7 Things To Consider When Creating An IT Compliance Policy

Conducting business operations in the digital world means being prone to security risks. Mitigating these risks is impossible without a strong IT compliance policy.

With most organizations now dependent on digitized services, setting up a robust IT compliance policy in your business is more important than ever. Online companies rely on e-commerce websites to do business by taking orders and receiving payments. Even brick-and-mortar organizations utilize software to perform various activities, such as order management and back-office accounting. In our modern tech-driven environments, a lack of proper security measures jeopardizes a business's entire financial well-being. Lack of knowledge leads increased vulnerability, IT systems get abused, and technology tools often become a source of infiltration and hacks.


The best way to avoid the possibility of improper tech usage is to create a strong company-wide IT compliance policy. This article will cover key considerations when developing your system of technology compliance.



WHAT TO CONSIDER FOR IT COMPLIANCE POLICIES


Factor 1: People, Processes, and How They Align to Tech

IT compliance isn’t just about technology – it also involves people and processes. And the reality is that many organizations focus heavily on just their tech, resulting in failed audits due to their lack of consideration for the other two aspects. It is important to remember the "person behind the screen" when drafting IT compliance policies. Taking a balanced, well-planned approach can help ensure your enterprise abides by the necessary standards, while also ensuring the standards are easily followed at every level of company staffing.


Factor 2: Relevant Laws and Regulations

Laws and regulations stipulate the policies that govern IT compliance requirements. The most pertinent ones include:

  • The Sarbanes-Oxley Act – regulating financial reporting

  • The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act – governing non-public personal information and financial data

  • The Health Insurance and Accountability ACT – regulating health information that healthcare organizations process

Ultimately, you can’t start your compliance process without understanding the laws and regulations applicable to your organization.


You should also ascertain the controls that apply to these laws and regulations. They are process-oriented and technical means to adhere to your policies. There are various industry and government standards that specify them, including:

  • Control Objectives for Information and Related IT

  • National Institute of Standards and Technology

  • Payment Card Industry Data

These can have a massive bearing on your sector. Therefore, make sure to familiarize yourself with all relevant controls.


Factor 3: Raising Employee Awareness of the Importance of Policy

One of the biggest threats to your data security is having untrained employees, whose actions can have a huge impact on cybersecurity. For instance, improper software upload, sharing, download, and storing can jeopardize critical information. Many employees opt for insecure data transfer methods over secure company servers due to convenience. These tools include things such as personal emails, consumer-grade collaboration apps, and instant messaging, all of which are common targets for cybercriminals.


To prevent your business from becoming a victim, your users must learn and understand where various threats originate from. They should especially understand the actions that can give rise to vulnerabilities. Making secure file sharing a top priority and investing in proper education demonstrates the significance of IT compliance. Your efforts can help team members be more willing to adopt the best practices in this field.


When developing your training plan, make sure to include several key topics:

  • How insecure file transfer methods expose your company to risks

  • Avoiding phishing scams

  • Precautions to exercise before using or downloading unsanctioned applications

  • The conditions for using and creating strong passwords


Factor 4: How Your IT Policy Aligns with the Company's Security Policies

Aligning IT compliance with your business operations involves understanding the culture of your organization. For example, your environment can revolve around either processes or ad-hoc ("as needed") ways of doing things. Enterprises aligning with the former are best off issuing in-depth policies to ensure compliance, but companies that match the latter require detective and preventive controls. Writing policies based on preexisting company rules helps various auditors understand why you’ve deployed a particular control or accepted certain risks.


Factor 5: Understanding of the IT Environment

IT environments directly affect your IT policy compliance design. That said, there are two main kinds of environments:

  • Homogeneous environments – These consist of standardized vendors, configurations, and models. They’re largely consistent with your IT deployment.

  • Heterogeneous environments – The other type uses a wide range of security and compliance applications, versions, and technologies.

Generally, compliance costs are lower in homogeneous environments. Most vendors and technology add-ons tend towards higher complexity and less flexibility. As a result, the price of security and compliance per system isn’t as high as with heterogeneous solutions.


Regardless of your environment, your policy needs to appropriately tackle new technologies, including virtualization and cloud computing.


Factor 6: Establishment of Accountability

IT policy compliance doesn’t function without accountability. It entails defining organizational responsibilities and roles that determine the assets individuals need to protect. It also establishes who has the power to make crucial decisions. Accountability begins from the top and encompasses executives. And the best way to guarantee involvement is to cast IT policy compliance programs in terms of risks instead of technology.


As for your IT providers, they have two pivotal roles:

  • Data/system owners – The owner is part of your management team that’s responsible for data usage and care. Plus, they’re accountable for protecting and managing information.

  • Data/system custodians – Custodial roles can entail several duties, such as system administration, security analysis, legal counseling, and internal auditing.

These responsibilities are essential for IT policy compliance. For example, auditors need to carefully verify compliance activity execution. Otherwise, there’s no way to ensure the implementation is going according to plan.


Factor 7: Automation of the Compliance Process

Your IT systems continually evolve and grow. Internal auditors can only review a small number of user accounts and system configurations. Automation is the only way to ensure you can evaluate enough systems regularly and with accuracy.



BREEZE THROUGH YOUR BUSINESS’S IT COMPLIANCE


Setting up well-designed IT compliance may be a long process, but it can make a world of difference in terms of business security. It keeps your business reputation intact and allows you to avoid penalties and fines. If your IT isn’t living up to its potential, you’re bound to face not only security concerns, but also compliance issues. This can cause tremendous stress and halt your operations. You’ll need to pay special attention to several aspects, one of the most significant being your IT services provider.



Article used with permission from The Technology Press.

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