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Compliance Is Not Equivalent to Security

How Are Achieving Cyber Security Compliance and a Truly Secure State Different?

Achieving Compliance is Not Equivalent to Achieving an Actual Secure State

The backdrop of today’s information security landscape is riddled with demands of the myriad of industry and government compliance requirements for protecting information. From HIPAA to PCI to countless other industry and government compliance mandates, the regulations are complex and seemingly endless, and most businesses have to put a considerable amount of resources toward achieving and maintaining compliance.

But here’s the trouble—many businesses, throughout all sectors, fall victim to the false belief that achieving compliance with a given regulation is equivalent to achieving actual security. It is true that compliance is absolutely critical; the consequences of failure to comply can involve legal consequences, including federal fines. Further, it makes sense that businesses often equate compliance with security, given the cybersecurity stipulations put forth by regulatory bodies.

However, when you take a closer look, most compliance requirements provide baseline recommendations for information security; not detailed conditions for a secure operating state. The required security controls are not necessarily specific, and for good reason—the security controls your business should use is incredibly variable depending on numerous factors, including industry, company size, sensitivity of information, amount of data, and countless others.

Consider HIPAA, for example. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “The Security Rule” requires that covered entities maintain reasonable physical, technical, and administrative safeguards for securing electronic protected health information (ePHI). The specifics stipulate that covered entities do the following with regard to protecting ePHI:

  • Ensure confidentiality, integrity, and availability of e-PHI
  • Identify and protect against reasonably anticipated threats to information security
  • Protect against reasonably anticipated, impermissible uses or disclosures
  • Ensure workforce compliance

It’s not as exact as a lot of organizations believe, and many requirements coming from other regulatory bodies are presented similarly. Your business is being asked to show that you’re protecting information at a certain level, but you’re not necessarily told how. Here’s where the actual security controls you choose to employ come in.


A Risky Way to Approach Managing Security Controls

It’s common for businesses to associate compliance with security, which often results in taking a bare minimum approach to choosing security tools. This paradigm can actually lead to the opposite of what compliance requirements are designed to achieve, leaving businesses vulnerable to greater risk.


In the realm of information security, compliance means being able to demonstrate a certain level of data protection according to a regulation, but it doesn’t mean that your business is safe from breach. Making this distinction is critical, because selecting the right tools and strategy for achieving security for your business depends on your unique needs.


Achieve and Maintain Compliance and Security

Depending on the nature of the compliance requirements in your industry related to regulations and governance, some policies may be more complex than others. An organization may also require stricter policies, depending on its tolerance for risk. The key takeaway where the compliance vs. security conundrum is concerned is understanding how to achieve and maintain compliance, while also effectively balancing the development and management of a security program that will protect your business from risk.

CSS is available to talk about the compliance-related cyber security questions your organization has. Our cybersecurity experts can work with you to navigate the compliance landscape and identify the best cybersecurity approach for your business.