Compliance Management

Cover those blind spots: Establishing protocols that go beyond compliance

When it comes to security, meeting the minimum to comply with third-party regulations is not enough.

Too often, organizations focus mainly on meeting external compliance requirements – check one off the list and move on to the next. This practice can be dangerous, as it may expose the organization as attention shifts away from non-regulated channels.

Consider how regulatory standards focus on protecting specific data elements. Achieving compliance may offer companies a false sense of security, as part of their environment is heavily fortified, while other network segments and systems may be vulnerable.

Consequently, compliance does not necessarily equate to security. You must establish your own security protocols that go beyond compliance. And you shouldn't consider your organization to be compliant until it is fully compliant with both external regulations and your internal security policies. Here are a few areas of focus:

Educate your organization. Most compliance programs require some learning initiative. A brochure may be enough to get that coveted compliance checkmark. 

But, in many organizations, employees represent your biggest security risk. You need to turn them into your biggest strength. Help workers understand how their actions can affect your organization's well-being. Show them how to be security conscious at work and in their everyday lives. Hold a security awareness conference, and make it fun and engaging. Complement regular training with ongoing communication. 

Test your network repeatedly. The true test of a security program is what happens when your systems are threatened or compromised. Did your associates enable a breach to occur? Did they notice an anomaly? If so, did they notify your security team? The best way to obtain these answers is through visible security testing followed up by education.

Compliance requirements often dictate annual penetration testing, but once-a-year testing is limiting. Consider what may change in a year: new systems, software patches, employee turnover and more. Increasing testing frequency offers a year-round assessment of security awareness across your enterprise.

Make tests highly covert. For example, send an unannounced phishing email containing a malicious link. If staff members don't click the link, that's great. If they notify security, that's even better. But if some click the link, you have an opportunity to educate employees about security practices.

Monitor threats in real time. To protect data assets, you need to know what's happening on your network. And you need to know in real time. Compliance directives require a minimum level of monitoring. But organizations that make continuous, real-time monitoring a priority are more likely to detect threats before they proliferate.

Target data classification levels. Compliance requirements commonly protect specific data elements. But that doesn't mean your policies have to target only individual elements. Instead, your security program can focus on data classification levels, ensuring those individual elements are covered.

Go beyond compliance. Expanding the role of security beyond obtaining compliance checkmarks is critical to securing your enterprise. When doing so, remember that technology is not a cure-all. You need a comprehensive security program that encompasses people, processes and technology – and goes beyond compliance. Only then can you say security is a priority.

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