What is cybersecurity compliance? You might have heard many people go on about this term for quite some time, but what is the true meaning of it? In today’s article, we’re going to take a look at exactly what it means, and how you can become compliant.
What Is Cybersecurity Compliance?
Cybersecurity compliance is a way of protecting the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data in line with regulatory or legal guidance within an industry, or country. Compliance can come in several forms, however, typically involves implementing and maintaining security controls to protect the CIA of an organization.
These controls can be implemented in line with frameworks, such as ISO 27001, the NIST framework, and CIS to name a few.
Cybersecurity Compliance (Key Considerations)
To get started with cybersecurity compliance, you need to identify why you’re wanting to start this process, and what you hope to achieve from it. Below are some key conditions you should take when looking to achieve compliance.
Expect a Small Investment
Cybersecurity compliance should be followed where possible, but this can often come at a small cost for some businesses. Whether it’s in part to risk assessments or vulnerability testing, there is typically a cost to compliance.
Whilst this cost can seem quite high for small or unsuspecting businesses, this cost is pennies compared to the cost of a successful cyberattack which could’ve been mitigated using a strong compliance framework.
For a rough price, some large US companies have spent upwards of $3.5 Million on cybersecurity compliance, but typically this figure is inflated. From experience, the cost to a 350-user organization for cybersecurity compliance was closer to $20,000. This again is all very much dependent on your business, and the compliance you’re aiming for.
Find, or Create a Strong Risk Management Plan
As you’ll find out later in this article, you’ll need a strong risk management plan. This may require a lot of time and resources to build it up, but it will be used endlessly when trying to implement security controls and can be updated as time goes on. This is one thing you’ll need to create, and won’t be forgotten when you do.
Ensure Responsibility is Spread
Cybersecurity compliance can be stressful and can be harsh mentally. With that being said, ensuring that the right people are well-informed, and the responsibility for this compliance is spread is crucial to getting on the compliance board.
Even in small companies, ensuring all employees know is part of spreading the responsibility, to help ease the workload and mitigate more threats by utilising resources effectively.
Learn from Mistakes
If you’ve never attempted to become compliant before, you’ll come to learn that there are many mistakes to be made. It’s a rabbit hole, and although it does have a purpose – you can often jump into mistakes that you could never expect.
This is all part of the journey, and can likely be resolved quickly – but expect some mistakes and learn from them after you’ve become compliant so that when you need to uphold it, you can avoid them in the future.
Find, or Create an Incident Response Plan
An incident response plan is something that CSIRT and SOC teams use when an incident is taking place. This documentation is typically a small outline of what is needed to remediate an ongoing incident.
This typically includes;
- Who needs to be involved; i.e teams, individuals, and outside-resource?
- Communication with people who aren’t involved, but may need to know (i.e staff, or regulatory officers).
- A guide to remediation, even if the incident has not been seen before – small steps that are taken to remediate an event, such as disaster recovery plans or backups.
There is often more than this, however, it doesn’t always include the above. You can find some decent incident response plans on Google should you need a template!
You can also use the below video, by Vicky at Exabeam who does a great job explaining the ideas behind an incident response plan.
Cybersecurity Compliance Standards (Getting Started)
Understand what Data and your Legal Obligations
Getting started with cybersecurity compliance standards can often be a daunting task. If you’re already an established business or are looking to become established then you’re likely dealing with customer or private data. This isn’t always the case, but when dealing with compliance – you need to make sure you know what you’re collecting.
Whilst some data has stronger protection requirements (by law and regulation) such as PII (Personally Identifiable Information), all data should be treated with utmost security no matter what. Compliance requirements can vary from country to country, continent to continent and aren’t always the same for similar businesses, which is why you need to know what you collect.
Every state in the United States requires (as a first step) to notify all customers in the event that a breach has taken place, and personal information has been or has been believed to have been compromised. The full list for specific states can be found here on the NCSL.
In other countries, you may not be required to do this – but there is often a reporting aspect where you must make authorities aware of a breach should it occur.
Put someone in Charge (CISO)
Whilst your organization might not have a huge workforce, or may even only be yourself – you need to have someone to lead the charge for cybersecurity compliance. Whilst this can be anyone, you often see this role bleed into a C-level executive, to give them a dual title. This could be;
- COO (Cheif Operating Officier)
- CIO (Cheif Information Officer)
- CTO (Cheif Technology Officer)
- Highest-Level Technical Staff (IT Manager, SOC Manager etc.)
