IT Compliance Explained

Given the bulk of data captured and held by companies today, information technology compliance is perhaps the most important factor in any business today. The sensitive data of billions of people around the world is safeguarded with IT compliance standards, providing security for consumer data, regulations to secure it, and regulatory compliance to oversee businesses.

IT compliance consists of IT security regulations in place to prevent data breaches. Without IT compliance standards and guiding regulations, data breaches can result in financial and sales data losses, leaks of private client information, and even drained bank accounts that sink businesses and ruin lives. These security controls, regulatory requirements, and other policies help ensure cyber security for businesses.

What is a Compliance Breach?

Maintaining compliance with data security regulations is a major concern for any business. The IT compliance standards in place provide security policies to ensure consumer data is secure. A compliance breach occurs when the security measures in place to protect data are not in line with laws and regulations in place for cyber security. If a security audit is performed and security practices in place do not measure up and expose vulnerabilities, or security incidents have been uncovered, an IT compliance breach has occurred.

What is Technical Compliance?

Within IT compliance, there are various factors to be considered. It is much more than simply ensuring data, applications, and the data center infrastructure are secure. One of the many factors to consider is technical compliance. Technical IT compliance means adhering to the technical regulations, standards, and applicable laws governing IT compliance. In order to address these specific risks, IT measures and processes should be in place to ensure legal and regulatory conformity to laws put in place by government agencies.

What is Network Compliance?

With the number of security threats on the rise, the management of IT compliance is growing in importance. These security threats include risks that expose network resources. Network administrators are responsible for the management of network security, as well as network compliance measures. For those companies in a regulated industry, such as health care of financial services, IT compliance extends beyond basic data security to include regulations that govern IT infrastructure as well. Network compliance refers to the management of security measures that protect IT infrastructure.

One such example is SOX compliance. The Sarbanes-Oxley policy, known simply as SOX, protects shareholders and the public from accounting errors, fraudulent practices within a business, and exist to better the accuracy of corporate disclosures. The purpose of SOX compliance is to ensure that companies manage internal controls. In terms of network compliance, SOX compliance refers to policies regarding where data is stored, establishing access controls, and the proper, error-free installation of backup procedures. SOX compliance also requires companies to maintain financial records for seven years. In particular, it is required for US company boards, management personnel, and accounting firms.

What is IT Security Compliance?

IT security compliance refers to legal concerns for businesses across a variety of industries. This includes regulatory standards such as PCI DSS, HIPAA, and ISO 27001. These security measures offer recommendations to protect the data of consumers and improve information security management within a business. IT security compliance puts standards in place that allow companies to better define and achieve specific IT security standards. The overarching goal is to mitigate threats to the network through vulnerability management.

Industry standards for IT security compliance have become increasingly complex in recent years. As more data breaches occur, standards have changed and the limited effectiveness of network security tools have been exposed at times. Bring-your-own-device policies and cloud services have spread out the responsibility for security functions. On top of that, government agencies are increasingly involved in establishing consumer data protections that companies must follow. With increasing audit and security compliance obligations, security teams have to adjust.

Why is IT Compliance Important?

IT compliance is vital to a business because it can have a direct impact on business continuity. If IT compliance standards are not adhered to, companies may be exposed to risks and threats to data security. Failure to adhere to IT compliance regulations can expose businesses to a variety of threats. For those companies that are bound by federal regulations and security measures, failure to adhere to compliance standards could result in fines. If companies blatantly ignore IT compliance, it leaves data exposed to security breaches and malicious attacks. This could result in lawsuits, fines, and even bank account hacks that put the very existence of the business at risk.

Do You Have Compliance Regulations? We Can Help.

Which Compliance Regulations Apply to Your Organization?

There are a number of different compliance regulations that apply to organizations and each one varies by industry. For example, businesses in the financial industry must adhere to compliance standards as established by the SEC. Conversely, patient data is protected by the guidelines established by HIPAA. It is possible that companies may have to adhere to various different types of compliance regulations based on the industries within which the business operates.

What is the Difference Between Compliance and Audit?

