IT Security vs. Compliance: What sets them apart, and what brings them together?

 In Cloud, Compliance, Multi-cloud, Security

No business can ignore the grave risks of cyber-attacks. As per the CISCO Annual Cyber-Security Report, 33% of breached organizations reported that more than 20% lost revenue, and 20% lost customers. Also, as a business, whether you are storing patient records or processing customer credit-card data, adherence to compliance-standards is mandatory, involving a lengthy, complex, expensive, and sometimes frustrating process. In this blog, we examine the relationship between Security and Compliance, their differences, and points of convergence.

Security and Compliance: Understanding the Differences

Security includes the system of policies, processes, and technical controls that define how your organization stores, processes, consumes and distributes data so that it is effectively and verifiably protected from cyber-threats. Compliance is a point-in-time snapshot that demonstrates that the organization meets the minimum, security-related requirements of specific regulatory standards such as PCI-DSS, SOX, GDPR, FISMA, or HIPAA. Compliance requirements change slowly and predictably, while the security and threat landscape is in a perpetual state of change. Compliance should be seen as a means to an end – an effective way to be secured – and not the other way around.

Common Mistakes in the journey to be Secured and Compliant

The CheckBox Approach

Implementing solutions that simply check those compliance boxes won’t cover all your security needs and can leave your precious data and systems without adequate protection. To be secure as well as compliant, you need a holistic, Information Security Management System (ISMS) approach that links your controls into a comprehensive framework. The answer does not lie in regulatory standards alone – they can’t provide this framework no matter how prescriptive they are.

Putting Compliance before Security

It could be tempting to try to solve the challenges as quickly and cheaply as possible by “worrying about security later.” However, putting compliance before security puts the proverbial cart before the horse. Robust, cost-effective, and streamlined compliance is a direct consequence of an effective security strategy—not its foundation. Aim for security, and you’ll land in compliance every time, but aim for compliance, and you could land far away from a secure place.

Aiming for the “bare minimum” Cloud Security

With the constant evolution of how data is managed in the cloud, the definition of “being secure” at an operational level continues to change. Often, the only guidelines for organizations are compliance standards (e.g. PCI, HIPAA, GDPR) dictated by various governmental and private institutions. While adhering to these standards is essential to remaining operationally viable, they only provide a framework for the minimum amount of protection needed for data to be considered “secure.” Limiting cloud security to the bare minimum is a recipe for disaster. Cyber threats continue to evolve at an explosive pace, so restricting your defenses to a checklist of mandated controls is not enough. So, instead of taking a myopic view of compliance, you should consider how your security program is continuously protecting you from data breaches. Every data-driven organization should have the same goal: compliance as the outcome of an effective cloud security program, not its driver.

Where Security and Compliance Converge?

Security and compliance aim for the same goal – effectively managing risk. This is the reason both groups exist, and that shared goal should inspire a combined effort to achieve it. Both your security and compliance teams need to work together to design, establish, and enforce controls.

IT security and compliance in the digital business era are increasing in complexity. Organizations should give up the static, binary “allow or block” decisions of the past. Instead use more context, visibility, and intelligence for continuous security and compliance decision making.

Abid Ali
Senior Director, Product Marketing
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