For Cyber Security, Use "Security-First" to Approach Compliance

Think security-first when approaching compliance to data regulations. It will save you time, money and effort if you are concerned about cyber risk.

All businesses worry about data security, yet many find the fear-mongering paralyzing. Yes, a data security breach can financially and reputationally cripple a business. Yes, more state, federal, and international governing bodies add compliance requirements every year.  As a business owner, your problem isn't a lack of awareness but a lack of resources. Compliance standards and regulations attempt to establish best practices for data security. Using a security-first approach to compliance gives strengthens your information stance while easing your compliance burden.

Security-first means starting with your own risk assessment and choosing appropriate controls both to minimize risk and to meet compliance requirements.

What are the data breach risks facing my small/medium business?

As businesses of all sizes face increasing threats of data breaches, the importance of applying a security-first approach to cybersecurity compliance becomes more important than ever. According to the 2018 Ponemon Data Breach Cost report, the average cost per stolen data record was $148 and the likelihood of a recurring material breach over the next two years was 27.9%.

The 2018 Verizon Data Breach Investigations report shared even more concerning information that outsiders accounted for 73% of data breaches and organized crime groups committed 50% of all breaches. These organizations clearly targeted companies who identify as small businesses with 58% of the breaches impacting that group.

What are the new data security regulatory requirements facing my business?

Small businesses focus on security to protect themselves from a data breach. However, a security-first compliance approach protects your data and eases compliance costs. Between 2017 and 2018, three key data security regulations presented all businesses with increased penalties for cybersecurity noncompliance.. The New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) Cybersecurity Regulation requires full compliance by March 1, 2019. The European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) enforcement date of May 25, 2018, threw companies across the globe into a compliance tizzy. Finally, the California legislature passed the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 in late June.

What is a compliance-first approach?

You probably use a compliance-first approach for most of your non-IT compliance activities. A compliance-first approach uses the regulations and standards to drive decisions.

For example, a doctor's office typically accepts co-payments at the time of service. A practice that takes a compliance-first approach would start with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). If you use a compliance-first approach, you might start by reviewing HIPAA, then create protections based on its requirements. Next, you move on to PCI DSS and create protections based on that standard.

Both standards require a firewall to protect your data environment. Using compliance first, you go through two long checklists separately, both of which require a firewall. Since both require the same firewall, the compliance-first becomes increasingly time-consuming as you add more compliance requirements to your business.

What is a security-first approach to compliance?

Most standards and regulations exist to create a unified approach to security. While many exist, their best practices often overlap. The approach that you start by locking down your information. This acts as the most efficient way, as well as most secure way, to comply with the variety of requirements.

In other words, you don't need to go cross-eyed by looking at the different standards and trying to cross-reference them. You need to focus on where you store data and how you send your information, then find ways to protect it from malicious actors. Once you do this, you can check off all the compliance boxes you need.

Why security-first is a better approach

Another primary difference between cybersecurity compliance and traditional compliance lies in the continuous evolution of threats. Malicious actors don't stop when one security flaw is fixed; they try to find new ways into your systems and networks.

Records retention requirements provide a perfect example of how security-first allows you greater security while maintaining a stronger compliance approach. A typical records retention compliance standard discusses the length of time you maintain records, often five years.

A compliance first approach creates a policy, states the time requirement, stores records for the time period, and schedules deletion, but it ignores your data’s security. A security-first approach to records retention focuses on protecting the stored data by discussing vendor management, data encryption of stored information, endpoint encryption for devices accessing the data, and user authentication for accessing the data.

Records retention means not just keeping the records, but protecting the records' ongoing integrity, accessibility, and privacy. While security-first focuses on protecting data, Compliance-first focuses on static requirements that can become outdated quickly.  If a malicious actor finds a vulnerability in a compliance-required firewall, it no longer secures your information. You're compliant but not secure.

How continuous monitoring enables a strong compliance posture

All compliance relies on the governance-risk-compliance triad (GRC). As companies scale, governance becomes more difficult in the information security area.

A lawyer, for example, may start out alone with a single computer. Tracking notifications from her anti-malware is annoying but easy. As her business grows, she adds a paralegal. The lawyer and paralegal must respond to alerts on their individual computers. Again, annoying but not time-consuming. As that business scales, the attorney adds another attorney and an administrative assistant.

The number of client files increases. The small business quadruples in employee size. Four employees means four computers and four mobile phones, possibly four tablets, within the physical office. Most likely, the attorney now uses a cloud storage solution since the number of files and users requires additional data access. If employees work at home, the firm increases the number of data access locations even further.

Protecting the information, devices, and access points can become burdensome for the individuals. They start to ignore notifications, the data protections lag. A breach occurs. The firm's reputation and finances suffer.

Governance over the information security for this seemingly reasonable data environment failed. Continuous monitoring became impossible because the firm trusted people to update devices and secure data but had no ability to verify.

Continuous monitoring of vulnerabilities provides better governance over your security that protects your data, business, and customers.

How to use automation to enable continuous monitoring and governance

Not all businesses need or can afford a full-time chief information security officer. However, all businesses need a solution that helps them maintain a security-first approach to data protection and cybersecurity compliance.

Automation increasingly provides cost-effective security-first solutions to the compliance problems facing growing organizations. As a small- or medium-sized business, your first concern is financial stability. Financial stability, today, needs to include a data security process as record values and breach costs increase.

Automation provides new solutions for businesses. While large business can often easily implement expensive solutions, small- and medium-sized businesses find themselves priced out of the market.

How Zeguro can help your business

Zeguro helps your business by providing a cost-effective continuous monitoring solution that allows you to start with security and then review your environment for compliance gaps.

Our automated approach begins by assessing the threats to your environment and helping you prioritize the most significant ones. If we detect a risk to your business that a technology can help mitigate, we can suggest a technology. This process saves time and money by doing the research for you based on best-practices and vendor management research.

A primary compliance stress for small- and medium-sized business comes from connecting to cloud service providers. Most regulations and standards now incorporate the need to personalize data solutions rather than use vendor defined passwords and capabilities. However, if your business can't sustain an ongoing information technology employee headcount, then you may not be setting up your services in the most secure, compliant manner. Zeguro helps you create the right security and compliance across your cloud services platforms and data solutions.

By securing your environment first, you can better protect your information and maintain a stronger compliance stance to enhance your business partnerships.

For more information about Zeguro’s automated cyber risk monitoring and compliance capabilities, contact us.

Zeguro is a cyber safety solution and insurance provider for small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs), offering a comprehensive suite of tools for risk mitigation and compliance, as well as insurance premiums that are tailored to the size, sector and profile of a company.
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Karen Walsh
Written by

Karen Walsh

Contributing Editor

14 years internal audit experience.; award-winning writing professor. Cybersecurity writer focused on compliance and end-user awareness.

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