Security and Compliance: Importance, Differences, and Alliance

    Security and compliance, while not the same, intersect to help organizations protect their assets and meet legal requirements specific to their industry or business.

    Security and Compliance - Introduction

    Within today’s cybersecurity landscape, the importance of data protection and user privacy are among the biggest concerns for stakeholders involved in your business. From customers and clients through partners and suppliers to national and international governments and other agencies, security and compliance are a vital part of every sustainable organization, with each feeding into the other to build robust and measurable cybersecurity protocols.

    Data theft and malicious usage of sensitive information are commonplace, and from the smallest breach to the largest kinds of cyberattack, they can have devastating consequences both for your business and those stakeholders affected by any one of the many types of cyberthreat. For these reasons, it is crucial to understand where security and compliance intersect, how they differ, and how, in fact, you might reach compliance but still not achieve full security, dependent on your industry and location.

    In this guide, we explore the difference between compliance and security, why security compliance is important, the different types of compliance, and a range of tools and best practices that can help you achieve both. Read on to learn more and understand the security and compliance requirements for your specific use case.




    What Is Security?

    When discussing security & compliance, security refers to the measures taken to protect an organization's assets, including information, systems, and infrastructure, from unauthorized access, theft, damage, or misuse. These assets can be in digital or physical form, and security measures can include access controls, encryption, firewalls, intrusion detection, monitoring, and other safeguards. The goal of security is to prevent data breaches and minimize the risk of loss or damage to an organization's assets.

    Types of Security Controls

    There are three primary types of security controls, often used in combination with one another to create robust security, known as a defense-in-depth strategy. These include:

    • Physical: These controls are security measures designed to protect the physical environment. Examples include security cameras, access controls, alarms, locks, fences, and security guards. Physical controls help to prevent unauthorized access, theft, or damage to physical assets and infrastructure.
    • Technical (Operational): This type of security control is designed to protect the digital environment. Examples include firewalls, encryption, intrusion detection and prevention systems, antivirus software, and access controls that are intended to prevent unauthorized access, theft, or damage to digital assets, systems, and infrastructure.
    • Administrative: These controls manage and monitor security-related activities. Examples of administrative controls include policies and procedures, risk assessments, security awareness training, incident response plans, and audits. Ultimately, they are designed to ensure that security policies and procedures are in place and are being followed and that security incidents are detected and responded to appropriately.

    Common Security Tools

    Many tools are available to organizations that can help implement the above controls, often running processes automatically and reducing the manual labor of security teams. Ultimately, the types of tools you use will depend on the specific requirement of your organization, and in most cases, a combination of these tools will be most effective.

    • IT Infrastructure: Designed to help organizations protect their IT infrastructure, including servers, workstations, and network devices, common examples of IT infrastructure tools include firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, antivirus software, and vulnerability scanners.
    • Authentication: These tools are used to verify the identity of users and devices. Examples of authentication tools include passwords, two-factor or multi-factor authentication, biometric authentication, and single sign-on (SSO) solutions. These tools are important for preventing unauthorized access to IT systems and data.
    • User Training: Behavior training tools are used to educate employees and other users about security best practices. This includes training on topics such as password management, phishing scams, and data handling. By educating users on security risks and how to prevent them, organizations can reduce the risk of security incidents caused by human error.
    • Network Access: Used to manage and control access to a network, examples of network access tools include virtual private networks (VPNs), network access control (NAC) systems, and remote access tools. These tools help organizations ensure that only authorized users and devices can access their network and data.

    What Is Compliance?

    Having looked into the most common security measures organizations can implement, we are now able to examine compliance and the laws, regulations, standards, and guidelines that are relevant to a specific industry or business. Compliance is an essential aspect of risk management, as failure to comply can result in significant fines, legal consequences, reputational damage, and other negative consequences.

    The specific requirements for compliance vary depending on the industry and the laws and regulations that apply. For example, in the healthcare industry, compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is essential for protecting patient privacy and avoiding costly penalties. In the financial industry, compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) is necessary for ensuring accurate financial reporting and preventing fraud.

    Compliance is typically achieved through a combination of policies, procedures, and controls that are designed to meet the relevant legal and regulatory requirements. This includes things like data protection policies, data retention protocols, employee training programs, internal audits, and third-party assessments.

    It's important to note that compliance is a continuous process, and organizations must be vigilant in their efforts to evolve their policies over time. This includes staying up to date on changes to laws and regulations, assessing and managing risk, and regularly reviewing and updating compliance policies and procedures. By prioritizing compliance, organizations can minimize risk and ensure they meet their legal and ethical obligations.

