Compliance Automation: All You Need to Know

March 26, 2024

Compliance automation simplifies cybersecurity program management, keeping security-focused service providers and IT professionals on top of the risks, requirements, systems, and tasks that make up their workflows. Too many organizations are still using spreadsheets and scattered documents to manage compliance. But these manual approaches are inefficient and unorganized, putting security and audits at risk.

Whether you manage cybersecurity and compliance for your company or a client, automated compliance software can help you get more done and minimize risk.  

For in-house cybersecurity teams, that means a boost in efficiency and cost savings. Service providers can bring those same benefits to their customers, improving revenue, enhancing customer loyalty, and earning bigger margins.

What is Compliance Automation?

Compliance automation is the use of technology to handle the processes involved in adhering to the standards, policies, and requirements of various cybersecurity regulations and frameworks. These processes are typically handled manually, making them resource-intensive and prone to human error.

For both in-house cybersecurity teams and security service providers, lowering risk and achieving compliance in cost-effective and time-efficient ways is the key benefit of compliance automation. This is especially true for continuous monitoring and when managing multiple frameworks. Compliance automation tools ensure you can adapt quickly to an evolving threat landscape, new regulations, technological advances, and organizational changes.

Improving customer service and loyalty is an additional benefit for MSPs and MSSPs. These organizations can also earn higher margins and increase revenue.

Compliance Automation Software: The Cornerstone of Compliance Automation

Choosing the right compliance automation software can have a major impact on how you manage cybersecurity programs and policies. Not all tools are created equal. Features and functions vary depending on your goals and focus, but the best options help you:

  • Map your cybersecurity practices, policies, and procedures against frameworks and regulations. Identify gaps, risks, and what you can do to fix them. You’ll want to use compliance software that helps you breeze through compliance assessments across dozens of frameworks. 
  • Develop a roadmap for creating cybersecurity programs that use best practices to safeguard your organization. Automation makes it easier to build out, implement, and enforce your cybersecurity systems and controls. Manage multiple frameworks without starting from scratch every time. By crossmapping controls across multiple frameworks, you eliminate duplicate efforts and avoid the hassle of managing each one separately.  
  • Provide continuous monitoring and automated auditing. Identify risks in real time and produce reports that provide you and upper management with visibility and control of all programs, accounts, clients, and frameworks.  
  • Quickly handle remediation to address non-compliance and potential risks. You’ll want detailed reports and documentation for auditors and regulators.  
  • Connect your entire cybersecurity ecosystem so you can seamlessly bring evidence into the system, collaborate with your team, and monitor risks in realtime, among other automations.  

Governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) software is one of the earliest types of compliance software. The 2009 financial crisis inspired an expansion of regulatory bodies, regulations, standards, and frameworks. Concurrently, cybercrime exploded and high-profile attacks made headlines. GRC software development took off led by solutions from RiskOptics and MetricStream. While these options were a massive leap forward at the time, they were still secondary add-ons to cybersecurity systems. They lacked the flexibility and integration that organizations needed.

Solutions that automated the compliance process for a few common frameworks followed these early innovators to market. Tools like Vanta, Drata, and Auditboard automate evidence collection and control mapping. They also integrate with multiple systems to speed up the evidence collection and assessment process, functioning as a repository for data and reports.

Continuous compliance is the new frontier. Because cybercriminals don’t sleep and compliance has become a complex and multifaceted challenge, Apptega developed the only platform purpose-built for service providers, enabling them to build and manage end-to-end cybersecurity programs at scale. The platform goes beyond achieving compliance with one or multiple frameworks to continuously monitor security posture and compliance status as obligations change.

Key Benefits of Using Compliance Automation Software

Replacing manual workflows with automated compliance management software provides numerous benefits:

  • It’s cost-effective, reliable, and efficient.
  • You remove the guesswork around processes and policies.
  • There’s a lower risk of omissions and errors.  
  • Compliance reporting is more accurate and complete.
  • The risk of security breaches is much lower.

