As the workplace continues to blend between physical and remote environments, protecting company data has become a top priority. We’ve all seen the fallout of poor security policies – phishing scams, data breaches, and exposing confidential information just to name a few. So it’s not uncommon for companies to reactively set up compliance programs; being non-compliant can be twice as costly as being compliant as a result of fines, business disruption, reputation damage, among other factors. But compliance can be complex and confusing, especially when set up hastily or with minimal knowledge on the process. There’s an abundance of frameworks to understand with different requirements on timeline, policies, and controls. And because compliance is traditionally known as a cumbersome process plagued by a sea of paperwork, it’s no surprise that companies will do whatever they can to avoid it, until a customer asks for an attestation report. But without the proper foundation, cobbling a compliance program together can do just as much damage as not having a compliance program in place at all.
Here are the top 3 mistakes companies make when it comes to compliance:
Lack of Leadership Buy-In
It’s one thing to have your company’s leadership acknowledge compliance is necessary to attract new (and larger) customers, but it’s another to provide the right resources and capital to build a comprehensive program. Consider a SOC 2 audit, which is a key step in implementing a strong culture of security. With SOC 2 compliance, leadership must provide personnel with the necessary time to prepare and work for the audit. These audits require time and increase in security spend to execute successfully – forcing the team to rush the job and cut corners to meet customer demands could result in a major oversight that negatively impacts the business in the future. And with new processes and controls to safeguard data, the leadership team will need to communicate the importance of these changes to the rest of the organization. If leadership fails to fully embrace all the time, investment, and changes that come with compliance, expect to see siloes within the organization and a growing lack of trust from your customers.
Using a Check-Box Strategy
One of the most common mistakes companies can make is treating compliance as a “check the box” exercise and moving on to the next task. Compliance is the baseline for a robust risk management program, and just one piece of the security puzzle. For example, even though compliance frameworks don’t require advanced endpoint detection and response solutions, they should be considered as complementary tools that strengthen the overall security posture. And as your customer base diversifies, so will your need to meet various compliance frameworks. Completing an annual audit isn’t enough to fully protect company data – security and compliance should be an ongoing priority that is constantly refined and evolving. If your company isn’t adapting to the latest threats and security trends, your walls of protection become weakened overtime, and it won’t be long before you see cracks in the foundation.
Pursuing compliance manually
Compliance requires a deep understanding of rules, regulations, industry standards, and frameworks and showing proof of that understanding. When factoring multiple departments and employees, providing evidence to meet the requirements of compliance can take hundreds of hours to compile on its own. Without knowing where to start, companies often attempt to achieve compliance manually, which can significantly derail their time and focus away from critical business needs. Now there are security and compliance tools that automate the manual burden of evidence collection, screenshots, spreadsheets, etc. and offer templates to model policies and controls instead of having to start from scratch. Investing in the right automation technology feeds into an ongoing compliance program vs a static checklist collecting dust in an overlooked security corner. Whether your company has five employees or 500, compliance is time consuming – but the right partner can jump those hurdles for you while you cross the audit finish line.
Security and compliance can be daunting in any scenario where you’re establishing a security footprint, addressing a customer request, or reactively implementing necessary safeguards to protect data. Without support from leadership, investment in the right tools, and an ongoing process to continuously monitor its systems, companies can stand on shaky ground that may lead to failing an audit, losing customers, or a data breach. Taking the time to properly understand what compliance asks of your company sets up for long term success and instills a security-first mindset within the organization to keep internal and external data safe. Avoid costly mistakes that compromise your company’s integrity, and establish the right systems and protocols to keep your compliance up to date over time.
As Drata’s Senior Manager, Cybersecurity Risk Management & Compliance, Troy Fine advises customers on building sound cybersecurity risk management programs while meeting security complaints requirements. Fine is a CPA, CISA, CISSP and CMMC Provisional Assessor and a Registered Practitioner, whose areas of expertise include GRC, SOC 2 audits, SOC 2+ examinations, CMMC, NIST 800-171, NIST 800-53, Sarbanes-Oxley Section 404 compliance, HITRUST assessments, HIPAA assessments, ISO 27001 assessments and third-party risk management assessments. Prior to Drata, he served as Senior Manager of IT Risk Advisory Services at Schneider Downs.