Security compliance management is that set of policies, procedures, and other internal controls that an organization uses to fulfill its regulatory requirements for data privacy and protection. Put another way, security compliance management is a subset of regulatory compliance management that specifically addresses data protection.

Clearly security compliance management is important. Without it, a company risks all manner of cybersecurity failures, including data breaches that can bring a host of serious and expensive consequences. 

Finding the right set of security compliance management measures for your specific business, however, is no easy task. Chief information security officers and compliance managers can choose from a wide range of information security controls, from firewalls to malware detection applications and more.

This article will explore what security compliance management is, why it matters to an organization, and how to assure that the compliance management program you build is the right one for you.

goals of security compliance management

The Goals of Security Compliance

The goal of security compliance is to comply with legal standards, regulatory requirements, industry best practices, and contractual obligations you might have to keep data in your possession secure.

The most common security compliance obligations include:

  • European General Data Protection Act (GDPR)
  • Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX)
  • Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
  • Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS)

Failing to meet these obligations can result in government investigations, monetary penalties, lost business, and other expensive consequences. Robust security compliance reduces the risks of these issues by effectively safeguarding sensitive data.

That said, strong security compliance brings other benefits as well.

Protect the company’s reputation

Data breaches harm a company’s brand and erode customer trust. Efficient information security management tools are paramount to building loyalty and maintaining healthy relationships with customers and stakeholders.

Improve data management capabilities

For most firms, maintaining data security compliance begins with properly managing sensitive information about customers. Companies should consider upgrading systems that simplify the application programming interface (API) integration process. A more streamlined automation system allows for seamless authentications and less lag time between updates, translating into increased operational efficiency and continued attention to privacy.

Security vs. Compliance: Key Considerations

Security and compliance serve distinct purposes in risk management. Security is related to internal safeguards, while compliance is about meeting external standards. To improve your organization’s security posture, you should understand the differences as well as how compliance and security work together.

Security: the fortified shield

At its core, security involves implementing measures to protect the organization’s critical assets from diverse threats. This includes not only external attacks, but also internal vulnerabilities. Robust security measures are the bulwark that defends against malicious cyber activities like malware and data breaches.

A comprehensive security strategy includes threat detection, incident response, encryption, access controls, regular vulnerability assessments, and the continuous evaluation of emerging risks. In a rapidly evolving digital landscape, where new threats emerge daily, security measures must adapt, evolve, and improve security posture.

Compliance: the rule book

In contrast, compliance involves adhering to industry regulations, standards, and legal requirements, to assure that your organization meets the prescribed guidelines in your specific sector or jurisdiction. Compliance often comes with a clear set of benchmarks and audits to verify adherence.

While compliance is essential for maintaining trust with customers, partners, and regulators, it doesn’t necessarily equate to complete security. Indeed, meeting compliance standards provides a baseline level of protection — and may not address all the organization’s unique risks. Focusing only on compliance can create a false sense of security, leaving gaps that malicious actors could exploit.

The Balance: a holistic approach

In today’s digital landscape, where data breaches can have severe repercussions, finding the right balance between security and compliance is essential. It’s not a question of security or compliance, but rather, a strategic blend of both that enables organizations to navigate the ever-changing cyber landscape with confidence.

While compliance assures a baseline level of protection and establishes credibility, security goes further, by actively identifying and mitigating risks. A comprehensive security approach often goes hand-in-hand with compliance, but it encompasses a broader scope tailored to your organization’s specific challenges and threats.

Strive to achieve a harmonious coexistence between these two factors. Focus on building a robust security posture while assuring compliance with relevant regulations. Understand that compliance doesn’t guarantee absolute security, and security measures don’t negate the importance of adhering to industry standards.

What Are Security Compliance Management Challenges?

Some situations that can challenge security compliance management are:

  • Changing security landscape and new regulations. Security threats and regulatory compliance rules evolve rapidly, requiring a quick response to new threats and changing laws.
  • Distributed environments across many platforms. As IT infrastructure grows more dispersed between on-premises and cloud platforms, getting a holistic picture of your environment and vulnerabilities becomes more difficult.
  • Manual processes. Managing compliance through spreadsheets, file shares, and documents made sense at one time, but these tools weren’t designed to keep up with ever-changing regulations. It can take hours to update manually every spreadsheet at each location to accommodate a single regulatory change.
  • Multi-country presence. Many organizations do not exist within the confines of a single country. They may have branches in different countries. It is challenging to manage and comply with varying regulations in all the countries a company operates.
  • Large teams. Coordination across an organization, cross-functionally and geographically, can be complicated in a large enterprise. Poor collaboration could also increase the risk of a data breach.

