How Compliance Empowers a Good Security Posture

“If you think compliance is expensive, try noncompliance.”

– Paul McNulty, former US deputy attorney general.

If this is how your business has historically viewed compliance, it’s time for a paradigm shift.

When implemented correctly and routinely evaluated, compliance is key to facilitating business success.

Compliance policies are a critical aspect of an effective and ever-evolving IT infrastructure. Compliance procedures are essential to your technology integration plan, whether part of a custom IT SLA or handled in-house. When used in a flexible, reliable, and secure manner, compliance helps your business meet its goals and gain an edge over competitors.

Successful and truly effective company-wide compliance can’t be achieved with a disjointed approach across cloud silos and security elements. Instead, your security posture must be informed by compliance and integrate transparency and controls within and across each cloud deployment. Don’t falsely assume that your business is too big (or small!) for a compliance audit.

Compliance isn’t optional and if you think it’s only necessary for certain businesses, think again.

Read on for 5 ways compliance ensures a sound security posture.

1. Allows your business to go from reactive to proactive

It’s no secret that regulations are becoming more stringent. And for good reason, too—Gartner states that by 2023, 65% of the world’s population will have its personal information covered under privacy regulations, up from just 10% in 2019. Is your business ready for all that entails concerning compliance?  

To break it down, Fortinet classifies compliance into three general areas: 

  • Government regulations, which are often broadly applicable 
  • Industry regulations, which address industry-specific needs
  • And security standards, which give all organizations a framework for securing IT infrastructures and data

A highly-competent CaaS provider will configure and run recurring assessments based on required compliance standards for regulations like CMMC, PCI DSS, GDPR, HIPAA, and more. Effective compliance enables your business to be inherently proactive. When complying with a host of industry regulations, you are actively and continually strengthening your security posture.  

In addition to industry regulations, there are other factors to being compliant. Take legacy systems. Outdated hardware and software create severe gaps in compliance. For example, what would happen if there was a lawsuit involving communications over Salesforce Chatter or Slack, but your system only monitors email communications? Or, if incomplete cyber threat protection devices leave room for hackers to intercept emails, what’s to guarantee that data hasn’t been tampered with? A strong compliance program needs to consist of a multifaceted approach, including effective policies and procedures, encryption, data retention policies, archiving, threat protection, and eDiscovery. 

One way to identify your vulnerabilities is through a comprehensive risk assessment, which is just one way compliance regulations force businesses to be proactive. For example, some of the risks evaluated by the US Department of Justice Criminal Division Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs team are, “among other factors, the location of its operations, the industry sector, the competitiveness of the market, the regulatory landscape, potential clients and business partners, transactions with foreign governments, payments to foreign officials, use of third parties, gifts, travel, and entertainment expenses, and charitable and political donations.” 

It’s not enough to merely have static policies in place from the early 2010s, either. Another factor considered during a compliance program evaluation is “the comprehensiveness of the compliance program.” Programs are evaluated to ensure that there is “not only a clear message that misconduct is not tolerated, but also policies and procedures – from appropriate assignments of responsibility, to training programs, to systems of incentives and discipline – that ensure the compliance program is well-integrated into the company’s operations and workforce.” Your business needs to do more than “seem” compliant—you need to be compliant. And if you’re part of the 88% of companies that aren’t certain what data they hold on their consumers, then you need a CaaS provider, STAT.

2. Prevents Unnecessary Spend on Fees and Fines

“If you think compliance is expensive, try noncompliance,” as a former US deputy attorney general, Paul McNulty knows. 

Think you’re safe as a small business owner? Think again.  

In March 2020, a single-practitioner gastroenterology center was fined $100,000 for failing to conduct a thorough and accurate HIPAA risk analysis. According to JD Supra, the Utah-based doctor violated HIPAA Security Rule Section 164.308(a)(1), which requires all providers to “conduct an accurate and thorough assessment of the potential risks and vulnerabilities to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of electronic protected health information [ePHI] held by the covered entity.”  

If you think that’s bad, compliance fines are nothing compared to the relative cost of the data breaches that they’re meant to prevent.  

