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As evolving technology continues to impact business productivity, procedures, and consumers’ daily lives, compliance standards have expanded to protect data and safeguard user privacy. In turn, compliance monitoring and policies have become essential elements of organisations’ operations to establish effective cybersecurity systems and meet regulatory compliance standards.
Compliance monitoring is the process that ensures organisations meet the policies and procedures to identify compliance risk issues in their day-to-day operations and functions. Using both manual and automated systems, the focus of compliance monitoring is to ensure the protection and privacy of data are maintained and regulatory compliance standards are met. It’s a dynamic process that involves the surveillance, review, and analysis of organisational performance and risk indicators, enabling teams to spot areas of non-compliance and take corrective action to prevent costly violations.
The increased complexity of compliance regulations and demands has forced organisations to monitor infrastructure for any violations. Compliance monitoring solutions scan resources to ensure data protection follows standards and business operations fulfil regulatory obligations.
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What Is a Compliance Policy?
A compliance policy is an integral component of cybersecurity that refers to a set of standards and regulatory requirements organisations must adhere to in establishing risk-based controls that protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability (CIA) of data. Cybersecurity compliance policies are critical documents that set the standard for security-based activities and behaviours, such as the encryption of emails, management of passwords, and rules surrounding the use of social media.
Compliance with certain cybersecurity and privacy laws is also important for many organisations, especially those that must meet governmental and national regulations. In most cases, compliance is concerned with three primary categories of data:
- Personally Identifiable Information (PII)
- Protected Health Information (PHI), as covered by HIPAA compliance regulations
- Payment Card Industry (PCI)
With compliance policy as the backbone of meeting important regulations, organisations can utilise the best practices of cybersecurity governance – a comprehensive set of strategies embedded in a company’s operations – to prevent the interruption of activities caused by cyber-attacks.
What Is the Importance of Compliance Policy?
Compliance policies are essential to help organisations identify relevant compliance requirements and how they can be integrated into their existing cybersecurity infrastructure. Compliance policies also help organisations:
- Assess cybersecurity risks and vulnerabilities
- Establish security controls that mitigate or transfer security risks
- Prevent the interruption of activities due to cyber threats or attacks
- Build a foundation for other compliance measures
Compliance policies are not limited to enterprises and large companies. Small and medium-sized businesses that don't prioritise cybersecurity or regulatory compliance by implementing policies make them prime targets for hackers to exploit their vulnerabilities.
What Is the Purpose of Compliance Monitoring?
Most US and UK regulators require compliance monitoring in some form. For example, the UK Financial Conduct Authority requires proof of a compliance monitoring plan before approval in the financial market. Simple monitoring is not enough for most organisations, so they need a thorough understanding of requirements and constant oversight of how data is processed and handled. As infrastructure continues to grow, monitoring is the only way to keep up with all changes and risks.
Even when regulations don’t require compliance monitoring, organisations still use it to avoid hefty fines for violations. Regulators put significant fines on simple violations that accumulate for every compromise based on the organisation's failure to put proper protections in place. For every recorded violation, the organisation could amass millions in fines. Fines aren’t the only issue. An organisation could face litigation and be forced to pay monetary settlements if business processes are found to violate standards.
Typically, an organisation uses a team to monitor procedures to manage compliance, but some monitoring can be automated. Utilising both manual and automated monitoring, an organisation can ensure that data privacy is maintained and every compliance standard is met for every regulation the organisation must follow.
What Is Government Compliance Monitoring?
For government agencies, monitoring is crucial to protect the public sector’s data. Many state-sponsored threat actors target government agencies, which can devastate the public. Most countries define regulations and data protection standards for government entities to protect employees and user data from unauthorised access from state-sponsored attacks.
It’s challenging to monitor government infrastructure when most of it is legacy with massive amounts of data that spans decades. Government compliance monitoring finds vulnerabilities and mistakes in how employees and officials handle data. Since government data is usually stored across several legacy systems, monitoring is done manually and automatically to find instances where threat actors can obtain unauthorised access. It also reveals cases in which data could be mishandled, allowing internal threats to steal or disclose data improperly to a third party.
The public sector is often subject to inspections, so monitoring ensures that the agency passes the next inspection. For example, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) inspects organisations for pollution control devices, operating conditions, and material compositions. Interviews involve reviewing records, talking to site representatives, photographing, and observing site operations. A government compliance monitoring system ensures this audit runs smoothly and the agency passes, avoiding hefty fines for non-compliance.
Who Is Responsible for Monitoring Compliance?
An organisation must take a collaborative approach to monitor compliance, but most users need guidance. Depending on the organisation, compliance monitoring may be managed by an in-house individual or planned and supervised by a third-party consulting team. Whether in-house or through a third party, employees and management must be involved with the entire process.
Employees must be educated on the importance of compliance and how to carry out procedures that align with regulations. Informed employees are accountable for compliance and to their managers. Managers occasionally audit employees to ensure that they always adhere to compliance regulations.
Larger enterprises create a specific role for compliance monitoring, typically supported by a third-party consultant company to ensure all requirements are met. This role is critical in financial institutions where FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) defines monitoring of its regulatory requirements. Compliance standards are often updated and changed throughout the years, so the role of a compliance officer will include staying up to date with the latest changes.
But before a compliance monitoring plan can be established, organisations should take the necessary steps to evaluate risks, audit procedures and data, prioritise vulnerabilities, report on issues, and adapt as needed.
- Assessing Risk: The organisation should identify all risks across infrastructure and business practices. Regulatory bodies develop standards to safeguard data, but you must know what areas of the network are at risk to implement them. This risk profile can then be used to mould a monitoring plan that fits business needs.
- Auditing and Review: Monitoring the organisation requires comprehensive testing, so your plan should detail what will be done to audit and review all procedures and data. Monitoring is usually a combination of manual auditing and automated scans that detect failures to store data that aligns with regulations.
- Prioritising Vulnerabilities: Priority is given to resources that pose the greatest risk. For example, financial data carries a higher risk and therefore requires more protection than an office printer. The printer should still be protected from eavesdropping, but the financial system is a more valuable target to attackers. Successful data breaches against a financial system also carry more severe consequences.
- Reporting: Reports are also necessary for monitoring. A compliance officer will keep track of any issues using reports from automated scans and make changes to procedures if necessary. The compliance officer works with a risk assessment team so that monitoring covers all aspects of corporate infrastructure.
- Managing Change: Because compliance standards are constantly changing, the compliance officer and team amend policies every year. When regulators make policy changes, the organisation is given a set amount of time — sometimes years — to apply updates to the system. Monitoring solutions should be flexible enough to change according to new guidelines.
How Proofpoint Can Help
Identifying and meeting corporate and regulatory compliance requirements requires a proactive systems approach. Proofpoint offers advanced solutions that can help mitigate compliance risk by leveraging deep insights, machine learning, and AI models to monitor and review digital communications.
By providing complete visibility over an organisation's regulatory stack, Proofpoint Supervision is a trusted solution that helps identify bottlenecks, optimise collaboration, and improve productivity to effectively minimise compliance risks. Learn more about how Proofpoint can help you meet your compliance policy requirements and remain compliant with automated oversight.