If you deal with private, sensitive, or financial information, you need to protect it. Compliance management is one way to measure just how safe your company keeps important data.
In the IT world, compliance management is easy to define but quite complicated to carry out. What is compliance management, and why is it so important? What are the basic components of compliance management? And what best practices should you be aware of?
What is Compliance Management?
We know that many agencies set standards for information storage, transfer, and security protocols. For example, HIPAA regulates how medical information is stored and shared. PCI regulates how businesses store and process payment and credit card data. In Europe, the GDPR regulates data protection across industries.
Depending on your business, you may need to comply with one or all of the above sets of guidelines. In an IT system, compliance is even more complicated, as it includes assessing and monitoring an entire infrastructure as well as deploying cybersecurity safeguards. Furthermore, you may have to establish or comply with industry-wide norms and internal guidelines. So, while IT compliance management can simply be boiled down to “making sure we follow all the rules”, it’s actually quite a complex process.
Why is IT Compliance Management So Important?
The obvious reason is that compliance management helps protect companies against data breaches, which have become all too common in the news. Another reason is that failure to comply with certain standards can have hefty penalties; for example, a business that accepts credit cards but fails to follow PCI standards can lose its merchant account and make the business liable for fines of up to $100,000 per month. If there’s a data breach resulting from PCI non-compliance, the company could be held liable for an additional penalty per affected customer. And, as we know, businesses with shoddy data protection practices lay themselves open to lawsuits.
Aside from the financial and legal ramifications, there are also ethical and PR considerations around compliance issues. Companies are now understanding the obligation they have to protect their data as well as that of their customers. And customers are becoming increasingly vocal about their rights to privacy and information protection; if a company doesn’t take this seriously, they run a very real risk of losing customers.
Components of Effective Compliance Management
The exact roadmap to IT compliance will depend on several factors unique to your industry and, to some extent, your business. However, the overall process is aimed at two things:
- Following compliance standards set by your industry and government, and
- Finding and fixing vulnerable points in your IT infrastructure and ecosystem.
To do this, you’ll need to carry out the following steps:
- Identify any areas that have security vulnerabilities and/or are not in compliance with the applicable industry or company standards.
- Develop and implement a plan to bring these areas into compliance. This includes prioritizing items by their business criticality (the importance of a system or tool to your business), potential security risk (the higher the risk, the higher the priority), and relative importance (i.e. fixing HIPAA compliance issues before aligning with internal guidelines).
- Monitor. Once a compliance plan has been implemented, continual monitoring is necessary. This can be done internally by employees, externally by a security as a service provider, with the aid of compliance management software systems, or some combination of these three.
- Take action. When a problem is found, a quick response is essential.
- Document. In addition to documenting your compliance efforts and your security safeguards, you should also document your response to threats and any changes made to the compliance system.
Why is Compliance Management So Hard?
Aside from the inherent complexity of many large-scale IT systems, there are several things that make compliance management more difficult. First we have the changes in IT systems, threats, and compliance regulations – especially for businesses that work in multiple industries or in different countries. Next is the sheer challenge of maintaining compliance across departments, teams, and employees; this requires not only IT system coordination but also educating employees regarding regulatory practices and security risks. Even so, maintaining compliance is certainly a worthwhile goal.
Best Practices for Managing Compliance
There are several best practices for managing IT compliance that can be applied to any business:
- Stay current with regulatory changes. Although compliance should be a priority for everyone, many larger organizations have a compliance team or a compliance officer to ensure that everything is up-to-date.
- Conduct regular vulnerability assessments and continuous monitoring. This must be done continually, thanks to the ongoing emergence of new threats. For most sizable companies, an old-fashioned checklist is not enough; some type of scan and test automation is usually used for routine reporting and monitoring. Integrating the varied tools your organization uses can also help here; it lets the compliance team utilize fewer interfaces to manage more tools, which streamlines the entire process.
- Respond promptly to potential issues. Any delay can wind up costing a significant amount of money.
- Keep the legal team in the loop. Compliance is part legal, part technical. It’s only logical to ensure that the legal team is also involved, especially if a problem occurs that has potential public, legal, or regulatory ramifications.
In conclusion, compliance management is extremely important. While the IT department might shoulder the weight of its implementation and maintenance, every person in the company should care about how compliance management works. If you are looking for managed compliance, look no further than NETdepot. We can help you keep up with compliance requirements through our Managed Services. Contact us today to talk with our experts about how we can relieve this burden from your IT team.