Cybersecurity compliance is the process of adhering to standardized legal, policy, or industry requirements. From a security standpoint, cybersecurity compliance is a foundational step in developing the maturity of your organization’s stance on security, privacy, and overall operational efficiency.
Depending on the types of data your business handles, failure to adhere to cybersecurity compliance standards could result in legal repercussions. (Not to sound scary, but some industries and regions must take security compliance more seriously than others!)
How to achieve (and maintain) cybersecurity compliance
Cybersecurity compliance requires careful monitoring, internal auditing, external auditing, data classification and management, policies, and processes. But to do any of these, you need to know which security compliance standards are relevant to your business.
Cybersecurity compliance examples
Below are a few of the most common cybersecurity compliance standards. (Our apologies in advance for the alphabet soup.)
ISO/IEC 27001: This is an internationally recognized standard for information security management systems (ISMS). Its versatility in terms of company size and sector makes it the go-to standard to proactively manage cyberthreats.
HIPAA: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) will sound familiar to you if you’re a sysadmin in the healthcare industry. This act requires that healthcare organizations implement certain operating procedures and standards with the goal of safeguarding sensitive patient data.
SOC 1/2/3: The System and Organization Controls (SOC) compliance standards are built for businesses that provide services to other businesses, such as managed service providers (MSPs). In cybersecurity, you’ll commonly see organizations striving for SOC 2 compliance, which ensures transparency regarding controls related to security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy.
PCI DSS: The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) ensures that consumer credit and debit card information is protected during transactions with businesses.
Once you’re up to speed on which cybersecurity compliance standards are relevant to your business, you can work toward achieving and maintaining cybersecurity compliance. This is achieved through monitoring, internal auditing, and external auditing.
Effective monitoring is a critical step to ensuring cybersecurity compliance. On a regular basis, you should monitor how well your business adheres to relevant industry standards. This requires adaptability and flexibility to adjust processes as needed to maintain security compliance. It’s also worth noting that effective monitoring requires team bandwidth. You’ll need to meet with your team regularly to adjust processes as needed.
Put your security controls to the test with an internal audit. Regularly test the controls you have in place to make sure they're up to par. If they’re not, adjust those controls to remain compliant.
Monitoring and internal auditing take place within your company — but to achieve true cybersecurity compliance, you’ll need help from an outside source. Most official compliance certifications aren’t attainable without an external auditor’s review. This can be a bit costly, so budgeting early is key.
Find an external auditing partner who can evaluate your cybersecurity compliance. These certified third-party partners can confirm whether your organization is cybersecurity compliant. Furthermore, they can help you meet the legal requirements of compliance.
Benefits of cybersecurity compliance
Aside from making your boss and CEO happy, cybersecurity compliance offers a number of benefits.
It increases your credibility
Nothing says “I’m a credible business” better than a trusted third-party giving you a thumbs-up for cybersecurity compliance.
When your organization complies with cybersecurity standards, you show that you’re committed to a security gold standard. Often, these standards are not easy to achieve. They require a lot of work, research, and planning. So, when organizations can say that they’ve achieved cybersecurity compliance, it gives them a leg up on other organizations that lack this compliance.
It makes you more trustworthy to your customers
Cybersecurity compliance looks great to your customers, too — especially when you meet compliance standards that aren’t required.
For example, MSPs may earn some well-deserved clout in the industry if they achieve SOC 2 compliance. It isn’t mandatory, but it shows a commitment to helping their customers evaluate their own security controls. A security stack is only as good as the security of the tools in it, so sharing this information helps customers make informed decisions.
It helps you meet necessary legal requirements
In many cases, cybersecurity compliance isn’t a nice-to-have. It’s a need-to-have. For example, a hospital that doesn’t adhere to HIPAA standards would face some harsh penalties — and potentially be shut down.
Cybersecurity compliance isn’t optional in some instances — and with good reason. You don’t want companies you do business with to misuse your credit card information. And you certainly don’t want your primary care physician to blab about how high your triglycerides are. These safeguards ensure your information is protected and private.
It assists with meeting cybersecurity insurance requirements
Many cybersecurity insurance providers won’t cover your company unless you adhere to cybersecurity compliance standards.
Cybersecurity insurance providers will help you — but only if you help yourself first. The onus is on you to make sure your business takes every possible precaution to ensure proper security measures are in place. Cyber insurance companies would lose money exponentially if they covered organizations that don’t adhere to certain cybersecurity standards — and we all know how insurance companies feel about losing money. 😅
It hardens your security posture
Cybersecurity compliance standards aren’t arbitrarily chosen. They’re chosen because they make organizations safer — and that hardens your organization’s overall security posture.
Just like wearing a seatbelt makes your drive a bit safer, cybersecurity compliance standards help organizations put controls in place that make them safer.
It uncovers opportunities to improve internal processes and policies
Nothing makes you look harder at your organization’s internal processes than knowing an external audit is in your future.
Cybersecurity compliance requires you to closely analyze your internal processes and workflows. In turn, you benefit from more consistent and detailed internal business practices — and more detailed audit records for troubleshooting if something goes awry.
When striving for cybersecurity compliance, you’ll undoubtedly scrutinize your organization’s data. You’ll see ways to improve the quality and consolidation processes of your information, resulting in more useful data. You know, like Jake in HR keeps asking for.
Using cybersecurity compliance for security
One last, very important thing: Cybersecurity compliance ≠ automatic security. Even if a business focuses on cybersecurity compliance, it doesn’t automatically guarantee your machines and organization are secure.
You know oil changes are important for your car — and you may even have a plan to change it out every so often. But that doesn’t guarantee that the oil actually gets changed, nor does it guarantee that you’ll change the oil the right way.
To achieve true security, cybersecurity compliance must go beyond putting controls in place. Monitor and audit those controls to measure how well they’re working — and adapt where needed.
As former sysadmins ourselves, we’re big fans of cybersecurity compliance at PDQ. Our suite of products is designed to make device management simple, secure, and pretty damn quick. See how we stack up in terms of cybersecurity compliance.