As the “arms race” between hackers and security experts intensifies, cyber compliance standards have become increasingly complex. The number of regulations, standards, frameworks, and guidelines are expanding rapidly, and they vary depending on the type of organization involved. But these standards and rules all have the same goal: to protect the confidentiality and integrity of information and systems from cyber threats. It is essential for organizations to implement and maintain best practices in order to meet these many (and multiplying) requirements.
Organizations that aren’t compliant open themselves up to big trouble if something goes wrong. Sure, all organizations face both internal and external risks, but the risks of a potential security incident are only the beginning. Let’s say the worst happens and your organization suffers a ransomware attack. When it’s over, you will need to be able to demonstrate that you did everything you could to prevent the attack from occurring. Otherwise, there could be regulatory penalties, lawsuits, and some seriously unpleasant interactions with your insurance company.
How do you prove that you did your best to keep secure? Cyber compliance!
What is Cyber Compliance?
Cybersecurity compliance refers to alignment with industry standards and regulations in the areas of data protection and privacy. Specific requirements for cybersecurity compliance vary by type of organization and industry.
Why is Cyber Compliance Critical?
Regardless of the size of your organization, cybersecurity compliance matters for a number of reasons.
- Satisfy legal and regulatory requirements: Increasingly, industries and organizations are subject to specific cybersecurity regulations imposed by governments and regulatory bodies. Compliance ensures organizations meet these legal obligations and avoid potential penalties or legal problems.
- Strengthen data protection: Compliance helps protect sensitive data, such as personal information, financial records, or intellectual property. It ensures that appropriate security measures are in place to safeguard this data from unauthorized access.
- Improve risk mitigation: Cyber compliance frameworks provide guidelines to assess and mitigate cyber risks effectively. By following compliance requirements, organizations can identify vulnerabilities, implement necessary safeguards, and minimize the likelihood and impact of security incidents.
- Build reputation and trust: Demonstrating compliance with cybersecurity standards helps build trust with customers, partners, and stakeholders. People need to know that your organization takes data protection seriously and has measures in place to safeguard their data
Cyber Compliance Varies by Industry and Field
Regulations and standards in cybersecurity are particularly concerned with “sensitive data,” which includes personally identifiable information (PII) as well as any data relating to finances or health. The specific requirements for compliance can vary depending on what industry or field you are in. Here are just a few examples of specific industries and some of the relevant guidelines or frameworks.
- Consumer credit: The PII held by credit-card companies is about as sensitive as data can get, which inspired the creation of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). PCI DSS is a set of security standards aiming to ensure the protection of cardholder data, reduce the risk of data breaches, and promote secure handling of payment-card information by organizations that process, store, or transmit such data.
- Healthcare: The healthcare industry is one of the most strictly controlled fields when it comes to privacy. If you have been to the doctor any time since the late 1990s, you have no doubt encountered the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA is a U.S. federal law that sets robust standards for the protection of sensitive health information and establishes privacy and security requirements for healthcare organizations.
- Law: The legal field does not–as yet!–have an overarching cybersecurity framework to follow. However, the field certainly deals with a tremendous amount of sensitive data that requires robust protection. The American Bar Association (ABA) Cybersecurity Handbook is a set of guidelines that assist law firms in developing and implementing cybersecurity measures to protect client information and sensitive data.
- Education: Hackers frequently view educational systems as “low-hanging fruit” because they are often poorly protected. Unfortunately, educators do not currently have a specific framework to follow in securing their systems. The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) Cybersecurity in K-12 Education Syllabus offers guidance and best practices to address the unique challenges and requirements of educational institutions in protecting student data and maintaining a secure learning environment.
- Multi-industry: Finally, one framework that everyone needs to understand is the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework. This framework provides guidelines and best practices for managing and improving cybersecurity risk management processes. The official website provides detailed information on the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, including the framework itself, implementation guidance, and additional resources.
How to Start a Cyber Compliance Program
Although the specifics of cyber compliance vary, the basic steps that organizations should follow are roughly the same.