Choosing a continuous compliance solution adds significant additional advantages:

  • Know that you’re in compliance and have the evidence to prove it, protecting your organization from financial and reputational damage. No more crossing your fingers before, during, and between audits.
  • Improve risk management decisions with real-time data and insights.
  • Reduce vulnerabilities and potential business disruption with ongoing, uninterrupted compliance verification and third-party risk management.
  • Manage multiple frameworks as one cohesive program, eliminating duplicative work.

Security providers using continuous compliance automation software can grow their customer bases and retain lifelong loyalty through customizable solutions that:  

  • Allow them to build world-class cybersecurity programs for their customers with minimal effort.
  • Fully integrate with and connect to customer systems.
  • Handle 30+ frameworks with automatic control mapping and real-time compliance scoring.
  • Quickly identify gaps and provide remediation guidance.
  • Make sure you and your customers are always audit-ready.

Let’s Talk Numbers: The Actual ROI Behind Compliance Automation Software

Before investing in compliance automation software, you want to be clear on the savings and/or increased revenue it will bring your organization.  

It’s no secret that data breaches are on the rise, with the average cost of a breach skyrocketing to $4.45 million in 2023. Operational disruptions and asset loss are just the start of costs for cyberattack victims.  

While cyber insurance can protect you from some financial losses, it’s becoming harder to acquire and ensure coverage. Cyber insurance premiums are also rising at double-digit rates. Compliance automation can help reduce those costs, with insurance companies offering discounted premiums to organizations that can prove they’re maintaining robust cybersecurity postures.

No amount of insurance can protect you from damage to your reputation and business relationships following a cyberattack. When thinking about the ROI of compliance automation, estimate the dollar value of lost clients, lost trust, and missed opportunities.  

Organizations may also incur legal bills and fines from a dizzying array of regulatory agencies for not adequately protecting customer data. For example, HIPAA fines range from $50 to $50,000 per stolen patient record. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act covering financial institutions levies a fine of up to $100,000 for each violation and holds officers and directors personally responsible at up to $10,000 each. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) puts organizations at risk of fines in the billions — witness the €1.2 billion penalty levied on Meta in 2023.

How Do You Choose the Best Compliance Automation Software for Your Organization or Customers?

Your current technology infrastructure, industry, rules and regulations, and the needs of decision-makers in your organization will drive your choice of automated compliance tools.  

In general, you can follow these steps to find the tool that best meets your needs:

  1. Understand your systems, compliance status, and your requirements. Set up a list of criteria that you will use to evaluate candidates. Assign a weighted score to each to ensure you’re evaluating them correctly.
  1. Make a short list of potential solutions. Opting for one that is comprehensive, customizable, flexible, and scalable will serve you well today and as cybersecurity evolves in the future.
  1. If possible, test each one and work with vendors to understand the specifics of implementation in your environment.  
  1. Calculate the costs, not just for the software but also implementation and ongoing support.  
  1. Rate vendors and solutions based on your initial selection criteria.

AI and Beyond: What’s Next in Compliance Automation?

When thinking about the best compliance automation tools for your organization or to serve your customers, you’ll want to keep an eye on the future. You don’t want to invest in a solution that quickly falls out of date. Work with vendors that are driving trends and advances to keep your systems and data safe.  

Regulations are just getting started. GDPR is likely to become the global norm. Federal, state, and local regulations are also being enacted. Organizations must comply with an increasing number of regulatory organizations and their rules.

Technologies like artificial intelligence hold tremendous promise for cybersecurity. Beyond mere defensive measures, you’ll see proactive predictive threat analysis, automated responses to threats, and more efficient processes across the board.

As IT infrastructures in health and finance become harder targets, cybercriminals are looking for soft spots. That’s why smaller, less sophisticated organizations are seen as easy marks.  

Some Final Thoughts

Cybersecurity compliance is no longer a nice-to-have. And the stakes are too high to leave it to spreadsheets and manual processes. With rapid changes in regulations and attack types, conventional audits are no longer enough. Automation can ensure you’re always ready to thwart attacks, respond to issues, report status, and document compliance.

Compliance automation is quickly becoming the standard for security providers and organizations of all sizes. It boosts efficiency and makes your organization future-ready for advances in security.