Security Compliance Laws and Standards You Should Know

In the data protection and cybersecurity landscape, critical regulations shape the course for organizations, balancing compliance with proactive security measures. Here’s an overview of the key regulatory standards and laws:

  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This data privacy juggernaut ensures the sanctity of personal data for European Union residents with meticulous requirements for securing data, obtaining consent, reporting breaches, and respecting the right to erasure. Non-compliance can lead to hefty fines.
  • The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). A U.S. mandate for healthcare organizations, HIPAA focuses on safeguarding patients’ health information through high security standards, privacy, and controlled data disclosure.
  • Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). PCI DSS is an industry standard for protecting payment card data. A retailer that ignores PCI DSS can, ultimately, lose its credit card processing privileges.
  • ISO/IEC 27001. This standard guides the establishment and enhancement of an Information Security Management System (ISMS) within the context of an organization’s business risks.
  • NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF). The CSF framework is voluntary guidance that any organization can use to tackle issues such as risk identification, data protection, cyber threat detection, response, and recovery.
  • The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). The CCPA grants Californians unique rights over their personal data, mandating data collection disclosure, opt-outs, and mechanisms for data access and deletion.
  • FedRAMP. FedRAMP sets rigorous security standards for cloud service providers serving U.S. federal agencies, ensuring stringent safety benchmarks.
  • Sarbanes–Oxley Act (SOX). A cornerstone for financial reporting integrity, SOX mandates precise requirements for corporate governance, internal controls, and financial reporting transparency for publicly traded companies.
  • The Cybersecurity Act (CSA). The EU’s Cybersecurity Act enhances regional cybersecurity measures through cooperation among member states, critical infrastructure security, and rules for reporting significant cybersecurity incidents.

Best Practices for Security Compliance Management

No matter what rules you must follow, the following are best practices to help your company enhance its security compliance management.

Implement a cybersecurity compliance program

The best way to assure compliance is to develop a compliance program that brings the IT, security, and compliance teams together. Consultation with stakeholders, a list of regulations to follow, and a detailed risk assessment should all be included in the strategy.

Promote team communication

Security compliance becomes more complicated when teams are siloed. The IT or security team is on the front lines of cyber security regarding breaches, attacks, and solutions to prevent them. They may, however, be unaware of the specifics of compliance and regulatory requirements.

Likewise, the compliance staff may be familiar with regulatory requirements, but not familiar with current technology capabilities. Promote teamwork and collaboration to assure the best possible solutions are implemented to protect your organization’s best interests.

Automate controls

As the organization grows, keeping track of regulatory and security compliance with manual processes is not effective. Automation lets you focus on the big picture by streamlining daily chores, improving consistency, and assuring regular monitoring and reporting.

Consistent patching

Criminals know patch release dates and anticipate that organizations will be late or miss their patching deadlines. As a result, critical faults and defects should be fixed as quickly as possible. Before putting patched systems back into production, make sure the patch upgrades are tested and accepted.

Continuous monitoring

Threats are constantly changing, and new risks often influence changes in rules and standards. Being aware of the specific dangers affecting your data and networks is critical. Continuous monitoring, ongoing education, and internal controls can help you stay on top of protecting the infrastructure.

Connect your tools

Different management tools for each platform are standard in distributed environments. They can be connected via APIs, so you can conduct activities on various devices using your favorite interfaces. Using fewer interfaces enhances insight into all systems’ security and compliance status in your environment and streamlines operations.

Maintain Your Compliance with ZenGRC

Instead of using spreadsheets to manage compliance requirements, adopt the ZenGRC Platform to streamline compliance risk management for all compliance frameworks.

It provides a single source of truth that ensures the organization is always audit-ready. Policies and procedures are revision-controlled and easy to find in the document repository. Workflow management features offer easy tracking, automated reminders, and audit trails. Insightful reporting and dashboards give visibility to gaps and high-risk areas.To see how ZenGRC can streamline your compliance processes, contact us for a demo.