Modern businesses face many challenges, not the least of which are associated with compliance. In theory, compliance regulations should help companies increase their cyber security and speed up the integration of best practices into their workflow.
But in reality, trying to pass cyber security compliance audit can be quite confusing and overwhelming for many companies. While trying to meet existing regulatory standards, new regulations constantly get introduced, the cost of security software goes up, not to mention consulting fees.
However, the way out from any dire situation lies in careful preparation and smart planning. By breaking your compliance tasks into manageable chunks, prioritizing them based on your bottom line and automating them, you will be able to not only achieve full compliance, but also up your security and productivity.
First of many steps of cyber security audit is a formulation of effective and coherent compliance policy. To start with, you need to assess current state of compliance in your company. There are several methods that you can use for this.
First, self-audit is a great way to both identify gaps in your compliance, as well as weak points when it comes to your documentation and reporting. Self-audits allow you to refine compliance procedures that are already in place, as well as help to your staff to prepare for IT compliance audit that may be heading your way. However, the one big drawbacks to self-audits is their rather high cost, both in terms of money and human resources.
Risk assessment is something that can be conducted much more often, and also proves more useful in a practical way. Risk assessment allows you to:
- Identify all the critical assets that are subject to compliance regulations
- Identify the major threats that your company faces
- Identify your current level of protection, weak and strong suits of your defenses
It provides you with an accurate state of you cyber security and gives you an understanding of the threats your company faces. More importantly, it also puts a number on those problems, allowing you to analyze how exactly they affect your bottom line.
Things such as potential fines for failing to pass IT compliance audit, potential data breaches, unoptimized, inefficient, or even missing processes, etc., all can have adverse effects on your profits. Risk assessment allows you to identify where your company losing the most and form your cyber security and compliance strategy accordingly.
Forming and managing a unified compliance strategy
Once everything that needs to be added or fixed has been identified, it is only the matter of correctly prioritizing it and forming a singular long-term compliance strategy. It is important that such strategy is formed with a deep understanding of the workflow of each affected department, so as to not have an adverse effect on established an already effective processes. Therefore, it is necessary to work closely with leaders of all departments, allowing them to provide direct input and suggestions.
Large companies may even consider forming different compliance strategies per each individual department, with a single company-wide guideline serving as a baseline.
Once your compliance strategy is complete, it is important to assign people responsible for its implementation. For small companies, for example, it can be a single employee, while large enterprises should form a proper department that will overview all compliance efforts within the organization. It is also best to consolidate compliance management so as to minimize any potential overhead. Assigning handling of different regulations to different people or different teams can produce conflicting results, adversely affecting established workflow within the company.
Depending on the size of your business, you almost always want to automate certain manual processes. Automation allows to increase productivity, reduce overhead and often simply provides a better way to organize your work. What’s more important is that any automated business processes with an end-to-end control can make compliance much easier. All that is needed is the ability to produce centralized reports.
When it comes to IT audits and compliance, auditor doesn’t care that much about the measures you implemented and how they work. Instead, what is much more important is your ability to demonstrate that those measures actually work and produce desired results. This is why centralized reporting is a key when it comes to compliance.
Moreover, while each compliance regulation deals with different problems and requires different sets of actions, there are certain security solutions, that are almost uniformly required by various regulations dealing with data security, such as PCI, SOX, HIPAA, NERC, FISMA, and many others. These are network security, access management and user monitoring solutions that allow you to both protect your sensitive data from intruders as well as fully control legitimate access. When choosing such solutions, it is also necessary to make sure that centralized reporting is available, thus allowing you to gather full audit trail for any event.
User monitoring and compliance
As mentioned above, access control and user action monitoring are a part of many compliance regulations, affecting almost every business that deals with sensitive personal data, such as financial or healthcare information. This covers almost any companies that store financial information to process payments, meaning that most businesses out there are affected. However, while other security measures, such as implementing network security, are universally regarded as necessary, and you would be hard pressed to find a company that doesn’t use anti-viruses and firewalls, not everybody chooses to employ specialized access control and user action monitoring solutions.
Leading reasons to skip on those solutions are their high costs and complex deployment procedures that often require changes to existing infrastructure, which can also prove quite costly in and of itself. However, the reality is that it is much easier to achieve compliance and protect your data by using solutions, specifically designed to do just that.
Access management solutions allow you to control who exactly accesses sensitive data and at what time. They often allow to easily manage a level of privilege user gets, and their scope of access. More importantly, they allow to clearly distinguish between shared account users, and also often provide a temporary access functionality, facilitating the principle of least privilege.
User action monitoring software allows to determine what exactly users did during the sessions. They allow you to see all user actions in their original context, thus providing an ability to quickly determine any breaches or misuse. And while many solutions out there provide some logging capabilities, these features are often fairly limited in scope, not to mention the fact that privilege users can easily turn off or alter such logs. Only specialized user action monitoring software is capable of producing reliable audit trail for any user, regardless of the level of privilege they have.
Both access management and user monitoring are intertwined, and you would often find solutions that implement both of those functionalities, albeit with a larger focus on a single one. And while many of them are quite expensive and hard to deploy, there are always options on the market for both small and large companies alike.
Ekran system – user action monitoring solution to meet compliance
One of such affordable user action monitoring solutions that can make compliance easier for both SMB and large enterprises is Ekran System. Flexible licensing scheme, that Ekran System uses, is specifically designed to make deployment cost-effective for businesses of any size, with the cost of Standard license being based only on the number of monitored endpoints. It provides an easy deployment and maintenance, without any need to make changes to your existing infrastructure.
Ekran System helps users meet PCI, HIPAA, SOX, NERC, FISMA, GLBA, FFIEC and FERPA IT security requirements when it comes to monitoring user actions. It can be installed on every endpoint that needs to be monitored, or on a single jump server, thus monitoring every connection routed through it. While the former allows to gather more information on each individual session, the latter may allow for even more cost-effective deployment.
Monitoring all user actions – Ekran System can monitor all user actions regardless of the level of user privilege, applications, or network protocols used. It can also successfully monitor actions of any remote users. Ekran System produces full video recordings of every user session, coupled with relevant meta-data, such as names of opened applications or visited websites, allowing you to easily search and replay any particular incident.
Basic Access control – Ekran System employs additional authentication functionality, primarily designed to allow for identification between users of a shared account. Apart from that, Enterprise version of Ekran System includes one-time password functionality, allowing system administrators or security personnel to easily grant temporary access to a user on request, thus eliminating the need to manually manage temporal credentials and allowing for simplified compliance.
Alerting and incident response capabilities – Ekran System includes customizable alerts functionality and allows for security personnel to easily view session in question live upon receiving notification. Thus, they can determine any malicious actions taking place and remotely block the user if necessary. Ekran System also includes ability to automatically detect and optionally block any USB devices, thus preventing the use of mass storages and other devices often employed to steal data.
Extensive centralized reporting – Ekran System provides extensive reporting functionality, allowing you to easily generate a wide variety of centralized reports. This allows to quickly prepare any necessary information to pass IT audit, thus proving that all user actions are logged and any incidents are quickly detected and dealt with. With extensive monitoring capabilities and robust reporting Ekran System is a godsend when you need to pass cybersecurity compliance audit.
It’s no denying that IT compliance audit is a very complicated and never ending process. New regulations as well as changes to old ones are constantly introduced, making it almost impossible for any company to say that they are done with compliance. The best way to go is to treat it as a continuous process and via informed prioritizing and smart planning try to enforce it in a way that will increase security of your data and keep you bottom line intact. And with affordable and powerful solutions, such as Ekran System, in your arsenal, passing that next compliance audit will be a breeze.