Data security and privacy compliance guide for SMBs

Businesses, from healthcare to finance to retail to manufacturing, must all comply with data security and privacy regulations. Not only is compliance mandatory, but it also helps companies achieve better integrity, and information systems security and availability. This has become fundamental as cyberattacks have become a stark daily reality. For instance, North Carolina’s attorney general Josh Stein reported that in 2019, the number of data breaches in the state was the highest on record at 1,210.

However, given the growing complexity of various regulations, achieving compliance can be a tall order. For one, certain regulations may apply to individual departments within a single company.

As a business owner, you should understand the data security and privacy regulations relevant to your company and find the best path to achieving compliance. We’ve answered the following questions to help you.

Which compliance regulations are relevant to my industry?

Complying with different data privacy and security regulations are now as commonplace as securing a business permit. These regulations lay down directives for safeguarding an organization’s IT systems and data from cyberattacks, such as malware and data breaches. And they place the responsibility on companies to follow these directives to better protect themselves or face fines and penalties for noncompliance. Here are the most common ones:

Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) covers any business that processes, stores, or transmits credit card data. A business governed by the PCI DSS is obligated to build a secure network and regularly monitor and test security systems and processes, implement strong access control measures around cardholder data, and maintain a vulnerability management program.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) covers every healthcare provider that transmits health information in electronic form. These organizations are obligated to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of all electronically protected health information (ePHI) created, received, maintained, or transmitted, as well as identify and protect against reasonably anticipated threats and impermissible uses or disclosures.

Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act (GLBA) covers any organization that provides financial products or services to customers. Under the GLBA, organizations must ensure the secure collection, disclosure, and protection of consumers’ nonpublic personal information (NPI) and personally identifiable information (PII); clearly explain to consumers what data is collected about them, where it is shared, how it is used, and how it is protected; and develop a written information security plan to protect customers’ NPI and PII.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) covers organizations that process the personal data of EU residents. These organizations are expected to process personal data in a manner that ensures their security, including protection against unauthorized or unlawful processing and accidental loss, destruction, or damage.

At SpectrumWise, we help organizations from many industries navigate the often difficult requirements and cost concerns of cybersecurity, including compliance. We are a reliable expert in easing the burden of IT management for our business partners from diverse industries, such as accounting and finance, healthcare, architecture and engineering, and real estate.

What are the general benefits of achieving compliance?

A compliant business benefits from having a security blueprint that guards their systems and data and prepares them for profit and growth. It also reassures its existing customers and helps build a reputation that attracts new ones.

Compliance also protects a company from potentially disastrous penalties, which can run up to millions of dollars and include imprisonment or permanent closure. Lower penalties are still worrisome as they often include the publication of the negligent company’s security failures. This will likely cause serious reputational damage, leaving a company in disgrace among customers and competitors alike.

How can my business achieve compliance?

Among the tools that can help an organization achieve compliance, the most valuable are established frameworks based on industry practices, academic research, training, experience, and other materials. You may align your business’s security programs with some of the following popular frameworks:

  • NIST SP 800-53 establishes security standards and guidelines for government agencies and provides general best practices for the private sector as well.
  • NIST Cybersecurity Framework helps organizations manage security risks. It also offers HIPAA-covered companies a crosswalk that tightens your ePHI’s security.
  • The ISO 27000 series are frameworks for securing financial information, employees’ personal data, intellectual property, and other critical assets. For instance, ISO 27001 is meant to help organizations establish, implement, maintain, and improve their information security management systems (ISMSs).
  • BS 10012 is a framework aligned with the data security requirements of the GDPR.

Besides aligning with a framework, what else can your company do?

Regardless of what framework your company applies, your company should practice the following to achieve regulatory compliance:

  • Employ data discovery and classification tools that can locate your company’s regulated data to ensure it’s protected by correct security controls and is trackable and searchable.
  • Conduct regular risk assessments. These are required by many regulatory authorities. This process involves identifying risks, assessing the probability of their occurrence, studying their potential impact, taking steps to remediate the most serious risks, and assessing the effectiveness of those steps.
  • You need a clear plan to effectively manage administrative, physical, and technical measures, such as policies and procedures, employee training, and IT controls of regulations. Examples include compliance checklists to see where your company stands and standard frameworks for designing a data protection policy.
  • Resources are available to help you understand regulations better. A good example is a comprehensive guide and FAQ from the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) on GDPR compliance.

Lastly, your company may not have a compliance officer and you may have more questions about compliance than you can handle. It’s best to partner with an expert who can advise you on industry-specific regulations and guide you through the entire compliance process, including the setup and maintenance of a comprehensive cybersecurity program. SpectrumWise can do all of these. Give us a call to find out the details.


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