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3 considerations for a data compliance management strategy

A data compliance management strategy is key for organizations to protect data the right way. Different positions have responsibility to ensure industry regulations are met.

While every organization values data, they cannot ignore data regulations to ensure they are protecting data in a way they can prove to regulators, auditors, partners and clients.

The standards and regulations that govern how organizations must protect data from breaches or damage is referred to as data use compliance, according to Immuta. It is critical that organizations employ a data compliance management strategy to ensure that these regulations are followed. This helps establish and maintain trust with those they work with that their data is secure. Without methods to protect information, and ensuring those methods follow acceptable rules and regulations, the fundamental value of most every business is in jeopardy.

What regulations need to be followed?

Every industry has a different law to prove data is being protected. For the health insurance field, the main reference is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

At a high-level, HIPAA looks at three broad areas: administrative protection, physical security and technical security. These drive policies, procedures and documentation requirements to follow, which helps achieve data protection in these areas.

Similarly, the financial industry gets its rules for data compliance from Sarbanes-Oxley, which focuses on corporate governance and financial disclosure. In 2018, the European Union (EU) established the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which assesses fines up to 4% of annual revenues for rule violations.

In some cases, industries govern themselves. Once such example is the payment card industry, which has established rules companies must follow for protecting data if they use credit card networks for point-of-sale financial transactions.

It is important to follow the rules of one's respective industry, but compliance is not sufficient for all data management. Compliance historically is backward facing, putting rules in place to address the latest observed threat.

Unfortunately for organizations, criminals are constantly creating new threats where compliance rules have yet to be written. Best practices require companies to think of data compliance management as the minimum effort to protect information; proactive anticipation of how threat actors might acquire data should always be considered.

Bar graph showing five compliance concerns with EU GDPR.
Five major concerns for organizations complying with European Union General Data Protection Regulation.

Who is responsible for regulation compliance?

Different industries can specify who is responsible for managing data compliance. In the case of GDPR, its regulations specify the creation of a data protection officer for companies that process personal data of companies in the EU. Depending on the size of the company, this could be a designation given to another existing entity, such as a controller.

In many companies, the responsibility of data compliance management lies with the chief information security officer. There is a key distinction between the entity who protects the data from the entity who audits this protection. Best practice requires these functions be housed in different departments to eliminate the conflict of interest between these entities.

Enforcement of data protection can lie in operations or security, but auditing usually falls under the chief risk officer. It is the responsibility of every individual to make sure they follow policies and procedures to protect any data used for business.

It is the responsibility of every individual to make sure they follow policies and procedures to protect any data used for business.

How do you manage evolving regulations?

Given the speed at which threats occur, as well as constantly shifting rule sets, vendors are building software to help automate the process of reporting on and managing data compliance. There are different types of compliance management software on the market.

Some tools are focused on compliance across all areas of a business, of which data is a part. For example, Capterra monitors business processes to ensure they are aligned with appropriate regulations.

Other offerings target automation for specific data compliance areas. For example, Cohesity has software designed to automate threat mitigation and report on ransomware.

The benefit of using third-party tools for compliance management is that it can generate reports to help with compliance. These tools also typically implement automatic updates as rule changes occur.

Organizations should compartmentalize compliance functions, keeping the enforcement of data management and privacy separate from the auditing for compliance. Compliance is necessary but needs to be augmented with proactive threat identification and mitigation. Finally, organizations can use software to help automate data compliance management and recognize tools are just that -- tools. Responsibility for compliance ultimately falls on the risk management officer and the individual.

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