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Tutorial: What’s your compliance posture?¤


The cloud with its continuous integration and continuous deployment is the modern computing paradigm. There is a plethora of cloud environments: public, private, on-premise, hybrid-cloud, multi-cloud, etc. along with a corresponding contingent of vendors. The cloud offers great flexibility where you can choose just one or some combination optimal for each application. But, as demonstrated from time to time, the cloud can be a dangerous place. Hackers, bots, malware, and more are constant threats seeking to find and exploit weakness in your computing solution. To combat them there are strategies to avoid embarrassment and financial ruin from security breeches. Educating your workforce is of paramount importance. Moreover, employing a trust-but-verify strategy will go a long way toward deflecting trouble.

The time has come for continuous auditing, and giving stakeholders (such as account owners, application owners, system owners and compliance officers) a current picture of their compliance posture:

  • Are password rules being followed?
  • Are deployed applications using compromised encryption algorithms?
  • Has a user gotten elevated privileges?
  • Are unauthorized open source projects wrongfully part of your application stack?

Getting answers to these questions only quarterly or annually is leaving you exposed.

Moreover, assuring continuous compliance across multiple cloud vendors can complicate matters. If each has its own compliance regime, then one must become expert in each domain’s compliance solution space, or else be wedded to a single or few providers. That is not an ideal prospect.

Common sense dictates that standardization would simplify matters. The National Institute of Standards and Technologies (NIST) is developing the Open Security Controls Assessment Language (OSCAL).

The compliance-trestle open source github project is an effort to employ OSCAL for compliance standardization and automation. Of great utility is the trestle oscal module that facilitates transformation of data to/from Python object representations in accordance with the OSCAL schemas.

Simple Continuous Compliance Architecture¤

Continuous Compliance Reporting

Cloud Services can often be configured to monitor (and sometimes enforce) policies. Examples include OpenShift Compliance Operator and Tanium. However, the compliance reporting “raw” data produced is unique to each.

Two steps are needed to ascertain your compliance posture. Step 1 is to transform available compliance “raw” data into standardized form (OSCAL). Step 2 is to examine the OSCAL data and assemble a compliance posture for the controls and components of interest. And trestle is the go-to solution.

Step 1 – Transformation¤

The bad news is that a transformer to OSCAL is needed for each Cloud Service type.

However, there is plenty of good news:

  • a transformer for your Cloud Service type may already exist, such as: Tanium to OSCAL, OpenShift Compliance Operator to OSCAL
  • once a transformer for a Cloud Service type has been written, it can be open-sourced/re-used
  • writing a transformer is fairly easy: just a few lines of Python code using trestle as a foundation

In the case of Tanium, the OSCAL compliance data document is a System Assessment Results fragment with Findings and Observations, while in the case of OpenShift Compliance Operator there are Observations only.

Tutorials are available to show you: how to run a transformer, how to write a transformer.

Step 2 – Reporting¤

Coming soon is a trestle tool to assemble the OSCAL fragments documents together using OSCAL compliance configuration data (System Assessment Plan and System Security Plan) into a complete System Assessment Results.