However, if your business is established and has the capacity to hire someone specifically for industry compliance, then hiring a CISO (CSO – Chief Information Security Officer) can really benefit you and your business.
Their job should be all things compliance. Whilst they may opt to consult 3rd party legal advice, or cybersecurity compliance companies, a CISO should be the driving force for risk mitigation, compliance, and overall security practices within a business.
Understand your Organization from a Risk and Technical Overview
Once you’ve got someone who is dedicated to finding how your organization is at risk, you can start focusing on your business risk, and what the most vulnerable aspects of your business are.
Firstly, collecting all the information about the infrastructure and architecture of your cyber-landscape is crucial, so as to not miss anything when performing a risk assessment. Once found, you can conduct a thorough and precise risk assessment to identify holes within your business.
Whilst this risk document could be quite lengthy, it’s also worth conducting a vulnerability assessment too, as these typically highlight key threats on endpoints, and other systems that could be used should an attacker find a way to exploit them.
At the end of both the risk assessment and vulnerability assessment, an extensive action list should be created. This action list should highlight the changes that need to be made before you can become compliant.
Implementing Controls to become Compliant
The most crucial, and often the main reason why you’ve done all this work so far is to implement changes to better your cybersecurity posture. By implementing policies, processes and technical changes to better your cybersecurity is crucial.
Based on your findings from vulnerability scanning, and risk management – you should be able to implement controls that will keep your business aligned to a compliance framework. Some of these changes may be;
- Encrypting Data when at Rest, or in Transit – especially PII/PHI Data.
- Using reputable and smart Firewalls.
- Implement, or use a Network Monitoring Software/Service.
- Use Cybersecurity Solutions as Standard, such as Anti-Virus and Firewalls.
- Cybersecurity Education – Help Employees Learn what to look out for.
- Set up regular Vulnerability and General Risk Assessments business-wide.
- Document and Maintain Written Guidelines, Policies, and Procedures relating to information security, and or cybersecurity.
Read More: What are the Weakest Links in Cybersecurity?
Test and Uphold
Once all the relevant controls, policies, and processes have been put into place, you can take a breath before coming back to the testing phases. Although working hard on the policies and controls in place feels like the last straw, testing and reviewing these controls is critical.
Whilst testing and reviewing the controls and measures taken, you need to ensure that not only is each aspect of a compliance framework followed but is also impenetrable from an adversary. One way of doing this could be a form of pen-testing.
Once you’ve passed or completed your formal qualification for a framework, you can now take a backseat and ensure your compliance is upheld. Keeping on top of policies, and reviews, and ensuring that everyone in the business is aware of what they need to do should be of paramount importance when not attempting to gain further compliance.
Compliance Cybersecurity (Top Tips)
Some of our top tips to rocket your way to cybersecurity compliance are as follows, but remember that each organization’s journey is different, and many other experiences may be completely different to yours!
- Understand your Compliance, Regulatory, and Legal Aspects
In some countries, such as the UK, regulatory and legal requirements require any security breaches of any sort, including personal-date to be reported to the ICO (Information Commissioners Office) where fines and forensic investigations often take place.
Whilst this might not be the same in your country, understanding what requirements you’re aiming for both from a compliance, regulatory, or even legal standpoint will not only validate your need for compliance but can help you understand the requirements before attempting to become compliant.
- Failure means Success (Kind Of…)
If you fail an initial audit, find risks that should never be found, or highlight vulnerabilities that open you up to a world of attacks – these are all successes to some extent. The idea of compliance requirements is to make sure that you’re not giving attackers an easy way in, and finding the vulnerabilities and risks that anyone could find gives you the upper hand.
So, when you fail – take a breather, stand back up and work towards fixing the issues at hand to ensure you become compliant, and set yourself up for a better cybersecurity posture.
- Once Compliant – Stay Compliant
So what happens when you’ve done everything you need and you’re compliant? You’re done, right? – Not even in the slightest. Most compliance and regulatory frameworks are built to ensure that whilst there are one-off changes, there are also ongoing and ‘passive’ changes to uphold.
Once you’ve become compliant and have been awarded or tested for said compliance, you need to uphold it and ensure everyone within your business or organization does too.
- Document EVERYTHING
Although it might be a bit of a mundane task, documenting everything you create, change, wants to change, or even issues you’ve run into will all be beneficial in the long run. Not only will it help you identify key areas where mistakes have been made, as well as help you if legal trouble arises. It can also serve as a point of information for anyone who needs it.
