Customize Your Security Program While Meeting Compliance and Certification

Written by CISOSHARE

April 23, 2021

25 min read

Recent immense growth in information technology and digital transformation has brought with it new and complex security compliance and certification challenges with data flowing in multiple directions. Add in the turmoil created by the COVID-19 pandemic, and you have a perfect storm led by cybercriminals attempting to capitalize on the increased threat vulnerabilities brought on by rapid changes and confusion.

As a result, cyber security compliance requirements are being tested to their absolute limits by bad actors with more sophisticated tactics that are harder to detect.

Fortunately, advanced compliance frameworks are now in place to help better regulate how organizations share, store and receive data, and most importantly, ensure that it happens securely. Staying ahead of the evolving threat landscape means having in place an applicable security program that complies with specific regulations, meets certifications, and adheres to best practices.

Striking the right balance between meeting compliance and certification requirements with an effective and efficient cyber security program hinges upon a sound knowledge base. Specifically, knowing what requirements to adhere to and when they’re applicable.

Conducting a security compliance assessment, and properly utilizing its results, is a critical first step towards identifying potential vulnerabilities, mitigating risks, and protecting assets from a breach.

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Next, to better prepare your organization to certify or comply with any given frameworks, what’s needed is an understanding of the post-assessment resources that are essential for remediation efforts. Proper planning and establishing a realistic timeline to meet any newly identified security compliance requirements is also key.

Breaking this all down to its basics, there are multiple best practice frameworks and regulatory requirements an organization might have to be in compliance with based upon industry or data.

So, what are some examples, and when do specific compliance requirements need to be met? This largely depends on a business’s demographics (ie; industry, size, location, data) and any business drivers such as customer requests and qualifications. These include:

Industry-Based Requirements

  • HIPAA compliance for organizations working in healthcare, or PCI-DSS standards for those working with credit cards or financial payments, for example.

Client, Customer, or Partner Requirements

  • An SOC 2 Type 2 report, or NIST or ISO compliance may be required by working partners or organizations if services involve the handling or transfer of especially sensitive data and information, for example.

Legal Requirements

  • CCPA, GDPR, and other legal frameworks, for example, may be needed and are often determined based on location and the type of business conducted.  

Whether adjusting your existing security program to meet specific regulations or building a new one from scratch, preparing for an assessment to help meet your security compliance requirements is critical.

Before beginning, understand the timelines involved for the framework or certification your organization is working toward. For example: 

  • Did you know that SOC 2 Type 2 requires evidence that security controls are operating as designed for at least 6 months? This tests the effectiveness of these controls over time.
  • Be an early bird! If you want to outsource the execution of your security program, or want to work with them on your compliance assessment, ensure that you’re engaged with your provider early in the process.
  • Avoid scrambling! If you choose to work with an auditor, again, be sure to engage them for their services early on to ensure their availability.

Creating a streamlined program, one which efficiently allies both security and compliance, takes a village. Is using your in-house resources or outsourcing to a provider a better option for your security compliance and assessment needs? Your compliance checklist should note that:

  • Any assessment should be conducted against the controls and standards of the regulatory requirements, frameworks, or blend of these that your organization needs to be in compliance with.
  • Any findings or results should identify the potential gaps and risks in your current program policies and processes that need to be addressed.
  • Working with an external team helps avoid any bias during the assessment and lessens the impact on the day-to-day work of your internal team or the assessment timeline.
  • The same outsourced team can help to address any identified gaps and vulnerabilities in your security program controls and requirements.

The key takeaway in navigating and meeting today’s security compliance requirements is that compliance doesn’t necessarily equate with and achieve security. Bear in mind that you CAN be compliant, but NOT secure!

While critical for doing business within specific industries, simply complying with best practice frameworks and regulatory requirements doesn’t automatically ensure the security of your business. What’s needed is regularly measured policies and processes that ensure they’re effective and performing as intended.

Remember, compliance and certifications are good only for showing evidence of a security program; don’t let them lull you into a false sense of security!

Is your organization preparing to certify or comply with specific frameworks? The CISOSHARE team provides customized security program solutions for organizations and businesses in nearly every industry. Learn more about information security compliance certifications and best practices and our security program assessment services.