22nd September, 2021
TABLE OF CONTENTS
It is imperative for companies to go through compliance audits. Passing compliance audits give a clean ranking, and it also tells about the rules that have been broken.
Companies must take all measures to protect their consumer and employee data. Audits are an excellent way to know if you are compliant with the laws that govern these measures in the absence of which you may be fined.
In some cases, there are chances of lawsuits. That's why companies need to follow the standards set by compliance audit authorities.
An IT compliance audit does an independent evaluation of your organization's cybersecurity tools, practices, and policies. An audit will confirm whether you meet certain requirements, regulations, and laws that are expected by the certification body or an organization that designs the standards.
To conduct an audit in your organization, you need to get in touch with the relevant IT compliance auditing body, pay for the audit and provide all the necessary information required for evaluation.
In addition, all the compliance certifications have an expiry date, so you need to repeat the processes periodically to reaffirm compliance at your organization.
Customers need a clean sheet. Your customers care about their data and want the vendors to follow the standards or protocols to secure their information.
So passing a compliance audit is giving assurance that your company is compliant and taking all the measures to prevent data breaches.
A report from an independent auditing body gives customers assurance that their personal information and data are secure and safe in your company. It gives them the freedom to share data without worrying about any breaches.
It is mandatory to follow your industry-specific laws and regulations. If your business is collecting personal information, it is essential to follow the local norms regarding consumer data.
For example, GDPR has a certain specific view on what constitutes personal data, so the companies need to have the same level of protection about an individual's IP address or their cookie data as they do for name, address and phone numbers.
You will have a competitive advantage. There are plenty of vendors in the market, and for your clients to select you over them, you need to provide surety that they don't provide. According to a cybersecurity report by CISCO, 53% of respondents strongly agree with improving security practices regularly.
Even if you are a startup with just a couple of employees, doing an IT compliance audit can give you a competitive edge and make you the first choice among similar startups that haven't done an audit yet.
You can get attested by your auditors. For example, suppose you are carrying an audit from a public accounting firm registered with the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) in the USA. In that case, your customers can be assured that your auditor will conduct the strictest of auditing standards.
If you have any publicly held customers, this audit carried over by a PCAOB CPA firm can give their auditors the assurance that they need while relying on your audit report.
Stay protected from cyber attacks. Billions of records have been compromised in cyber attacks. Since all companies collect data in some form today, they can be targets for attackers. A compliance audit helps you and your customers from data breaches.
While conducting an audit, you can learn more about cybersecurity norms and IT compliance and what it means to your organization.
While you are preparing for an audit, you understand and establish the controls more accurately and make your organization ready for audits in the future.
Even though you may be new to audits, it's important to have wide knowledge about the regulatory compliance that exists and what they mean.
Here is a list of the most common compliance audits that you may need for your organization.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was passed in 1996 to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient's consent or knowledge.
HIPAA covers the following businesses:
Health care cleaning services
Any healthcare provider who stores health information
If you fall in any of these business types, you must ensure the data is secured and managed correctly. Health data should be physically and technically secured with administrative safeguards.
If there is a breach, you can be fined millions of dollars depending on the negligence. A HIPAA audit can also provide patients with the assurance that their information is secure and confidential.
PCI compliance is a set of regulations that ensure that all companies that accept, process, store, or transmit credit card data maintain a secure environment to protect it.
Before 2006 there was no clear industry standard for credit card companies, which was a problem for companies that deal with big data because they had to follow different standards.
The DSS component of this audit is a set of regulations that anyone that has to follow PCI compliance is subject to.
In 2006, Visa, MasterCard, Discover, JCB International, and American Express (AMEX) came up with the PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSS) to help regulate the credit card industry and establish clear operating guidelines for how consumer credit card information should be handled.
These standards apply to any organization working towards processing payment cards or creating the infrastructure to process payments.
To ensure your organization remains compliant, you must:
Evaluate your business processes to identify any gaps in security that could lead to a data breach.
Do not store any sensitive information about your customers.
If your company is found non-compliant with these rules, you could receive a fine of up to $100,000 per month.
SOC 2 is a compliance audit defined by the and is an accepted standard of current technology companies. Its main focus is being able to store customer data, and it applies to service providers who use the cloud. These companies are required to be SOC 2 compliant due to their strict policies and procedures.
To get SOC 2 compliance, most companies spend six months to a year doing things like assessing their policies and procedures and implementing new security controls. Its first and foremost priorities are security, confidentiality, privacy, availability, and data integrity.
There are two SOC 2 audits. SOC 2 Type I checks that vendor's systems are properly designed, and SOC 2 Type II checks for the effectiveness of vendors' operating systems. These typically last for six months the first time around.
The ISO compliance audit is part of the ISO/IEC 27K Series and is an information security compliance standard. This standard helps companies manage and develop a high level of protection for their critical data such as employee or third-party data, financial information, and intellectual property.
Both the SOC 2 and the ISO 27001 certifications are risk management processes that involve people, processes, and technology. The certification requires an independent auditor to assess the company's security controls and to ensure that the risks are being appropriately mitigated.
