Compliance vs Information Security: Which Should Your Business Prioritize?
Compliance vs Information Security: Information security and compliance are crucial to any business willing to protect its data and finances. Though the two things differ, both have the same goal of helping an organization manage risks. Most people are unclear about the differences between compliance and information security and wonder which one they should prioritize.
Below, we look at these areas, understand how they differ, and which of the two should businesses focus more on.
On this page:
What is Compliance?
Compliance is a component of information security and describes an organization’s needs to meet the standards of any regulation, third-party terms, or framework.
These standards and rules are created to help companies improve their information security by giving them the most effective methods based on the type of data they work with and their industry.
Failure to meet IT compliance standards and regulations can put companies into legal trouble and attract penalties.
Moreover, ignoring compliance leaves security open to incidents of data breaches. Most organizations must follow some regulations and prioritize compliance to protect their information.
What is Information Security?
Information security is a process that utilizes a combination of tools, systems, and methods to protect an organization’s information.
In other words, businesses use technical and administrative controls to manage risks associated with corporate information. It ultimately comes down to keeping critical data safe from threats and identifying and mitigating security risks.
Information security focuses on three fundamental characteristics discussed below:
- Confidentiality: Apart from keeping the corporate information available when needed, you should focus on protecting it from unauthorized access. Robust security keeps the information protected from threats and unwanted access.
- Integrity: All the information related to the business should be accurate; this will help teams make informed decisions. Without integrity, malicious actors can take unauthorized steps, and the teams can make decisions based on inaccurate data.
- Availability: Corporate information should always be available when authorized users require to access it.
Compliance Vs. Information Security – The Differences
The two areas of IT security aim to help organizations protect their assets against cyberattacks. Both focus on creating, implementing, and enforcing protective measures.
However, some critical differences between compliance and information security exist that businesses should understand to stay protected against risks.
Information security is about exercising controls to protect business information. Conversely, compliance involves ensuring that these controls meet the requirements of specific regulations or third-party contracts.
- Who uses it: Information security is practiced for the sake of a business without any need to meet third-party requirements. The organization’s security needs drive these practices. On the other hand, compliance is followed to adhere to external regulations to conduct the business. Thus, security is implemented for the business, while compliance is done for third parties.
- What drives it: The need to protect the organization from evolving threats drives its information security process. On the contrary, compliance is driven by the need to follow industry standards and avoid penalties.
- How it is implemented: The businesses themselves must enforce information security standards and techniques. For compliance, third-party auditors or regulators inspect the businesses to enforce regulations.
- When it is completed: Information security is an ongoing process that does not finish at a point. As technology and threats evolve, businesses must keep updating their processes accordingly. Compliance is completed when the regulatory body or third party confirms that the business has met the requirements. Though the organization needs to maintain standards after this, the operations don’t change unless new regulations come into play.
Compliance vs Information Security: Which is more Important?
It is easy to believe that compliance falls short of the mark because it only focuses on doing the minimum required to meet the requirements. Organizations serious about IT security must employ robust methods to protect their critical resources.
If businesses only focused on checking the boxes to ensure compliance, they would quickly leave their doors open to attackers. However, this does not imply that businesses can prioritize information security and leave behind compliance.
Compliance and information security often go hand-in-hand, complementing each other in areas where each falls short. Compliance can establish a baseline for the business security posture upon which security practices can be built to cover the entity from every angle.
On the other hand, information security enables businesses to employ effective security practices to protect critical corporate assets and comply with regulations. The concepts of layered security systems, user awareness training, and defense systems apply here, along with regular external audits, to ensure the controls are working.
Prioritizing both these concepts equally will help businesses empower themselves to meet the industry standards while demonstrating their capability to go ahead in their focus on digital security. Compliance and information security are different in many ways, but they are critical for processing and managing sensitive data.
The key is understanding your business need and implementing a balance of compliance and information security as part of your operations.
Next Steps: Achieving the Perfect Balance
Compliance that meets specific framework requirements helps the company build trust. Though regulations are the driving force behind compliance, their benefits help the business in many ways.
An assessment of security practices can highlight areas of concern. Using compliance frameworks to identify shortcomings is an essential component of information security.
Here’s the steps that should help you get started on a secure path:
- List the existing security tools
- Perform risk assessment on the information processed
- Study requirements associated with a framework
- Analyze gaps in the controls in terms of the requirements
- Plan a strategy to solve primary shortcomings
- Test the efficiency of various systems and solutions
Once these steps are applied to the system, regular assessments must be conducted to ensure success. Compliance and information security should go together; there is no compliance vs. security.
They work in alliance using a compliance framework, assessing security measures, fine-tuning them, and performing regular assessments.