Security vs. Compliance: What's the Difference?

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Published: 25 September 2023

Reading time: 4 minutes

The line between security and compliance is easily blurred.

What is IT Security?

Security officers follow industry best practices to secure IT systems, especially at the organizational or enterprise level.

IT security is the protection of information and especially the processing of information. IT security is intended to prevent the manipulation of data and systems by unauthorized third parties.

Information has become more and more valuable over the last few years. Therefore it is all the more important to protect it. Information security is defined by the three IT protection goals: availability, integrity, and confidentiality. These must be maintained. In addition, there are other parts to be added: Authenticity, accountability, non-repudiation and reliability.

Confidentiality of Information

The confidentiality of IT security means that data is only accessible to certain authorized persons. For example, only a certain group of people can access the data it contains. In other words, access protection must be defined. This means that access rights must also be assigned.

Another central point in the confidentiality of information is the transport of data. This should always be encrypted, symmetrically or asymmetrically. This means that unauthorized persons cannot access the contents.

Information Integrity

The integrity of the information should be seen, that the contents and data are always complete and correct. So the systems must also work together for their own benefit. In order to be able to use data, they must not be changed by means of a sales or processing operation.

Which areas include IT Security?

Endpoint Security

All necessary end devices, i.e. PCs, notebooks, tablets and cell phones must be protected. This includes the associated applications and operating systems. Endpoint security is about protecting everything that is switched within the company network up to the Internet.

Internet & Cloud Security

From the moment that information is scattered over the Internet or sent by e-mail, IT security takes on a new significance. The risk of systems, information and data becoming the target of cyber attacks is increasing. From then on, it is also true that users or the data of users and users are protected. Because as soon as users are on the move in the World Wide Web, they leave footprints via their digital identity.

User Security

Because they don’t know what they’re doing, even the users in your company can be a major risk. The IT department, where there is awareness, should be very careful to counteract this. Whether through an application on the private smartphone or through updates on the laptop, the risk is there. If an email attachment is too large, it should not be directed immediately to your private email address. The IT department must create user awareness so that every employee in the company pays the greatest attention to the issue of IT security.

What is IT compliance?

IT compliance is the process of meeting a third party’s requirements with the aim of enabling business operations in a particular market or aligning with laws or even with a particular customer.

Compliance sometimes overlaps with security—but the motive behind compliance is different. It is centered around the requirements of a third party, such as:

  • Industry regulations
  • Government policies
  • Security frameworks
  • Client/customer contractual terms

Let’s say that IT security is a carrot. It motivates the company to protect itself because it is good for the company. IT Compliance, then, is the stick—failure to effectively follow compliance regulations can have serious effects on your business.

Often, these external rules ensure that a given organization can deal with complex needs. Sometimes, compliance requires an organization to go beyond what might be considered reasonably necessary. These objectives are critical to success because a lack of compliance will result in:

At a minimum, a loss of customer trust and damage to your reputation.

At worst, legal and financial ramifications that could result in your organization paying hefty fees or being blocked from working in a certain geography or market.

Comparing IT security & IT compliance

Security is the practice of implementing effective technical controls to protect company assets. Compliance is the application of that practice to meet a third party’s regulatory or contractual requirements.

Conclusion - how does compliance fit into the broader strategy of cybersecurity risk management?

Compliance is undoubtedly one of the driving forces behind a solid cyber security strategy. Companies must constantly question their level of compliance with security standards. This compliance-based approach will facilitate the implementation of a continuous improvement process.

To provide security that meets the challenges it faces, a company needs to be pragmatic, to secure what is necessary and critical, and prioritize its actions. You can’t secure everything and anything. Risk analysis must be an essential tool, and it is this approach that must guide good security practices. Buying cybersecurity tools without knowing where to plug them in makes no senseIdentify your critical assets. You must:

  • Check your level of compliance
  • Simulate and analyze your risks
  • Apply the necessary measures corresponding to the risks identified
  • Monitor the action plan linked to these measures

Contact us if you need more information about IT security and compliance.

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