Modern businesses are subject to complex digital security rules and regulations. Breaching those regulations can lead to severe consequences, including fines, reputational damage, and financial losses.
Ensuring effective compliance with relevant regulations is vital, but how can this be delivered? The answer lies in security compliance management.
What is security compliance management?
Security compliance management involves applying policies for system monitoring and security risk assessment. This way, companies ensure they meet the regulations and industry standards. Additionally, they manage compliance violations according to the same policies.
Staying compliant can be a tall task for businesses in tightly regulated industries, not to mention the ever-changing policies and new cyber threats emerging daily. This means organizations need to react quickly to avoid data breaches and hefty fines. Because of that, properly managing security compliance is of utmost importance.
This blog will look at how this security compliance management approach can deliver benefits that go well beyond meeting regulatory requirements.
Can you achieve compliance without security?
Before we look in more depth at security compliance management and its various benefits, it’s essential to understand the difference between compliance and security.
Compliance refers to meeting legal rules or less formal industry standards. These documents list minimum security-related requirements, which are usually monitored and implemented by a separate compliance team. Meeting those requirements should make businesses less vulnerable to cyberattacks and data losses, but compliance does not equal security.
Security is the responsibility of dedicated professionals who understand networking, encryption, access management, and other issues relating to how IT infrastructure works. Their day-to-day role is to protect information assets, not interpret rules and regulations.
The interaction between security and compliance teams determines whether meeting regulations will improve data security. In theory, compliance and security teams should have a symbiotic relationship. One feeds the other, and both benefit. But that’s not always the case.
Security compliance management aims to unite the two areas, simultaneously achieving security and compliance.
Poor security compliance leads to increased business risks
When we bring corporate risks into the picture, it’s easy to see why security compliance management matters.
Highly networked, multinational businesses with many remote workers are subject to multiple risks and threats. And neglecting them can lead to severe consequences. Here are some of the most critical risks that are associated with poor compliance:
Fines from regulators
Poor security controls will inevitably lead to fines when regulators are alerted to data breaches and poor practices. In these cases, penalties can be crippling, especially for smaller businesses.
For instance, violations of the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) can lead to fines of $1.8 million per year. Breaches of the E.U.’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) can amount to 4% of corporate turnover. Regulators can impose these penalties at any time and are becoming increasingly intolerant of lax data storage and security systems.
Reputational damage from data breaches
The second significant risk associated with poor security and compliance is data loss. Most companies maintain databases of clients, suppliers, staff, and even website users. When cyber-attackers obtain that information, the consequences can be highly damaging.
MySpace is a good example. Once one of the largest social media networks, the company was hit by a 2016 hack that leaked 360 million account details. Yahoo had a similar data security nightmare, being breached twice in 2013 and 2014, affecting around 3.5 billion accounts. Both companies have struggled to recover, partly because users have lost trust in them.
Data breaches are also highly damaging to corporate balance sheets. According to IBM, the average cost of data breaches will reach $4.24 million in 2021. That’s hazardous for larger businesses and potentially fatal for minor operations.
Phishing and social engineering attacks
Data security breaches aren’t the only concern related to security compliance. Poorly secured businesses are also primary marks for cybercriminals using malware and other means of attack.
In 2021, the average ransomware payout reached $570,000 - more than most smaller businesses can afford. Small-scale and global attacks like WannaCry have led authorities and industry bodies like ISO to update their regulations. By following the latest security guidance, companies can limit their exposure to such attacks and convince authorities and customers that data is well protected.
Inefficient systems due to poor compliance
Poor security compliance also increases the risk of networks becoming insecure, inefficient, and harder to control.
Many business networks have become more complex due to the expansion of remote working and eCommerce. Compliance with industry regulations allows security teams to keep pace with those changes, providing greater awareness of multiplying endpoints, emerging access management issues, and the availability of new security tools to enhance network security.
Without solid compliance management, companies risk falling behind competitors that follow standards closely. Remote workers may be less effective. Managers might be detached from teams, while fundamental security weaknesses can lead to constant fire-fighting as threats emerge.
How can security compliance help your business?
Greater trust from customers and partners
Trust is all-important in the digital realm. Customers are becoming more attuned to data risks and surveillance and don’t want to deal with companies that expose sensitive data. The same applies to businesses and government organizations keen to work with compliant partners.
Compliance with regulations like ISO 27001 provides reassurance for clients and partners. To obtain certification, applicants must pass an external audit by accredited security experts and meet a demanding series of risk management requirements. This mix of internal activity and external monitoring indicates how seriously a business takes security.
Protection from penalties for non-compliance
The most obvious benefit of adopting rigorous information security compliance is the avoidance of fines or prosecution. On their own, fines from regulatory breaches are significant. But they are more than just financial penalties.
Every regulatory violation sends a powerful message to the rest of the world that a company doesn’t meet basic security requirements.
If you work in healthcare, repeated HIPAA fines will likely deter clients from purchasing your insurance products. 56% of US patients report not trusting healthcare companies to protect their personally identifiable information. In that context, compliance can be a crucial selling point.