    Types of Compliance

    Organizations may be subject to multiple compliance standards depending on their industry and specific requirements, and care should be taken to fully research and review compliance standards that may apply to your organization. Below, we cover a few examples of existing compliance standards:

    • HIPAA Compliance: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is a US federal law establishing privacy and security standards for protected health information (PHI). HIPAA compliance is essential for healthcare providers, health insurers, and any other entities that handle PHI.
    • NIST Compliance: The National Institute of Standards and Technology is a US government agency that develops and maintains cybersecurity standards and guidelines. NIST compliance is important for organizations that handle sensitive data, including government agencies and contractors.
    • PCI DSS Compliance: Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of security standards established by major credit card companies to protect against fraud and data breaches. PCI DSS compliance is essential for any organization that handles credit card information.
    • SOX Compliance: The Sarbanes-Oxley Act is a US federal law that establishes financial reporting and accounting standards for public companies. SOX compliance is essential for publicly traded companies in the United States.
    • ISO Compliance: The International Organization for Standardization develops and publishes international standards for various industries, including information security (ISO 27001) and quality management (ISO 9001). ISO compliance is often voluntary but can be important for demonstrating a commitment to quality and security best practices.
    • GDPR Compliance: The General Data Protection Regulation is a comprehensive data privacy regulation implemented by the European Union (EU) in 2018. The GDPR applies to all organizations that handle personal data of individuals in the EU, regardless of where the organization is based.

    Where Do Security & Compliance Intersect?

    Security and compliance intersect in several areas as both are critical components of a comprehensive risk management strategy. This means that while security is focused on protecting an organization's assets, such as its data, intellectual property, and physical infrastructure from internal and external threats, compliance focuses on meeting legal and regulatory requirements that apply to an organization's industry or operations. The two combine to support one another in achieving best practices for legal and ethical operations.

    For example, one key area where security and compliance intersect is risk management, and following Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) strategies, organizations can reduce the risk of security incidents and legal violations.

    Data protection is also an inextricable part of security and compliance, focusing on protecting sensitive data from unauthorized access and breaches. Security measures, such as firewalls, encryption, and access controls, are implemented to protect data from cyber threats, while compliance requirements, such as HIPAA or GDPR, establish specific guidelines for how data should be handled and protected.

    Finally, incident response is another area where security and compliance intersect. In the event of a security incident, compliance requirements often dictate how an organization must respond. Security incident response plans are essential for mitigating the impact of a breach and for meeting legal obligations related to data breaches.

    Best Practices: Security & Compliance

    Security compliance best practices come in a range of forms and, when followed correctly, can support your organization in both areas. This means organizations can establish a strong foundation for security and compliance. However, it's important to note that the specific practices required for each organization will depend on the nature of the business, industry, and operations. It's essential to regularly review and update security and compliance practices to ensure that they remain effective and relevant.

    Here, we look at a range of the most common security compliance best practices:

    • Conduct regular risk assessments to identify potential risks to your organization's security and compliance and develop a plan to mitigate them. Regularly assess and update your security measures and compliance practices as needed.
    • Develop and implement a comprehensive security policy that outlines your organization's approach to security, including access controls, data protection, incident response planning, and more.
    • Ensure that your organization is following all relevant compliance regulations for your industry and operations. Regularly review updates to regulations and ensure that your policies and practices remain compliant.
    • Provide regular training to employees on security best practices and compliance requirements. Ensure employees understand their role in protecting the organization's assets and complying with legal requirements.
    • Regularly monitor your organization's security and compliance practices to identify potential issues or areas for improvement. Conduct regular audits to ensure that security controls are in place and that compliance requirements are being met.
    • Implement security tools and technology, such as firewalls, antivirus software, and encryption, to help protect your organization's assets and meet compliance requirements.
    • Develop an incident response plan that outlines the steps your organization will take in the event of a security incident or data breach. Test the plan regularly to ensure that it is effective and up to date.

    Final Thoughts: Security & Compliance

    Security and compliance are both critical components of a comprehensive risk management strategy, and it is important for organizations to prioritize both security and compliance to protect their assets and meet legal obligations. Failure to do so can result in costly data breaches, regulatory fines, and reputational damage.

    To ensure effective security and compliance, organizations should regularly conduct risk assessments, implement a comprehensive security policy, follow compliance regulations, employ cybersecurity awareness training for employees, monitor and audit practices, use security tools and technology, and develop and test an incident response plan. Regularly reviewing and updating security and compliance practices is also essential to ensure their continued effectiveness.

    For more information on security and compliance, contact a member of Mimecast today and explore our resource center for the latest insights into the cybersecurity landscape.

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