Everything You Need to Know About Cybersecurity Policy Compliance

Published by Right-Hand Cybersecurity on September 14, 2020

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An organization is vicariously responsible for any act, omission or wrongdoing of an employee committed during the course of their employment. Hence, it is imperative for an organization to take steps to prevent such wrongdoings. Your organization should only claim to hold employees accountable for data breach incidents after you’ve provided them with education and a solid compliance program.

On the other hand, we understand that setting up Cybersecurity Compliance can feel like an enormous task with no clear starting point. It might also be intimidating to know that your goal is nothing short of securing your company’s most valuable asset, namely data. 

In this guide to Cybersecurity Compliance, we put together all the information you need to establish your next steps towards cyber compliance.

What we will cover:

How Important is Cybersecurity Compliance?

Picture the worst case scenario: one of your employees clicked on a phishing link a few weeks ago, and that snowballed into a full-on data breach of all your customers’ sensitive data. The regulatory agencies that monitor your industry come knocking on your door, and upon inspection, they conclude that your compliance policies did not include procedures meant to enforce cyber-awareness of phishing links. 

You now have to bear the cost of lost reputation, damages to your customers for a breach of their confidentiality, and a fine from the authorities. Concise compliance policies should be the first brick you lay in your cybersecurity foundation. A full set of compliance policies also enables you to gain the trust of big-name clients and government agencies who usually engage vendors that abide by strict compliance regulations. 

Also, consider the price of non-compliance in terms of lost revenue and additional expenses from successful cyber attacks.

Think of cybersecurity compliance as an on-going organizational process that should act like a reactive response to cyber threats and that protects employees, brand integrity and reputation.covid cybersecurity free ebook

The Importance of Compliance for SMEs

Cybercriminals aren’t the type to sit around and wait for their fortunes. According to Security Magazine, Verizon reported:

The growing number of small and medium-sized businesses using cloud- and web-based applications and tools has made them prime targets for cyber-attackers,

 

Small to medium businesses often perceive themselves as unlikely targets, but at this time you might have understood that any company that holds data becomes a target for cybercriminals. 

TechNative reported:

In he UK during 2018, 43% of cyber attacks targeted small businesses, and 60% of SMEs went out of business in the first six months after experiencing a cyber attack.

 

SMEs’s cyber defense systems often have fewer resources, so put yourself in the mind of an attacker. Wouldn’t you think it’s easier to invade a system outside of an enterprise’s thick security walls?

Compliance Beyond Audits

People make up the core of all compliance practices, not checklists or lengthy paperwork. Train your teams well to avoid non-compliance and they’ll be your best defense against the attacks you plan to prevent with your compliance policies. It may sound obvious now, but most companies don’t factor in the human element when they build their compliance policies. 

It can be tempting to treat compliance policies like a checklist, but the reality is that compliance policies are like High Performance Sports Cars. They constantly need to be fine-tuned, maintained, and monitored for performance and precision. A compliance policy that manages to pass an internal audit but fails to prevent an actual data breach is not much of a defensive measure, and this is where risk assessments come in. 

A report from CSHub.com points out:

A famous approach used in product development is that launch is a process, not an event. The spirit of that message is important for security leaders to consider in building a sustainable business case for compliance. Compliance should be viewed as a continuous, organizational process.

 

How does Cybersecurity Compliance Work?

Cybersecurity Compliance is a thorough adherence to certain rules, as well as meeting strict legal requirements that differ for various industries. The end-goal of compliance is to direct your company’s policies towards mitigating existing cyber threats, as well as monitoring potential threats that might crop up in future. 

That said, there is no cookie-cutter way of running solid Cybersecurity Compliance. A single industry can have dozens of regulations, so approaching compliance with a predetermined checklist will not be enough. Businesses should think of compliance as an essential part of educating employees to navigate through possible risks, and therefore having their workforce as an important line of defense against cybercrimes. 

The Healthcare industry provides a good example to illustrate this point. Because of the sensitive nature of patients’ medical information, healthcare providers need to adhere to strict legal requirements that enforce high standards of cybersecurity. Just imagine the chaos that would ensue if a hospital’s lacklustre compliance policies enabled cybercriminals to steal hundreds, if not thousands, of sensitive medical records!

How to Define a Cybersecurity Policy?

The aim is to lay out relevant direction and value to the individuals within an organization with regard to security. Keep in mind the following core reasons why your organization should have information security policies while you write out your own documents:

  • Formulate  IT policies that are important and relevant to your company and industry;
  • Emphasize what is expected of an organization’s employees from all levels;
  • Specify solid policy documents for employees which include awareness initiatives so your employees know the “whys” and “hows”; 
  • Provide direction upon which a control framework can be built to guard against external and internal threats;
  • Build a mechanism to hold employees accountable for compliance with regard to information security;
  • Explain how you will measure different policies’ enforcement;

Who is responsible for creating security policies?

