Information technology (IT) is critical to success in the business world. IT compliance is the practice of ensuring that your IT systems and procedures meet legal and regulatory requirements. It’s vitally important to make sure your company complies with applicable regulations. Noncompliance can result in significant penalties, so it’s essential to ensure your business IT practices conform with all applicable laws.
The importance of IT compliance
Businesses must adhere to various IT compliance regulations, depending on the industry in which they operate. Laws can be complex and may vary between regions, so businesses need to understand the specific requirements of their industry. In some cases, companies must have an IT specialist – sometimes referred to as an IT Compliance Analyst – on staff to deal with the relevant compliance regulations. The IT Compliance Analyst will act as the company’s liaison with the federal government and other organizations to ensure all proper protocols are met.
Types of business IT compliance regulations
The most common IT compliance regulations that collectively impact the largest number of businesses include the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). SOX applies to publicly traded companies in the United States and requires them to protect their financial data. HIPAA regulates how healthcare providers must handle patient data, while PCI DSS sets security standards for companies that process credit card payments. Each of these mandates has specific requirements that businesses must meet to be compliant.
Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX)
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) was enacted in 2002 in response to a series of high-profile corporate scandals, most notably the Enron scandal. The act imposes strict requirements on public companies with respect to their financial reporting and internal controls. Compliance with SOX can be challenging for businesses, particularly for smaller companies that may not have the resources to hire a full-time compliance officer.
One key requirement of SOX is that public companies must establish a system of internal controls to ensure the accuracy and completeness of their financial reporting. This includes controls over financial information systems and data integrity. Businesses need to protect their systems from unauthorized access or alteration and ensure that only authorized personnel have access to sensitive data.
Another essential requirement of SOX is periodic financial reporting. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act requires all companies to report quarterly financial performance, including income, earnings per share, and cash flow. It also requires that public companies provide an annual report similar to the 10K and other periodic reports they have previously filed with the SEC.
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
Since its passage in 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) has been a key piece of legislation affecting the healthcare industry. HIPAA sets national standards for the protection of electronic patient health information. Businesses that deal with protected health information (PHI) must comply with HIPAA regulations or risk fines and other penalties.
One of the most important HIPAA compliance requirements is security. Businesses must take steps to protect PHI from unauthorized access, use, or disclosure. This includes implementing security measures such as firewalls, antivirus software, and data encryption. Businesses must also develop an incident response plan in case of a data breach.
All entities subject to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) must comply with the Privacy Rule. This includes businesses with electronic health records (EHRs). The rule requires that entities covered by the HIPAA Privacy Rule, such as hospitals, doctors’ offices, and other healthcare providers, ensure they have taken steps to protect their electronic health records (EHRs) from unauthorized access. In addition, the rule requires that providers make all EHRs accessible to patients and their physicians. The Privacy Rule also prohibits entities from using or disclosing personal health information (PHI) without authorization.
Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)
Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliance is crucial for businesses that process credit card payments. Any company that falls out of compliance can face significant financial penalties. PCI DSS is a set of requirements designed to protect credit card data. The standard was created in 2004 by Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and JCB International. Today, the standard is managed by the PCI Security Standards Council.
PCI DSS applies to all organizations that process, store, or transmit credit card data. The standard includes several requirements for protecting credit card data, such as security measures for systems and networks, access control, password policies, and incident response plans. Businesses that process credit cards must regularly assess their compliance with PCI DSS. The PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) is responsible for the ongoing update and maintenance of the standard. In addition to updating the standard, the PCI SSC also provides a forum for companies that process credit cards to discuss security issues and share best practices.
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
Since the 1990s, when the first wave of regulations governing data privacy and electronic commerce were enacted, businesses have been required to protect personal data entrusted to them by consumers. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which went into effect on May 25, 2018, is the latest and most comprehensive iteration of these regulations. It applies to all companies that process or store the personal data of individuals who reside in the European Union (EU), regardless of where the companies are located.
The GDPR builds on prior data protection laws by strengthening consent requirements, expanding the definition of personal data, and increasing penalties for noncompliance. Companies that process or store the personal data of EU citizens must take steps to ensure that their IT systems are GDPR-compliant. This may require changes to business processes, IT infrastructure, and even company culture. The GDPR is the EU’s most significant global data protection regulation and is supported by secondary legislation in some other countries.
Is your business in compliance?
Small businesses are often unaware of the IT compliance regulations that apply to them. This lack of awareness can lead to fines and other penalties for companies not in compliance.
The first step in determining if your business is IT compliant is understanding which regulations apply to you. As a result of the numerous rules, it has become challenging for companies to understand which regulations they must adhere to. This can be especially problematic in cases where a business must assess and balance its compliance with multiple laws.
We’ve briefly described each of the most common IT compliance regulations in the summaries above. These regulations apply to specific types of information handled by various business sectors. HIPAA is among the most common of these regulations, as it applies to all businesses that process personal health data. PCI DSS requires all organizations that accept payment cards to comply with minimum security standards. SOX applies only to public companies (i.e., companies that are listed on a major stock exchange). GDPR can potentially apply to any company that processes or stores the personal data of individuals.
Steps to get your business IT in compliance
Small businesses have a lot on their plates: hiring the right people, marketing their product, making sure their payroll is met and their books are in order. It’s not surprising that information technology compliance can sometimes fall by the wayside. But ignoring IT compliance can be a costly mistake. It is essential to ensure that your business complies with all applicable regulations, which includes ensuring your information systems and policies are compliant with the laws that govern your industry.
Evaluating compliance and correcting any shortfalls is a multi-step process. Regulations can be complex, making it challenging to ensure that all aspects are being followed correctly. The work involves a multi-step process that requires careful planning, communication, and execution.
1. Identify the relevant regulations. The first step is to identify the rules that apply to your business. This will vary depending on the industry you are in and the location of your business. For example, if you are in the financial sector, regulations governing your operations could include PCI DSS and GDPR. If your business is involved in the healthcare industry, HIPAA will almost certainly apply to you, even if your company’s role is an indirect one such as providing software or document management services.
2. Review your IT infrastructure. Once you know what regulations apply, you need to review your IT infrastructure and identify any areas that need improvement. This may include implementing new security measures such as firewalls and anti-intrusion software, encrypting data, updating outdated software, and training employees on best practices.
3. Take action accordingly. Once you have identified any areas of improvement, take action accordingly to bring your IT infrastructure into compliance with applicable regulations. This may involve hiring a consultant or making changes to your existing systems.
4. Audit results. Once you have completed these steps, you can analyze your updated IT environment to determine if the measures were effective and have brought your company into compliance. If shortfalls are identified, this process should reveal the necessary steps for additional improvement.
Technology is constantly evolving, which can lead to changes in applicable regulations. Businesses must ensure that their technology is compliant with any new rules that come into effect or risk facing fines or other penalties. If you’re not sure whether your business is in compliance, or if you need help becoming compliant, speak to an IT professional. They can help you find and correct any problems quickly and easily.
As technology becomes more and more ingrained in our everyday lives, businesses rely on IT systems to store and process sensitive data. This has led to a rise in compliance regulations to protect this data from unauthorized intrusion and use. However, many companies often struggle to meet these compliance requirements due to common pitfalls.
In conclusion, businesses must ensure their IT systems comply with all applicable regulations. Not only can non-compliance lead to hefty fines and penalties, but it can also damage a company’s reputation. By taking the necessary steps to ensure compliance, businesses can avoid these risks and protect their bottom line.