By Cody Hewell and Brett Davis
A report by Proofpoint indicated that nearly 70% of CISOs feel their organization is at risk of experiencing a material cyber attack in the next 12 months. While annual assessments and audits will help your organization demonstrate your commitment to cybersecurity best practices, implementing a continuous compliance monitoring strategy is a key aspect of maintaining compliance throughout the year.
Compliance monitoring involves tracking compliance performance, identifying potential issues, and creating solutions to address those issues. It also refers to the quality assurance tests used to check how well business operations meet regulatory and internal process obligations. In other words, continuously monitoring your organization’s compliance ensures that your operations are working as they should.
Let’s examine why a compliance monitoring strategy is essential in today’s business landscape and how to integrate a monitoring plan into your organization’s policy, procedures, and overall culture.
Why is Compliance Monitoring Important?
The regulatory compliance landscape changes quickly, and keeping up with its evolutions can be difficult. That, in turn, can increase the risk of non-compliance—resulting in the possibility of financial losses, lawsuits, fines, and even a damaged reputation. A continuous monitoring strategy will ensure your controls are operating correctly and you’re following protocol for any laws and regulations with which you need to comply. Compliance monitoring helps alert your organization of any issues or security breaches immediately and spells out control requirements in a digestible way.
Compliance monitoring can also be essential for organizations with a limited information security team. Using varied compliance monitoring strategies will help you gain the appropriate structure for risk management solutions. For instance, there’s the technical side to compliance monitoring, which includes monitoring your controls, operations, and specific audit requirements like SOC 2 criteria and ISO 27001 controls. There’s also a human element to compliance monitoring, including security awareness training and ensuring your associates follow company policies and procedures.
Other positive impacts of compliance monitoring include:
- Demonstrating that your organization has compliant policies and procedures;
- Scaling your organization’s business;
- Achieving regulatory compliance; and,
- Creating thorough documentation.
Creating a Compliance Monitoring Plan
While there’s no specific template for monitoring risks, creating a continuous compliance monitoring plan that’s appropriate for your environment can help you establish the correct processes and ensure regulatory compliance.
Here are a few things to consider when creating a robust compliance monitoring program:
- Form an information security committee. This could include engineering, legal, HR, and IT teams as well as a dedicated project leader responsible for specific parts of the compliance monitoring strategy.
- Complete a risk assessment. It’s essential to understand your organization’s weaknesses and complete due diligence processes of anticipating, identifying, and addressing cyber risks. This will help all parties involved as you integrate and improve your compliance monitoring strategy.
- Create a budget and timeframe. Having a clear understanding of how much time and resources you’re able to spend on your compliance monitoring strategy will help your organization create a clear and achievable plan.
- Understand your goals. Know the requirements for the reports and certifications you are trying to achieve and the laws and regulations applicable to your organization. While you don’t need to monitor everything, consider what applies to your specific environment.
- Create a solid inventory. Document and continually update what’s in your environment, such as operating systems, hardware, etc.
- Include target dates and respond quickly to risks. Create goals for the completion of specific monitoring tasks. As you meet these goals, you can better decide if the controls are working as expected or need further adjustment.
Improve Monitoring with Compliance Automation
Before compliance automation, report preparation was completed manually, and monitoring was either done in person or by listening to telephone recordings. This limitation meant there was always the possibility of undetected issues. Today, compliance automation helps to manage and reduce risks. With the right tools, organizations can continually and automatically track new or updated regulations, allowing for quicker responses to changes without the burden of manual techniques.
Compliance monitoring tools allow teams to implement automatic and continuously monitored control frameworks that not only remediate issues but also demonstrate compliance for stakeholders. Take a look at some key features to think about when choosing a compliance monitoring tool:
- Real-time Alerts: The sign of a good compliance monitoring tool is one that delivers real-time alerts on important changes to sensitive data and can continually respond to events that match predetermined risk conditions.
- Scalability and Flexibility: Even with automation, a manual component will always exist. The configurations should allow compliance team members to monitor parameters and highlight issues that need continual investigation.
- Integration Capabilities: Compliance automation is meant to free a team from manual and repetitive tasks, helping to focus on the bigger picture—like policy creation, employee training, regulation review, and creating compliance strategy. When looking for a compliance monitoring tool, find a platform that best integrates with critical systems—like infrastructure and change management tools, HR, CRM, or expense systems—for optimal efficiency.
- Reports and Deliverables: Reports are a significant component of compliance automation platforms. As you’re researching compliance software, look for systems with reporting options, such as the ability to save preferred layouts and common reports so organizations can share them across their team for improved efficiency.
Continuous compliance monitoring doesn’t have to be difficult. With the correct planning and support, organizations of all sizes can integrate a robust compliance monitoring strategy that’s applicable to their specific environment and needs.
Contact us today for more information on how to set up and expand a continuous compliance monitoring strategy at your organization.
About the Authors
As a Manager for Quality and Compliance at BARR, Cody Hewell has successfully worked within attestation doing audit engagements at BARR Advisory and other firms. Previously, he worked in GRC and risk teams at Fortune 500 companies. In addition, he has past U.S. Military experience, including active and reserve roles in the U.S. Army, working in technical operations.
Cody earned a Master of Science in Information Systems from Georgia State University, a Master of Science in Instructional Systems and Learning Technologies from Florida State University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Georgia.
As a Senior Associate for Cybersecurity Consulting at BARR, Brett Davis evaluates the design and effectiveness of clients’ technology controls to prevent breaches and incidents and identify opportunities to operate more efficiently. Brett is recognized as a diligent, disciplined individual that goes above and beyond for his team and his clients.
Prior to BARR, Brett served in the United States Navy for six years, where he was a member of the elite Navy Special Warfare community that conducted special operations. After his service, Brett went on to mentor veteran students — providing support and positive influence to help them achieve academic, career and life goals.
Brett holds a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the Bloch School of Management at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.