Organizations should look beyond traditional approaches and aspire to create a well-oiled security and compliance engine that runs efficiently and economically. Coalfire’s Adam Shnider discusses a better path forward.
When an automotive company like Tesla works to design the ideal automobile – one that will disrupt a 120-year-old industry – they begin with a vision. Then, they work to make that vision a reality by designing each component with that vision in mind. They understand how each part affects the whole, how safety can be optimized and efficiencies can be gained – or lost – through the tough choices they make, considering ways to enable continuous improvement even after the vehicle leaves the showroom floor. While the goals are many – safety, efficiency, comfort and usability – the vision never gets lost, and they don’t settle for traditional methods when there could be a better path forward.
Today, cybersecurity and compliance are equally complex, but also equally stuck in traditional models. There is such an overwhelming number of moving parts – regulatory and compliance frameworks multiplying by the year, additional security gap concerns, new threat vectors, customers to placate and boards to assure – that organizations frequently focus on tactical elements of the program rather than first determining a unified vision and strategy. Without that vision, enterprises waste valuable time performing redundant work, following inefficient processes and executing security initiatives that leave data assets vulnerable.
Years ago, when there were fewer security frameworks and threats were far less pervasive, this reactive approach may have been adequate. Today, it is becoming increasingly imperative for enterprises to look to new, more strategic approaches to empower security and compliance leaders to achieve broader business goals while reducing risk.
Creating the Vision
Using a number of process alignment methodologies, tools and technologies, enterprises can (and should aspire to) create a well-oiled security and compliance engine that runs efficiently and becomes more economical over time, discarding traditional approaches wherever new modalities offer improvement. This engine should meet the goals of the business, align compliance and security activity cycles to eliminate redundant work, eliminate inefficiencies, improve transparency/visibility and provide agility to adapt to future technology and the changing security landscape.
Building the Design
To build against the vision, you will need to develop your strategy to map security and compliance activities against your business and risk goals, as well as your risk and compliance requirements. Review your enterprisewide security program through an organizational lens: Which parts of the business and systems represent higher risk? What functions, groups and systems do they affect? What compliance requirements must be met, and how do they overlap in terms of which processes are repeatable, redundant and easily replaced by automation? By understanding your risks and business, as well as requirements to demonstrate security, areas of overlap are opportunities for “do once, apply across many” for your assessment activities. Activities where automation can be applied are prime opportunities to reduce manual labor and greatly reduce time to manage and demonstrate compliance.
Assembling the Engine
You are now in a better position to begin building a structured program that conducts compliance audits and associated controls tests as efficiently as possible. You can more efficiently schedule when, how and what to test, implementing automation where it makes the most sense and drives the highest value.
One of the most important elements is ensuring you have “single pane of glass” visibility into your security controls, not just at audit time, but throughout the year, moving toward a state of continual security that supports compliance. If you are working with an assessment organization, ensure they both offer tools and visibility that provide you with transparency into your controls and are partnering with you to continuously improve and leverage the automation you are building. The ongoing visibility can show you gaps to achieving or maintaining compliance and indicate areas where automation could be of value and greatly accelerate assessments. They should provide tools that include guidance on the areas you may be struggling to keep aligned with requirements.
Disrupting Security and Compliance: The Latest Model
Completely overhauling how we approach and manage security and compliance may seem daunting. Being reactive and running from audit to audit (often not in harmony with “business as usual” security tasks) has been like driving a gas-guzzling base model car that gets 20 MPG. Yes, you can do it, but it’s probably not the most efficient, cost-effective way to get around. As risks multiply and compliance frameworks expand, it is becoming increasingly imperative to disrupt how we go about addressing these challenges and remodel our behaviors, processes and systems to design the “Tesla of Security and Compliance.” Done correctly, you can create a “future-proof” system that empowers you to quickly embrace new requirements and new technologies as they come available, always being at the ready to adapt to the best methods to reduce risk to your enterprise and demonstrate your security to your stakeholders.