Blogpost

The SIG: You Can Have Your CAIQ And Eat It Too

Frequently, we field questions from our current and prospective product users around Shared Assessments’ Standardized Information Gathering (SIG) Questionnaire vs. Cloud Security Alliance’s Consensus Assessments Initiative Questionnaire (CAIQ).

Working for Shared Assessments, I am more familiar with the SIG, but CAIQ sounds tastier. We often get asked “Which one is better? Which one should I use and why?” In this blogpost, we attempt to give a deeper answer and highlight specific high-level differences and benefits of each of these leading standardized questionnaires.

What Is The SIG?

The SIG is developed by Shared Assessments and is a widely used  and accepted tool for assessing third-party security risks. Shared Assessments is a membership organization focused on streamlining vendor risk assessments. We create and maintain the SIG Questionnaire, along with other resources for managing third-party risk. The SIG delves into security areas beyond cloud, such as physical security of data centers and business continuity plans.

What Is The CAIQ?

The CAIQ is a standardized questionnaire developed by the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA). The CSA is a non-profit organization focused on promoting secure cloud computing practices. They create various resources and tools to help organizations navigate cloud security, and the CAIQ is one of them. The CAIQ goes deeper into details relevant to cloud security, like controls for virtual machines, storage, and network segmentation.

Where Do the SIG and the CAIQ Overlap?

Both the CAIQ and SIG overlap in their security focus. Both questionnaires address core security controls of third-party vendors relevant to protecting data and systems. This includes areas like access management, incident response, and data encryption.

The SIG encompasses the same ground as the CAIQ, but with a broader scope. The SIG offers a more comprehensive assessment, while CAIQ provides a targeted look at cloud security posture. While casting a wider net than the CAIQ, the SIG also captures the specific cloud security concerns that the CAIQ focuses on. The security practices covered in the CAIQ for cloud providers are a subset of the broader security controls assessed in a SIG questionnaire.

How are the SIG and CAIQ Different?

The SIG and the CAIQ vary in their scope, focus, and length. Here are the high points:

Scope

CAIQ: Focuses specifically on cloud service providers (CSPs) like Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings. It has around 300 questions.

SIG: Designed for a broader range of vendors, not just cloud based vendors. It has a much larger question pool, with the SIG Core reaching over 1800 questions. (But remember, the SIG does offer the capability to scope a “lite” version with 125 questions for lower-risk vendors and a “core” version with around 620 questions for medium-risk vendors.)

Focus

CAIQ: Drills down on cloud-specific security practices like data encryption, access controls, and incident response for cloud environments.

SIG: Covers a wider range of security controls across various risk domains, including physical security, access management, and business continuity. The SIG aligns with various industry regulations and standards.

Length

CAIQ: Generally quicker to complete due to the smaller number of questions (especially CAIQ Lite).

 SIG: Could be more time-consuming to complete but can be adjusted and scoped by level of detail informed by vendor risk rating.

 

When To Use The CAIQ vs The SIG, and Vice Versa?

When deciding between the CAIQ and the SIG, it’s essential to consider the specific context and needs of your vendor assessment. The CAIQ is ideal for assessing vendors who offer cloud-based services. With nearly 300 questions, it offers a quicker, more narrowly focused evaluation. The CAIQ is suitable for rapid assessments and ensuring adherence to cloud security best practices.

On the other hand, the SIG is a comprehensive tool for assessing a broader range of third-party risks beyond just cloud security. The SIG aligns with various industry regulations, making it ideal for organizations needing to comply with multiple standards. Additionally, the SIG’s scoping capability allows for tailored assessments, such as the SIG Lite for lower-risk vendors and the SIG Core for medium-risk vendors, offering flexibility based on the level of risk.

Use Cases

Use CAIQ for: Assessing cloud providers where understanding their specific security posture is crucial.

Use SIG for: Evaluating a broader range of vendors, especially those handling sensitive data or complying with specific regulations. Consider SIG Lite for lower-risk vendors if time is a constraint.

In summary, organizations should use the CAIQ for cloud-specific assessments and quicker evaluations and the SIG for a detailed, versatile, and regulatory-compliant assessment across a wide range of vendors.

 

Can The CAIQ and The SIG Be Used Together?

Yes, there is a case where both the CAIQ and the SIG can be used when conducting a risk assessment. Using both the CAIQ and SIG together allows organizations to leverage the specificity of the CAIQ for cloud security while benefiting from the comprehensive, broad-ranging assessment capabilities of the SIG. Although dependent on the design of the outsourcer’s third-party risk management (TPRM) program and what they find to be important, this combined approach provides a thorough evaluation of third-party vendors, enhancing an organization’s security assurance and posture.

More Questions?

I would be glad to chat with you about your organization’s risk management practices and which questionnaire is right for you. Connect with me and my team here.