Steering a company through the maze of regulatory compliance obligations that all organizations of any appreciable size face a maze of regulatory compliance obligations, and getting through that maze requires a robust compliance program. Two parts of that robust program are continuous auditing and continuous monitoring.

Those two terms might seem similar, and both are vital to an effective compliance program — but they are two distinctly separate concepts. This article will explore that difference, along with the benefits that each one brings.

What Is Continuous Monitoring?

In the information security world, continuous monitoring refers to an ongoing process of observing, assessing, and managing the security posture of an organization’s IT systems, networks, and data.

This involves implementing a monitoring plan that systematically observes critical areas of risk, identifies potential vulnerabilities, and addresses any security concerns.

By maintaining constant oversight, organizations can detect and mitigate security threats, which protects sensitive information and maintains compliance with regulatory requirements.

Why Is Continuous Monitoring an Important Element of Security?

Continuous monitoring is a crucial security element because it enhances the overall resilience and effectiveness of an organization’s cybersecurity posture.

The early detection that monitoring allows also enables timely remediation efforts, so that you can implement corrective action plans before malicious actors can exploit them.

Overall, continuous monitoring programs serve as a dynamic defense mechanism. It assures that organizations maintain a strong security posture.

What Is Continuous Auditing?

Continuous auditing refers to the set of automated processes that an organization uses to systematically assess its digital environment, to confirm the organization’s compliance with security policies and assure the effectiveness of security controls. This practice goes beyond traditional periodic internal audits by integrating real-time monitoring and analysis into the audit process.

The audit plan for continuous auditing is designed to focus on critical risk areas within the organization’s digital infrastructure. Instead of waiting for a specific compliance audit cycle, continuous auditing involves constant monitoring of these risk areas. This dynamic approach enables the rapid identification of vulnerabilities.

Continuous auditing uses specialized monitoring tools and technologies that collect and analyze data from various sources, such as network logs, system events, and user activities.

These tools can provide insights into potential security incidents, unauthorized access attempts, and other suspicious activities, allowing the auditing function to respond quickly and appropriately.

What’s the Difference Between Traditional Auditing and Continuous Auditing? 

A traditional audit focuses on a single point in time, such as the end of a quarter. The auditor requests information during a certain period, and you provide the documentation. 

In contrast, IT security audits require greater insight into how organizations manage the threats facing systems and networks. Continuous auditing uses automated systems to collect documentation and indicators about your information systems, processes, transactions, and controls.

Using these tools, auditors can collect information from processes, transactions, and accounts in a more timely, less costly manner; this allows you to move away from point-in-time reviews. Continuous auditing activities prove that you know your environment and identify non-compliance immediately.

What Are the Benefits of Continuous Auditing and Monitoring?

Here are some key benefits of continuous auditing and monitoring:

  • Active risk management. By incorporating risk assessment and monitoring critical risk areas, organizations can identify and address vulnerabilities before malicious actors can exploit them. This active approach reduces the likelihood of breaches and helps to maintain a robust security posture.
  • Regulatory compliance. Continuous auditing helps organizations remain compliant with industry regulations. By integrating internal controls and involving internal auditors, organizations can identify areas of non-compliance and take corrective actions to align with regulatory requirements.
  • Efficient resource allocation. Continuous monitoring allows organizations to allocate resources more efficiently by focusing on high-risk areas. This targeted approach assures that efforts are directed toward the most critical security concerns.
  • Timely risk assessment and mitigation. Continuous monitoring allows organizations to assess risks promptly. They can detect anomalies and potential compliance risks by continuously monitoring critical areas.

How Do Continuous Auditing and Continuous Monitoring Differ?

Continuous auditing and continuous monitoring both use automated tools (often SaaS applications) to provide real-time data, but they provide information for different audiences.

Continuous monitoring enables management to respond to threats that affect its risk assessment and business processes. Firms can identify potential abuse and attacks before a breach occurs and assure compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, HIPAA, or other laws with heavy data security requirements.

Continuous auditing, meanwhile, enables auditors to gather the information needed to support compliance conclusions. Instead of sampling a percentage of transactions and processes, the auditor can review all of them. More critical for financial services organizations, continuous auditing provides regulators with the documentation needed for their audit.

So although the two concepts complement each other, they collect different documentation. Continuous monitoring collects information about your controls’ effectiveness against malicious actors. Continuous auditing collects documentation of mitigating practices the way a standard or regulation requires.

Where Do Continuous Monitoring and Continuous Auditing Fit Into a ‘Security-First’ Compliance Program?

A security-first approach to compliance means both establishing controls and continuously protecting information from new threats. 

Continuous monitoring of attempted intrusions to your systems and networks allows you to protect information and accelerate compliance efforts to meet new standards and regulations. (After all, regulations and standards increasingly focus on management’s governance over your cybersecurity compliance program.) 

A continuous monitoring tool provides management with visibility into emerging threats. Then decisions can be made based on risk tolerance. Once you respond, you need to update your control and risk assessments and prove that you complied with standards and regulations. 

Your continuous audit tool allows your internal auditor to review your security controls for compliance alignment; or allows you to provide that evidence to external auditors so they can perform their own analysis.

Essentially, you need a tool that connects the continuous monitoring of a security-first approach to compliance with the documentation required to support an audit of your controls and procedures. This is where the two tools overlap.

How Does the ROAR Platform Enable Continuous Monitoring and Continuous Auditing?

Setting up protective measures to minimize IT risks is just the starting point. The next step involves organizing these measures according to various rules and regulations to assure adequate management. That’s where the RiskOptics ROAR Platform comes in.

Think of RiskOptics ROAR as a solution that helps organizations understand and take action against IT and cyber risks in real-time. ROAR can automatically handle compliance tasks and keep track of all the safeguards you’ve put in place. This makes communicating about what’s most important and aligning your protective measures with different standards and regulations much simpler. 

Sign up for a demo now to see how the ROAR Platform can streamline your risk management process and improve your compliance efforts.