The IT department, often the IT Manager, CIO or CISO, is usually responsible for all cybersecurity policies. Other stakeholders, like legal personnel, usually contribute to the policy, depending on their expertise and roles within the organization. Below are the key stakeholders who are likely to participate in policy creation and their roles:

  • C-Suite Executives — They define the key business needs that cybersecurity policies should serve, as well as the resources available to support the policy’s deployment and enforcement.
  • The Legal Department — They ensure that policies meet legal requirements and comply with government regulations.
  • The HR Department — They are responsible for explaining and enforcing employee policies. HR personnel ensure policy awareness, and discipline those who violate it.
  • Procurement Department — They are responsible for vetting cloud services vendors, managing cloud services contracts, and vetting other relevant service providers.

How to Enforce Policies?

The first step is to put yourself in the shoes of your employees. Look across your organization and ask yourself whether your policies can be applied fairly to everyone. If not, it’s time to start drafting new ones. Your policies must be able to clearly guide and govern employee behavior. 

If the policy is not enforced, then employee behavior is not directed into productive and secure practices. This results in greater risk for your organization. Users need to be exposed to security policies several times before the real message sinks in deep enough to translate into positive behavior change. Once you have crafted a strong set of policies, state clearly  how you will measure behavior improvement and policy enforcement. 

How to Measure Compliance Effectiveness?

The ability to measure effectiveness is one of the most important aspects of a compliance program. The ultimate way to analyse if employees are adhering to a certain policy is to evaluate behavior improvement by checking if you had any data breach or cyber incident related to non compliance.

However, during the process of enforcing a policy, you should be able to assess how much your employees are aware of the important policies in your company. Simple steps to achieve this are:

  • Visualize if your employees can access your policies easily.
  • Track if they’ve opened the document and read through it.
  • Have they understood the content and importance of the policy? Run assessments to test their understanding.
  • Analyse assessments results.
  • Run smart training sessions about each policy to reinforce their message. The more uncomplicated and gamified a training is, the more engaged employees will be.

Wondering how to achieve all these bullets? There are Saas products out there to help you. The best tool will be the one that provides you with all the intelligence and automation you need.

How to Automate Policy Compliance Processes?

With each new defense system and compliance program being added into a company’s cybersecurity efforts, IT managers and CISOs must find a way to sieve through the lengthy and repetitive tasks that often keep them away from paying attention to real vulnerabilities or risks.

The easiest way to automate policy compliance processes is to count on smart solutions that bring the latest technology to make your job easier. During the process of enforcing a policy, you can count on Saas tools to help you monitor each separate piece of your compliance program. The more boxes a solution ticks for you, the easier your job will be.

Machine Learning is one of the best engines to help you through the way - from creating the best policy template  to generating customized training that will drive more effective employee awareness.  By using Machine Learning and its smart mechanisms, you will be able to save your team’s most valuable assets - time, money and resources.

Human-Centric Approach to Compliance

Even the best policies can run a business down if the right people don’t do their part to put them into practice. You can’t ‘program’ employees to always avoid accidental digital mistakes, which is why adopting a people-centric approach to cybersecurity culture is so important. 

Instead of using fear to intimidate your employees, make engaging cybersecurity awareness training a part of your compliance planning. We at Right-Hand Cybersecurity know that humans are often viewed as the weakest link in cybersecurity, but that’s mostly because conventional cybersecurity doesn’t take into account the ‘human touch’. 

Building Compliance That’ll Better Help Your Business

After speaking with Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) leaders, we’ve learned and summarised several challenges that organisations face which makes achieving corporate compliance much more difficult.

  • Policy Development — Creating a new policy from scratch is time consuming, and the thought of, ‘what am I forgetting?’ is enough to keep a GRC team up at night. GRC leaders recognise that while templates and frameworks can be leveraged for simplification, corporate policies should be customised to an organization’s industry, geographical location, risk assessment, organisational hierarchy, and other factors.
  • Policy Storage and Dissemination — Many organisations store corporate policies on an internal Intranet site, Google Drive, Wiki Page, or distribute them via email. But how does the GRC team know if those policies are being read?
  • Policy Awareness — If ensuring employees read a policy is a concern, then measuring the understanding and awareness of each policy would be near impossible. In many cases, organisations rely on users to check a box stating that they’ve read and understood the policy.
  • Behaviour Change — Quantifying user change in behaviour over time, as a result of a corporate policy is perhaps the most challenging of all, given the policy volume that most organisations institute. A common theme from GRC leaders was that they prioritise which policies address the highest risks, then focus on measuring behaviour change for those first.

Introducing Compliance Readiness, By Right-Hand Cybersecurity! 

Given these challenges persisting across the Compliance spectrum, Right-Hand has built a solution, called Compliance Readiness, to tackle these items for Governance, Risk and Compliance leaders.

What does Compliance Readiness do? It makes your job easier!  

In summary, Compliance Readiness’s Machine Learning engine automates and customises the ability for GRC teams to develop, store, disseminate, increase awareness and drive behaviour change for corporate policies. Our aim is for Compliance Readiness to save GRC teams:

  • Time — using our library with +100 customizable policy templates
  • Money — failing an audit or the impact of a human induced breach
  • Resources — let your Machine Learning engine manually driving compliance efforts in house

We’d love to show you just how easy it can be!

compliance readiness free demo