Understanding Key GRC Components to Help MSSPs Simplify Compliance 

Arrow of a compass is pointing compliance text on the compass. Arrow, compliance text and the frame of compass are metallic blue in color. Red light illuminating compass is creating a sense of tension. Black backgound. Horizontal composition with copy space. Compliance concept.

The complexities and evolving nature of Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) compliance can make it feel like an insurmountable challenge. That’s why more small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) are turning to MSSPs for help.

Often, this is based because of a lack of understanding of key GRC components and some of the many ways an MSSP can simplify compliance.

The G in GRC

In terms of GRC, governance is thinking about what drives an organization and how your MSSP can use those drivers to develop or define a client’s GRC program.

This may be the result of clients getting asked (or asking you) what’s in place to manage and mitigate risk (think in terms of security or compliance questionnaires) or specific government or regulatory mandates.

Governance is the first step in GRC. It’s a way you can help your client get its arms around a GRC program. It encompasses the people, processes, and technologies they’ll need to get there.

As your client thinks about governance, help them look through a lens of defining policies. Ask them:

  • What are you doing that sets your compliance bar?
  • What are the outcomes you expect from your people, processes, and technology?

Your client’s governance plans should develop key policies that hold teams accountable for specific outcomes, for example, a governance policy about employee awareness and training. This policy should specify clear processes to ensure employees understand risk and how to mitigate it.

Simplifying Governance

To ensure governance efficiencies, consider using a framework that sets a foundation and drives the program, along with controls that align and support key program areas.

If your client is pursuing DoD contracts, for example, it might be helpful to start with NIST 800-171 then align to CMMC.

Or, if the client doesn’t have those requirements, it might work well to align with the NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) or CIS, depending on the organization’s specific needs. NIST CSF tends to be more policy and program focused whereas CIS focuses more on controls.

Once you help your client choose a framework, conduct an assessment of current control levels, identify gaps, and home-in on areas to make improvements.

With a GRC tool, you can help your client get more visibility into what’s required to drive maturity. Depending on development phase, the program may be as immature as using pencil and paper or spreadsheets to track controls and framework compliance. However, the more mature the program becomes, along with more frameworks used, it will be increasingly challenging to drive maturity without a GRC technology.

A SaaS-based GRC platform really shines here. It offers your clients often otherwise unrealized benefits. For example, a GRC solution can help centralize and standardize processes and tasks instead of having to chase down people or paperwork to figure out performance manually.

A GRC platform can also simplify control and sub-control mapping across multiple frameworks simultaneously. For example, if the organization uses NIST 800-171 controls, without duplicating work, a GRC platform can align those same controls to other selected frameworks.

A benefit here? An updated control or sub-control in one framework is automatically updated in the others.

This saves time and removes duplicated work, which can ultimately result in cost-savings. It also gives a more holistic view of the entire security and compliance program, ultimately helping better manage more frameworks more effectively.

The ability to simplify mapping multiple frameworks, especially in light of more regulatory requirements or client requests, means you can quickly see where you are, what you need to accomplish, and can then drill that down to a granular level, all the way to sub-controls.

Understanding and Simplifying Risk Mitigation

In terms of GRC, risk is not siloed from governance or compliance. All three work in tandem.

In terms of risk management, you must understand your client’s risk universe. You can use spreadsheets to do this, but you need to see risk in a more holistic view, such as how it relates to people, procedures, and technologies used to mitigate risk. It all goes hand-in-hand, and a GRC platform can give you that visibility instantly and with more accuracy.

For effective risk mitigation, your clients need comprehensive insight into their risks, risk types, technical controls for mitigation, as well as inherent and residual risks.

All organizations live with some level of acceptable risk. Once you know your client’s inherent risks, and develop a risk register, you and your client will have to determine if residual risk is acceptable or if not. From there, your clients can make better business decisions, such as:

  • Do we want to invest in a specific mitigation technology?
  • Do we need to conduct penetration testing?
  • Should we invest in a specific type of vulnerability scanning?

Risk management is a driving force in ensuring that appropriate measures are in place to maintain operations and meet client needs.

Here, a risk assessment is essential and a GRC platform makes this more manageable. A GRC solution can help capture risk down to a specific sub-control level. This goes beyond a compliance perspective into a programmatic level that may be more security-focused.

Allocating risk resources for mitigation is likely a challenge for your clients, especially in terms of ensuring they have the right people, finances, and technical resources. When you have all of your client’s risk identification in a single source of truth like a GRC platform, you get that holistic view. From there, you can see the most critical areas and then plan for appropriate resources.

Compliance Key Drivers

For most organizations, there are four key compliance drivers:

  • Insurance
  • Boards
  • Government regulations
  • Customers

Today, acquiring cyber insurance is challenging. As such, we’re seeing increased expectations about what that insurance is, and who and what it will cover. Many providers now require clearly defined security controls and may also require validation those controls are met.

With these changes, your clients should expect being subject to continuous control monitoring, which brings with it a range of requirements and additional expectations, especially as the attack surface evolves.

While insurance mandates can be demanding, the reality is providers aren’t asking for things much different than security frameworks—it’s the same information, just requested in different terms.

Program Maturity

The more an organization embraces a holistic view, security controls will drive maturity and make it easier to meet expectations from all key GRC drivers. This can help your client build board and key stakeholder confidence. As a result, as an MSSP you may see more opportunities to secure more contracts, win new business, and drive validation with clients by demonstrating you’re committed to protecting and securing their data, too.

A GRC solution can help address all these areas at once. Harmonization will drive that direction forward with more efficiency.

Across the board, whether it’s governance, risk, or compliance, you’ll likely see a lot of synergies between challenges and driving forces. It comes down to business specifics. It’s about a defined approach, understanding drivers, and being prepared to effectively address the security, risk, and compliance concerns your clients have.

Those forces are ultimately your end game:

  • Be able to respond.
  • Be proactive.
  • Mature beyond a reactive security and compliance state.

Learn More: If you would like to learn more about the Apptega platform, schedule a custom tour. Learn more on how Apptega can simplify day-to-day cybersecurity and compliance management for your clients.

Guest blog courtesy of Apptega. See more Apptega guest blogs here. Regularly contributed guest blogs are part of MSSP Alert’s sponsorship program.

Sponsored by Apptega

Apptega simplifies cybersecurity and compliance management for MSSPs. Apptega’s guest blogs describe how MSSPs can navigate, monetize and automate GRC (governance, risk, and compliance).