10 Steps to Successfully Navigate Cybersecurity Compliance

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I’s a lesson we learn early and often: sometimes the things that are best for you aren’t very much fun. Whether that’s eating your greens or flossing your teeth, taking care of yourself may not be a blast in the short-term, but it pays real dividends.  

The same can be said for cybersecurity compliance. You may not be starting fan clubs for compliance frameworks and regulations anytime soon, but the guardrails they put in place provide protection organizations need to prosper. Still, achieving and maintaining compliance can be a significant challenge for any security team.  

When navigating the complex world of cybersecurity compliance, it’s crucial to first take a step back to understand the full scope of the work before you. Then, break the task down into meaningful, manageable steps. This will help you keep the end goal in sight while you tick off incremental steps that help maintain momentum.  

How to Navigate Cybersecurity Compliance

1. Understand Your Requirements 

The first step is to understand the requirements your organization must adhere to. This can be a daunting task all on its own. Not only are there large, federal requirements (HIPPA, PCI DSS, etc.), but many states have enacted their own requirements, as well. Last year alone 36 states enacted new cybersecurity laws.  

2. Choose a Framework 

Once you’ve determined what compliance, regulations, and laws you need to adhere to, the next step is to pick a security framework to build your program upon. The most common frameworks are NIST 800 – 53 and ISO 27001, but whichever you choose, your framework will help you map to compliance requirements so that you’re not building everything all over again when laws, regulations or requirements change. 

3. Identify Gaps

The next step will be to conduct a gap assessment on the security environment you have already built and judge how it aligns to the controls within your selected framework. Doing this will save you a lot of time and effort, and will help you focus on what needs to be done and in what order.

4. Classify Your Data 

It’s important to know the gaps that exist in your program but, before you can move towards measuring and reducing risk, you need to understand where risk may lie. To understand that you need to accurately define the importance, location, and (eventually) the access to data. 

5. Conduct a Risk Assessment 

Once your data has been identified and classified, it’s time to complete a risk assessment. This ranks risk based on likelihood and impact in your organization and considers your people, process and technology. Your organization can leverage this assessment and its results to reduce risk by closing the gaps you’ve discovered. 

6. Engage Stakeholders

Engage your C-Suite and other stakeholders to ensure full transparency and communication around your organization’s risk and security gaps. Your stakeholders will have a great deal of input on what level of risk they’re willing to tolerate and what regulatory gaps they consider acceptable for the business to shoulder. They also hold the purse strings, meaning they can approve the resources you need to achieve your goal.

7. Set Up Your Team

Task someone — or, in large enterprises, an entire team — with governance, risk and compliance (GRC), and have regular meetings with them to ensure progress is being made. Since laws differ from country to country and even state to state, identify leadership in your different jurisdictions who can provide boots-on-the-ground knowledge of the regulations and requirements they face. But remember that every employee in your organization owns risk. Communicate to your different divisions and departments which risks they can have direct and meaningful impact on and give them the tools and training they need to remediate them. 

8. Map Your Framework to Compliance 

Now that you have a functional security program based on a framework that measures risk across the organization, it’s time to map that framework to compliance regulations, requirements, and laws. A lot of regulations specifically state what data they aim to protect. For example, HIPPA protects patient health information and PCI DSS protects cardholder data, and it’s important to know what assets and data fall under what regulations and frameworks. It’s also important to consider your jurisdiction and identify any particular or unique requirements or regulations specific not only to the industry your business is in, but where you’re doing business. 

9. Remember Compliance ≠ Security 

One does not equal the other. Just because you’re compliant does not mean you’re practicing effective cybersecurity. Conversely, you can be secure and safe and still not compliant, because you haven’t done the work needed to become so. It can be easy for organizations to confuse the two or conflate them with each other, and it’s crucial that security teams understand they are two totally separate entities, requiring different efforts.  

10. Consider a Concierge Approach 

Finally, consider a concierge approach like that of Arctic Wolf. Our Concierge Security Team works with you to gain full understanding of your security journey, and then leverages their extensive knowledge and experience to help you achieve compliance. We are vendor-neutral, meaning we work with all your existing tools, and we take a holistic approach to telemetry, meaning we provide full visibility into your entire environment, letting you identify and close compliance gaps you might otherwise miss. 

If you’re looking to take a deeper dive into the topics covered above, we’ve got a webinar for that. In Navigating the Complex World of Cybersecurity Compliance, Arctic Wolf Field CTO Christopher Fielder leads an engaging discussion with Arctic Wolf Senior Sales Engineer Brad Hanly and Technical Product Manager Eugene Grant, where they discuss this topic in greater depth and answer some frequently asked questions, as well.  

If you’re ready to take the next steps in navigating the complex world of compliance, visit our compliance page, where you can learn more about industry-specific requirements and see how Arctic Wolf can help you achieve compliance. There’s even an interactive map that can help you determine the requirements and regulations specific to your jurisdiction.  

Arctic Wolf is on a mission to end cyber risk. If you’d like to discover how we can not only help you achieve and maintain compliance, but also proactively secure your environments, click to learn more or schedule a demo today. 


Author Sean Phillips is Arctic Wolf’s director of alliances. Read more Arctic Wolf guest blogs here. Regularly contributed guest blogs are part of MSSP Alert’s sponsorship program.

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