Take healthcare—for 11 years straight, healthcare organizations have experienced the highest average data breach costs. In one year alone, breach costs increased from an average of $7.13 million in 2020 to $9.23 million in 2021, up a staggering 29.5%! This number coincides with the increased vigilance of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which is working to prevent breaches with an increase in regulatory enforcement. OCR Director Roger Severino states, “Our record year [of enforcement] underscores the need for covered entities to be proactive about data security if they want to avoid being on the wrong end of an enforcement action.” Enter CaaS provider. 

Money spent on CaaS and compliance-related services will be paid back in spades, as healthcare isn’t the only industry that needs to concern itself with stringent compliance adherence. Consider the following list of well-known compliance regulations and the severe cost per penalty imposed for each: 

Compliance regulation   Penalties 
Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)  Fines of up to $100,000 per month for noncompliance; suspension of card acceptance 
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)  Fines of up to $50,000 per violation, with an annual maximum of $1.5 million; prison terms of up to 10 years 
Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA)  Budget cuts; increased oversight 
Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)  Loss of federal funding 
Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act (GLBA)  $100,000 fine per violation for the organization; 

$10,000 fine per violation or up to 5 years in prison for personally liable officer 

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)  Fines of up to 4% of the company’s annual worldwide turnover or €20 million, whichever is higher 

One goal of effective and comprehensive compliance measures is to mitigate or completely prevent unnecessary spending on fees and fines. In 2019 alone, the GDPR levied $474 million in fines—many of which were due to breaches that exposed improper data storage policies.  

Let’s say your business has been “getting away” with being less than compliant. The truth is, noncompliance is costing (or will cost!) you whether you realize it or not. By investing in compliance, you are proactively strengthening your security posture by preventing data breaches, ransomware attacks, operational outages, and more.  

According to IBM, compliance failures were the top amplifying cost factor out of 25 factors that amplified or mitigated data breach costs. Furthermore, organizations with high levels of compliance failure experienced an average data breach cost of $5.65 million, compared to $3.35 million at organizations with low compliance failure levels—a cost differential of 51.1%!  

In other words, it pays to comply.  

View compliance as a way to prevent unnecessary spending instead of being it.

3. Builds trust with staff and clients

How your business handles sensitive data matters. 

According to Varonis, the average company has 534,465 files containing sensitive data. What’s more alarming? 53% of companies have more than 1,000 sensitive files open to every employee. When teams don’t know what data they’re holding, they can be exposed yet unaware. Egregious oversights in privilege designation is an example of not only a compliance failure but a failure to protect clients and their most private information. This deadly combination is sure to cost your business far more than its brand reputation. 

You undoubtedly know that trust is the fuel that drives successful business relationships. Adding a reputable CaaS provider to your current cybersecurity program helps nurture client confidence in your organization and enhance your reputation as a trusted vendor or supplier. In addition, you are demonstrating respect for your clients information and taking appropriate protective measures to ensure that their data is safe. From this perspective, compliance can help you stand out from your competitors—not just be a cost or an expense.  

Compliance is a culture that takes continuous training and communications to master. A high-quality CaaS provider will aid in creating company-wide and employee technology policies. Coupled with routine review and improvement of policy effectiveness, your entire staff will be empowered to make educated decisions.  

Not only is constant education and training just good practice, but it’s another hallmark of a well-designed compliance program, as noted by the US Department of Justice Criminal Division Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs. The “Training and Communications” section of the report stipulates that “Risk-Based Training” must occur. Several examples of questions that you should constantly be reconciling against your policies are: 

  • What training have employees in relevant control functions received? 
  • Has the company provided tailored training for high-risk and control employees, including training that addresses risks in the area where the misconduct occurred? 
  • Have supervisory employees received different or supplementary training?
  • What analysis has the company undertaken to determine who should be trained and on what subjects? 

Every organization should have a written information security policy that covers all aspects of how data is to be handled in their network: what data can be collected, how it must be managed, the retention for each type of data, the level of security controls required for each data type, and so on. This empowers both clients and staff with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions.  

One model your CaaS provider might advocate is the CIA triad. The CIA triad (confidentiality, integrity, availability) is a model designed to guide policy development for security systems and procedures. When a business treats client data in the meticulous manner dictated by the triad, the security profile is more robust and better equipped to handle threat incidents. 

