IT Compliance: What does it mean to your business?
You’ve heard these compliance acronyms bantered around, right? NIST, CMMC, HIPAA, PCI, SOC, SOX, among others. You may even wonder: “Is my company non-compliant and I’m not even aware?” Your IT professional is an expert resource in IT compliance and is available to consult on the steps to take to become compliant in specific cases.
In fact, the IT industry’s compliance offerings have grown exponentially as it has serviced more and more businesses handling financial, human resources, medical, and other sensitive data, both government and non-government related.
IT Compliance defined
IT Compliance can be defined as the process of complying with a set of third party’s mandated standards required for digital security directed toward business operations in a particular market or sector.
A compliance audit is performed to determine if a business or organization is adhering to the regulatory guidelines required of its industry. The auditors review security policies, access controls, risk management procedures and other other features. Audits are completed by independent accounting firms or qualified security or IT professionals. A successful audit may result in a report or, in some cases, a certification.
The risk of non-compliance could lead to legal penalties, financial forfeiture and potential material loss when a business or organization fails to act in accordance with industry laws and regulations, internal policies or best practices.
While there are many types of IT compliance, here is a short list of a few common acronyms you may be aware of:
- NIST or National Institute of Standards and Technology: The NIST standards are used by a variety of industries to demonstrate the use of security operations, procedures and policies.
- CMMC or Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification: An annual certification required for contractors doing work with federal agencies and organizations.
- PCI or Payment Card Industry (short for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards or PCI DSS): Required for any businesses using credit card processing.
- HIPAA or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act: (Specifically the HIPAA Security Rule) Required for any company, not specifically healthcare businesses, dealing with electronic private health information.
For the IT professional, compliance includes the activities that maintain and provide systematic proof of both adherence to internal policies and the external laws, guidelines, or regulations imposed upon the company or organization. These activities can be quite extensive and are never really a one-time service call, but rather an ongoing process..
General IT Compliance approaches
Whether it’s NIST, HIPAA, CMMC or some other compliance regulation, each type has its own set of objectives and procedures. The IT professional’s task is to assess, maintain and provide proof that your company has adhered to both the policies and the compliance guidelines or regulations.
The following is an idea of how compliance may be approached by an IT provider:
- Assessment: IT professionals may be needed to determine the level of practice for your business or organization; may need to perform preliminary tests/do onsite reviews of equipment/determine security capabilities, and develop a strategic compliance plan
- Implementation: IT professionals implement the compliance plan in stages as well as develop procedures and policies
- Testing: IT professionals test features of the plan
- Monitoring: IT professionals continually monitor processes
- Repeat Implementation/Testing/Monitoring: Whenever a new feature/piece of equipment/adjustment is added to the plan, these steps need to be repeated
Please note: Each type of compliance (NIST, HIPAA, PCI, CMMC, etc.) has its own specific requirements. For example, the NIST Cybersecurity Framework uses an Identify, Project, Detect, Respond, Recover compliance approach. An experienced managed IT professional will have the necessary assessment tools, and will know the best way to tackle your specific project.
Ways IT Compliance Can Benefit Your Business
Once you’ve had a qualified IT professional perform an audit for your business and your business is in compliance, there are ways to leverage this information for your company’s benefit. The following are examples:
- Putting a statement on your website or in marketing materials, stating your business is compliant, audited and verified in a specific standard is a positive reflection on your brand.
- Announcing the award of a certification on social media with a link to a landing page on your company website.
- Making reports or certifications available for review is viewed as being transparent by potential clients. Note: While the actual audit reports can not be posted on your website, you can add a note that a specific report or certificate is available for review upon request. (Make sure you confirm that sharing is permissible with the audit firm on a case-by-case basis.)
Your next step to IT Compliance
Many businesses wait until they are facing an actual compliance audit and then frantically begin to get their policies and processes in order. This approach is not only stressful but can also add extra expense and may lead to errors.
Additionally, the recent pandemic is creating more complex employment challenges for many businesses, with many moving employees to remote work. As security for these remote workers’ emails, phones, calendars, and other data is considered, many businesses find they are no longer in IT compliance.
Do you think your company may have an IT Compliance issue? Not sure if your certification is up-to-date? Simply curious about our Data Magic Computer Services approach?
Reach out to Data Magic Computer Services and schedule your initial Compliance Consultation today. As experienced managed IT and cybersecurity professionals, our team is eager to learn more about your business and ready to answer your questions about industry compliance concerns you may have.