ISO works to promote standards that align with the business practices of over 160 countries. This helps to resolve any disagreement between businesses in the same industry.
One thing to remember about ISO is there's a difference between being compliant and being certified. You can choose to be compliant without going through an audit, but if you want certification, you'll need to go through a long process.
In order to meet ISO standards, you'll need to do a longer external audit by a third party. This is voluntary, but if you get certified, then there are benefits in terms of customer trust and satisfaction.
The EU’s GDPR is one of the most comprehensive government-imposed data privacy frameworks implemented to date. It went into effect in May 2018 and is meant to protect the data privacy of EU citizens. However, this regulation doesn't just apply to European companies; it's for anyone who processes the data of European citizens.
Today, GDPR auditing is mainly self-driven and follows a four-step process:
Planning: This plan will be systematic and methodical. It will follow the law’s requirements to outline all key processes and improvements.
Gap analysis: Locate any gaps in your company's processes
Remedy gaps: Prioritise and rank the three key areas based on their associated risk level.
Test new processes: After the remediation is complete, assess the efficiency of new processes that were put into place.
Like HIPAA violations, a GDPR violation can come with a hefty fine. If you're in breach of these regulations, companies can be fined 4% of their global revenue or 20 million euros-whatever the higher figure is. In addition, the data subjects have the right to seek compensation for damages.
If your company deals with the processing of EU citizen's data, whether that's in the context of an identifiable citizen or resident, a company that gives or processes data to EU citizens or residents, or a company that operates in the EU, then it's likely going to need to be GDPR compliant.
Compile IT regulations: First, you need to figure out which are standards that you must comply with. Pay close attention to the obligatory and the non-obligatory regulations as both of them can benefit your company.
Getting an ISO 27001 implementation is not mandatory, but there is a growing demand among customers for this certification every year.
Appoint Data Protection Officer: You should appoint a data protection officer who will monitor all the protection measures you have implemented in your organization, studies what are the security requirements you need, and is responsible for implementing them. The GDPR and PCI DSS require organizations to appoint an employee to maintain compliance.
Carryover risk assessment: A risk assessment is a systematic examination and analysis of the potential dangers, threats, or risks. The potential consequences and the likelihood that they will concern you are assessed. During a risk assessment, it's important to identify:
Cybersecurity risks and threats to your organization
Assets that are important to your organization that are subjected to compliance
The current level of protection and strength & weaknesses your systems have
A risk assessment helps you map the state of your cybersecurity, and furthermore, it puts a number on the risks, allowing you to analyze how they may harm your organization. Thus, it should be repeated periodically.
The results from a risk assessment will be useful for planning security improvements as well as for designing new policies and strategies.
Conduct an internal self-audit regularly: A self-audit is an assessment of the security of your implemented controls. It won't tell you how good your security is, but it will show any gaps in compliance. A self-audit is also useful for preparing your employees for an actual IT audit.
Use an official IT compliance audit checklist and guidelines to conduct a self-audit and make it look more like a real audit.
One large downside to self-audits is the high cost, both in terms of money and time. However, the cost of discovering gaps in cybersecurity during an audit is even higher: failing the audit and starting over.
Implement the lacking controls: As a result of our self-audit, you found the policies, practices, and technical controls we need to implement to pass out IT audits. Now it's time to take action and implement them.
Most regulations, standards, and laws require you to implement tools such as identity management, access control, user activity monitoring, and breach notification.
Implement an IT audit trail: A complete IT audit trail means that you have a full record of all the activities that involve sensitive data, your databases, or any other part of your infrastructure. Then, when it is time to do a compliance and security audit, the IT auditor will be able to examine how your employees handle these sensitive resources and is an essential component of any compliance and security audit.
Logging an audit trail can generate a lot of data, but this is useful for security monitoring and incident investigation. The generated logs identify any security incidents and identify the threat source.
Ensure you have a user activity monitoring system in place that records all user actions and stores them in a secure system. Monitoring records are helpful during forensic investigation activities.
Create a long-term compliance strategy: A compliance audit is a process that ensures your organization stays compliant. That's why it's essential to create a compliance strategy — a set of internal policies and procedures that will help you stay on the right side of the law.
It is important to make a plan that takes into account the workflow from all of the different departments affected by this. For this reason, you should work closely with the leaders of each department to hear their input and suggestions.
Once your compliance strategy is complete, it's important to assign people responsible for its implementation. Sometimes this work is managed by a data protection officer or chief security information officer.
Automate all the compliance-related information: To achieve compliance, some tasks must be done manually: reviewing policies and investigating security incidents. Automating the process can reduce compliance overhead, save time for audit preparation and minimize the risk of errors.
Automation is beneficial for large organizations that have to pass several IT compliance audits annually.
Raise awareness about compliance among employees: When an audit is required, it often means employees have to change the way they work. This can be difficult, but they must understand their responsibilities and practices.
To help employees understand their role in the audit process, you can:
Explain how data leaks and failed audits can impact your organization
Share news on security breaches in your industry
Conduct cybersecurity training
Communicate the importance of new security controls
Describe the outcome of non-compliance.
Your objective here is to undertake a cybersecurity audit and create an awareness of the importance of this.
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