among others.

AWS, meanwhile, is responsible for “the people, processes, and technology necessary to establish and maintain an environment that supports the operating effectiveness of our control framework.” AWS programs also include cloud-specific controls, chosen from leading cloud industry bodies, in their control framework.


And, finally, network infrastructure and workflows must align with security-by-design principles. Security-by-design is a development process that emphasizes baking security measures into product development – securing all sensitive resources, protecting against likely security gaps exposed to end-users.

Towards compliance efforts, security-by-design helps establish control objectives, baselines, and standard metrics of security, various configurations of security systems, and the capability to audit applications running on AWS.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

The common cause behind both compliance and security is the effective management of risk. While responsibilities differ from there, effective collaboration between compliance and security teams is needed to keep your organization safe from legal, monetary, and security risks.

ThreatModeler is a vital piece of both compliance and security, particularly helpful in implementing security-by-design in cloud-development, as it identifies network threats. It then populates a list of next steps, documented in easy-to-follow, step-by-step detail, to resolve such risks.

ThreatModeler’s AWS Security Epics Automated, a new offering, automates and accelerates the design of secure AWS cloud environments. AWS customers can now proactively secure their cloud infrastructure using AWS’s Security Epics guidance to build a threat modeling process that drives security throughout the Cloud Development Life Cycle (CDLC).

AWS ProServe S&I GSP will execute a 30-day accelerated program powered by ThreatModeler to automate AWS Security Epics backlog generation. ThreatModeler’s AWS Security Epics Automated enables a self-service model to scale secure Cloud Development Life Cycles (CDLCs) by automatically converting an architecture diagram into a threat model.AWS Security Epics Automated analyzes the live AWS service environment to validate the security controls, ensuring all threats have been mitigated. Learn more about AWS Security Epics Automated by visiting the website.

To learn more about how ThreatModeler™ can help your organization build a scalable threat modeling process, book a demo to speak to a ThreatModeler expert today.