The Importance of Compliance Management
The average company is subject to a range of compliance obligations. This includes laws designed to protect certain types of data, such as PCI DSS and HIPAA, as well as emerging general data privacy laws, including the GDPR, CPRA, and similar laws. Companies may also have compliance obligations focused on other responsibilities, such as preventing fraudulent activities or money laundering. Additionally, an organization may voluntarily work to achieve and maintain compliance with standards such as SOC 2 or ISO 27001.
Tracking compliance responsibilities, as well as maintaining and demonstrating compliance with various regulations can be complex, especially as new laws emerge and requirements evolve. Compliance management is important because compliance failures can carry significant financial penalties and even the revocation of core business functions, such as processing payment card data.
Compliance Management Process
Managing an organization’s compliance responsibilities is an ongoing process that includes the following key steps:
- Determine Compliance Responsibilities: Compliance management begins with a clear understanding of an organization’s regulatory compliance responsibilities. This requires identifying applicable regulations and standards, and their requirements.
- Identify Compliance Gaps: With a clear understanding of compliance requirements, an organization can identify gaps in its current regulatory compliance. This could include missing security controls, unpatched and vulnerable systems, and devices that do not comply with corporate policy or regulatory requirements.
- Develop a Remediation Plan: A compliance gap analysis may identify multiple issues with varying levels of severity, effort, and impact. Triaging these issues and developing a prioritized remediation plan maximizes return on investment.
- Close Compliance Gaps: After developing a plan, an organization should implement the remediation strategy.
- Testing and Documentation: After a change is made, it should be tested to validate that it corrects the issue. The compliance management process should be fully documented for future reference in the event that changes are needed, or the organization must demonstrate compliance to an auditor.
Compliance Management Challenges
Organizations can face various challenges when managing their compliance responsibilities, such as:
- Evolving Requirements: The regulatory compliance landscape is changing rapidly as new regulations emerge and existing ones are updated to manage evolving cyber threats. Staying on top of these applicable requirements makes the management difficult.
- Implementing Requirements: Often, regulations are written to describe capabilities and controls that an organization must have in place without stating how to achieve these goals. Companies must translate these requirements to real-world implementations within their environments and demonstrate that their selected controls and processes meet compliance requirements.
- Large, Complex IT Infrastructures: Corporate IT environments are growing increasingly complex as companies adopt cloud computing, remote work, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and other emerging technologies. Compliance management strategies must be kept up to date to ensure that they maintain compliance in all parts of an organization’s IT infrastructure.
- Organizational Silos: As companies grow larger, both infrastructure and teams can become silos, impeding cooperation across the enterprise. This makes it more difficult to maintain compliance and to respond to data breaches and other incidents that can impact compliance posture.
- Third-Party Relationships: Most companies have relationships with numerous third-party providers, such as cloud service providers and key vendors. These third-party partners may have access to data and systems covered under compliance regulations, making compliance management more complex.
Compliance Management Best Practices
As companies design and implement their compliance management strategies, some best practices to consider include:
- Perform Scans Regularly: Compliance gaps often indicate security vulnerabilities that an attacker can exploit. Performing compliance scans regularly enables an organization to identify and correct issues before they cause significant costs to the organization.
- Automate When Possible: Corporate IT infrastructures are rapidly growing larger and more complex, making manual compliance management difficult and unscalable. Automating common tasks enables faster, more scalable, and more consistent management and incident response.
- Patch and Test Often: Corporate IT infrastructures change rapidly, introducing new potential vulnerabilities, and new software vulnerabilities are discovered and publicly reported on a regular basis. Regularly applying and validating patches helps to close the window in which an organization’s infrastructure is vulnerable to exploitation.
- Integrate Security Architecture: As corporate IT environments become more distributed and diverse, an organization may have various management and security solutions for different environments. Integrating security and compliance management infrastructure enhances visibility and speed of response.