What is a compliance framework?
In the past decade, a host of data privacy regulations have been introduced to combat the growing risk of cyber threats in today’s increasingly interconnected digital world. Companies must comply with these regulations to secure customers’ personal data – or risk leaving themselves susceptible to data breaches, as well as the financial, legal, and reputational damage that accompanies non-compliance.
Fortunately, the necessary introduction of data security legislation has also seen the emergence of compliance frameworks. Companies benefit greatly from IT compliance frameworks because they provide them with structured collections of resources, guidelines and best practices to implement all the processes and controls necessary to meet compliance requirements.
Let’s take a closer look at security compliance frameworks and how can they benefit your company.
What is the difference between compliance and a framework?
Compliance is the process of adhering to, or complying with, a law or regulation – in this case, data privacy legislation like GDPR or CCPA. A framework, or, more specifically, a compliance framework, is a documented series of guidelines that detail the processes, procedures, and controls that a company should implement to become compliant.
To put it another way – compliance is a destination and a framework provides the directions for getting there.
What is the point of a compliance framework?
In short, the point of a compliance framework is to provide all the resources and guidelines required for a company to comply with data security regulations. However, to fully appreciate the point of compliance frameworks, it’s best first to understand why it’s crucial for companies to comply with data privacy legislation in the first place.
Internet usage has exploded in the last 25 years, with 413 million internet users in 2000 growing to a predicted 5.3 billion by the end of 2023. This massive increase in people surfing the web has led to an exponential rise in data, with studies estimating that each person generates 1.7 MB of data every second – which adds up to an astounding 2.5 quintillion bytes every day!
As a result, companies collect more customer data than ever before and, with eCommerce sites and web applications, from more geographic locations. Subsequently, data security is a cross-border concern as businesses can operate internationally relatively easily.
Additionally, the increased connectivity of the information age has brought along a new set of dangers in the form of cybercrime. As more of a user’s personally identifiable information (PII) and sensitive personal information (SPI) became digitised, the risk of an individual becoming a victim of identity theft, financial loss, and other fraud snowballed. Worse still, the number, type, sophistication, and severity of cyberthreats only increased as technology advanced.
In response, governments and other regulatory bodies have steadily introduced data privacy legislation and specifications to better protect customer data, which include:
- How data is collected and stored
- How individuals are informed that their data will be collected
- What control an individual has over their information upon collection
Subsequently, data privacy laws are not only intended to prevent an individual’s PII and SPI from falling into the hands of cybercriminals but from being misused by the companies that collect them.
However, while the primary objective of data privacy legislation is to protect customer data, by implementing the security measures to required become compliant, a company will also:
- Better secure their own assets: improving the security around customer data also better protects the company’s data, systems, and network.
- Prevent financial loss: there’s a smaller chance the company will be a victim of fraud or theft.
- Prevent reputation damage: the company lowers the risk of the, often considerable, damage to their industry standing as the result of suffering a breach. Conversely, achieving compliance is something that companies can market themselves on to show their customer data is safe and cyber security is a priority.
- Ensure business continuity: the company will be in a better position to maintain and/or resume normal business operations in the event of a cyber attack.
However, many companies fail to meet compliance requirements despite these benefits and the consequences of non-compliance, such as financial penalties and litigation. This is because becoming compliant is often costly, complex, and time-consuming, requiring a company to make significant changes to its business processes, security policies, and IT infrastructure. This is where compliance frameworks come in.
By compiling all the relevant documents, resources and instructions that enable them to implement the required processes and controls, security compliance frameworks make it easier for companies to achieve regulatory compliance. Compliance frameworks allow companies to:
- Meet regulatory standards in less time, with less effort, and at lower cost.
- Remove the trial and error from implementing a compliant cyber security risk mitigation strategy.
- Reap the benefits of compliance, i.e., better cyber security, enhanced reputation, etc.
- Avoid the consequences of non-compliance, i.e., financial penalties and litigation.
Riskxchange helps companies become compliant with our compliance solution for companies of all sizes.
What are the four types of compliance?
1. HR compliance: anything employment related, such as ethics and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), etc.
2. Data compliance: data privacy, information security, etc.
3. Health and safety compliance: anything related to employee wellbeing, i.e., safe work practices, personal protective equipment (PPE), emergency procedures,
4. Financial compliance: record keeping, invoices, receipts, evidence of the provenance of income, etc.
Examples of prominent compliance frameworks
While some compliance frameworks are far-reaching and apply to a wide range of organisations, others only apply to companies in particular countries and/or industries. Here are some of the most prominent compliance frameworks your company may have to adhere to.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a Iegal framework that enforces data security for the nearly 450 million European Union (EU) citizens. However, GDPR doesn’t only apply to companies based in the EU but to any organisation that collects and stores data from EU citizens.
Now, while GDPR is a legal framework and outlines seven information security principles with which companies have to comply – it doesn’t count as an actual IT security compliance framework. This is because while it offers guidelines, the GDPR doesn’t specify the policies and controls to become compliant. To ensure compliance with GDPR, companies should adhere to compliance frameworks like NIST CSF or information security standards like ISO 27001.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is a non-regulatory US governmental body that publishes a range of IT compliance frameworks to help improve your company’s cybersecurity posture. The NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) is their most widely used and assists companies in meeting compliance standards for various essential data privacy specifications and legislation. The NIST CSF revolves around the five core security functions of identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover.
The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) provide residents of California with comprehensive rights and control over their personal information and how it’s used by companies that collect it, which includes the right:
- To know what is collected and stored
- The right to delete data
- The right to opt-out of the sale of their personal data information that businesses col
Although the CCPA is presently the USA’s most far-reaching data privacy law, the Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act (VCDPA) went into effect at the start of 2023, while Colorado, Connecticut, Utah, and Washington have similar legislation pending.
Subsequently, the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) has developed its own CCPA compliance framework to help companies meet the required regulatory standards. Other security compliance frameworks like the IAB CCPA are sure to be introduced as more US states adopt consumer data protection laws shortly.
The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is one of the most fundamental security compliance frameworks because any company that processes card transactions must adhere to it. PCI DSS specifies how organisations worldwide should handle and store customers’ credit and debit card information, based on six control categories:
- Build and maintain a secure network and systems
- Protect cardholder data
- Maintain a vulnerability management program
- Implement strong access control measures
- Regularly monitor and test networks
- Maintain an information security policy
Service Organization Control (SOC) is a cyber security framework and reporting standard created by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). SOC was designed to ensure service businesses, like those in the accounting industry, secure client data. While there are three types of SOC reports, SOC2 is the most important as it specifies how companies should manage customer data according to security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy criteria.
AT-101, or AT section 101, is part of the Attestation Standard for performing SOC2 and SOC3 compliance audits. AT-101 is so synonymous with SOC 2 that it’s commonly referred to as AT-101 SOC 2.
What should be in a compliance framework?
A compliance framework should include all the necessary resources and instructions to help a company implement cyber security measures that meet compliance standards.
This could include:
• Best practices
How RiskXchange can help you choose the right compliance framework
While choosing the right frameworks for your company to achieve compliance can be challenging, fortunately, you won’t have to do it alone. Riskxchange will help you select the appropriate compliance frameworks to adhere to based on your company, industry, existing cyber security posture, and more. Contact RiskXchange to get started with your free attack surface assessment.