The Future of IT Security and Compliance Program Management? It’s In the Cloud…

Posted on November 21, 2014 by ashley

Madeline Domma, Product Design Specialist

In recent years, organizations of all types, most notably within financial institutions, have started to transition from a reactive, scenario-based form of IT Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) management to specialized, regulation-based approaches which create holistic and realistic views of the overall IT security and compliance environment. The antiquated, reactive approach to IT GRC management has proven to be unsustainable in its focus on the “here and now” instead of developing an ongoing picture of an organization’s IT security and compliance program status. In parallel, market researchers have noticed a growing adoption of Software as a Service (SaaS), or cloud-based, platforms in IT GRC management. These platforms replace decentralized methodologies so that organizations can stay ahead of potential problems using a more focused and agile approach that fully integrates with previously established systems and workflows.

Regulatory compliance and overall risk management are two universal focuses of all organizations; yet not all organizations have wholly integrated compliance and risk management initiatives into their established information security, or IT GRC, programs. Compliance does not imply reduced risk nor does risk management ensure compliance to regulations, so historically, the two have been considered separate challenges for organizations to overcome. A strategic approach considers both factors as part of the organization’s universal information security posture and allows the institution to identify and maximize its assets.

Risk and Compliance Silos are Destined to Fail

In a traditionally reaction-based IT security and compliance management program, compliance with regulating bodies cannot easily be viewed in the context of day-to-day security practices. Often, especially in small to medium-sized organizations, compliance verification efforts are initiated when the organization must become compliant with certain regulations, perhaps after regulators have deemed the organization not in compliance and issued fines. Unless an organization can afford to perform ongoing internal audits or compliance analysis, maintaining compliance is not part of day-to-day operations.

Similarly, a reaction-based approach to overall IT security and compliance management will result in a decentralized compilation of documentation and scenario-specific risk management exercises to plan for various theoretical disasters. Practices and procedures are executed to mitigate hypothetical threats and, depending upon the size or structure of the organization, solutions vary from situation to situation. Moreover, compliance with regulating bodies may not be intentionally considered during the development of these operations.

A Unified Approach for Sustainable Program Management

Analyzing information security risk and compliance management simultaneously will allow your organization to build an information security program that is sustainable, consistent, efficient and agile. Encompassing information security and compliance management requires stakeholders and decision-makers across the institution (from the highest levels of executive management and risk managers to IT operations, internal auditors and compliance officers) to leverage a single set of data across their unique initiatives.  The data collected from this approach can range from policies describing the institution’s overall security posture, to detailed vulnerability information or specific compliance citation attestation, tracking and reporting.

When so many organizations have become accustomed to retaining disjointed documentation and scenario-specific protocols to address company-wide IT GRC challenges, how can a major program reform such as this be accomplished?”

Cue, “The Cloud”

Cloud-based IT GRC platforms offer dynamic management solutions for organizations of all sizes because, by design, they must be customized and individualized to meet the needs of a variety of IT environments. The benefits of cloud-based IT GRC systems become evident soon after deployment.

Cloud-based applications are designed to quickly and easily build information security programs via a shared workspace which multiple users may authenticate to and work within collaboratively. Since most users simply need access to the web to begin working in a cloud environment, these platforms can be integrated into an organization’s existing environment with little to no change in the company’s infrastructure. The collaborative nature of cloud-based workflow makes way for comprehensive IT GRC programs within organizations of all sizes because employees become equipped to contribute to the centralized, company-wide application.

These emerging platforms inevitably eliminate redundancy or gaps in workflow, replacing decentralized security-program-related efforts. Although organizations may develop infinitely different IT security and compliance management plans based on unique needs, well-maintained cloud-based solutions provide the medium for automation of information and fastidious tracking of both day-to-day and grand-scale operations so that accurate and up-to-date data is available for those who need it, from auditors, regulators, or internal management. By delegating the responsibility of IT security and compliance program development, maintenance, and management within a centralized user interface from which all employees may contribute, maintaining the program becomes integral to day-to-day operations.

The result of this implementation is increased awareness of the organization’s IT GRC plans and procedures and a secure organization from the inside, out. Cloud-based IT GRC software is fast becoming the future platform of IT security and compliance management because, ultimately, secure and agile IT environments liberate organizations to more intelligently focus company resources towards improving customer services and satisfaction.

Posted in IT GRC

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