Continuous Compliance: How to Achieve it

Anwita

Anwita

Nov 18, 2023

continuous compliance

Remember when you had an entire summer to complete your college thesis but submitted a poor, rushed job because you worked on it in one day? Believe it or not, businesses do it too. Often businesses perform poorly in their audit because they lack a systematic approach to compliance and don’t complete the pre-audit work until it’s too late. Thankfully, you can avoid this mess with continuous compliance

Let’s understand what it entails, why it is important, and how to set it up. 

What is continuous compliance?

Continuous compliance is the process of maintaining required levels of security posture to meet global best practices, industrial standards, or state-legislated regulations.

It involves implementing a system to monitor security activities, detect instances when processes become non-compliance, patch vulnerabilities, and document processes. This proactive approach helps demonstrate a security posture and mitigate threats while continuously documenting evidence for the audit. 

How can continuous compliance help organizations?

A report by Ponemon Institute reveals that the cost of non-compliance is 2.71 times higher than the cost of compliance. The study breaks down this cost into business disruption, productivity losses, revenue losses, and penalties or settlement costs. While revenue loss is the biggest motivating factor that drives businesses to implement a security-first approach, continuous compliance has many benefits. 

Passing audit checks is a major apprehension that requires a lot of manual effort like figuring out specific requirements, documenting, fixing gaps, and more. However, traditional processes don’t always meet the required level of efficiency, leading to piled-up tasks and little time till the deadline. This creates a gap between the actual and desired level of compliance. 

As the gap keeps growing till the next audit cycle, closing it becomes a costly challenge. Even organizations that passed their audit check tend to fall out of compliance once certified. Continuous compliance bridges the gap between the desired level of compliance during a pre-audit stage and the actual or achieved level.

why continuous compliance is important for businesses

Continuous compliance also provides real-time visibility into the complex IT infrastructure and helps address gaps as soon as it surfaces. If delayed, the gaps tend to affect multiple connected systems and cause costly damages. Most businesses don’t prioritize fixing their security gaps until an incident occurs. However, SaaS providers are changing this mindset as they know the repercussions of data loss and are left with little choice to set up a continuous compliance process.

Best practices to set up a continuous compliance process

Continuous compliance entails implementing a strategy that continuously evaluates your posture against industry standards and best practices. It involves three stakeholders – people, processes, and technology to manage and mitigate threats on a regular basis. 

Here are some best practices to ensure continuous compliance:

Implement the right policies

Security policies are not one size fits all. It boils down to industry regulations, selected compliance frameworks, state laws, the type of data you host, and more. The first step to implementing a meaningful security policy is to categorize the data types into resources, roles or functions as actors, and data interactions as actions. 

Once you finalize the framework and select the policies, link them to your digital assets. For example, map resources to data, actors to user profiles, and actions to system actions. Next, assess your current compliance status and fix gaps and update policies that fail to meet the required level. 

Conduct internal audits or assessments

Internal audits can be as thorough as external ones. They help you understand the efficiency of your processes and policies. 

To begin, identify systems or policies that you want to audit and the objective of reviewing each. Based on your findings, determine the frequency of conducting this process. Alert the relevant stakeholders like employees or business partners. 

Now, proceed to evaluate the relevant controls to check their effectiveness against the compliance requirements and risk mitigation capabilities. Essentially, the controls should work as intended. Evaluate the risk associated with each asset using the sheet by assigning a value (high/ low/ medium) to the level of risk. Document the findings and corrective steps. 

Also, Find out: How a compliance management system is helpful

how to set up continuous compliance

Retain a security personnel

This is not a must-have but a good to have measure. Since most organizations don’t prioritize security-related activities, they lack the knowledge or expertise to take the right course of action to mitigate incidents. A security personnel can offer the expertise needed to proactively stay ahead of threats by identifying and responding to anomalies. 

