Information Technology Compliance: 8 Key Considerations Before You Buy

Author: Scott Kinka

With the rise in cyber threats and stringent regulatory requirements, information technology compliance has become more than just a good business practice — it’s necessary.  

What exactly does information technology compliance entail, and why is it crucial for businesses today?  

Here’s a breakdown of information technology compliance and what you should include in your IT compliance checklist to ensure you cover all bases.

What is Information Technology Compliance?  

Compliance refers to adherence to specific rules, regulations, and 

standards to protect sensitive data and mitigate cybersecurity risks. 

Compliance has multiple functions: 

  • It is a proactive defense against data breaches and cyberattacks. 
  • It helps organizations avoid costly fines and legal repercussions resulting from non-compliance. 
  • It builds trust among customers, partners, and stakeholders, showcasing an organization’s commitment to data protection. 

It’s important to remember that information technology compliance differs from overall security. 

Compliance is about ensuring your security policies and protections meet common compliance frameworks like HIPAA, PCI DSS, SOC, SOX and ISO. 

Security is about the functional safety of your network, devices and users.  

(Overly) Simply stated: Compliance is about your plan (the what) and Security is about the actions you take and protections you put in place (the how). 
 

Creating Your Information Technology Compliance Plan  

While Information security is of paramount importance for all businesses, Information technology compliance is imperative for businesses using electronic systems for data collection and storage.  

Businesses who don’t store patient data or credit card information often believe themselves immune to third party compliance standards, but more recent consumer data privacy protections such as GDPR and CCPA can affect nearly any business that deals with consumers.    

The good news is that while each compliance standard is designed to protect different types of data, the protections and documentation required to meet them are similar from compliance standard to compliance standard.    

Defining, educating, practicing, and auditing your security standards and practices are vital for safeguarding sensitive information and instilling confidence in your customer base that you take the necessary precautions with their information – and they just may help you meet one or more compliance standards. 

Ultimately, your IT compliance starts with a plan. Do you have a documented plan that you can demonstrate that your company is following? 

While compliance doesn’t require perfection, you’re required to have a clear and consistent plan, which is used to manage and audit your compliance practices.  

Your plan should include the information technology compliance practices outlined below.

 

#1. Access and Identity Control 

Access and Identity control measures help safeguard sensitive data by ensuring only authorized individuals can access it — a critical aspect of your information technology compliance.  

Unauthorized access can lead to data breaches, which can have legal and financial repercussions. Many compliance regulations, such as GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI DSS, mandate the implementation of access controls to protect personal and sensitive information. Adhering to these regulations requires businesses to establish and enforce access control policies. 

Also, access controls help mitigate insider threats by limiting the access privileges of employees and third-party users to only the resources and data needed to perform their job functions. 

 

#2. Control Over Data Sharing 

Uncontrolled data sharing can lead to data breaches, unauthorized access, and loss of intellectual property, which can result in financial losses and reputational damage. Implementing controls over data sharing helps mitigate these risks.  

Controlling data sharing also helps maintain the accuracy and integrity of information by preventing unauthorized or inappropriate sharing that could lead to data corruption or manipulation. 

Control mechanisms allow businesses to track and audit data-sharing activities, ensuring accountability and compliance with regulatory requirements.  

 

#3. Incident Response 

Many compliance standards, such as GDPR, HIPAA, PCI DSS, and SOX, require organizations to have robust incident response plans. Compliance with these regulations requires procedures for effectively detecting, responding to, and mitigating security incidents. 

A well-defined incident response plan is crucial for minimizing the impact and mitigating potential damage should a data breach or security incident occur.  

Incident response is critical in risk management. It helps organizations promptly identify and address security vulnerabilities and threats. Implementing incident response measures reduces the likelihood and severity of security incidents, lowering risks associated with data breaches, financial losses, and reputational damage. 

 

#4. Disaster Recovery for Information Technology Compliance 

Disaster recovery planning is essential for maintaining business operations and minimizing downtime during unexpected events such as natural disasters, cyberattacks, or equipment failures.  

Information technology compliance regulations often emphasize the importance of business continuity planning to ensure the uninterrupted delivery of products and services to customers. The requirements usually specify regular backups and data recovery capabilities to ensure data integrity and availability. 

Implementing disaster recovery measures helps organizations mitigate the risks associated with data loss, system downtime, and service interruptions.  

While regulatory obligations vary by industry, compliance regulations may impose legal obligations on organizations to protect sensitive information and maintain service availability. Failure to implement adequate disaster recovery measures can result in regulatory penalties, fines, or legal liabilities for non-compliance. 

 

#5. Data Loss Prevention 

Many information technology compliance standards and regulations mandate implementing measures to prevent unauthorized disclosure or loss of sensitive data. Data loss prevention (DLP) solutions help organizations protect sensitive information, such as Personal Identifiable Information (PII), financial data, intellectual property, and confidential business information, from unauthorized access, disclosure, or loss.  

DLP measures can help minimize the risks associated with data breaches, financial losses, reputational damage, and legal liabilities. Compliance regulations often require organizations to implement data governance controls to ensure data integrity, confidentiality, and availability. 

These solutions can also help organizations detect and prevent insider threats, such as unauthorized data exfiltration, leakage, or misuse by employees, contractors, or trusted third parties.  

 

#6. Protection Against Malware 

Protection against malware is essential for information technology compliance. Malware incidents, such as ransomware attacks or data breaches, can disrupt business operations and affect the availability of critical systems and services. It poses a significant threat to data security by compromising the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of sensitive information.  

Malware attacks can lead to various risks, including financial losses, operational disruptions, reputational damage, and legal liabilities. Implementing malware protection measures helps mitigate risks by reducing the likelihood and impact of malware infections, safeguarding their data assets, and preventing unauthorized access, theft, or data manipulation. 

While new Malware tactics are coming out every day, a well-documented Disaster Recovery plan (list above) is a great safeguard to ensure recovery if the protections you put in place, are not enough.  

 

#7. Monitoring and Reporting 

Monitoring systems and best practices enable organizations to promptly detect security incidents such as unauthorized access attempts, malware infections, or unusual network traffic patterns. Early detection allows organizations to respond quickly and mitigate the impact of security breaches. 

Monitoring and reporting help organizations identify and assess security risks by providing insights into the security posture of their IT infrastructure and systems. Organizations can proactively mitigate risks and prevent security incidents by continuously monitoring for potential security threats and vulnerabilities. 

These practices are essential for demonstrating compliance with regulatory requirements during audits and assessments. Compliance regulations such as GDPR, HIPAA, PCI DSS, and SOX mandate the implementation of monitoring and reporting mechanisms to ensure data security and privacy compliance. 

#8. Ongoing Training and Testing  

Your IT compliance plan must account for your people being your biggest threat.  

Any plan needs to include how you share, train and improve the awareness of your entire team. Awareness programs help foster a compliance-oriented culture within the organization. 

Regular training programs and periodic testing help your organizations adapt to evolving threats while identifying areas for enhancement and implementing corrective actions. 

Get Support with Your Information Technology Compliance 

Information technology compliance is not a one-time task but an ongoing commitment. Organizations can build a robust framework that promotes security, resilience, and trust by incorporating policies, training, and testing into their compliance efforts.  

By prioritizing compliance and embracing a culture of security, businesses can navigate the complex landscape of information technology with confidence and resilience. 

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