Proven threat mitigation and incident response is an essential component of client trust. It’s proven that the marketplace punishes companies who have experienced damaging breaches long after the breach has been “resolved.” A Deloitte study identified various types of impacts that occur from a data breach, with many being designated as “beneath the surface” costs or the costs and losses that often are not fully realized until 3 to 5 years after an incident occurs. The CISA’s “Cost of a Cyber Incident: Systemic Review and Cross-Validation” from 2020 states that “beneath the surface costs” includes: the value of lost contract revenue, operational disruption, the devaluation of trade names, loss of IP, increases in insurance premiums, the increased cost of debt/financing, and the lost value of customer relationships 

To reiterate, how your business handles sensitive data matters—and not just to auditors.

4. Enables a complete security portfolio

Amit Yoran, CEO of Tenable, puts it bluntly, “The inconvenient truth is that there is no shortcut; reducing your organization’s cyber risk takes expertise, discipline, and investment.” 

Some of the expertise and investment comes from utilizing a quality CaaS provider to complete your security portfolio.  

Just to refresh, your security portfolio is the entirety of your enterprise-wide spend on security (i.e., investments in tools, protection solutions, managed security services, etc.). A conscientious CaaS provider will help define, educate and reinforce behaviors for solid compliance practices and how they fit into your greater security portfolio.  

So how does compliance fit as a piece of your overall security puzzle? 

Compliance forces a fresh, end-to-end review of the value that your business places on data security. When you closely examine the data your company holds and consider its implications, you can better define your current risk. From there, you can proactively and systemically ensure that your security processes in place to address the regulations are airtight.  

One way that compliance can make or break your security portfolio? Insurance. Did you know that even one non-compliant policy can invalidate your liability insurance claims? 

Take Cottage Health, for example, a hospital network in California. In 2019, their insurer refused to pay a $3 million federal fine, $2 million state penalty, and $4.1 million lawsuit settlement with patients because they weren’t compliant with its cyber insurance policy 

Without proper compliance in effect, you risk losing more than just your cyber insurance.  

If your business utilizes a remote workforce, it is imperative that you immediately reevaluate your security posture. In IBM’s annual “Cost of Data Breach 2021” debriefing, the report states that businesses with ROBO workers saw average data breach costs $1.07 higher than companies without remote workers.   

As companies embrace cloud services and remote working, the attack surfaces and vectors grow. Ensure that your security portfolio is complete by revaluating your compliance policies with a CaaS provider.

5. Becomes a tool to enable your entire business to achieve its goals

Do you have an IT infrastructure that is constantly evolving and evaluating the ways that technology is helping your business achieve its goals? 

If not, compliance is the perfect tool to inform your technology roadmap.  

Achieving and maintaining compliance might seem like a burden initially. For employees or teams having to pick up the slack as a supplement for a CaaS provider, it’s easy to see compliance regulations as a never-ending cascade of increased workloads and liability. 

However, the rewards far outweigh the effort.  

As many businesses struggle to meet the bare minimum compliance requirements, those able to excel will be at an advantage over their competitors in a multitude of seemingly unrelated areas. Effective policies, procedures, and culture enable your business to adhere to and map to various industry standards.  

Compliance should inform your technology roadmap. Coupled with a strong security posture, it allows you to achieve your company-wide objectives by demanding that you routinely evaluate and implement newer and more advanced network infrastructure security solutions.  

Compliance should guide your technology roadmap to future-proof your business infrastructure. Make technology truly work for your business by ensuring that the entire attack surface is accounted for. Effective compliance requires automation. Systems that automated attributes become inherently reactive, which is counterproductive and heightens the risk posture of your business. Even as compliance regulations change, a technology roadmap will account for the continued evolution and ensure that your business operates without a hitch.  

Are You Ready to (Re)Commit to CaaS?

Are you ready to empower your business by harnessing the power of compliance?  

According to IBM, 77% of IT professionals say they don’t have an enterprise-wide cybersecurity incident response plan. While compliance helps your business stay within the limits of industry and/or government regulations, cybersecurity protects the integrity of your business and sensitive data.  

If you feel like your business needs: 

  • To go from reactive to proactive
  • To prevent unnecessary spending on fees and fines
  • To build trust with staff and clients
  • To gain a complete security portfolio
  • A tool to enable your entire business to achieve its goals

Then you are ready to implement or update your Compliance Manager service. 

Your IT infrastructure is too vital to leave to chance. Ensure that you have a true partner in technology and compliance by trusting your needs to CTComp.  

CTComp experts have provided tailored IT solutions since 1983. Help your business thrive—make your job (and life!) easier and call CTComp today.