The increasing number and sophistication of data breaches has led to increased concern among boards, regulators, and the public about threats to the data environment. That, in turn, has led to a desire for constant data protection – and a rise in the importance of continuous compliance monitoring to be sure that those data protection efforts are always sufficient and working.

This article will explore what continuous compliance monitoring is, and how it supports the “security first” approach to compliance that is so important in today’s world.

Why Is Monitoring Compliance Important?

Compliance monitoring assures that operations happen smoothly and according to established standards. Think of compliance monitoring as a mechanism to identify instances of noncompliance whenever it happens – whether those violations arise from internal policies or external regulations, or are accidental or intentional.

Here are some key benefits of monitoring compliance:

  • Demonstrates compliant policies and procedures
    Through compliance monitoring, you can document and demonstrate that robust processes exist in your organization. You also establish the norm of following and enforcing correct procedures, mitigating bad consequences of potential instances of noncompliance.
  • Improves over performance
    By providing a clear understanding of the current state of affairs, compliance monitoring allows organizations to identify improvement opportunities across operational areas, going beyond compliance. Developing a comprehensive scorecard and conducting rigorous checks against it is your ticket to achieving this.
  • Achieves regulatory compliance
    Organizations operating as highly regulated entities (say, financial services firms), are required to demonstrate a robust and comprehensive compliance monitoring program. Such programs are crucial for meeting regulatory obligations and assuring adherence to the prescribed regulatory standards.
  • Creates thorough documentation
    Automated compliance solutions generate detailed audit trails, streamlining the process of documenting your compliance efforts. This reduces the risk of errors associated with manually compiling records and enhances efficiency by reducing the administrative burden on your compliance, risk, and audit teams.

How does continuous monitoring help enable security-first compliance?

If you view security as your primary objective, then continuous monitoring gives you real-time insights into the threats hackers pose to your systems and networks. Tracking alerts that indicate attempted intrusions into your systems only provide a shallow defense of your systems. You need constant awareness of the controls that maintain the system and network integrity.

What Are Three Techniques for Monitoring Compliance?

Organizations can use several techniques to monitor compliance. Three of the most common techniques include:

  1. Regular audits

    Conducting regular audits is a cornerstone of compliance monitoring. Audits assure a systematic review and examination of processes, procedures, records, and activities to evaluate the alignment of those items with predetermined standards and compliance requirements. By adhering to scheduled audit intervals, you can promptly identify any areas of noncompliance, uncover deviation patterns, and take corrective actions.

  2. Data analysis and reporting

    Harnessing the power of data analysis and reporting tools is another effective approach to monitoring compliance. You can use technology and software to collect and analyze relevant data points, uncover emerging trends, and generate comprehensive reports. This empowers organizations to detect deviations from compliance standards swiftly and to identify areas needing improvement or closer attention.

  3. Internal Controls

    Robust internal controls involve establishing policies, procedures, and stringent checks to assure that operations consistently happen in full compliance with regulatory requirements. This technique ultimately enables you to identify and resolve potential compliance gaps, preventing them from escalating into significant issues.

How Do Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Big Data Enable Continuous Monitoring?

As companies increase the places and people interacting with their data, they increase their attack surface. In a lot of ways, your data security attack surface is akin to putty: the more you stretch it, the easier it is to find weaknesses and holes. Closing the gaps in your cybersecurity requires automation that enables faster scanning of large amounts of data.

Big data collection and predictive statistical models allow you to automate information gathering and help see the most significant compliance risks to your environment. For example, security ratings enable organizations to review their external controls the way a malicious actor would. As organizations collect public information from across the internet, they aggregate it and run it through mathematical programs that provide insights into how well your controls protect your data.

Where Does Continuous Monitoring Fit into Risk Management?

Risk management means assessing your information assets and reviewing potential threats to their integrity, accessibility, and confidentiality. Continuous monitoring using big data and predictive analytics enables you to determine the current risks to your environment and the potential future risks.

Malicious actors continuously update their tactics to find new vulnerabilities. A secure system remains safe only if a malicious actor does not find a new vulnerability. These “zero-day” threats (that is, vulnerabilities previously unknown) pose a significant, ongoing risk to your data environment.

As malicious actors continue to find new ways to penetrate your systems and networks, continuous monitoring allows you not only to assure that your current controls remain effective, but also to predict potential new threats. Once threats evolve, risk management programs need to re-evaluate the new risks to the data environment regularly.

How Does Continuous Monitoring Relate to Compliance?

Governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) form the trifecta of information security. The governance in the GRC triad means monitoring your ability to maintain compliance between audits. If you’re reviewing compliance as the documentation of your security stance, then continuous monitoring allows you to prove effective controls.

Continuous monitoring supports compliance in more specific ways, too. First, continuous monitoring allows you to create a more streamlined risk management process. Annual risk assessments only provide a moment-in-time glance into the threats targeting your data. Since most compliance standards require the risk rating of your information assets, continuous monitoring eases the burden of this process.

Second, many standards and regulations require updating software to protect against new malware and ransomware threats. PCI DSS, the standard to protect payment card information, specifically notes in its guidance that part of maintaining a strong compliance program means updating software, systems, and networks regularly to account for previously unknown vulnerabilities that become known.

Monitoring brings these risks to light quickly, so you can address them quickly and remain in compliance with your regulatory obligations.

How RiskOptics Eases Continuous Monitoring for Compliance

Implementing controls to mitigate threats is just the beginning. Next is mapping those controls across frameworks and regulations for proper governance. Continuous monitoring and accurate documentation are essential in this process. Enter the RiskOptics ROAR Platform.

RiskOptics ROAR empowers organizations to visualize, comprehend, and act on IT and cyber risk. Automated compliance management capabilities and unified control monitoring allows effective communication on top priorities and controls mapping across multiple frameworks, standards, and regulations. All this makes it easier to determine whether compliance gaps exist.

ROAR provides a unified, real-time view of risk and compliance tailored to your business priorities. Gain contextual insights to communicate impacts, make risk-informed decisions, and protect your organization, systems, and data. Earn the trust of customers, stakeholders, and employees.

Contact us for a demo today to discover how RiskOptics streamlines your GRC process.