As Governments across the globe continue to introduce new, or revamp their existing data privacy regulations, having a compliance management solution in place is no longer optional for most enterprises.
Before we continue, let’s first draw a distinction between a compliance management system (CMS) and a compliance management solution. A CMS is a collection of policies, procedures, and processes, which includes written documents, functions, processes, controls, and tools, all of which are designed to help an organization comply with the relevant data privacy laws.
As you may have guessed, a compliance management solution is one of the many components of a CMS. The main purpose of a compliance management solution is to give you visibility into who has access to what information, including details about how, when and why, that information is being accessed and used.
Avoiding costly lawsuits and fines, protecting your company’s reputation, attracting and maintaining capital inflows are some of the main reasons why it is not only necessary to comply with the relevant regulations, but also necessary to demonstrate your compliance efforts to your customers and other relevant stakeholders. Below are some tips to help you to choose the right compliance management solution for your enterprise.
What is Compliance Management?
Compliance management is the continuous process of maintaining compliance with regulatory mandates and policies, whether that be through assessing current processes and systems, or through implementing the required technology.
Organizations change and evolve quickly, and it can be easy for certain aspects of the system, policies, and practices to fall out of compliance. Compliance regulations are also evolving to tackle the latest threats, and if you’re not careful, you can quickly find yourself in non-compliance without realizing it.
Failing to stay compliant can lead to a number of issues for a business, not least of which involves hefty financial penalties applied by regulators. Not only this, but non-compliance can lead to huge disruptions in processes, costly data breaches, and damages to reputation, shareholder confidence, and more. That’s what makes compliance management so important.
How Can Compliance Management Software Help?
Maintaining compliance is a continuous and complex process, and compliance management software can help simplify and automate many aspects of that process.
Compliance management software platforms can provide detailed audit logs of events and provide you the visibility you need over where your regulated data is, who has access to it and what your users are doing with it.
Top Features to Look for in Compliance Management Software
The landscape of compliance management software can be quite complex, with many vendors claiming to be the magic bullet for compliance. Your company likely has very specific compliance requirements due to the industry, size, and type of data that you store. Below are some of the more general features you should keep an eye out for when choosing your compliance management software.
1. Supported Platforms
Determine which platform(s) you want to support. If you are a well-established company, there’s a good chance you will be using Microsoft Active Directory (AD), as it is still the most widely used directory service platform on the market. While you may find compliance management solutions for less popular platforms, such as Apache Directory, Open LDAP, and OpenSSO, most commercial solutions will be aimed at Active Directory.
These days, many organizations are shifting their business operations to the cloud, and some newer companies are choosing to avoid using any on-premise infrastructure entirely. Some of the more sophisticated compliance management solutions are able to aggregate and correlate event data from multiple platforms, which includes both on-premise and cloud-based environments.
2. Data Classification
Many modern compliance management solutions provide data classification tools out-of-the-box. Given that many organizations store large amounts of unstructured data, spread across multiple locations, having the ability to determine exactly what data you are responsible for, and where it is located, is crucially important if you want to comply with most data privacy regulations.
For example, under the GDPR, organizations are required to respond to Subject Access Requests (SARs). Naturally, knowing exactly what data you store will make it much easier to quickly locate the PII that relates to a given subject.
When choosing a data classification solution you should ensure that it can incrementally classify data at the point of creation/modification, in addition to scanning repositories on a periodic basis (either monthly or quarterly). It must be able to identify a wide range of data types including PII, PHI, PCI, IP, and so on.
In addition to identifying sensitive data in a wide variety of documents, such as word documents, spreadsheets, zip files, and PDF files, it should also be able to identify sensitive data in image files (GIF, JPEG, etc.). Some high-end solutions are able to assign a score to data based on the risk value of the content. As before, if you are using a hybrid/multi-cloud environment, you will need a data classification solution that is able to scan all relevant repositories.
3. Detailed and Customized Reporting
Auditors will want you to demonstrate that you know where your regulated data resides and that you have implemented the necessary controls to keep it out of the wrong hands. Look for a compliance management solution that is able to create detailed reports that are relevant to your industry in just a few clicks.
Most compliance management solutions provide hundreds of pre-defined reports that cover GDPR, HIPAA, CCPA, SOX, PCI, FISMA, GLBA, and more. You must be able to demonstrate that you know when files containing sensitive data have been accessed, moved, shared, modified, and removed, and by who.
4. Real-Time Alerting
Most compliance management solutions will deliver real-time alerts on important changes to your sensitive data – something that auditors will be looking out for. Such changes might include unusual access to files containing sensitive data when sensitive data is emailed outside the business, when a user accesses sensitive data for the first time, or when sensitive data is accessed out of office hours. Some of the more sophisticated solutions are also able to detect and respond to events that match a pre-defined threshold condition – a technique referred to as “threshold alerting”. For example, as we know, ransomware attacks work by encrypting the victims’ files. Therefore, if x number of files have been encrypted within a given time frame, we can execute a custom script that might disable a user account or specific process, adjust the firewall settings, or even shut down the affected server. Threshold alerting can be used to identify anomalous failed login attempts, or when x number of files have been copied, moved, modified, or removed.
5. Easy User Account and Password Management
You will need a compliance management solution that is able to automatically detect and manage inactive user accounts, which will not only help to ensure that you are not holding on to any redundant information but also helps to prevent attackers from targeting these accounts in an attempt to gain access to your network. You will also need a solution that can automate the process of managing passwords, which includes password rotation and activating or deactivating user accounts with expired passwords.
6. Clean and intuitive interface
Given that the main purpose of a compliance management solution is to give you clear insights into how your sensitive data is being accessed, there’s no point in adopting a solution with a cluttered interface that is difficult to navigate, as you might miss important events when they arise. You should also take into consideration the time it will take to integrate the software and train the relevant employees to use it.
Finally, contact vendors and gather as much information as possible about what they can do for what price. Perhaps even consider creating a spreadsheet that lists the most relevant features of each platform, including the price. As always, don’t just look for the cheapest solution, as doing so might cost you more down the line.
How Lepide Helps with Compliance Management
At Lepide, our Data Security Platform enables organizations to produce compliance-ready reports to meet a number of specific mandates. The solution enables you to locate and classify regulated data, govern access to it, and analyze user behavior so that you can detect and react to security threats.
Our pre-defined compliance reports are mapped to specific mandates, like GDPR, HIPAA, PCI DSS, CCPA, and more. To see what these reports look like, and how else we can help you achieve and maintain compliance, schedule a demo with one of our engineers or start your free trial now.