Set up an org-wide training and awareness program

While security administrators are the gatekeepers against attacks, employees are the first line of defense. A significant percentage of threats are attributed to insider attacks. IBM estimates that user training and awareness programs save organizations about $3 million USD on average. These programs help train new employees, test existing ones at least once annually, and document their performance. 

Documentation 

When it comes to demonstrating compliance to auditors, proof is everything. If you don’t document a process or action and it comes up during the audit stage, there isn’t much you can do to demonstrate otherwise. Document where your data is located, access logs, new technologies or processes, endpoint devices, system configurations, threats, and corrective actions. 

Secure all endpoints and IoT devices 

In a world of costly disasters, prevention is better than cure. Thanks to the increasing adoption of the remote work model, more endpoints are sitting outside the company firewall, adding to the vulnerability of the endpoint devices. This trend has pushed the need to deploy a remote system to manage their security. These include but are not limited desktops and laptops, mobile phones, tablets, smart wearables, printers, servers, and IoT devices.

Install an EDR (Endpoint Detection and Response) in all on-premise and remote devices. Modern EDR systems combine real-time threat monitoring with intelligent analysis. It helps to detect known and unknown threats, quarantine them to prevent system damage, and respond to them.  

Implement strong identity and authentication processes

Data protection measures don’t just include external malicious actors, but extend to the organization in itself. While tools like endpoint security protect data from outside intrusion, insider attacks also pose a risk to data integrity. This is not to say that all your employees are potential data thieves, as up to 78% of all inside attacks are unintentional

The principle of least privilege ensures that each stakeholder can access only as much as required to perform their tasks. Implement a role based access system for each file or system, maintain audit logs, set up passwords or two factor authentication, and use ID authentication systems like a key token or biometrics (facial recognition or fingerprint scanning system). 

Also find out: How to implement compliance workflow

Develop a data compliance governance strategy

Data governance ensures accuracy, availability, security, privacy, reliability, and availability of data. Lack of a data governance policy results in inconsistent information across systems, hamper compliance efforts, and distort analytics accuracy. 

To achieve effective data governance, start by classifying it using data cataloging tools. Next, it is crucial to understand what compliance applies to which data. Assign accountability to each stakeholder and continuously monitor it.

Also check out: Cloud Compliance Guide

How can Sprinto help you?

Continuous compliance allows you to see the status of assets and security controls in real-time. Automated responses enable you to address low-level issues instantly, reserving human intervention for severe problems. Round-the-clock monitoring of these controls strengthens your security posture by letting you responsively close gaps before they become security problems. 

Sprinto’s rapid detection and instant visibility gives decision-makers the time and information they need to make better decisions faster. Rather than going with the quickest fix to hit an audit deadline, you can choose more robust solutions with long-term improvements. 

Keep all monitored and unmonitored controls in a single view to prevent anything from slipping through the cracks. Talk to our experts today and get compliant. 

FAQs

What are the types of compliance?

There are four main types of compliance: 

  • Regulatory compliance
  • HR compliance
  • Data compliance
  • Health and safety compliance

Is compliance necessary?

Compliance is a must in modern business to avoid regulatory penalties, avoid security threats, prevent business downtime, and attract more customers. 

How do you achieve continuous compliance?

Businesses can achieve continuous compliance through the following steps: 

  1. Implement the right policies
  2. Conduct internal audits or assessments
  3. Retain a security personnel
  4. Set up a org wide training and awareness program
  5. Documentation 
  6. Secure all endpoints and IoT devices 
  7. Implement strong identity and authentication processes
Anwita

Anwita

Anwita is a cybersecurity enthusiast and veteran blogger all rolled into one. Her love for everything cybersecurity started her journey into the world compliance. With multiple certifications on cybersecurity under her belt, she aims to simplify complex security related topics for all audiences. She loves to read nonfiction, listen to progressive rock, and watches sitcoms on the weekends.

Here’s what to read next….

Sprinto: Your growth superpower

Use Sprinto to centralize security compliance management – so nothing
gets in the way of your moving up and winning big.