Similarly, PCI-DSS breaches are a clear signal that companies are failing to protect payment details, and GDPR violations suggest that companies are failing to take confidentiality into account. In an ultra-connected world, an organization’s security values matter.
More efficient data management policies
Becoming security compliant isn’t just about managing external risks such as fines or loss of trust. It can also contribute to improved internal systems. Compliant businesses tend to be better managed, more efficient, and information-rich. And that’s particularly true when it comes to data management.
For instance, complete GDPR compliance frameworks help companies understand where they hold customer data and what data they possess. The process of gaining consent and offering opt-outs can also have supplementary benefits, such as segmenting databases into different customer tiers. Those who opt-in and accept all cookies may be better targets for focused marketing campaigns.
Better security technology
The road to compliance is also a stimulus for companies to invest in better information security.
Few organizations equip themselves with the tools, expertise, and policies required to meet relevant regulations. To get there, they need to invest in information security management systems like automated innovative compliance tools, enterprise-wide Virtual Private Networks, and multi-factor authentication.
Creating a network security compliance plan gives your security team the authority to modernize infrastructure across the board. Meeting regulatory requirements allows information security professionals to deploy access controls across all departments. They can also implement patching policies to ensure that software is updated.
Valuable operational insights
Achieving compliance is a learning process that often leads to completely new perspectives. Companies can gather vast amounts of information about their operations, and marketing departments can use this in various ways.
For instance, departmental audits can reveal information about working patterns, how employees use technology, and security practices. Data gathering audits can streamline the way companies interact with customers and suggest ways to boost data privacy, while remote working audits can increase flexible working while improving security.
Improved company culture
Meeting I.T. security compliance frameworks can also be highly beneficial for the culture inside companies.
When workers sign up for changes to security practices, engage in training, and take on board new technology, they often develop a sense of pride in participating in an enterprise-wide improvement process. This internal corporate image can boost motivation and productivity while nurturing smooth relations between managers and staff.
There are also external benefits. For example, recruiting new hires may be easier if you're known for your compliance standards. Working for trusted and reliable companies is preferable to companies fined annually for regulatory breaches.
Getting started on the road to compliance
Blending security and compliance has multiple benefits, but how can we get there? It’s not as simple as reading regulations and communicating actions to security professionals. Achieving compliance is a process that requires a systematic and thorough approach.
There’s no one “road map” to compliance. Every company is subject to its regulations, and corporate structures differ. However, a plan from beginning to end should help in most situations.
Audit your current security infrastructure. Before you do anything, inventory your company's security tools, including antivirus packages, VPNs, firewalls, password managers, and any authentication systems. Document the policies you currently apply about how those tools are used and analyze whether all employees follow them.
Assess key information flows. A big chunk of regulatory compliance relates to collecting, storing, and using sensitive data. Carry out a full assessment of what information your company is currently processing. What information do you hold from website users, regular customers, suppliers, corporate partners, and staff members?
Understand which regulations apply. Compliance teams must document which regulatory standards are part of your security compliance plan. The precise mix will depend on your business sector. Sarbanes Oxley doesn’t apply to health insurers, while HIPAA is irrelevant to financial advisers. If you operate abroad, GDPR will be relevant, while PCI-DSS rules will apply to companies that deal with customer payments. Find the precise mix for your company, and create individual plans for each set of compliance regulations.
Compare regulatory requirements to current systems. Bring together the information gathered regarding security tools and information processing with the specific needs of relevant regulations. High-quality audits and analysis of applicable rules allow you to identify areas of non-compliance and gaps in your security controls.
Take action to mitigate areas of non-compliance. Your security team should now translate information about compliance gaps into concrete measures to deal with security issues. For every regulatory gap, make an enterprise-wide plan about how security and compliance team members will remedy it. Bring together all of these actions via central project management and ensure that each measure receives the attention needed to ensure compliance.
Test compliance to ensure success. Finally, compliance and security teams need to test security systems to ensure their work has succeeded. Are access controls now in place to prevent external intrusions? For example, strong passwords, VPN encryption, and GDPR compliance. Find the answers, and you will soon know whether you have achieved security compliance.
At every stage, project managers should bring together compliance and security experts. By working together, you can ensure that every regulation is covered and that project teams follow security best practices.
NordLayer helps you mix security and compliance
Implementing information security compliance requires sourcing the most advanced and reliable security tools. NordLayer will help you create Zero Trust models with networks defended via the SASE (Secure Access Service Edge) framework that will meet a wide variety of security-related compliance requirements.
Our adaptive network security solutions can be integrated easily into compliance strategies to safeguard healthcare data, manage payment details, and facilitate safe remote working. Whatever sector you operate in, we can help you reach compliance while guaranteeing maximum security.
Get in touch with our team and discover the easy route to security compliance. Whether you aim for ISO 27001 certification or Level 4 PCI compliance, our services will make life easier.