Have you ever gone climbing? If yes, then you are aware of carabiners. Generally speaking, the carabiner is a coupling link with a safety closure designed to keep you safe when climbing rocks. Cybersecurity shares many common features with the carabiners – it is also there to keep you safe and make sure your organization does not fail spectacularly when trouble arises. Looking at cybersecurity as a hurdle your company has to overcome in order to meet all your compliance requirements is like seeing carabiners as a necessary evil for mountaineering.

As the number and severity of cyber-attacks increase, international organizations and governments seek to enforce cybersecurity by establishing more stringent compliance requirements. However, compliance requirements often lag cybersecurity risk. Therefore, to prepare for changing compliance requirements, organizations need to create a ‘cybersecurity-first’ approach to stay ahead of the evolving requirements.

Although cybersecurity and compliance are often used interchangeably, both are different approaches to the problem of cybersecurity threats.

What is cybersecurity?

While it seems that cybersecurity is a clear thing, it isn’t. When it comes to compliance and standards, cybersecurity can be a complex undertaking. If we try to define “cybersecurity”, then we could simply say that it is the processes and practices that you put into place to protect your IT infrastructure, including data, networks, and any cloud assets or applications.

But implementing security controls across all these systems means that cybersecurity is a complex system of inter-related solutions that can address not only immediate threats but potential threats that emerge as different systems interact with each other. It is often these unforeseen attacks that can make a system vulnerable. As a result, cybersecurity covers several levels of engagement – technical, physical, and administrative.

Cybersecurity is not only important but necessary in today’s modern digital landscape. That’s because security provides necessary support across almost every operation of your business, including:

  • Protecting customer and client data against theft
  • Improving business resiliency against attacks or disasters
  • Building reputation with customers
  • Maintaining compliance with industry regulations

This last bullet is increasingly a catalyst for cybersecurity investment for most businesses.

What is compliance?

“Compliance” means adherence to security and privacy regulations enacted by a governing body or a standards organization to demonstrate a specific level of security. While cybersecurity includes all the tools, processes, and operations in place to protect data, compliance is aligning those security systems with one or more required regulations.

However, compliance is not based on a stand-alone standard or regulation. Depending on the industry, different standards may overlap, which can create confusion and excess work for organizations using a checklist-based approach.

For example, the healthcare industry needs to meet Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance requirements, but if a provider also accepts payments through a point-of-service (POS) device, then it also needs to meet Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) requirements. Companies that serve customers or do business with individuals in the European Union must comply with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and businesses meeting certain criteria that have customers in California must comply with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

It’s all about risk

Risk represents the threats that your IT infrastructure and data face due to existing threats and gaps in cybersecurity controls.

Compliance is the art of managing risk – the practice of strategizing threat remediation against business goals, systems, and data. Compliance standards outline blueprints that can help organizations protect sensitive data from cyber-enabled threats. Cybersecurity measures are components of a compliance strategy.

If we think it in another way, compliance is at the strategic level of doing business, while cybersecurity is found at the tactical level of operations. Cybersecurity controls address real security threats, and compliance is the blueprint for how those controls work together to reduce the overall business risk because of cyber-attacks.

Compliance can also help to identify any gaps in your existing cybersecurity program which might not have otherwise been identified outside of a compliance audit. Additionally, compliance helps organizations to have a standardized security program, as opposed to one where controls may be chosen randomly.

How to build cybersecurity into your compliance

The following steps can help you build a ‘cybersecurity-first’ approach.

  1. Understand your risk environment

While achieving compliance is important — or even required — to assure customers and clients that you have data protection protocols in place, it is not the sole indicator of being cyber-secure. Compliance attestations are demonstrating your adherence to the regulations at a certain point in time. What you need is running vulnerability scans on a frequent cadence and an ongoing basis. With time being an important factor in risk mitigation, organizations with frequent scans can remediate flaws faster.

  1. Mitigate risk

Once you understand your risk with regular vulnerability assessments, the next step is to mitigate the opportunities for cyber threats by prioritizing according to risk severity and repairing the most severe areas of vulnerability.

While tools and systems help you identify your biggest threats, they need to be weighed against the risk to your organization — the potential for loss, damage, or destruction of an asset. Ask yourself, “What is the impact of a given vulnerability to our bottom line, our operations, and our company’s reputation?” Cross-reference the size of impact with the highest threats and fix those areas first.

  1. Transfer residual risk

Understanding risk and mitigating risk are imperative for making sure your company is cyber secure. But there will always be a residual risk that you want to transfer with cyber insurance. This is the part of your cybersecurity program that allows you to recover financial losses from a business interruption in the event of a cyberattack.

How ITEGRITI can help you

Being compliant is important to giving your customers confidence that you are protecting their data, but it is not the same as having a robust cybersecurity posture. Effective cybersecurity and compliance programs rely on key functional support from security and compliance managers having specific roles and experience. These professionals are in high demand and not all organizations are staffed to meet these needs, while others divide and distribute tasks across many resources. This approach most often creates environments where management has no access to timely and accurate information on the effectiveness of their cybersecurity or compliance programs.

By establishing a key set of necessary tasks and developing a model where organizations can select services to meet their specific need and budget, ITEGRITI can provide ongoing compliance and cybersecurity advisory. Contact our experts to discover how ITEGRITI can help you.