This guide provides a comprehensive overview of IT compliance and the part it plays in IT security. It will also help you choose the right compliance reports tool for your company. As you get started, SolarWinds® Security Event Manager (SEM) comes highly recommended as a near-automated IT security compliance solution that enables you to verify IT compliance and helps you perform many compliance-related IT operations.
What Is IT Compliance?
IT compliance and security both contribute to the protection of a company’s digital assets, but they operate differently.
While effective IT security involves establishing and implementing technical controls to safeguard a company’s assets, IT compliance—sometimes called IT security compliance or technology compliance—involves meeting the regulatory or contractual requirements defined by a third party.
Third-party IT compliance regulations your company is required to comply with might come in the form of government policies, industry regulations, security frameworks, or contractual terms associated with the service or product you are providing.
Because third parties often determine IT compliance standards, certain regulations might sometimes seem like they go beyond what your company considers to be strictly necessary. However, failure to comply with information security compliance standards can have a severe impact on your business.
Lack of IT compliance can result in:
- Diminished customer trust
- Damaged reputation
- Financial ramifications that could result in your company incurring hefty fines
- Legal ramifications that could prevent your company from working in certain markets or locations
Given the seriousness of IT and technology compliance, you must be aware of any information security compliance standards applicable to your business.
Who Needs IT Compliance?
Whether your company is subject to compliance requirements will depend on several factors, including the country or state it operates in. Areas with privacy or data laws, like the California Consumer Privacy Act and GDPR, are likely to have compliance standards you must follow.
Your market is another factor. Heavily regulated markets, like finance and healthcare, typically require businesses to meet certain standards. You may also have to adhere to specific regulations if you are working with clients who require high levels of confidentiality. In this case, your client contract or non-disclosure agreement (NDA) may define the compliance standards you’re expected to meet.
The importance of IT compliance often extends beyond IT security. Your company’s ability to comply with the terms of your client contract, for example, might be less about security and more about safeguarding service availability and reliability.
There are many regulations only some types of businesses are legally required to meet. Some of the most well-known of these regulations are:
- The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA): This law in the U.S. dictates how companies working in the healthcare sector share and handle their patients’ health information (read more here).
- The Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX): This financial regulation applies to all publicly traded U.S. companies, foreign companies doing business in the U.S., and wholly-owned subsidiaries (read more).
- The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI-DSS): These standards consist of a group of security requirements to protect the privacy of consumers when personal credit card details are being transmitted, processed, or stored by businesses (read more).
- ISO 27001: This is not legally binding, but companies may opt into complying with these information security standards if they wish to. Doing so demonstrates a commitment to a high standard of IT security.
- DISA STIG: DISA STIG refers to an organization, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), that issues technical guides called Security Technical Implementation Guides (STIGs). These guides detail how a company should manage its security systems and software.
Although adhering to IT compliance requirements is of critical importance for businesses, it shouldn’t serve as a substitute for effective IT security. A wholly compliance-oriented approach to IT security leaves businesses vulnerable to increasingly complex and advanced cyberattacks. IT compliance should always form part of a robust and comprehensive IT security strategy.
Benefits of IT Security Compliance
Companies required to comply with certain standards will incur costs associated with creating the necessary systems and policies to achieve full IT compliance—but there are some notable benefits to meeting information security compliance standards.
Here are a few of the most significant advantages of IT and technology compliance.
Not only are data breaches costly, but they can also have a dramatic impact on a business’ reputation with its customers. In many cases, bad actors steal personal customer information clients have entrusted the business with. For example, the breach of MySpace in 2016 resulted in 360 million customer accounts being compromised.
In the aftermath of a data breach, a company must face the difficult task of earning back its customers’ trust. Sometimes, the damage done is irreparable.
A great benefit of complying with IT and technology compliance regulations is the safety it affords your company’s reputation.
Companies must be aware of any existing compliance regulations that apply to them to avoid penalties and fines. In some cases, these penalties can be severe and unsustainable. Detailed below are the fines associated with some of the most well-known IT compliance acts and regulations.
- HIPAA: Fines for breaching HIPAA regulations can range from US$100 to $50,000 for a single violation. The maximum annual penalty is $1.5 million.
- GDPR: If your company is required to comply with GDPR and fails to, it could face a fine of 20 million euros or fines equaling four percent of its global turnover.
- PCI-DSS: Fines for breaching PCI-DSS range from US$5,000 to $100,000 per month.
- SOX: Executives could face up to 10 years imprisonment and fines up to US$1 million for knowingly certifying any financial records that do not comply with SOX requirements.
Avoiding these hefty fines is a significant benefit of IT compliance.
Organizations that fail to invest in their IT compliance and regularly fall short of the required standards are significantly less likely to be considered for valuable business partnerships.
If failure to comply with the necessary standards resulted in hefty fines, or damaged reputation, this could have a knock-on effect on any associated partners. As a result, most businesses are understandably hesitant to establish partnerships with organizations that have failed to achieve IT compliance.
Achieving IT compliance can open the door to valuable business partnerships.
Security Compliance Goals
Committing to IT security compliance can create several opportunities for companies to improve other aspects of their business. By setting yourself security compliance goals, like those outlined below, you can increase the value and return on investment of your IT compliance efforts.
