Many companies strive to achieve the best security possible. Along the path to improved security, many companies are also required to meet various compliance standards. In some cases, compliance is also a regulatory requirement. This crossroad between security and compliance can sometimes seem at odds with the organization’s goals. Compliance does not always equal security. For many organizations, the sheer complexity of a compliance framework results in a patchwork of semi-satisfied security professionals, executives, and auditors. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Loosely Embrace Uncertainty

One of the biggest conundrums with compliance is that it can make a person think that the organization’s data is fully secure once compliance is achieved. Compliance, like security, is never a static entity. It is constantly changing to address new risks. That alone should be proof that an organization can never achieve 100% security through compliance alone.

There was a time when that uncertainty caused some to wonder if either compliance or security was worth the effort. This resulted in the formation of Standards and Regulations. The Standards and Regulations acted as the catalyst to improve security. The best way to approach compliance is to embrace the uncertainty of security but do so with an eye toward continuous improvement. The mantra in the security community has always been that being compliant does not necessarily mean that you are secure. A humorous example of this is the image of a nude person riding a bicycle while wearing a helmet; it is compliant but not necessarily secure.

Add Automation

One of the best ways to make the compliance journey easier is to recognize that there are many tasks that do not need constant human attention. In fact, some tasks happen so frequently that they would simply overwhelm an individual or even a team. File integrity monitoring and configuration management are prime examples of where automation is the best approach to satisfy compliance requirements.

Automated integrity monitoring can alert the security team to unauthorized changes, and it offers a trail to trace an event. Configuration management protects the environment from configuration drift, which can often be an early indicator of a compromise. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) specifically directs the use of File Integrity Management. While no compliance framework requires the use of configuration management software, it is included in PCI DSS as part of a best practice for access control. Every framework stresses network monitoring. Both file integrity monitoring and configuration management do more than merely satisfy this requirement; they go beyond the basic requirement. Going beyond the basics of a compliance framework is the key to better security.

Overlap is Not the Enemy

Many organizations must fulfill more than one compliance framework or regulation. When evaluating the available compliance tools, part of the due diligence must include the ability of the tool to serve more than one purpose. Tripwire Enterprise includes rules that satisfy multiple standards, compliance, and regulatory requirements. This level of tool flexibility reduces the complexity of compliance.

Which is the Best Compliance Framework

Many organizations are governed by regulations. However, regulations are often not prescriptive. This is where a compliance framework steps in to fill the gap of how to satisfy the regulatory requirements. In some cases, an organization may not be under any regulatory authority and simply wants to improve their security to improve their business profile. Other times, a company may be seeking cybersecurity insurance and must prove its worthiness to an underwriter. This leads many to wonder which compliance framework is the best. There is no single answer to such a question.

The choice of a compliance framework is driven by the particular regulation or Standard that needs to be fulfilled. Most organizations do not have the resources to examine every possible framework to decide which best fits their needs. This is where a trusted partner becomes an invaluable factor in compliance framework selection. 

Use the Best Tools Available

There are many tools that can help an organization achieve compliance. That is not necessarily comforting when overwhelmed with all of the demands of compliance. Too many tools can create more management problems for often overworked security teams. Also, the integration of many tools can create conflicts that can prevent clear reporting.

When choosing a compliance tool, it is important to select one that offers the right coverage, flexibility, and reporting capabilities to satisfy any request for compliance evidence. It is always best to have a single suite of tools rather than a group of disparate tools that don’t always integrate or agree on the state of compliance.

Small Bites to Solve a Big Task

Compliance is often a big task that requires a lot of energy. The uncertainty of achieving security sometimes seems to be at odds with compliance. Like any big job, it is best accomplished by taking small steps. Resources such as automation, flexibility, good tool selection, and strong partnerships can make it easier to achieve compliance. If done correctly, security can be achieved in such a way that compliance becomes a secondary benefit.

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