One of the most critical challenges for Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) today is to maintain an accurate inventory of an organization’s digital assets. In reality, a significant portion of organizations struggle to adequately control and identify their digital assets, providing a vast attack surface for adversaries. As companies rapidly adopt cloud and cloud-based technologies, the threat landscape adapts as well. With mergers, acquisitions, and scaling business operations to consider, the list of control issues becomes more complex by the day.
The solution? Continuous Controls Monitoring (CCM) – a set of technologies created to reduce business losses and the cost of audits through the continuous monitoring and auditing of the controls in financial and transactional applications and relevant business processes and activities.
So, how can CISOs and senior security leadership present the case to include one of the most critical components of a comprehensive risk management and compliance strategy for business? Here’s what you need to know.
What is Continuous Controls Monitoring?
Continuous Controls Monitoring (CCM) is a crucial aspect of Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC), helping firms improve their overall compliance and enterprise risk and controls management. This is achieved by leveraging technologies that interface with other IT management systems, continuously monitoring critical applications, services, business processes, and functions. Generally speaking, CCM offers instant feedback and controls health with real-time data. This helps improve how enterprise compliance, control, and risk management systems are performing. This includes the automatic monitoring of controls to validate their effectiveness concerning risk mitigation and maintaining an active cyber defense posture while ensuring business continuity and regulatory compliance.
Often, CISOs or lead security management are hesitant to implement more technology into their IT stack, fearing the impact it may have on their current GRC processes. However, seeing as 79% of organizations admit to being surprised by security incidents that bypassed their controls, the evidence strongly suggests either inaccurate data or a misinterpretation of the data regarding traditional control monitoring. This is where the importance of CCM becomes apparent.
The Importance of Continuous Control Monitoring
Control data isn’t often considered a strategic asset for cyber protection and risk mitigation. CCM changes that. It helps organizations switch from traditional, sample-based testing models to the more efficient and economical monitoring of complete populations. This is especially important considering the fact that businesses are operating in a time of rising financial and reputational risks and security threats.
This all intensifies as we look at changing regulations, client security expectations, and compliance costs. Naturally, a CISO can’t do it all. And by ‘all,’ we mean keeping up with all of the above while catching up with a scaling firm and scaling operations. CCM helps increase efficiency by reducing cycle times. It operationalizes the overall risk management process while rationalizing any overlapping or duplicate controls.
But to truly grasp the significance of Continuous Control Monitoring, we need to examine its benefits to an organization’s operational effectiveness, security posture, and bottom line.
The 5 Key Benefits of Implementing CCM
Optimized Resource Allocation
When talking about the benefits of CCM, the time-saving benefits often pop up at the top of each list. Sure, it frees up resources (a massive win, by the way), but then what? After all, it’s what you do with the additional resources that truly matters. Organizations can leverage real-time, actionable insights and intelligence regarding their security controls through Continuous Control Monitoring.
This allows them to strategically deploy their resources according to data and analytics that may highlight crucial controls and underperforming areas. Whether personnel, tools, or funding, teams can now allocate resources to where they will have maximum impact. CCM also helps firms reduce costs by reducing the capital effort, usually paired with low-value testing, opening up more capacity for first-line management to investigate process deviations.
Apart from the financial benefits that better resource allocation and process optimization can provide an organization, CCM delivers an array of additional monetary benefits. The economic value is evident when it comes to overall compliance costs. As CCM is praised for its efficiency and accuracy, organizations are less likely to hit any compliance snags during an audit, which can be expensive. Speaking of compliance snags, Continuous Monitoring ensures that an organization remains compliant with regulatory requirements and internal policies. Consistently monitoring controls helps mitigate risks associated with non-compliance fines or penalties, ergo – protecting your wallet and reputation.
Lightning-Fast Audit Responses
CCM helps organizations speed up their audit responses. By leveraging the power of tech and automation to gather the needed evidence, businesses can collect accurate (and speedy) information when confronted with audit requests. This eliminates the nightmare of running after admin or the struggle of finding data. Instead, businesses can stay on top of all things compliance and show that they’re well-prepared and organized.
Streamline Incident Response and Remediation Efforts
According to IBM, companies take 197 days on average to identify a breach and 69 days to contain one. This delay between infection, detection, and containment can cost businesses millions of dollars. On the other hand, companies that can contain a breach in less than 30 days save more than $1M compared to those closer to the average response time.
Although a tech stack of tools can indeed provide decent coverage, it’s far from perfect, as they often fall short of delivering a complete view of the organization and its security challenges. With CCM in place, organizations can identify anomalies, data breaches, or threats in real-time, streamlining incident response and remediation efforts.
Improve Decision-Making Through Comprehensive Risk Analysis
CCM provides organizations with a comprehensive and error-free understanding of their security posture, threat landscape, and their financial implications. These insights allow for smarter decision-making, empowering CISOs to quickly prioritize addressing critical vulnerabilities. This approach also helps increase trust and transparency across lines of defense through centralized dashboards and extractable insight content.
Implementing Continuous Controls Monitoring
Ready to shift your GRC management into the next gear? You’re in the right place! First, it’s important to identify all potential processes or controls according to the relevant industry frameworks to implement CCM.
Here, you’ll need to define the scope of control assurance based on business and IT risk assessments. This is also where you’ll establish and prioritize the key controls for continuous monitoring. Once the priority controls are identified, organizations must define each control objective, goal, and key assurance assertions for each control objective.
Once this has been completed, automated tests and metrics are specified and built. These automated tests (or metrics) should highlight the success or failure of each assertion. Organizations can then determine the process frequency to do the test at a point in time. Naturally, processes for managing the alarms, communicating, investigating, and correcting the control weaknesses are also required.
Does it seem too complicated? We get it! We know security compliance and CCM can still be cumbersome and overwhelming, which is why we’re volunteering to take over some of the heavy lifting. At Scytale, we monitor your controls 24/7 and alert you immediately when there is non-compliance.