Creating a Culture of Security and Regulatory Compliance

In a perfect world, security would just be an IT problem. Employees would take advantage of the latest and greatest technologies without having to worry about inadvertently putting data at risk.

And for the most part, that’s exactly how many businesses have operated for years. Non-technical workers feel like IT will come in and fix any problem that requires attention.

However, threat actors have reached a level of sophistication that surpasses that “one and done” kind of thinking.

Now more than ever, security is not just an IT problem. And the best solution is to create a culture of security and compliance within your organization.

Security Goes Beyond Data

All too often, we see non-technical employees view security as solely a data problem. They think that if IT has the right technology in place, they won’t have to worry about data protection.

Employees assume that information security is all about keeping hackers from stealing sensitive info. That’s certainly a big component, but it’s not the whole story. If it were, firewalls alone would satisfy all of a company’s security and compliance needs.

If I’m a hacker, I’m not going to spend weeks trying to crack the next-gen firewall that guards the perimeter of a network. No, I’m going to attack the weakest link in any business network—the people using it.

All it takes is a little social engineering and an unsuspecting, disengaged employee to allow a threat actor to slip into cracks and create a foothold that IT may not be able to spot. An attacker can do some light research on an employee, craft a relevant email with a malicious link, and coax someone to click on it—this simple phishing attack can completely bypass even the most robust security systems.

This is why the entire workforce has to stay on top of the 3 critical areas of information security—confidentiality, integrity, and availability. It’s not enough for IT to recognize these components, disaster recovery, and physical security. Employees across the business must recognize and understand their role in shoring up weak links in security.

We pass this advice on to businesses of all sizes. Even when business leaders know employees need to be part of the security conversation, we see one mistake made over and over again—mistaking compliance for a comprehensive culture of security.

Compliance Does Not Guarantee Security

For businesses in highly-regulated industries—healthcare, finance, and even manufacturing at this point—compliance can feel like a never-ending challenge. We’ve noticed that when businesses achieve compliance, they often grow complacent with security at the same time.

While the two concepts are intertwined, it’s important to remember that compliance never equals security and that security never equals compliance.

Consider HIPAA as an example. HIPAA offers a high-level set of requirements for safeguarding protected health information (PHI).

You take those requirements and put certain security controls in place, but the reality is that HIPAA compliance alone leaves you with gaps in information security. How could it not? HIPAA was enacted in 1996 and, needless to say, a lot has changed between then and now from a security perspective.

In addition to the technical systems that help you meet regulatory requirements, you need to have a set of policies, procedures, and change management systems in place to balance ever-changing security demands with compliance.

Perfecting this behind-the-scenes balance gives business leaders the foundation necessary to build a culture of security and compliance.

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The 3 Pillars that Make Up a Culture of Security

Creating a culture of security and compliance starts with upper management. Making the right investments and believing that security is more than just an IT problem is critical to creating the trickle-down effect that spreads throughout your organization.

But what really goes into this kind of culture? There are 3 key components that every business leader should focus on:

  • Security Awareness: Security training should be part of employee onboarding from day one. And then, at a minimum, it should continue one annually. Ideally, you would have regular training to keep security top-of-mind for the entire workforce. Regular reinforcement of security awareness also helps businesses maintain compliance as weak links in the organization are continuously shored up.
  • Vigilance: A culture of security means having a workplace in which employees are constantly on the lookout for anomalies. Your workforce shouldn’t assume emails are always safe or that the unusual person in the halls is just a new contractor. Security and compliance rely on a workforce ready to spot potential threats.
  • Open Communications: The last component of this type of culture is for the workforce to feel comfortable raising concerns. If an employee receives a suspicious email or sees something unusual, she should first think to ask questions. Anyone who discourages vigilance, whether it’s a disengaged employee or an intimidating IT worker, will make it more difficult to sustain the culture. IT can’t catch every security risk on its own—having the entire workforce communicating will anomalies from slipping through the cracks.

From a cultural perspective, these three components will help unify the workforce against security threats. This will help bolster compliance, but there’s more to think about on the backend to keep up with regulatory demands.

Keys to Bringing Regulatory Compliance into a Secure Environment

Rolling compliance into a secure environment comes down to creating a layered approach to information security.

This goes back to the idea that information security is more than just data protection. To balance security and compliance, you need a defense-in-depth strategy that includes:

  • Physical Security: A culture of security and compliance isn’t just digital. Having access control in your physical office is just as important. That means using swipe cards for access and ensuring doors are locked when necessary.
  • Technical Strength: There are many different security systems, but the two that work together at your network edge are the firewall and intrusion prevention system (IPS). Think of the IPS as the castle walls, keeping anything and everything out of your network. Then, the firewall is the gate, allowing only authorized traffic to pass. Within those walls, you’ll have an intrusion detection system (IDS) that polices the traffic that gets through the firewall. And finally, an SIEM system correlates activity amongst all your tools, working from a baseline of network traffic to detect any anomalies that could indicate a threat actor made it in.
  • Adminstrative Controls: Technical innovation won’t help you maintain compliance without long-term management. Having change management policies in place to track configuration updates across your technical systems. That way, you’re ready for a compliance audit whenever it occurs.

These three keys provide a backbone for the culture of security and compliance you’re trying to create. Much like the greatest systems won’t protect your business without workforce awareness and vigilance, employee buy-in won’t keep you secure and compliant without this foundation.

You Know the Keys to a Culture of Security and Regulatory Compliance – Now What?

If you’ve been thinking of security and compliance as an IT problem for years, all of this information may seem overwhelming. However, building your culture of security and compliance doesn’t have to be such a challenge.

That’s why Link High delivers managed IT security services that create the cultural backbone without the headaches. Tracking the health of your IT environment, maintaining the change/update process, and patching for vulnerabilities can be time-consuming work that detracts from your operations. We take those services off your plate, whether you need to completely offload IT or want us to augment your in-house IT expertise.

We’ll give you the managed services needed to kickstart a culture of security and compliance that keeps threat actors at bay and prevents any regulatory trouble.

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