How SaaS companies can efficiently execute on a compliance roadmap
Compliance is the cost of doing business in today’s world. Regulators have imposed a wide array of mandates and protections designed to uphold privacy and security standards around consumer information.
Meeting compliance requirements can be a challenge, but it can also open up new markets, speed your sales process, and improve your company’s overall security posture. When it comes to improving your security maturity, compliance can be a useful part of your strategy.
Businesses need to not only identify the global, local, and industry regulations that apply to their business, but also strategically implement the processes and technologies that keep them compliant. Whether you’re targeting specific industry verticals or going after international customers, entering new markets requires continuous education about the latest in compliance and regulatory standards as they relate to data privacy and security.
The good news is that many of these regulations overlap so businesses can complete requirements for multiple regulations at the same time. There are key standards SaaS companies must comply with to communicate to prospects and customers that your business knows how to handle sensitive data.
Start with Best Practices
The foundation is the most important part of an entire project. Like in construction, setting a good foundation is imperative to building a safe structure. Same goes for when building a compliance roadmap for an IT infrastructure.
The foundation, or initial key step, is to first ensure the infrastructure is configured in accordance with Center for Internet Security (CIS) benchmarks. If operating in Amazon Web Services (AWS), ensure all AWS best practices are met. Setting this foundation will help meet basic security and compliance requirements, which may simplify the compliance journey from the very start.
Once the foundation has been set, the compliance, IT, and security teams should determine every international, local, and industry regulation that applies to the business. This will provide the backbone to the compliance roadmap.
Second Stop: SOC 2
As a component of the American Institute of CPAs Service Organization Control reporting platform, SOC 2’s goal is to ensure that systems are configured for maximum security and privacy of customer data. SOC 2 is specifically designed for service providers storing customer data in the cloud, meaning that it applies to nearly every SaaS company. It is one of the most common compliance frameworks and, thus, is often the first that SaaS companies choose to comply with.
SOC 2 goes beyond a simple technical audit, requiring businesses to establish and follow stringent security policies and procedures that encompass the security, availability, processing integrity, and confidentiality of any data stored in the cloud.
For monitoring, it’s important to set up a baseline of normal activity in order to continuously monitor for unusual behavior. Detailed audit trails will allow for deep, contextual insight into the root cause of any attacks, allowing you to remediate the issues, thereby keeping up with SOC 2 requirements.
The Roadmap Focal Point: GDPR
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is receiving a ton of attention from any organization that either operates in Europe or has customers from the region. The broad EU-based regulation is so stringent and complicated that it’s motivated many tech companies to create new job titles to ensure compliance.
The reason why GDPR gets so much attention is because of its high financial stakes; a business can be fined up to 4% of a company’s global revenue if it’s found to be non-compliant. Very few organizations can afford to take that kind of hit which is why so many make it the centerpiece to their compliance strategy.
While there are many privacy implications, one of the most important and challenging GDPR requirements for businesses is the data breach notification. Organizations must notify authorities or specific data subjects within 72 hours of a breach. Compliance for this regulation may be reached by baking data controls into systems by decision and enacting continuous monitoring and real-time intrusion detection.
Using Compliance as a Competitive Differentiator
While not a regulation per se, ISO/IEC 27001 is a standard that SaaS organizations often choose to comply with to manage information security risks. The regulation formally specifies an Information Security Management System, a suite of activities concerning the management of information risks, and lays out an overarching management framework to identify, analyze, and address these risks. Certification requires a host of documentation, including a clear information security policy, a risk assessment process, and evidence of information security monitoring and measurement.
This standard spans industry type, organization size, and market, meaning that it can apply to any SaaS company. Most businesses use it as a way to use cybersecurity as a key differentiator to prospects and customers.
Compliance can be a powerful business driver that allows a business to inspire trust and confidence to customers and external partners. Although the above standards and regulations may seem bothersome at times, non-compliance can result in fines and further punishment that can affect a company’s long-term health.
It’s important to remember that these compliance standards and regulations may have to be revisited, but once put into place, and assigned to a dedicated compliance team to ensure they are met, reviewed and updated when needed, the once daunting task, becomes clockwork.