Cyber Security vs. Compliance

Cyber Security and Compliance

As we continue to see crippling data breaches, new regulations like GDPR and California’s Consumer Privacy Act will become more common. But is maintaining compliance with current regulatory laws enough to protect your business from sophisticated cyber security attacks?

It’s important to note that these two elements of corporate reality – cyber security and compliance – are two distinctly different concepts. Becoming fully comprehensive in one does not mean you are also fully comprehensive in the other. Each concept covers a separate and distinct aspect of any company’s well-being, so both require independent analysis and effort to become fully operational as a stand-alone asset. Only when each is wholly sufficient in and of itself should they be considered as evidence of sound enterprise IT governance.

Cyber Security vs Compliance

What is IT Compliance?

Compliance means conforming to the rules set in place that ensure that goods or services meet the accepted requirements established by the regulated industry and don’t create or pose unnecessary threats. External entities are responsible for setting and enforcing industry-based standards, and industry members assume the obligation of compliance by engaging in the industry itself. Most industries have at least one set of standards, and some sectors are governed by several intersecting or overlapping bodies of rules.

In the technology industry, standards govern how companies collect, manage, and use the data of their customers and consumers. Most of the regulations got their start in the mid – to late – 1990s after the Enron scandal revealed how easy it was to manipulate data for illegitimate gain. As the access to and use of technology for all purposes grew, so did the number of ways companies could exploit it. Consequently, there are now many regulating entities around the world that issue rules affecting technology and its uses.

For example, the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) sets standards for the payment and electronic financial transactions industry. Companies that take consumer’s money through any digital portal must comply with the rules governing those practices and operations. The recently enacted General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) establishes uniform standards for any company (regardless of its location) that handles the personally identifying information (PII) of any European Union citizen or resident.

Being compliant with any particular set of standards means that all relevant aspects of the business that are required to conform to those standards and the company can prove that fact. Any company that uses technology to do business within an individually regulated sector (or a relevant legal jurisdiction in some cases) must demonstrate compliance with those standards or risk fines or other penalties.

What is Cyber Security?

Cyber security is the protection of computer hardware, software, systems, networks, and data from cyber-attacks. It is a broad field that encompasses an enterprise’s policies, processes, end-user education, and technical controls to address the following areas:

  • Application security – securing software and apps
  • Information security – securing data, including customer data, employee data, and confidential business information
  • Network security – securing the ports and databases within a network
  • Operational security – classifying information assets and determining the controls needed to secure them
  • Cyber incident management and response

What are the Differences Between Compliance and Security?

Compliance focuses on the kind of data handled and stored by a company and what regulatory requirements (frameworks) apply to its protection. A company may have to align with multiple frameworks, and understanding these frameworks can be difficult. Their main goal is to manage risk and goes beyond information assets. They oversee policies, regulations, and laws and cover physical, financial, legal, or other risks. Compliance means ensuring an organization is complying with the minimum of the security-related requirements.

Security is a clear set of technical systems and tools and processes which are put in place to protect and defend the information and technology assets of an enterprise. Compliance is not the primary concern or prerogative of a security team, despite being a critical business requirement. Security can include physical controls as well as who has access to a network, for example. Standardized methods and tools provided by specialist vendors make security simpler than compliance. On the other hand, compliance can be multifaceted and based on a company’s data type and security processes.

Cyber Security and Compliance: A necessary partnership

Security and compliance is an essential component in every sector. Knowing how each relates to data security is critical.

The IT industry relies heavily on the public’s trust, and companies that provide them with Information Services need to have stellar reputations. A failure in security can break a business.

Security and compliance are different components of a necessary and crucial system. Knowing how each relates to data protection is critical. Each relies on the other to keep data security at its peak. Compliance does not equal security on its own. There needs to be a symbiotic relationship between the two. When a company meets compliance frameworks with its internal security measures, the implementation of both will keep data safe and a company’s integrity and reputation intact.


The cyber security experts at Continuum GRC have deep knowledge of the cyber security field, are continually monitoring the latest information security threats, and are committed to protecting your organization from security breaches. Continuum GRC offers full-service and in-house risk assessment and risk management subscriptions, and we help companies all around the world sustain proactive cyber security programs.

Continuum GRC is proactive cyber security®. Call 1-888-896-6207 to discuss your organization’s cybersecurity needs and find out how we can help your organization protect its systems and ensure compliance.

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