What is Compliance in Cybersecurity and How to Achieve it?

Date: 19 June 2023

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Compliance in cyber security is about ensuring that your organisation adheres to various industry standards, international regulations and laws related to protecting data privacy. 

It involves enforcing technical, operational, and administrative controls that ensure data protection and better risk management. These controls include but are not limited to technology solutions, security measures, policies, and procedures. 

By achieving compliance, organisations demonstrate their commitment to safeguarding sensitive information and mitigating potential cybersecurity risks. This allows businesses to attract more potential customers and partners. But most importantly, it helps avoid hefty payments in regulatory fines and penalties and keeps the business reputation intact.

Topics covered in this blog: 

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The Importance of Compliance in Cybersecurity

Compliance in Cybersecurity has become a huge focus for businesses across the globe. The exponential rise in cyber crime often leads to massive data breaches or business disruptions. This has become amongst the primary drivers for this renewed focus on compliance and compliance regulations. 

Further, governments and regulatory bodies the world over are becoming increasingly stringent when it comes to managing citizen data and protecting their sensitive information. Amidst these stringent regulations, many organisations are turning to cybersecurity maturity model certification (CMMC) services to ensure they meet the necessary benchmarks. Utilizing such services not only prepares them for audits but also helps in identifying potential vulnerabilities in their cybersecurity framework. Businesses that do not comply with the necessary cybersecurity compliance standards or industry regulations can end up paying huge sums of money as penalty. 

A combination of the above has put cyber security compliance amongst the top business priorities today. Here’s a more detailed look at the importance of regulatory compliance in cybersecurity:      

  1. Protecting Sensitive Data: One of the primary reasons compliance is crucial in cyber security is the protection of sensitive data. Organisations deal with a vast amount of confidential information, such as customer records, financial data, and intellectual property. A proper cybersecurity compliance program helps establish guidelines for handling and securing this data, preventing unauthorised access, disclosure, or loss. 

  2. Meeting Regulatory Requirements: Compliance is essential for organisations operating in regulated industries such as Banking and Finance, Critical Infrastructure etc. Government bodies in several countries have also established strict regulations and standards to ensure data privacy and consumer protection. Failing to comply with these regulations can result in severe penalties, legal consequences, and reputational damage.

  3. Minimising Legal and Financial Risks: Non-compliance can expose organisations to significant legal and financial risks. Organisations that have not taken adequate security measures will typically suffer in case of a cyber attack. And this suffering will not be limited to the damages caused by the cyber attack itself. It will also extend to transaction monitoring mistakes when you want to detect and prevent money laundering, terrorist financing, and other financial crimes. Compliance helps minimise these risks and helps demonstrate due diligence.

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Common Cyber Security Compliance Frameworks

Numerous compliance frameworks and standards exist to guide organisations in establishing robust cybersecurity practices. These frameworks provide a structured approach to implementing security controls and addressing specific compliance requirements. 

Some widely recognized frameworks include: 

Each framework focuses on different aspects of cybersecurity and provides organisations with a roadmap for compliance implementation.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the most common compliance standards: 

  • NIST Cybersecurity Framework

The NIST Cybersecurity Framework helps businesses identify and prioritise their cybersecurity risks. It contains detailed steps for each cybersecurity function. Taking these steps can put your business on the path of cybersecurity maturity and resilience in a fairly straightforward way. 

We have covered detailed information on the NIST Cybersecurity Framework and how create NIST compatible Incident Response Plans and Playbooks which you can find here: 

1. NIST Cyber Incident Response Plan  
2. NIST Compatible Incident Response Playbooks

  • Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)

PCI DSS is a globally recognized framework that applies to all organisations that accept, process, store or transmit credit card data. The PCI Security Standards Council was created in 2006 by the four major credit-card companies: Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express. It manages the evolution and enforcement of security standards for the Payment Card Industry. 

It sets standards for organisations that handle payment card data, ensuring the protection of cardholder information and preventing fraud. 

  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)

HIPAA is a U.S Federal Law that establishes regulations for safeguarding protected health information (PHI) within the healthcare industry. Compliance with HIPAA is crucial for healthcare providers, insurers, and other entities handling PHI. This ensures better protection of patient privacy and maintains data integrity.

  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

GDPR is a comprehensive regulation that protects the privacy and personal data of individuals in the European Union (EU). It applies to organisations worldwide that process and handle personal data of EU residents. Compliance with the EU GDPR involves implementing stringent data protection measures, ensuring consent, and providing individuals with rights over their data.

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How to Achieve Compliance in Cybersecurity? 

Achieving compliance in cybersecurity is a complex but necessary task for organisations. Here are some steps that can help you achieve compliance:

#1. Understand Applicable Regulations: Begin by identifying the relevant cybersecurity regulations and standards that apply to your organisation based on your industry, geographic location, and the type of data you handle. 

Common regulations have been discussed above and include the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Ensuring compliance with these regulations often requires using HIPAA compliant electronic signature solutions, especially in healthcare settings where the protection of patient information is paramount.

#2. Conduct a Compliance Gap Analysis: Perform a comprehensive assessment of your current cybersecurity practices and compare them against the requirements outlined in the applicable regulations. This gap analysis will help identify areas where your business falls short of compliance and needs improvement. 

#3. Develop a Compliance Strategy: Based on the findings of the gap analysis, create a clear roadmap and strategy for achieving compliance. This strategy should outline specific tasks, responsibilities, timelines, and resources required to meet the compliance requirements. 

If you discover that your internal talent and capabilities are not equipped to handle your compliance needs, you may consider enlisting the assistance of external cybersecurity experts. Our Virtual Cyber Assistants, for example, can help you align your cybersecurity controls and practices to achieve your compliance goals in a very cost-effective way. 

#4. Implement Security Controls: Implement the necessary security controls and measures to address the compliance requirements. This may involve deploying firewalls, encryption, access controls, intrusion detection systems, and other security technologies. Additionally, establish cybersecurity policies and procedures that align with the compliance standards.

#5. Incident Response Plans: Develop and document incident response plans to effectively handle cybersecurity incidents. This is one of the key steps in achieving compliance, but more importantly overall cyber resilience.

An effective Cyber Incident Response Plan should detail the necessary steps for detecting, analysing, mitigating, and reporting incidents in case of a cybersecurity event. Incident response plans should also include clear lines of communication for notifying relevant authorities and affected individuals, as required by the regulations. It is also imperative to regularly rehearse these Incident Response Plans with Cyber Attack Simulation Exercises

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#6. Regularly Monitor and Assess:
Continuously monitor and assess your cybersecurity measures to ensure ongoing compliance. Implement monitoring systems, such as Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tools, to detect and respond to security incidents promptly. Conduct periodic audits and assessments to evaluate the effectiveness of your controls and identify areas for improvement. 

#7. Third-party Assessments: If you work with third-party vendors or service providers who have access to your data, ensure they also adhere to the necessary compliance standards. Conduct due diligence assessments of their security practices and ensure they have appropriate safeguards in place. 

#8. Provide Cybersecurity Training and Awareness: Educate employees on cybersecurity best practices and the importance of compliance. Regularly train employees on data protection, handling sensitive information, and recognizing phishing attacks. Foster a culture of security awareness within the organisation to prevent human errors and improve overall compliance.

Achieving compliance in cybersecurity is an ongoing process that requires dedication, resources, and continuous improvement. By following these steps and staying proactive in your cybersecurity practices, you can significantly enhance your organisation's security posture and reduce the risk of cyber threats and regulatory penalties. 

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