NordLayer - Network Security

Cybersecurity compliance: Everything you need to know


By NordLayer
3 Mar 2022
9 min read
Cybersecurity compliance

Cybersecurity is a complex system that incorporates a resilience-focused approach towards internet-exposed software & hardware infrastructures to rule out existing and potential vulnerabilities that may affect companies, customers, and relevant stakeholders. However, regulatory compliance takes no less consideration than cyber threats in the business environment.

Business responsibility to commit to the industry-standard controls might often be misinterpreted as an imposed obligation that carries inconvenience, struggle, and financial expenses. Even though it’s an overwhelming topic, compliant company culture establishes an organization's trustworthiness, integrity, and maturity in the industry landscape — why and how will be discussed in this article.

What is cybersecurity compliance?

Simply put, cybersecurity compliance is the organizational risk management method aligned with pre-defined security measures & controls on how data confidentiality is ensured by its administrational procedures. 

Companies are encouraged to implement a systematic risk governance approach that adheres to regulatory authorities, laws, and industry-relevant units established controls to meet data management and protection requirements. It defines industry standards that translate to instrumental reliability reflection for customers to indicate satisfactory service delivery.

Information security management system compliant with regulatory requirements guides organizations on what precaution measures should be taken and protocols enabled to establish a pre-breach context within the internal procedures and maintain the possibility of breaches at a minimum. It also sets an obligatory action plan in a post-breach situation to communicate the fact and impact of the breach to affected parties.

IT security compliance helps set up continuous monitoring and assessment processes of devices, networks, and systems to cohere with regulatory cybersecurity compliance requirements. Such a compliance program allows organizations to analyze risk, create a framework to protect sensitive data, and mitigate data breach threats.

Significance of cybersecurity compliance

It’s important to acknowledge cybersecurity compliance isn’t solely a collection of strict and mandatory requirements coming from regulatory bodies — it’s consequential to overall business success

Any company is at risk of becoming a victim of a cyber attack. Especially, small enterprises tend to make themselves a low-hanging fruit for criminals as it’s popular to assume that if you are insignificant in size, potential threats will pass by. However, hesitation to invest in a strong cybersecurity posture exposes vulnerabilities that interest hostile actors. 

Despite the company size, data breaches quickly escalate, snowballing to very complex situations that damage reputational and financial company capacity, ending up in legal proceedings and disputes that may take years to resolve. Meeting cybersecurity compliance standards allay the major threat factor and what comes with it.

Risk assessment instrument

Necessary compliance obligations incorporate a collection of rules and regulations that review the most crucial systems, and procedures responsible for securing sensitive data businesses are collecting and managing. Establishing the best security practices ‘by the book’ diminishes the probability of an error within the processes

Clear guidelines help follow the risk assessment checklist that targets vulnerabilities and focus on priorities when creating and implementing a cybersecurity framework within the organization. Data protection laws regulations are fundamental for building a solid cybersecurity program strategy backbone.

Industry standard

Alignment of security practice standards among businesses helps IT professionals, compliance officers, and overlaying regulations set and supervise cybersecurity standards, avoiding misinterpretations and overlaying complicated operations among companies. 

Aligned procedures and cybersecurity framework can be treated as a risk prevention measure for consumers that don’t have to research every company's security standards if they fulfill user expectations to secure their data. Unified policies make B2B and B2C service transactions more simplified and optimized, saving valuable resources and establishing knowledge to make relevant decisions.

Avoid regulatory fines

Conducting sufficient practices that adhere to regulatory requirements is advised to prevent regulatory penalties that follow unfortunate events of a data breach — exposed customer personal data, whether an internal or external breach that came to public knowledge.

In case of misconduct, regulatory bodies investigate it thoroughly and usually result in a massive fine. On the one hand, it is a reminder that it’s businesses' responsibility to ensure sound security compliance procedures towards third-party interests; on the other, it’s to send a message to other companies that data protection is indeed not a joke.

Major cybersecurity compliance requirements

Many different cybersecurity regulation requirements establish cybersecurity compliance standards. Even though they are distinct methods, generally, their target content coincides with each other and aims for the same goal — create rules that are simple to follow and adapt to the company technology environment, ultimately safeguarding sensitive data.

Major compliance requirements may apply locally and internationally depending on variability, whether business location or in which markets it operates and processes data. Regulatory controls also govern what kind of data organizations store and what type of information it consists of. 

The main focus is data security that contains personal information, which helps identify a person — full name, personal number, social security number, address, date of birth details, or other private information like individual health. Companies with access to confidential data come at greater risk as it’s a common target of cyberattacks.

HIPAA

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a U.S. federal statute signed into law in 1996. It covers sensitive health-relevant information, and entities must comply with the HIPAA privacy standards if they transmit health information electronically in connection with covered transactions — to process claims, receive payment, or share information.

