Whether you comply with regulatory standards by virtue of your location or industry, learning how to audit for compliance risks will help keep your sensitive data safe from security threats. Besides mitigating data breaches, conducting compliance audits will help you avoid costly non-compliance fines and penalties. Read on to learn more.
A Beginner’s Guide to Conducting Audits for Compliance Risks
Regardless of your organization’s size, industry, or specific business needs, remaining compliant with relevant regulatory standards will help you stay ahead of cybercriminals. However, you may be wondering how to conduct an audit for compliance. To provide an overview of auditing and compliance this blog will focus on three major regulatory standards:
- PCI DSS, an industry-based standard that protects cardholder data
- HITRUST, a standard for healthcare and healthcare-adjacent organizations
- GDPR, a location-based standard safeguarding the personal data of EU citizens
Learning how to audit for compliance risks will help optimize your security posture in the short and long term, ensuring you are prepared for cybersecurity threats. Working with a managed security services provider (MSSP) will help streamline your varying compliance efforts.
How to Conduct PCI DSS Compliance Audits
Organizations that process card payments must comply with the requirements of the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standards (DSS) to keep cardholder data (CHD) safe.
Conducting an audit for compliance with the PCI DSS starts with identifying the gaps in current security implementations in reference to the 12 DSS Requirements. And, you can methodically assess PCI compliance with the help of a compliance audit plan.
Breakdown of a PCI DSS Audit Plan
With an audit plan, you can efficiently evaluate the effectiveness of your organization’s:
- Security controls across networks and systems – An assessment of the security controls applied to networks and systems will help reveal gaps in:
- Network security controls (NSCs) per Requirement 1
- Security configurations across system components per Requirement 2
- CHD safeguards – Requirements 3 and 4 mandate the protection of CHD while it is in your hands. These guidelines will help you audit for compliance when it comes to:
- Storage of CHD (if and when it is required)
- Encryption of CHD during transmission over open, public networks
- Vulnerability management processes – Per Requirements 5 and 6, you must safeguard all systems from malicious software (malware) and keep systems and software secure at all times. Identifying gaps in vulnerability management will help reveal potential risks for malware intrusion.
- Access control management procedures – You can also audit for compliance with PCI DSS Requirements 7, 8, and 9 based on your current identity and access management (IAM) controls. Here, you can assess whether:
- Access to system components and CHD is by business need to know.
- User identification and access authentication are actively implemented.
- Access to physical CHD is restricted to unauthorized individuals.
- Network monitoring tools – A critical aspect of complying with the PCI DSS is ensuring:
- Access to system components and CHD is effectively monitored and logged per Requirement 10
- Systems and networks are tested regularly per Requirement 11
- IT security policy – It would be extremely challenging to meet the PCI DSS Requirements without an established security policy tailored to your organization’s unique needs. Per DSS Requirement 12, conducting PCI audits will be streamlined if your security policy is up-to-date.
The most effective way to meet the PCI DSS Requirements and successfully audit for compliance is to partner with a PCI compliance advisor, who will guide you on compliance and PCI security best practices.
How to Leverage HITRUST’s Streamlined Audits
Whereas some entities have traditionally secured PHI by complying with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), HITRUST encompasses HIPAA and several other regulatory frameworks into a single one. This increases the flexibility of data protection and enables organizations to conduct compliance audits at scale.
So, how can you audit for compliance with HITRUST?
Steps to Auditing for HITRUST Compliance
Auditing your compliance with HITRUST starts with a compliance audit plan, which involves:
- Scoping out your security environment – Since HITRUST is a risk-based regulatory standard, evaluating your current security environment will help identify:
- Compliance needs that are currently being met and those that must be met
- An inventory of various IT assets at risk of security threats
- Risk factors that commonly affect organizations in your industry
- Conducting a readiness or self-assessment – After assessing your compliance needs and security posture, the next step is to assess your readiness for HITRUST certification. Being HITRUST-ready means that the security controls you implement are progressively aligned with the five HITRUST Maturity levels:
- Policy—your policies are compliant with the HITRUST requirements
- Procedure—processes for implementing security controls are well-documented
- Implemented—active security controls match the guidelines of a HITRUST policy
- Measured—self-assessments of HITRUST compliance are conducted regularly
- Managed—corrective actions are implemented to rectify gaps in HITRUST compliance
- Remediating gaps in security controls – Based on the self-assessment findings, you will likely need to address any gaps in security controls to match the required HITRUST standards. Vulnerability remediation may then require a sweep of your entire IT infrastructure to fix all gaps, regardless of their security risk level.
- Optimizing HITRUST compliance – At this point, you may be ready for a validated assessment. However, prior to conducting one, you must ensure that the security controls you implement are continuously monitored per your internal expectations and those of the HITRUST framework.
- Conducting a Validated Assessment – Once you have successfully completed a self-assessment of HITRUST compliance, remediated vulnerabilities, and optimized security controls, then you are ready for a HITRUST Validated Assessment.
For healthcare organizations or those adjacent to the field, HITRUST streamlines how you can secure PHI and audit for compliance with HIPAA and other standards. With the help of a trusted HITRUST CSF partner, you will conduct more effective audits on your journey to certification.
EU GDPR Privacy Impact Assessments
The European Union (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was enacted to safeguard the data privacy rights of EU citizens.
It’s currently one of the most stringent privacy regulations in the world. Any organization that processes the personal data of EU citizens must comply with the GDPR. Failure to do so can result in significant fines and penalties, upwards of tens of millions of euros.
Similar to PCI DSS and HITRUST compliance assessments, you can audit for compliance with the GDPR based on a compliance audit plan. One way to do so is via a GDPR privacy impact assessment, which checks whether you are meeting the GDPR regulations as you process the sensitive personal data of EU citizens.
The five steps of a GDPR privacy impact assessment include:
- Conducting an initial assessment to inventory all locations where GDPR-subject data is stored
- Planning for the necessary tasks of a privacy impact assessment, such as:
- Delegation of priority tasks
- Establishing assessment timeframes
- Involving internal and external stakeholders (e.g., assessors)
- Identifying all possible risks and vulnerabilities to GDPR data based on the GDPR rights listed in Articles 12-23
- Ranking all privacy risks based on risk level and other factors such as:
- Unique data characteristics
- Organization-specific privacy needs
- Methods of data processing
- Reviewing the results of the privacy impact assessment and the types of risks it addressed
The best way to meet your GDPR auditing and compliance needs is in partnership with a GDPR compliance assessor and advisor, whose experience with the GDPR regulations will help steer you towards remaining GDPR-compliant year-round.
Get Started with Compliance Audits!
In today’s rapidly evolving IT threat landscape, complying with regulatory standards could provide the protection you need from an impending cyberattack. But you must regularly audit for compliance to ensure your controls are working effectively. With the help of an experienced MSSP like RSI Security, you will conduct robust compliance audits.
Contact RSI Security today to learn more about our compliance audit services!