When it comes to cybersecurity, governance, risk and compliance (GRC) is often a second thought and seen as the bureaucracy getting in the way of threat prevention. However, their importance shouldn’t be underestimated.
A focused GRC program establishes the foundation to allow organizations to meet their security and compliance objectives. If done well, this proactive approach to cybersecurity can minimize reactive incident response for businesses.
Cybersecurity programs are incomplete without GRC
Cybersecurity as a whole is made up of three component parts - people, processes and technology. Out of the three, technology is often focused on most, as it’s arguably the simplest element to enact. However, for a businesses to successfully reach their security goals, all three elements need to be considered with a programmatic, flexible and scalable approach.
To achieve this, an effective GRC program is crucial, as it ensures a holistic view has been taken, whilst tackling the daunting mission of cybersecurity. After all, automating a poorly thought out process with cutting edge technology doesn’t improve the process itself or the resultant outcome.
Take, for instance, a security operations employee who is faced with four events to monitor and mitigate. Without a GRC program, they would have no context on the business risk or compliance impact of the events, meaning they would need to rely solely on technology and stove-pipe processes. As a consequence, they are at risk of incorrectly prioritizing the least important issue in a way they wouldn’t have with a GRC program in place.
GRC has a symbiotic relationship
Whilst governance, risk and compliance are often viewed as separate functions, taking a holistic view on these fundamental components demonstrates the symbiotic relationship they share.
Governance ensures that organizational activities are aligned in a way that supports the organization’s business goals. Risk that is associated with any organizational activities is identified and addressed in a way that supports an organization’s business goals. Compliance allows all organizational activities to be operated in a way that meets the laws and regulations impacting those systems. And all three aspects work together to create an approach which will enable security architecture, engineering, and operations to be aligned with the wider business goals, while effectively managing risk and meeting compliance objectives.
But, how do you scale a GRC program and ensure it is embedded within your organization?
How to scale a GRC program
One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to GRC and it doesn’t have to; the depth and breadth of programs will vary from business to business. However, regardless of a programs complexity, it can be transformed or scaled for the adoption of cloud services, emerging technologies, and as yet unknown future innovations, provided you follow best practices.
To establish base governance, it’s vital to first identify compliance requirements. This means investigating and understanding contract obligations, compliance frameworks and identifying required or chosen standards that need to be implemented.
Following this, you must conduct a program assessment to understand the capabilities and maturity of your current profile, determine what your target profile is, and create a plan for how you will achieve this. Your strategy should consider procurement, DevSecOps, management, security and human resource allocation, including defining and assigning functions, roles, and responsibilities.
Finally, you need to update and publish your new policies, processes, procedures to educate your employees and reassure that cybersecurity and governance is upheld. Your policies should clearly align with your business objectives. While your processes must specify how to upgrade old technologies for the adoption of modern organization and management techniques, and how your procedures integrate cloud services and other emerging technologies.
The second stage in scaling your GRC policy is looking at your risk management. Conducting a risk assessment for every aspect of your organization and each business line and asset type is paramount. Once this is done and you have full understanding over the risk within your business, you can implement a plan to mitigate, avoid, transfer, or accept risk at each tier, business line, and asset.as well
Risk management frameworks can then be used to track systems by selecting controls and risks which can be continuously monitored and adjusted as the business grows and threat landscape increases.The final stage is incorporating risk information into leadership decision making. To put it simply, it should become routine to ask “what’s the financial, cyber, legal and reputation risk to our business of making this decision.” By embedding this approach into your culture, you can ensure that you have complete visibility over your risk position, when make critical business decisions and driving company growth.
Linked directly to governance, compliance helps establish the policies, standards and security controls it will be monitored by. Alongside the reports generated by control monitoring, you must be proactively reassessing your security capabilities and ensuring they are meeting the needs of your business. This means automating application security testing and vulnerability scans, conducting self-assessments from sampling of controls, as well as being overly critical of minute changes, red flags and events that could pose significant risk.
Furthermore, you must also be willing to adapt your processes in response to events and changes to risk. As the sophistication of threats evolve, so should your security posture. Integrating your security operations with the compliance team for response management is key to this, as is establishing standard operating procedures to respond to unintentional changes.
Prioritizing Governance, Risk and Compliance in your business
Creating a strong cybersecurity strategy is impossible without an effective GRC program. As such, it’s vital that businesses put it front and center if they want to meet their security and compliance objectives. In doing so, they can ensure that they have the components in place to scale, adapt and evolve as their business grows and regulation changes.
By working with a cloud provider, such as AWS, that can support, implement and advise on an GRC program, businesses can ensure they have the governance, risk and compliance in place that will protect and against the most sophisticated of threats, now and into the future.