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What’s Cybersecurity Compliance?

Written by: University of Tulsa   •  Jan 22, 2024
Two Cybersecurity Specialists Study a System Layout on a Large Computer Monitor.

What’s Cybersecurity Compliance?

Data drives everything from the distribution of electricity in some of the world’s biggest cities to payroll disbursement via direct deposit. Businesses and industries rely on vast amounts of data and information technology (IT) to improve efficiency, drive analytics, and improve overall operations. In the wrong hands, the same data that keeps the world moving forward can be used to steal identities, drain bank accounts, or disrupt lives. 

Cybersecurity can be defined as a series of safeguards that protect electronic data from criminal or unauthorized use. This security is so important that numerous federal, state, and local agencies have set forth standards and guidelines for risk-based controls to protect electronic data. Cybersecurity compliance is the act of adhering to these rules and standards, and a master’s degree in cybersecurity can equip aspiring professionals with the knowledge they need to understand and implement compliance protocols. 

Understanding Cybersecurity Compliance

At its core, cybersecurity compliance involves following the regulations, rules, and standards created by relevant authoritative agencies and bodies to protect electronic data. Virtually every organization, from an enterprise-level company to a small business, works with electronic data. Collecting, storing, and using that data leads to some inherent risk of exposure, and cybersecurity measures must be established to counter that risk. 

Cybersecurity compliance involves implementing risk-based controls that protect electronic data during its collection, storage, and use. The current compliance standards focus on the CIA triad model, which stands for confidentiality, integrity, and availability. 

  • Confidentiality mimics privacy. It involves security measures that keep electronic data safe from cybercrimes or other forms of unauthorized access.
  • Integrity refers to the accuracy and trustworthiness of data over time. Data can’t be altered as it moves from one electronic location to another, and it can’t be changed by unauthorized individuals or groups.
  • Availability ensures that information is always readily available to the people who are authorized to access it. Careful maintenance of network infrastructure and storage hardware is vital for this purpose.

Who Regulates Cybersecurity?

The United States has numerous government cybersecurity regulations, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA); the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA); the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS); and Executive Order 14028, President Joe Biden’s order on improving the nation’s cybersecurity. 

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently passed cybersecurity regulations in the United States that require organizations operating within this industry to disclose their cybersecurity measures. It serves as the “final rule” governing cybersecurity management, incident reporting, and disclosure of cybersecurity strategies for these organizations. 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces cybersecurity compliance by ensuring that companies and other government agencies safeguard consumers’ information appropriately. When noncompliant companies cause real or potential harm to consumers, the FTC brings legal action against them. 

Why Is Compliance Important in Cybersecurity?

According to IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023, the global average cost of a single data breach is $4.45 million. The same report notes that companies using extensive cybersecurity measures like automation and technology that combine cybersecurity and artificial intelligence (AI) saved $1.76 million more than organizations that didn’t. 

Aside from protecting companies against financial losses, cybersecurity compliance is important for:

  • Maintaining the company’s reputation
  • Deepening client and customer trust
  • Identifying, addressing, and preparing for data breaches
  • Improving organizations’ overall security posture
  • Avoiding regulatory penalties and legal action
  • Establishing a complete and functional risk management system

Information and Processes Subject to Cybersecurity Compliance

Cybersecurity compliance laws aim to protect three primary types of sensitive data:  personally identifiable information (PII), financial information, and protected health information (PHI). In some cases, other types of data that may be considered sensitive can fall under these regulations. 

Personally Identifiable Information

PII is any information that can be used to identify a consumer or an individual. Identity theft is typically the result of a PII breach, and according to Consumer Affairs, identity theft alone jumped by 22.7% between 2021 and 2022. AARP reported that identity theft cost Americans a combined $43 billion in 2022. 

The most common types of PII include first and last names, date of birth, address, Social Security number, and mother’s maiden name. 

Financial Information

Financial information is one of the most common targets among cybercriminals. With the right information, criminals can drain consumers’ bank accounts, open new accounts in their names, and commit multiple types of fraud. 

Some of the financial information that must be protected at all times includes credit card information (the number, expiration date, and card verification value); bank account information; personal identification numbers (PINs) associated with debit and credit cards; credit record and history; and credit score (FICO). 

Protected Health Information

While health information isn’t a common target among cybercriminals, individuals have a right to privacy. As such, any company or organization that collects, uses, transfers, and analyzes PHI must remain in compliance with federal, state, and local laws to prevent data breaches. 

PHI may include medical history, insurance records, appointments, hospital admissions, and even prescription history. 

Other Data Subject to Regulation

In some cases and industries, other types of information may fall under cybersecurity compliance requirements. Data such as IP address; email address; username and password; biometric data, such as fingerprints and voiceprints; marital status; race; and religion may be regulated depending on the industry and use. 

Become a Cybersecurity Compliance Professional

Cybersecurity compliance grows more complex with every passing year. Organizations must remain in compliance at all times to protect the consumers who trust them and to prevent significant losses. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment of cybersecurity professionals like information security analysts to grow an astounding 32% between 2022 and 2032. 

Never has there been a better time to consider a career in cybersecurity. The online M.S. in Cyber Security program at The University of Tulsa can equip students to meet modern cybersecurity demands and prepare them for important leadership positions across multiple industries, such as finance, health care, and IT. Discover how you can do your part to keep sensitive information safe by becoming a cybersecurity compliance professional. 

Recommended Readings

Cybersecurity Defense Strategies: The Role of Cybersecurity in National Security

Information Security vs. Cybersecurity: What’s the Difference?

The Importance of Cybersecurity Leadership

Sources:

AARP, “Identity Fraud Cost Americans $43 Billion Last Year, AARP-Sponsored Report Finds”

CompTIA, What Is Cybersecurity Compliance?

ConnectWise, “Cybersecurity Laws and Legislation”

Consumer Affairs, “2023 Identity Theft Statistics”

Federal Trade Commission, Privacy and Security Enforcement

IBM, Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023

National Institute of Standards and Technology, Cybersecurity

TechTarget, “What Is the CIA Triad (Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability)?”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Information Security Analysts

Varonis, “80 Cybersecurity Statistics and Trends”

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