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How To Leverage Compliance To Keep Your Organization Secure

I completely understand why you might not be too enthusiastic about compliance—regulations feel entirely burdensome. Having to worry about fines or violations from non-compliance would make a stomach churn.

But what most businesses don’t realize is that compliance regulations can actually be helpful in structuring an effective cybersecurity strategy for your organization.

First, they establish standards—a baseline of good practices—that organizations should plan on reaching to protect themselves from data breaches and ransomware attacks.

Second, they help hold your information security team accountable to actually implementing cybersecurity, making it difficult for criminals to breach your network.

There are a variety of security regulations that could keep your organization’s cybersecurity sound enough to prevent attacks. Whether your office needs to comply with HIPAA, PCI, NCUA, or any other compliance pressure, the truth is that implementation of security standards puts you heads above the lowest hanging fruit for cybercriminals.

What compliance means for most organizations in the private or public sectors is that cybersecurity standards are no longer a choice. If you’re not already preparing for cyberattacks, you will foul out with violations, fines and worst of all, a breached network.

That’s where compliance standards come in as a guiding framework for your security baseline. Whether or not oversight and regulations exist for your office, meeting standards that many organizations are already meeting is a good first step towards keeping your office safe from cybercrime (Note: most offices will at least confront PCI-DSS compliance, which has gotten more stringent in the past year).

With continued pursuits of security compliance and violations piling up, many regulators are willing to forgive past neglect or faults if they commit to improving their network security going forward. Effectively, they are more interested in you protecting your data, your team’s sensitive information, and your donors or client records from breaches and hacks.

What regulators—including Health and Human Services (if you fall within HIPAA)—want is to have organizations within their jurisdiction making sure businesses are trying to keep their data secure. That doesn’t necessarily mean doubling their investments in security for the most part. Rather, that means having good IT security hygiene throughout your network. One of the easiest ways to figure out if you’re even keeping up with minimum standards to keep you secure.

When you show progress—especially with strategic movement towards effective cybersecurity, you’re proving that you’re not only interested in protecting your staff and clients, but are willing to act to keep them safe.

On top of appeasing regulators, your organization certainly wants to avoid the downtime (often weeks) faced when confronted with a cybersecurity event. That’s not to mention forensic investigations, breach notifications and reputation losses associated with cyber breaches or attacks—which for a small organization could total more than your annual gross income.

Let me be clear. Keeping compliant is a good step in the right direction. But compliance DOES NOT equal security.

If you get an annual review of your security compliance, great! But what I want to be clear on is that compliance and cybersecurity are NOT one and the same. Most compliance guidelines have been published years ago. Cybercrime has evolved even in the last week. Your security gap is widening even if you are keeping compliant, simply because it’s extremely difficult for compliance regulations to keep up with actual threats faced today.

Don’t get me wrong—security risk assessments are not a bad thing (you’re required to get one annually for HIPAA), but getting a second opinion that understands and is able to identify technical and not so technical issues within your network—through a network security assessment is an even better way to keep your network secure.

And there is a strong precedent for building successful compliance and safety at your office: occupational health and safety regulations have been engrained in company cultures for decades now.

Thanks to regulations, compliance officers and ever improving methods to communicate and focus on understanding and adoption of best practices, workforces have nearly eliminated major risks to employee health in the workplace. The same methods would really help an organization’s cybersecurity practices.

The good news? Standardization and best practices are already keeping businesses secure and team members safe from cybercrime (including identity theft). Strong cultures focused on awareness, implementation of effective technical solutions and maintenance on networks to make sure bugs found by developers—like Microsoft—are patched up and not a problem.

The bottom line? Compliance doesn’t have to be a headache and is not the same as cybersecurity. BUT, cybersecurity practices certainly will help you achieve compliance.

From 1 to 10, how would you rank your office’s cybersecurity? If you’re below a 9, there’s definitely room for improvement and most of the fixes are likely not going to cost you an arm or a leg to get right. Contact us today for a free network security assessment to find where and how to specifically improve.

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