Security vs. Compliance: Which One Is the Priority?

We know what you’re thinking: Aren’t security and compliance basically the same? 

The short answer is no—they are two very different sides of the same coin. Your environment can be compliant but not secure, and vice versa. Both are critical in their own ways. The key to understanding the role each one plays in your environment’s protection is to understand the difference between them. 

What’s the Difference Between Security and Compliance?

To identify the difference between the two, let’s define them: 

Security: Protecting an organization’s IT systems from unauthorized access, leading to the theft of or damage to hardware, software, or data. 

Compliance: Working toward meeting a standard set of industry- or government-specific security regulations that are mandatory. 

Many use these terms synonymously. However, compliance doesn’t always mean security. They each play a vital role in an organization’s security program, but many tend to focus on compliance and assume that security will follow. This tactic leaves organizations vulnerable to security issues because being compliant is only the beginning of your security journey. 

Why? Hackers don’t know or care if you’re compliant. 

Complete Your Compliance Checklist, But Don’t Stop There

Hackers frequently gain access to companies that have been certified as compliant. Security regulations are in place to ensure a minimal amount of security. Because they are minimal, they cannot be relied on as the standard for what is secure and what isn’t. After all, compliance regulations do not change as quickly as technology does. Threats evolve daily, creating vulnerabilities in our systems that we must always have an eye on. 

So, what are you to do? It can feel like security is a wild goose chase that you’ll never quite finish. The key, however, is to complete your compliance checklist, but don’t stop there. Ensure that you achieve compliance and then take it several steps further. 

5 Key Elements to Consider

Here are a few key elements to keep in mind as you build your strategy: 

1. Do not rely on compliance, but still obtain it.
As we’ve mentioned, compliance does not equal security. However, compliance is an obligation, and it does provide you with bare-bones security.

2. Focus on security holistically, not piece by piece.
A holistic approach to security makes reaching compliance and having a secure environment more manageable. Remember that your security program is made up of moving parts that work together. Take all parts into account when improving your security program.

3. Review your security program continually.
Technology is always developing, making security a moving target. Your team should be reviewing security regularly to identify potential vulnerabilities and possible improvements.

4. Think of security and compliance as two parts of the same machine.
Thinking of security and compliance separately is a disjointed approach. Each plays into the other’s success, so try to view these concepts as two parts of a machine working toward the same goal.

5. Consider looking for outside help.
If you or your team are overwhelmed, trying to power through and get it all done might lead to important steps falling through the cracks. Before you lose a battle with
security fatigue, reach out to your leadership to consider outsourcing parts of your IT program.

Achieve the Perfect Balance

We have to admit, we’ve set you up. We had you wondering which one—security or compliance—is the priority. The answer is both. The tricky part is that even an internal IT team can’t always achieve both. Outsourcing your security program takes the pressure off your team and allows you to focus on your organization’s core purpose, not scurrying to meet compliance. 

Technology Lab can help you bridge the gap between security and compliance. We help clients obtain industry-specific compliance while ensuring that security is always improving. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you protect your organization.