IT compliance and audit are not the same concepts. Compliance refers to the standards and regulations that a business must follow to protect data and IT infrastructure networks. These measures are guidelines that companies are encouraged, or legally required, to follow. An audit occurs to take a look at the compliance measures in place for a company to follow. The audit process can expose vulnerabilities of the compliance measures a company has in place to ensure cyber security.

What are Compliance, Governance, and Risk Management?

Governance, Risk, and Compliance, or GRC, refers to a coordinated strategy to manage broad issues of IT governance, risk management, and compliance. Governance refers to effective, ethical management of the company at its executive and managerial levels. Risk management is the ability to effectively and cost-efficiently manage any IT risks that can hinder daily operations or the ability to remain competitive. Compliance is the steps a company takes to conform to regulatory requirements for business operations, data retention, and other IT factors.

What is the Purpose of Compliance?

The purpose of IT compliance is to ensure that companies follow IT security regulations. Some of these regulations are mandatory, while others are merely to the benefit of the company over the long term. IT compliance improves security by establishing baseline business data security. It can also help minimize losses by preventing breaches and increase control. With improved security comes increased control over data. Finally, IT compliance maintains trust among customers. When customers can trust businesses with information, businesses can honor that trust with improved security systems.

What is IT Compliance vs. IT Security?

IT security is the practice of putting in place effective technical controls to protect consumer data. Compliance is the application of that practice to meet regulatory guidelines and contractual requirements. A simpler breakdown of the two includes:

IT Compliance:

  • Practiced to meet external requirements and facilitate business operations
  • Driven by business needs rather than technical expectations
  • Compliance is considered suitable when a third-party is satisfied

IT Security:

  • Security is practiced for the sake of securing data and is not done to meet the needs of any third party
  • Driven by a desire to protect against constant threats to the assets and continuity of an organization
  • Security must be continually maintained and improved as threats evolved

Who is Responsible for Compliance?

The framework of regulations that form IT compliance is set in place by third parties, but that framework does not remove the responsibility of companies to ensure IT compliance. Businesses are responsible for IT compliance measures. It is important, as such, that businesses partner with the right IT provider that can handle and secure data while ensuring that the network and IT infrastructure in place meet the compliance regulations the company must adhere to.

What Compliance Standards do Most IT Environments Fall Into?

Companies across the United States must meet compliance standards set in place by government agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, Federal Communications Commission, and the Federal Trade Commission. The businesses most commonly affected by IT compliance and in need of setting up a framework for compliance fall into financial, retail, e-commerce, health insurance, banking, defense, utilities, and credit card issuers. NIST SP 800-171 is a guiding framework for the creation of compliance standards, but it is broken down into several different frameworks for compliance:

Federal, state, and local government agencies are also covered by many of these regulations. Examples of such regulations include:

  • GDPR – Known as General Data Protection Regulation, GDPR protects the citizens of the European Union from data breaches
  • HIPAA – Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the bill established regulations regarding healthcare patients’ data
  • FISMA – The Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 treated data and information security as a matter of national security for federal government agencies
  • PCI-DSS – Known as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, these regulations reduce fraud by protecting consumer credit card information
  • GPG13 – Referred to as Good Practice Guide 13, this UK general data protection regulation applies to businesses processes
  • ITARS – International Traffic in Arms Regulations restricts and controls the export of defense and military technologies
  • DFARS – The Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement streamlines the contract terms and conditions for contractors working with the Department of Defense

What if Your Network Could Actually Help You Meet Your Compliance Obligations more Efficiently?

Some company networks don’t have the systems in place to help ensure that IT compliance issues are met. Even those networks that do have measures in place to ensure compliance obligations are met, that doesn’t mean those networks do so efficiently. Is it possible there are network solutions out there that help businesses meet compliance obligations by providing a security environment that matches the regulations of specific industries, such as HIPAA requirements for the healthcare field.

Avatara network solutions are perfect for businesses within the above-mentioned industries. Compliance reporting services in Avatara CompleteCloud solutions ensure that critical report filing processes meet the security needs of various types of companies. CompleteCloud streamlines the process of auditing and reporting, and is part of a multi-layered cybersecurity program that helps ensure IT compliance.

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