IT compliance often requires companies to enhance their data management capabilities, which can reap operational benefits. For many companies, complying with data security regulations begins with effectively managing and storing sensitive customer information. This requires businesses to ensure they can access, modify, or delete information efficiently and reliably.
By enhancing their data management capabilities to ensure IT compliance, companies can implement improved IT asset management policies for data monitoring, which can have a positive effect on operational efficiency. For example, many businesses choose to implement organizational tools to make stored customer data searchable. They can then segment the data, analyze it, and potentially reveal hidden marketing opportunities.
Establishing improved data management capabilities as one of your security compliance goals helps ensure your IT compliance measures achieve more than ticking boxes and avoiding fines; they also positively impact operational efficiency.
Companies that collect customer data have the chance to make improvements to their company’s attitude towards privacy by adopting robust IT compliance practices that may either meet or exceed requirements. In doing so, organizations can establish an internal culture external brand identity that prioritizes data privacy and IT security. This positions their company as morally responsible, which is likely to attract both customers and high-quality talent.
Many companies choose to establish a security compliance goal of exceeding the expectations of information security compliance standards. This tells its workforce and its audience they view data security as a matter of trust and responsibility rather than a legal requirement—which could set it apart from other organizations.
To maximize the value of their IT compliance efforts, many companies make leveraging data insights effectively a security compliance goal. When companies implement security applications and tools to meet information security compliance standards, they regularly gain important insights into their operational efficiency. For example, they might discover poor management of personnel, inefficient use of resources, or other assets that could be redeployed. Companies may also uncover opportunities to reduce operational costs or improve their marketing efforts.
Committing to leveraging data insights appropriately as part of your IT compliance efforts is an important security compliance goal and can make IT compliance feel less like a burden and more like a critical internal function.
How to Choose the Right Compliance Reports Tool
When choosing a compliance reports tool, there are some features you should prioritize to help you achieve IT compliance in a streamlined, efficient, and reliable way.
A combination of real-time log analysis and cross-event correlation features enables you to collect data from across your complete infrastructure. By delivering this data in real-time, you can uncover and rapidly respond to issues, including policy violations, threats, and attacks.
Built-in reporting templates can help ensure your IT compliance reporting efforts are streamlined, consistent, and reliable. Ideally, the compliance reports tool you choose should include built-in report templates for external and internal regulatory compliance standards relevant to your company.
To certify the tool you are considering is suited to your company’s compliance requirements, keep an eye out for templates that support the regulatory compliance standards you must comply with, such as PCI DSS, SOX, HIPAA, or GLBA.
While automated reporting can be beneficial, there may be times when your company could benefit from on-demand reporting. On-demand, custom reporting enables you to generate reports that address issues at specific times. This can be especially helpful when troubleshooting. A combination of automated and on-demand reporting options affords you the best of both worlds.
Collecting data from multiple sources can be challenging and may make you vulnerable to mistakes or oversights. Choosing a tool with comprehensive and centralized compliance reporting capabilities enables you to collect data on your users, databases, applications, and network elements all in one place. This helps you discover and respond to compliance violations quickly and efficiently.
One of the more sophisticated capabilities to look out for is automated compliance violation response. Many security issues will require immediate action to minimize the damage, which is why choosing a tool designed to automatically act against compliance violations is of critical importance.
SolarWinds Security Event Manager is an affordable but sophisticated compliance reports tool designed to deliver near-automated compliance reporting. This tool includes the key features you need, providing automated compliance violation response, the option of automated and on-demand reports, built-in templates, cross-event correlation, real-time log analysis, and much more.
The SEM compliance reporting application converts data collected by SEM into information you can use to identify and troubleshoot network issues. SEM allows you to run reports on your database to gain insight into trends and events, enabling you to make informed choices regarding network activity.
With SEM, you can run more than 200 industry-specific and standard reports, maximizing insight into your network’s security, so you can make the best choices for your business. There are four categories of SEM reports:
- Standard reports, which capture and report on event data during a specific period.
- Industry reports, which support auditing and compliance requirements of certain industries (i.e., healthcare and financial services) and accountability requirements for publicly traded organizations.
- Custom reports, which display reports you have customized to serve a specific purpose.
- Favorite reports, which display the industry, custom, and standard reports you create and use most frequently. You can remove or add favorite reports as needed.
SEM includes three report levels:
- Primary reports, which are effectively standard reports featuring subtopics. Each subtopic will include specific details on the primary topic. These topics form a report, much like the chapters of a book. Primary reports also feature a graphical summary.
- Detail reports, which include all events and their details.
- Top reports, which include top events in a specific category.
The SEM reports application can run on-demand or scheduled reports, depending on your needs:
- Scheduled reports can be configured to run automatically, without any intervention, according to a schedule determined by you and your team.
- On-demand reports can be run as and when you feel they would be useful.
Once you have run your report, you have the option of printing or exporting it to different formats, including Microsoft Word and PDF.
Choosing the Right Compliance Reports Tool
In addition to being a comprehensive and feature-rich compliance reports tool, SolarWinds SEM is user-friendly and supports several other compliance-related IT operations. With its reporting options, supported regulations, and customization capabilities, SEM is a dependable option for companies hoping to improve IT compliance or achieve their security compliance goals. A fully functional 30-day free trial of SEM is available.