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Compliance Made Easy: How to improve your risk posture with automated audits

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Tal Dayan, security expert for AlgoSec, discusses the secret to passing audits seamlessly and how to introduce automated compliance 

Compliance standards come in many different shapes and sizes. Some organizations set their own internal policies, while others are subject to regimented global frameworks such as PCI DSS, which protects customers’ card payment details; SOX to safeguard financial information or HIPAA, which protects patients’ healthcare data.

Regardless of which industry you operate in, regular auditing is key to ensuring your business retains its risk posture whilst also remaining compliant. The problem is that running manual risk and security audits can be a long, drawn-out, and tedious affair. A 2020 report from Coalfire and Omdia found that for the majority of organizations, growing compliance obligations are now consuming 40% or more of IT security budgets and threaten to become an unsustainable cost. 

The report suggests two reasons for this growing compliance burden.  First, compliance standards are changing from point-in-time reviews to continuous, outcome-based requirements. Second, the ongoing cyber-skills shortage is stretching organizations’ abilities to keep up with compliance requirements. This means businesses tend to leave them until the last moment, leading to a rushed audit that isn’t as thorough as it could be, putting your business at increased risk of a penalty fine or, worse, a data breach that could jeopardize the entire organization.

The auditing process itself consists of a set of requirements that must be created for organizations to measure themselves against. Each rule must be manually analyzed and simulated before it can be implemented and used in the real world. As if that wasn’t time-consuming enough, every single edit to a rule must also be logged meticulously. That is why automation plays a key role in the auditing process. By striking the right balance between automated and manual processes, your business can achieve continuous compliance and produce audit reports seamlessly.

Here is a six-step strategy that can set your business on the path to sustainable and successful ongoing auditing preservation:

Step 1: Gather information

This step will be the most arduous but once completed it will become much easier to sustain. This is when you’ll need to gather things like security policies, firewall access logs, documents from previous audits and firewall vendor information – effectively everything you’d normally factor into a manual security audit.

Step 2: Define a clear change management process

A good change management process is essential to ensure traceability and accountability when it comes to firewall changes. This process should confirm that every change is properly authorized and logged as and when it occurs, providing a picture of historical changes and approvals.

Step 3: Audit physical & OS security

With the pandemic causing a surge in the number of remote workers and devices used, businesses must take extra care to certify that every endpoint is secured and up-to-date with relevant security patches. Crucially, firewall and management services should also be physically protected, with only designated personnel permitted to access them.

Step 4: Clean up & organize rule base

As with every process, the tidier it is, the more efficient it is. Document rules and naming conventions should be enforced to ensure the rule base is as organized as possible, with identical rules consolidated to keep things concise.

Step 5: Assess & remediate risk

Now it’s time to assess each rule and identify those that are particularly risky and prioritize them by severity. Are there any that violate corporate security policies? Do some have “ANY” and a permissive action? Make a list of these rules and analyze them to prepare plans for remediation and compliance.

Step 6: Continuity & optimization

Now it’s time to simply hone the first five steps and make these processes as regular and streamlined as possible.

By following the above steps and building out your own process, you can make day-to-day compliance and auditing much more manageable. Not only will you improve your compliance score, you’ll also be able to maintain a sustainable level of compliance without the usual disruption and hard labor caused by cumbersome and expensive manual processes.

To find out more about auditing automation and how you can master compliance, watch my recent webinar and visit our firewall auditing and compliance page.

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