A Strategic Approach to Enterprise Risk Security Compliance Audits

If your organization handles sensitive electronic information on behalf of others — whether it’s protected health information (PHI), credit card or other financial data, or personally identifiable information (PII), such as Social Security numbers and birth dates — establishing trust is critical. One of the most effective tools for doing so is a compliance audit. An audit of this type provides assurances to customers, consumers, patients, business partners and government agencies that you’ve taken appropriate steps to help safeguard their information against the growing threat of data breaches and other cyber security risks. It also demonstrates due diligence in complying with applicable data security laws, regulations and standards, helping your organization avoid or minimize monetary fines or other penalties in the event of a data breach or regulatory investigation.

Sensitive data is governed by a maze of federal, state, and international information security and privacy laws and regulations, as well as industry-prescribed standards. Privacy rules specify how information may be collected, processed, stored, and shared, while security rules are designed to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the data. For example, HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) govern the handling of PHI by health care providers and payors and their business associates, such as software application providers and other vendors with access to PHI. Many federal contractors are required to comply with NIST cybersecurity standards.

Generally, these regulations and standards require covered entities to conduct a risk assessment and to implement reasonable and appropriate measures to protect the security and integrity of the information they handle. In addition, to satisfy their obligations, covered entities are increasingly demanding that their vendors and service providers implement similar safeguards. Typically, this is achieved by requiring third parties with access to protected data to obtain a certification that they meet an accepted standard or security framework, such as HITRUST, ISO 27001, or CSA STAR.

Whether your organization is covered directly by one or more of these regulations or standards, is contractually obligated to meet their requirements, or simply wants to strengthen protection of its electronic data, an audit of your security infrastructure is the first step.

Our Approach

At Smith & Howard, we recognize that compliance with information security standards can be a daunting task. An audit involves validation of anywhere from 300 to 900-plus administrative, physical, and technical safeguards — or “controls” — designed to secure and protect information while meeting privacy requirements. Organizations that take a check-the-box approach can quickly become overwhelmed by “compliance fatigue.”

Our Enterprise Risk Security experts take a strategic approach to the compliance audit process, organizing hundreds of controls into discrete buckets tied to business goals and objectives — such as contingency planning, risk analysis and management, incident response, and vendor management — and develop a customized project plan for each.

By translating technical specifications into the language of business, involving the right people from multiple departments and disciplines within an organization, and applying traditional project management methodologies, we help organizations achieve their compliance goals quickly and effectively. For example, one client’s pursuit of HITRUST certification had languished after a nearly three-year effort. Once we stepped in, our strategic approach enabled the organization to achieve certification in only nine months.

We also understand that every organization’s security environment is unique. Accordingly, we tailor our services based on your organization’s size, complexity, technical capabilities and infrastructure, resources, and potential security risks. We guide you through every step of the process and remain available to address your questions and concerns as the cybersecurity, privacy, and compliance environments continue to evolve.

Beyond Compliance

Smith & Howard’s Enterprise Risk Security experts possess the technical expertise, real-world industry experience, ability to communicate in terms your entire team can understand and certifications necessary to help you meet your compliance goals. But we also recognize that compliance is only one component of information security. Compliance establishes a baseline for evaluating the effectiveness of your security controls. We help you build on that baseline to develop a truly robust information security program. If you have questions about your security environment, please call 404-874-6244 or fill out the form on the right side of the page.

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