As organizations increasingly migrate to cloud computing solutions, safeguarding the security and integrity of data has become paramount. But achieving compliance with standards and frameworks such as the Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act, Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DDS), and International Organization for Standardization (ISO)/ International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 27001 – which are essential to mitigate risks and maintain trust – has become increasingly challenging. Of course, complying with these standards and frameworks is far from optional.
Frameworks and standards continue to evolve in response to emerging threats and changing technologies, requiring organizations to continually update their processes and systems. New tech can help, but it can also introduce potential risks and vulnerabilities that compliance efforts must account for, particularly when it comes to cloud services, artificial intelligence, and developing technologies. As your organization strives to comply with multiple frameworks, it’s important to understand all of the parts of the compliance process — including how long it takes.
Why Mean Time to Compliance Matters
The Mean Time to Compliance (MTTC) performance metric measures the average time it takes for an organization to achieve compliance with a specific cybersecurity framework. Identifying areas for improvement to expedite compliance, typically a resource-intensive process that diverts from resources and other critical business functions, ultimately leads to better security posture, reduced risk, and increased operational efficiency.
Reducing MTTC can help you decrease the time and effort required to achieve compliance, increase cost savings, and ensure business continuity. Reduced MTTC provides a competitive advantage, particularly in heavily regulated industries, where adapting quickly to new regulations can help an organization bring products and services to market faster than their competitors. Stakeholders — including investors, partners, and customers — see a lower MTTC as evidence that your organization is committed to meeting regulatory requirements, and increasing trust and confidence in the relationship. Of course, not complying within the required timeframe may result in legal penalties, including fines or possibly lawsuits.
Develop a Strategy to Reduce MTTC
Organizations need to develop a long-term plan to outline how they will achieve a reduced MTTC as well as a detailed roadmap to identify the steps they need to take to achieve compliance. So, how should organizations get started? These eleven steps will help create the roadmap to follow:
- Understand your unique business requirements, risk tolerance, and compliance objectives.
- Identify regulatory requirements and standards. Which ones are relevant to your organization?
- Conduct a comprehensive risk assessment. Identify gaps, vulnerabilities, and areas of risk in your systems, processes, and controls.
- Set clear, measurable compliance goals.
- Prioritize gaps based on risk level. Address the biggest risks to your organization first.
- Develop a plan to achieve compliance goals. Include the steps you need to take, resources required, responsibilities, and timelines as well as contingency plans to manage unforeseen issues.
- Implement technical and procedural solutions to address gaps. This may include deploying new technologies, updating systems, and training staff.
- Monitor and improve continuously. Use audits, reviews, and training to ensure that your compliance measures are effective and that your organization stays current with regulatory requirements.
- Automate compliance-related tasks. Compliance technologies provide real-time insights into your compliance status, enabling you to address potential issues proactively.
- Engage with compliance experts. Legal and cybersecurity professionals can help you navigate complex regulatory requirements.
- Communicate the strategy and roadmap to stakeholders. Everyone must understand the role they play in achieving compliance.
Review The Gap Analysis
A gap analysis identifies areas for improvement to meet the requirements for each framework. It shows where an organizations’ security posture falls short of the requirements of the desired compliance framework, providing clear insight into what exactly needs improvement, enabling organizations to prioritize efforts and allocate resources effectively.
The gap analysis helps create action plans that include specific steps, responsibilities, timelines, and measures for success. Early identification of control gaps helps prevent potential legal and financial repercussions resulting from failure to meet regulatory standards. If conducted on an ongoing basis, gap analyses help facilitate continuous improvement by highlighting areas where changes in the organization or in the regulatory environment have resulted in new gaps.
Continuous Improvement Reduces MTTC
Taking a continuous improvement approach towards security posture is essential for reducing MTTC. Regulatory requirements change frequently, sometimes without much notice; for example:
- Since PCI DSS was first implemented in December 2004, the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) has introduced numerous revisions, the most recent of which, PCI DSS v4.0, was issued in March 2022.
- Formerly known as ISO 17799 (based on the British standard BS 7799-1), the ISO/IEC 27001 standard has been periodically updated since its release in October 2005.. Changes were introduced in October 2013 and again in 2022.
These are just two regulations. In reality, organizations often must manage ongoing changes from many more. Continuous improvement helps keep security posture and compliance efforts up-to-date, efficient, and aligned with best practices and regulatory requirements.
Measure and Reduce MTTC
Adopting MTTC as a metric for improving cyber security compliance can help organizations prioritize resources, streamline processes, and make better informed decisions that result in faster and more cost effective compliance. By reducing MTTC, organizations can achieve more secure and efficient operations that are in line with the strict requirements of federal agencies and other stakeholders even in a complex compliance environment.