Effective information security management requires understanding the primary concepts and principles including protection mechanisms, change control/management, and data classification. However, those terms may feel overwhelming at first leading many businesses to follow compliance requirements blindly without fully understanding whether they effectively secure their systems, networks, and software. Understanding the primary objective of data security controls enables a security-first approach to data protection that allows organizations to not only meet compliance requirements but defend themselves from cybercriminals.

Understanding the Primary Objective of Data Security Controls

What are data security controls?

Data security controls keep sensitive information safe and act as a countermeasure against unauthorized access. They enable risk management programs by counteracting, detecting, minimizing, or avoiding security risks to computer systems, data, software, and networks.

They include technical controls as well as operational, administrative, and architectural controls. Additionally, controls can be preventative, detective, corrective, or compensatory.

What are the operational security controls?

Operational security (OPSEC) focuses on monitoring operations and enforcing a risk management program. Some best practices include implementing a change management process, restricting network access, using the access principle of least privilege necessary, segregating duties, automating tasks to reduce human error, and establishing incident response and disaster recovery plans.

What are the technical security controls?

Technical security controls focus on hardware and software. They control access and use across the network. Some best practices include encryption, smartcards, network authentication, access control lists (ACLs), and file integrity auditing software.

What are the administrative security controls?

Administrative security controls are also referred to as procedural control. The controls focus on day-to-day operations and often come from standards or regulation. Best practices include information security policies and procedures, vendor risk management programs, business continuity policies, and disaster recovery policies.

What are the architectural security controls?

Security architecture focuses on creating a unified design that documents and addresses the risks across an organization’s integrated information technology environment. Best practices include a review of information systems and their interdependencies, re-use of controls to minimize business risk, auditing internal controls, and continuous monitoring.

What are preventative controls?

Preventative controls work to prevent data loss. Controls such as two-factor authentication, least privilege necessary, identity management, and cloud access management allow organizations to protect their perimeter by understanding who accessed data and how they used it.

What are detective controls?

Detective controls focus on identifying weaknesses. Controls such as internal audit, continuous monitoring, and computer usage logs enable organizations to review locations where information could be changed or deleted. Often, they provide evidence of a data loss or potential data loss, rather than protecting against it.

What are corrective controls?

Corrective controls mitigate damage once a risk exists. They focus on fixing the problem if detective controls indicate that an issue has occurred. Some examples of corrective controls include documenting policies and procedures, enforcement of policies and procedures, and creating a disaster recovery and business continuity program.

What are compensatory controls?

A compensating control, also called an alternative control, is an impermanent solution to a security weakness. They enable an organization to meet a security requirement without using the accepted or suggested control. However, they need to meet the intent and rigor of the original requirement, provide the same level of defense, and be comparable to the risk they post. In short, they act as a stop-gap for organizations seeking to secure their networks in the short term but must not remain in place for the long haul.

How to Design an Internal Controls Program

The purpose of internal controls, specifically data security controls, is to mitigate the risks associated with the way data is accessed, changed, or deleted. Creating a risk-based cybersecurity program enables stronger data protection.

Identify Risks

To begin the process, organizations need to understand where they store, transmit, and collect information. This process requires reviewing the systems, networks, software, and devices that the organization uses.

Assess Risks

After identifying risks, the organization needs to review the types of information it collects, stores and transmits. Sensitive information such as personally identifiable information (PII) or cardholder data (CD) needs more data security controls than publicly available information. Thus, the organization needs to assess the types of information in conjunction with the networks, systems, software, and people who access it.

Analyze Risks

Once the identification and assessment are complete, the organization needs to put the two parts together to analyze the risks. To do this, it needs to multiply the potential risk associated with the information and location by the potential impact a data breach poses.

Set Risk Tolerance

Every organization’s risk tolerance is different. After analyzing risk, the organization may choose to accept, mitigate, refuse, or transfer the risk.

Set Controls

Once the organization confirms its risk tolerance, it can begin to set or review the control environment. Part of this can be setting appropriate authorization controls such as multifactor authentication and least privilege necessary. It might be incorporating firewalls and establishing encryption over data in transit and data at rest.

Create an Audit Program

Organizations need third-party assurance over their programs and controls. An audit program that incorporates internal and external review providing documentation over the organization’s cybersecurity posture.

Continuously Monitor Control Effectiveness

Cybercriminals continually evolve their threat methodologies which means that controls can lose their effectiveness at any time. Thus, organizations need to engage in a continuous review of their cybersecurity controls.

How ZenGRC Enables Corporate Data Security Control Creation

ZenGRC allows you to prioritize tasks so that everyone knows what to do and when to do it so that you can more rapidly review the “to do” lists and “completed tasks” lists.

With our workflow tagging, you can assign tasks to the individuals in your organization responsible for the activities involved in risk assessment, risk analysis, and risk mitigation.

Finally, with our audit trail capabilities, you can document remediation activities to prove that you maintained data confidentiality, integrity, and availability as required by law.

For more information about how ZenGRC can streamline your GRC process, contact us for a demo today.