1. Build a Cyber Compliance Team
A cybersecurity compliance team is typically composed of individuals with expertise in cybersecurity, risk management, legal and regulatory affairs, and IT governance. Their primary role is to develop, implement, and maintain the necessary policies, procedures, and controls to meet compliance requirements and mitigate cyber risks effectively.
2. Understand Applicable Regulations
Identify the regulations, standards, and frameworks that are applicable to your industry. Don’t forget the role played by geography—and we don’t just mean the physical location of your HQ. Also consider: Where are your customers? Where are your suppliers? You need to understand not only what your organization does but where it does it.
3. Assess Your Current Situation and Level of Risk
Evaluate your organization’s existing security posture and identify gaps between current practices and compliance requirements. This assessment involves reviewing security policies, procedures, technical controls, and incident response capabilities.
4. Develop Security Policies and Procedures
Create or update security policies, procedures, and guidelines that align with compliance requirements. These documents should outline how security risks are managed, detail acceptable use of systems, and provide guidance on incident response and recovery.
5. Implement Security Controls
Deploy and configure appropriate security controls to protect your systems and data. These controls may include firewalls, intrusion detection systems, access controls, encryption mechanisms, and monitoring tools.
6. Incident Response and Monitoring
Establish an incident response plan to handle security incidents effectively. Implement continuous monitoring systems to detect and respond to potential security breaches promptly.
7. Employee Awareness and Training
Work to build a “culture of cyber compliance” by educating your staff about their related roles and responsibilities. Keep in mind that this exercise is not “one and done.” Instead, conduct regular training sessions to raise awareness about security threats, safe computing practices, and incident reporting procedures.
8. Audits and Assessments
Conduct periodic internal audits or engage third-party assessors to evaluate compliance efforts. These assessments help identify any gaps or non-compliance issues, which can be addressed promptly. Regularly review and update security measures, adapt to changing threats and regulations, and stay informed about emerging best practices.
By following these steps, organizations can work towards achieving and maintaining cybersecurity compliance, thereby reducing the risk of cyber threats and protecting critical information and systems.
Helpful Cyber Compliance Resources
If this sounds like a lot of work . . . unfortunately, you’re right, it is. The good news is there are a lot of resources available that can help you get your bearings.
National Cybersecurity Alliance (NCSA): The NCSA is a nonprofit organization that promotes cybersecurity awareness and education. Their website offers resources on various cybersecurity topics, including compliance best practices, tips for individuals and businesses, and information on cybersecurity standards.
International Organization for Standardization (ISO): ISO is an independent, non-governmental international organization that develops and publishes standards across various industries. Their website provides access to ISO standards related to information security and cybersecurity, including ISO/IEC 27001 for information security management.
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST): Computer Security Resource Center: publishes a wide range of cybersecurity publications that offer valuable insights into compliance, risk management, and cybersecurity best practices. Their publications cover topics such as cybersecurity frameworks, guidelines, and specific controls.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS): Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA): The CISA website offers valuable resources on cybersecurity, including guidance, tools, and alerts. It covers a wide range of topics and sectors, providing insights into cybersecurity best practices and compliance.
These sources provide reliable and comprehensive information on cyber compliance, helping individuals and organizations understand and implement effective cybersecurity practices.
Getting Compliant with cyberCTRL
Cyber compliance is our raison d’etre here at TMG. Our service, cyberCTRL, offers end-to-end cybersecurity and privacy risk management.
A Cybersecurity-as-a-Service (CaaS) subscription product, cyberCTRL integrates frameworks, document and workflow management, and a huge array of tools that can make sure organizations are always compliant and audit-ready. No matter which framework, no matter the environment, our experts cut through the industry noise (and hype) to deliver the right answers for your world. Together, TMG and cyberCTRL can give you exactly what you need to reach cyber compliance. No more and absolutely no less.
Ready to get the cyber-compliance party started and audit-proof your business? Get in touch with our team to learn more.