What are the main Cybersecurity Compliance Requirements?
Cybersecurity compliance bodies have been popping up for quite some time, with all super-relevant and key aspects that help protect data and your business respectively to your industry. Some of the below are the main cybersecurity compliance models that you may want to get compliant with.
GDPR – General Data Protection Regulation (EU & UK)
For most of the world, GDPR is a well-known regulation body that allows data to flow freely, but securely around the EU and UK. GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation and is best known for its modern approach to cybersecurity. Passed by the EU in May 2018 to keep cybersecurity measures aligned within Europe, the framework features several data privacy functions that businesses need to uphold.
In most EU countries, this is not a regulatory compliance that can be earnt, but rather has to be kept to as a legal requirement. GDPR contains 7 key aspects, however, this is covered on the GDPR Checklist.
HIPPA – Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
HIPPA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that was brought into play by Congress in the USA, back in 1996. Since then, HIPPA has been the leading compliance framework for upholding the CIA Triad (Confidentiality, Integrity, Availability), specifically when dealing with PHI.
PHI Stands for Personal Health information and is a more specific range from the PII outline. With HIPPA being a healthcare-related compliance model, they are typically the industry standard for doctors, healthcare providers, and businesses that often use health-related information such as insurance companies, or some commercial businesses.
CCPA – California Consumer Privacy Act (US/California)
CCPA is another region/country-specific compliance act that is targeted towards residents of California. Passed through Congress in 2018 and activated in 2020, the CCPA was put in place to mimic GDPR, where consumers have rights to privacy, specifically addressing their PII and other personal data. Whilst there are differences between GDPR and CCPA, for the most part, it all has to do with residents and businesses who are located within California and their rights to data privacy and security.
You can find out more on the CCPA website, and find out if you may need to be compliant with it.
ISO 27001 – International Standardization Organization for Information Security Management
Unlike others on this list, ISO 270001 is a compliance standard for information security management and is a family of standards that helps protect an organization, and its data regardless of its type.
Being one of the leading standards in the world, it allows for businesses to achieve compliance when a set criteria is met, and both best practices and additional securities are implemented to prevent an attack, or mitigate the damage should one occur.
Not only will ISO 27001 help secure your information and better protect it, it will also increase your business’s resilience to a cyberattack, which has multiple benefits within itself. You can find out more information on the ISO website.
Cybersecurity Regulatory Compliance (Closing Thoughts)
Overall, being able to say your organization is compliant and prove your cybersecurity regulatory compliance with various frameworks such as ISO 27001 or the NIST Framework can prove beneficial for both upholding the security of your business and its data, and also showing customers and prospects that you care about their information.
Whilst this can be a long road ahead, getting your organization into some form of regulatory compliance will yield both known and unknown benefits.
FAQ on Cybersecurity Compliance
What are the features of cyber security compliance?
Typically, cybersecurity compliance features a framework or set standards that cover both internal and external threats, from multiple attack types and intentions. This often covers an array of services, not always computer related such as staff, paper-form documentation, and 3rd party services. This also helps with some compliance and regulatory standards that are required within an industry, or by a specific law.
What are the 2 types of compliance?
In compliance, there are two types of compliance controls that can be used. These are technical and non-technical. Technical refers to the hardware, software, or firmware aspect of compliance, i.e making a policy change on a server. Non-technical on the other hand refers to other aspects, such as staff or process policies (non-technical side).
What are the 5 C’s of cyber security?
In cybersecurity, there are two types of ‘C’s’. The five C’s of cybersecurity often refers to Change, Compliance, Cost, Continuity, and Coverage. This is not to be confused with the CIA triad (Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability).
What are the 4 principles of cybersecurity?
The four main pillars or principles of cybersecurity are Govern, Protect, Detect, and Respond. Each of these is a remediation step, where governance is the research or identifying stage, and protection is the protection of data. Detect, is understanding how you detect threats and risks, and response is the mitigation action of these threats.
What are the 4 steps in maintaining compliance?
In cybersecurity, compliance can be maintained in 4-5 steps. These are normally;
- Ensuring your policies are up-to-date and effective.
- Ensuring that your staff and organization are aware of the compliance changes.
- Regular and active testing and feedback from internal, and external bodies.
- Recertification of Compliance (if applicable).
What are the 7 types of cyber security?
In cybersecurity, there are 7 types of pillars, each defining an area within the industry. These are; Network Security, Cloud Security, Endpoint Security, Mobile Security, IoT Security, Application Security, and Zero Trust.