There is a dangerous misperception that often comes up, regardless of which regulatory standard we talk about (PCI, HIPAA, etc.). The misperception is that compliance equals security. Sometimes organizations think they’re the same thing; sometimes they get so consumed by complicated regulations that they stop focusing on security altogether.
To be clear, compliance does not equal security — it’s basically just a snapshot of how your security program meets a specific set of security requirements at a given moment in time.
What’s critical to understand is that in order to truly protect sensitive data, having both the proper security program in place, AND being compliant are critical. Without a complete and active security program, paired with a solid compliance plan, any organization is at significant risk of being breached. To keep your entire network environment protected from the criminals targeting your data every day, you have to build and manage an advanced security program that goes far beyond specific sets of compliance requirements.
Security and Compliance Are NOT the Same
Security and compliance play different roles, both in your internal and external environments. The right cybersecurity measures protect your information from threats by controlling how that information is used, consumed and provided. Compliance, on the other hand, is a demonstration — a reporting function — of how your security program meets specific security standards as laid out by regulatory organizations.
Beware of the "Checkbox Mentality"
Meeting compliance regulations will never cover all of your security needs. This “checkbox” mentality results in inadequate protection. Why? Because compliance only ensures that a specific set of requirements that change slowly (typically only once a year) are in place. As a result, it can’t possibly keep pace with the changes that are occurring daily in the world of cybersecurity.
To truly safeguard against the growing number of sophisticated threats, organizations have to elevate security and develop an overall approach that integrates all the necessary controls with each other to create a cohesive, multilayered web of security. This isn’t something that satisfying a regulatory standard can ever provide.
Don’t Use Compliance as Your Security Blueprint
Using compliance requirements as a plan for building a security program is another common mistake. An effective cyber security program should be built from the ground up and be based on an organization’s needs. Focusing on compliance first is putting the virtual cart before the horse. Compliance should be a byproduct of a solid security program, not the source of it.
Remember, investing in a proper, thorough and ongoing cybersecurity strategy now will make future compliance audits easier, save money in the long term, and protect your data, business and brand.