The Difference Between Compliance and Cyber Security

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Cyber Security Compliance

Historically, many small and medium businesses haven’t paid much mind to cybersecurity, since it’s costly and they assumed that threat actors only went after the big companies. The bigger the catch, the bigger the prize was generally the theory. Businesses are now beginning to see how this is an untruth.

Realistically, cybercriminals are increasingly finding SMBs to be attractive targets since they assume the smaller businesses don’t have the resources to adequately protect themselves. Statistics suggest 43% of SMBs are targets of an attack and a good percentage of them are forced to shutter their doors within six months after an incident.

Furthermore, both industry and regulatory cyber security compliance requirements are growing, which means businesses of all sizes need to ensure they’re performing due diligence when it comes to meeting specific practices and benchmarks.

Cyber Security vs. Cyber Security Compliance

Statistics suggest 66% of small businesses today are “concerned or extremely concerned” about cyber security risk – which, theoretically, is good. This suggests a growing number of SMBs are currently investing resources to better protect themselves. However, what many don’t necessarily realize is that investing in cyber security protection and assuring cyber security compliance isn’t the same thing.

Cyber security compliance, which includes confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data, is critical, but should not be mistaken for cyber security. If you’re wondering “What is cybersecurity compliance?” or “what is NIST framework?”, read on. 

To adequately maintain industry standards and requirements, SMBs find utilizing a cyber security compliance framework can help them properly position and protect themselves. To successfully do this, it’s important to nail down the specifics.

Cybersecurity Frameworks

Cybersecurity frameworks can greatly assist companies in meeting industry and regulatory compliance standards. The NIST Cybersecurity Framework is considered to be a gold standard when it comes to adhering to compliance requirements. Businesses can download a NIST cybersecurity framework PDF from the federal government’s official website. This template is designed so businesses can follow standards, guidelines, and best practices to manage their cybersecurity risks.

The most updated version of this document, per the National Institute of Standards and Technology, offers “a more comprehensive treatment of identity management and additional description of how to manage supply chain cybersecurity,” amongst other compliance standards.

Using a common security framework, such as NIST, can go a long way towards maintaining compliance. This and other IT security frameworks help make the task easier since these guidelines provide a basic structure individual companies can follow to ensure they aren’t missing any steps and can cross their proverbial T’s and dot their proverbial I’s.

Cybersecurity Certification

Ideally, businesses want to hire a variety of professionals who fulfill different roles in their risk management and cybersecurity strategies. By ensuring all gaps are filled by people holding different cybersecurity certification specialties, it’s easier to gain compliance. Best cybersecurity certifications for 2021 include:

  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
  • Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
  • Security+
  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
  • GIAC Security Essentials Certification (GSEC)
  • Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP)
  • CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP+)
  • GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH)
  • Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP)

These credentials, along with the ISACA cybersecurity audit certificate, were amongst the top cyber security certifications 2020. Hiring skilled professionals who are credentialed in these and other network security standards can go a long way towards ensuring a company maintains a high level of cybersecurity and stays aligned with all compliance regulatory requirements as outlined by ISO27001 and SOC2

Potential vendors who invest in achieving compliance standards better position themselves to land lucrative contracts with larger businesses, including the U.S. government, because it demonstrates they’ve done due diligence.

Cybersecurity Jobs

The cybersecurity industry is struggling with a huge talent shortage and this continues to be a persistent problem for businesses of all shapes and sizes needing to fill cybersecurity jobs. Important positions, such as the cyber security analyst, security architect, penetration tester, cybersecurity analyst, vulnerability analysts, cyber security engineers, and cyber security technicians, and compliance jobs to name a few, are all in high demand.

To see just how dire this shortage is, try Googling “cyber security jobs near me” and see how many open positions pop up. Furthermore, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports computer and information systems positions are poised to grow at a faster than average 13% through 2030, but positions such as information security analysts are going to grow a whopping 33%! So, even with the huge gaps existing now, they're only going to get larger over the next ten years.

Companies are actively competing for top talent and to land the best, many are offering to help employees get the coveted certifications to help ensure cyber security compliance occurs. Paving the way towards a cybersecurity certification path can make employers more appealing to job seekers.

Cyber Security Auditor

It’s important for SMBs to understand compliance and certification aren’t the same things and that cybersecurity regulations are complex and are in a consistent state of flux as rules and laws change. Compliance can be achieved with or without certification through a third-party audit performed by a cyber security auditor.

Compliance will vary depending upon the industry. For instance, healthcare organizations are bound to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and financial services are bound to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. Other compliance standards that must be maintained by all consumer businesses include the Payment Card Industry Security Council’s Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), California Consumer Privacy Act, and the newly passed Consumer Data Protection Act in Virginia, to name a few.

Compliance standards are consistently changing and expanding and today’s organizations must be able to stay on top of these rules to achieve cyber maturity. Working with an objective auditor who possesses cyber security auditor certification can help to keep businesses in check.

Having a third-party cybersecurity evaluation performed can also help businesses correct compliance issues before an incident occurs. For instance, SOC2 audits are handled by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants and issue a SOC2 attestation stating a business has adequately demonstrated they have implemented and maintained strong cyber security controls.

Cyber Security Compliance Should Be a Priority for All SMBs

Considering the consequences of not maintaining compliance standards, no SMB can afford to ignore bolstering both their cyber security and cyber compliance efforts. However, many SMBs don’t have the resources to maintain robust IT departments and/or don’t have the human resources budget to hire full-time professionals to ensure they stay up to speed.

The good news is there are other options for SMBs. Turning to an experienced third-party cyber security service provider is often the perfect solution. However, identifying the right partner is essential, and knowing what is needed to meet compliance and cybersecurity standards can help SMBs locate the perfect partner to help them achieve their compliance goals.


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