The HIPAA rules and regulations help ensure organizations — health care providers, health plans & health care clearinghouses — and business associates won’t disclose any confidential data without an individual’s consent. The Act establishes three fundamental parts: Privacy rules, Security rules, Breach notification rules to report the incident. However, HIPAA Privacy Rule does not apply to organizations outside the U.S.

FISMA

The Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) controls the federal U.S. systems that protect national security & economic interest information, operations, and assets from the risk of breaches. Information security policy, published in 2002, is an extensive framework that administrates and implements risk management governance within government structures and business associates.

The FISMA defines minimal requirements for security to maintain threat prevention to national-level agency systems. The Act aligns with active laws, executive orders, and directives to address cybersecurity procedures compliance within the information security programs. The framework scope covers information system inventory, maintains system security plan & controls, conducts risk assessments, and ensures continuous monitoring. 

PCI-DSS

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) is a non-federal information security requirement to implement credit card data protection and security controls. Major credit card provider companies manage the standard, and the PCI Security Standards Council administrates it — the main goal is to protect cardholder data.

The PCI-DDS standard applies to merchants that handle payment information despite the number of transactions or credit cards processed per month. Business owners must comply with 12 standard requirements that include firewall configuration, password protection, and data encryption, restrict access to credit card information, develop and maintain security systems, processes and policies.

Non-compliant entities risk losing their merchant license, meaning not accepting credit card payments even for several years. Businesses without PCI-DDS become a potential target of cyber attacks that result in reputational damage and end up with financial penalties from regulatory bodies that may reach up to $500,000 in fines.

GDPR

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is data protection and privacy law published in 2016 that covers European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) countries. GDPR establishes a legal framework that guides EU-based individuals' personal data collection and protection.

The GDPR obliges companies to provide clear terms and conditions regarding customer data collection policies and enable individuals to manage their data availability without restrictions. Individuals’ consent is definitive criteria for businesses to process personal information, ensuring its confidentiality, safety, and responsibility to inform in case of a data breach.

ISO/IEC 27001

ISO/IEC 27001 is an international standard for implementing and managing Information Security Management System (ISMS) that belongs to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 27000 family of standards.

Business accreditation to ISO27001 signifies an organization’s adherence to compliance in all technology environment levels — employees, processes, tools, and systems — a complete setup to ensure customer personal data integrity and protection. The standard covers thorough operational actions and practices to build a resilient and reliable cybersecurity management system.

How to build a cybersecurity compliance plan

Above listed regulatory requirements and international standards for security systems are just a few most common ones — it might depend on the industry and territory your business is operating in. Although cybersecurity regulation is based chiefly on necessary compliance obligations that initially are straightforward, it also might leave an overwhelming impression. 

To simplify complicated concepts, it’s always good to deconstruct everything into simple steps. Therefore, let’s set up a starting point for any organization to begin and move forward by assessing cybersecurity risks and implementing a cybersecurity program.

1. Compliance team

Every organization — small or large — should have dedicated personnel that has skills and knowledge in assessing cybersecurity compliance. Clear ownership and responsibility help maintain an updated and responsive cybersecurity environment and create an agile approach towards threats and challenges.

2. Risk analysis

Establish and review a risk analysis process to see in what direction the organization is already going and what it’s missing. Breakdown of this risk analysis process requires:

  • Identification distinguish information assets, information systems, and networks they use access to;

  • Assessment — set the risk level of each data type. Ascertain where high-risk information is stored, transmitted, and collected;

  • Analysis —  determine risk impact. Usually, it’s done by this formula: Risk = (Likelihood of breach x Impact) / Cost

  • Setting risk tolerance — categorize and prioritize the risks by transferring, refusing, accepting, or mitigating the risk.

3. Setting security controls

Work on what security measures the organization will implement to handle the risk. Controls contain:

  • Data encryption

  • Network firewalls

  • Password policies

  • Network access control

  • Incident response plan

  • Employee training

  • Insurance

4. Policies & procedures

Documentation of security-oriented operations and processes is a go-to handbook for establishing clear and sufficient security programs. It helps systematically align, revise, and audit the organization’s compliance with security requirements.

5. Monitor & respond

Active monitoring provides constant revision of what established security methods paid off, where improvements were needed, helps identify new risks, and responds by updating and implementing required changes.

How can NordLayer help?

NordLayer, by its design, enables organizations to build, set up, and implement security policies and controls that respond to the cybersecurity compliance program. 

Traffic encryption, network access control with identity management and Smart Remote Access feature, centralized setting, and monitoring instruments make matching security requirements easy.

Whether your organization needs to comply with regulatory requirements or cybersecurity standards like HIPPA, GDPR, ISO 27001, or PCI-DSS, our network access control solution assists in achieving security compliance standards and meeting customer data protection expectations.

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