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Through just the first half of 2021, healthcare organizations in the US paid over $5.5 million in fines for not meeting the data security and compliance standards set by HIPAA. And healthcare is far from the only industry facing the brunt of data compliance standards

Data security and compliance standards are evolving at a rapid rate every year, trying to keep pace with rapid advances in technology. Invariably, the burden on businesses to stay compliant only grows heavier.

It’s common for businesses to use ‘security’ and ‘compliance’ interchangeably – and that can be an expensive mistake. While organizations are required to be compliant, compliance does not imply security. 

In this article, we’ll cover: 

  • How data security and compliance differ
  • How security and compliance create IT compliance
  • National and international security and compliance standards
  • How to ensure compliance with scalability


Differentiating Data Security and Compliance 

Data security primarily concerns the technical tools, systems, and processes used to protect an organization’s information and technology assets. 

Like compliance, data security requires ongoing efforts to ensure the best protection for your network and company assets. In a way, you can consider security the sheath and compliance the sword. IT security also covers:

  • Who has network access
  • Physical control parameters
  • Business processes
  • Secure IT ecosystem
  • Authentication mechanisms

Compliance works with frameworks to ensure an organization is operating by data security compliance standards. By using frameworks, organizations can ensure that they are compliant by abiding by policies, regulations, and laws. 

Consider frameworks as regulatory mandates for industry-related policies, regulations, and statutes. Additionally, frameworks concern:

  • Physical risk
  • Legal risk
  • Financial risk
  • Other forms of industry-specific risk

Frameworks guide compliance by ensuring that an organization’s data security is meeting regulatory standards at all times. 


How Data Security and Compliance Influence Your IT

Data Security and Compliance - What’s the Difference?

Compliance works with an organization’s framework to access security systems, rectify deficiencies, and perform routine system assessments. Businesses can begin the path to IT compliance with: 

  • Taking inventory of active security tools, systems, and measures
  • Performing a risk assessment for the types of business information processed
  • Studying industry requirements related to compliance frameworks
  • Planning a way to fill in deficiency gaps and improve current controls
  • Performing efficiency tests 

Compliance also ensures that all third-party demands are met and that all business activities are protected. 

National & International Data Regulatory Compliance Standards

Compliance is the backbone to ensuring the strength and longevity of an organization’s data security. 

Your industry, company size and location, how many customers you serve, and other industry factors all play a considerable role in determining what laws and standards you need to comply with. 

Here are a few laws prominent American and global standards that many medium-sized and large businesses must satisfy.

Sarbanes Oxley Act (SOX)

Following the corporate scandals of Enron and Worldcom in the early 2000s, the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002 was enacted to safeguard employees, investors, and the public from inaccuracies in financial reporting by publicly traded corporations. 

The mandate concerns auditor independence, internal control assessment, audit independence, and in-depth financial disclosures. Based on that, the law provides an extensive framework that public companies need to follow for classifying, storing, and accessing financial data. 

That in turn translates into internal and external IT controls to protect the data. Additionally, the SOX has outlined controls for:

  • Data falsification
  • Data alternation
  • Data destruction

Organizations looking to become SOX compliant must maintain at least five years of financial records, chats, emails, and spreadsheets. 

Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)

How Data Security and Compliance Influence Your IT

The PCI DSS provides a security framework ensuring that companies that accept credit card payments must maintain a safe environment for the acceptance, processing, storing, and transmission of cardholder data. 

Additionally, the PCI DSS covers business elements such as:

  • How your business computer systems handle data 
  • Tracking user access to hardware
  • Appropriate disposal of hard drives 
  • Separating program execution from data storage
  • How organizations are protecting against cyberattacks and employee data theft 

Any business wishing to accept credit card payment must abide by PCI DSS.

Businesses wishing to become compliant can determine which level of PCI DSS compliance is required by the number of transactions their organization handles annually. 

  • Level 1: Merchants annually processing over 6 million card transactions
  • Level 2: Companies annually processing 1 to 6 million card transactions
  • Level 3: Businesses annually processing 20,000 to 1 million card transactions
  • Level 4: Organizations annually processing fewer than 20,000 card transactions

California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)

Worldwide businesses doing business with people in California that fall into one of the following three categories below must abide by the CCPA state-wide privacy legislation. It details how Californian’s personal information must be handled:

  1. Businesses with an annual income of over $25 million
  2. Organizations that handle the data of more than 50,000 customers
  3. Companies making more than 50% of their revenue by selling customers’ personal information

Overall, the CCPA aims to give Californians more control over their personal information.  

Through CCPA, California residents have the power to access their collected personal information, see the data collected regarding them, if it was sold and to whom, delete their data, and refuse their data from being sold.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act

In healthcare, HIPAA sets national standards for safeguarding healthcare data. 

The Act has five Titles, with Title 2 covering information privacy and security. As detailed within the Act, only approved individuals can access health records. Primarily, HIPAA aims to protect an individual’s: 

  • Medical records
  • Medical information about health care plans
  • Data with health care clearinghouses & certain electronic healthcare transactions

Patients looking to access their medical information can do so under HIPAA. Additionally, individuals can examine their medical records, obtain a copy, and ask for revisions. Staying HIPAA compliant is essential when dealing with healthcare data, so most healthcare providers use detailed audit trails. 

Detailed audit trails provide a step-by-step snapshot of the activities performed within your IT environment, including: 

  • The identity of who accessed the network and what they accessed
  • The time the network was accessed & the duration of the session
  • The tasks executed along with a time and date signature

General Data Protection Regulation

The GDPR provides a legal framework for collecting and processing European individuals’ personal and sensitive data

In short, it aims to unify European Union data privacy laws across Europe. Among the forms of privacy data that the GDPR protects include: 

  • Name, address, & ID numbers
  • Sexual orientation
  • Political opinions
  • Racial or ethnic data
  • Biometric data
  • Health & genetic data
  • Web data like IP address, cookie data, RFID tags, & location

Any organization that engages in commercial or professional activity with European residents must comply with GDPR guidelines. In 2020, regulators issued $192 million in fines, hitting Google with the largest fine of $57 million for not meeting GDPR requirements.

Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)

PIPEDA lays the framework for how private organizations involved in commercial business in Canada should collect, use, and disclose personal information. 

It provides consumers with the right to access their personal information and request corrections. Additionally, it details how the personal information gathered can only be used for its intended purpose. Should a business wish to use that personal data in any other capacity, consent must first be obtained. 

Organizations seeking PIPEDA compliance must follow 10 fair information principles:

  1. Accountability
  2. Consent
  3. Individual Access
  4. Openness
  5. Challenging Compliance
  6. Safeguards
  7. Accuracy
  8. Identifying Purposes
  9. Limiting Collection
  10. Limiting Use, Discloser & Retention

Fulfill Data Security Compliance Standards

Data regulatory compliance may seem onerous but they have proven effective in improving data security, accountability, and privacy. Work with an experienced partner to protect your data and ensure compliance with data security standards.

If you’re unsure where to begin, an experienced IT partner can help you vet vendors, identify standard-compliant solutions, and develop policies that minimize the risk of fines and audit findings. 

At Accudata Systems, a Converge Company, you’ll work with experts who help businesses like yours uncover risk and meet regulatory compliance. Our team will:

  • Take inventory of hardware and software
  • Assess hosted and cloud systems
  • Deploy best practices
  • Bolster your cybersecurity framework

Speak with one of our specialists to learn more today.