What is Continuous Compliance? Best Practices to Follow

Modern organizations constantly deal with sensitive user data, making compliance necessary for building customer trust and avoiding hefty fines. Many organizations often make last-minute security maneuvers closing to a compliance audit or after a cyber attack. But after a few months, they ignore security procedures and compliance requirements until the next audit period. 

This not only sets the ground for security threats but also makes it even more stressful for the liable teams to get ready for future audits. Continuous compliance is the opposite approach to this dangerously comfortable state. It's about being proactively and continuously prepared for future threats and compliance requirements with peace of mind.

There's no silver bullet solution with cybersecurity; a layered defense is the only viable defense." –James Scott, Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology

So, whether you are following reputable guidelines like NIST and HIPAA or are required to adhere to standards by law such as FedRAMP, establishing a continuous compliance culture in your organization will benefit your business in various ways in the long run. 

Understanding Continuous Compliance

Continuous compliance is achieving compliance with regulatory requirements, industry standards, and best practices across your IT and business environment and then maintaining it on an ongoing basis. 

It helps to develop and incorporate a strategy or even culture in your organization that continually monitors your compliance position. This way, you always keep up-to-date on your compliance requirements instead of reviewing them with an annual audit alone or when an incident occurs. 

IT teams with this mindset proactively fend off threats rather than reactively responding to the compliance audit requests. In other words, continuous compliance:

  • Constantly ensures security across your organization by notifying you of non-compliance issues in real-time.
  • Brings a continuous approach to identifying non-compliant endpoints in your infrastructure without waiting for periodic audits and causing security gaps

What are continuous compliance processes?

Continuous compliance is not a one-size-fits-all solution you can swallow like a pill. It divides into different facets or processes that you need to proactively undertake based on your compliance requirements and company security necessities, including:

  • Vulnerability management
  • Policy management
  • Vendor management
  • Data management
  • Risk management
  • Incident management
  • HR management

Why Staying Continuously Compliant is Key

In today's ever-changing and constantly reshaping cyber environment, compliance is not just the logical path to take but a necessity. In fact, we can break it down into alternative courses of action and their potential impacts for better understanding.

The why-not" s" of alternative options

Manually holding records of everything for continuous compliance: This alternative to continuous compliance is time-consuming and error-prone.

Waiting until the periodical audit times: Even the most frequent audit times cannot match the security assurance of continuous monitoring. The slightest gap between audit times could lead to an overlook, forming a vulnerable ground for malicious attackers. Plus, all the upheaped work to be identified, remediated and documented would only stress your team members. You know how the saying goes: Penny wise, pound foolish.

The simply-why" s" of continuous compliance

  • Provides real-time compliance

Staying vigilant and proactively monitoring your organization's non-compliant assets allows your team to solve compliance issues as they arise, closing the gap between risk detection and remediation processes. This way, you can ensure real-time visibility across your IT asset's risks and vulnerabilities. 

Furthermore, team leaders make faster and more effective decisions instead of shooting unwary last-minute fires. On the flip side, traditional audit-oriented approaches to compliance leave room for last-minute changes and processes, imposing pressure and strain on teams. 

  • Minimizes audit efforts

Traditional compliance puts off risk detection and assessment until approaching audits, which inevitably leads to inefficiency and time-draining bursts of activities across responsible teams. Continuous compliance speeds up the compliance management cycle and yields increased efficiency and peace of mind.

  • Boosts your company's reputation

New partnerships often take off from a trust basis that lies on security. Vendors tend to look for a company's commitment to security and compliance. Therefore, establishing and maintaining continuous compliance helps attract new business opportunities and improve your current customer loyalty.

Continuous Compliance Best Practices

  1. Know your compliance standards

Compliance standards are the laws and regulations that can be at the state, federal, or international level. They can differentiate based on your organization, industry, or current compliance levels. So, the first step is to understand what compliance standards apply to your organization. Once the standards are established, you can accelerate and maintain compliance and security against threats.

  1. Identify and close the gaps

Identifying gaps in your overall security posture and internal structures is a part of compliance. From training to vendor risks, gaps can arise within your organization at many levels and places. The good news is that you can identify and close them faster by continuously monitoring all facets of your business. What's more, you'll be able to run a smooth audit process without halting at unexpected gaps.

  1. Establish continuous controls

Just as an army needs ammunition, continuous compliance requires internal systems or controls in order to defend your assets and data. Controls are your front line of defense against attackers. They also help you streamline your entire compliance operations and processes, from audits to data monitoring. Once established, make sure to properly document and maintain your controls for long-term efficiency.

  1. Maintain proper documentation

Maintaining proper documentation is a good practice for continuous compliance to make things run smoothly. The trick is knowing that achieving compliance and actually maintaining it are two different things. So, we recommend recording evidence as you go and documenting everything required, such as audit trails, reviews, and written and signed policy agreements.

  1. Communicate

Successful communication throughout each related party, including interdepartmental and external communication, is the backbone of achieving long-term business success for compliance. Therefore, make sure to get everyone on board and well-informed, from HR to third-party vendors. It's the only way to avoid misunderstandings between teams and other parties. 

Continuous Compliance in the Cloud

Reputable and widely-used cloud service providers like AWS, GCP, and Azure keep security top of mind. However, having workloads and assets in the cloud innately requires compliance and security efforts from the customer (that's you).

Achieving and maintaining compliance across clouds and applications is challenging, especially for multi-cloud architectures, yet not impossible. In fact, with a continuous compliance monitoring and visibility solution like Resmo, you can minimize asset complexity and continuously monitor them for compliance. 

Here's a quick list of what you can do to ensure continuous compliance specifically for the cloud:

  • Have complete visibility over your assets in the cloud
  • Incorporate cyber asset attack surface management
  • Continuously monitor resources and configurations to prevent vulnerabilities.
  • Make sure to have an automated control system. 
  • Have a proper system in place that alerts you when there's an anomaly

How Resmo Helps

Continuous compliance is hard to achieve and grueling without modern asset visibility and security solutions. Continuous compliance and security software like Resmo can streamline the process by making it easier and faster for teams and companies of all sizes on an ongoing basis.

Automated CIS benchmark checks for the cloud are also available. More to come for other standards like SOC2, AWS Well-Architected, and NIST.

Our platform helps you consolidate all your cloud and SaaS assets in one place to;

  • Gain visibility and easily monitor resources 
  • Query across your cyber assets to answer complex security and compliance questions
  • Continuously scan your cloud infrastructure to detect non-compliance or security vulnerabilities such as S3 bucket misconfigurations or unintentional public GitHub repositories.
  • Get alerted on rule breaches in near real-time to prevent security gaps.
  • Collect evidence related to your assets, configurations, and asset changes

Need further explanation? Let us give you a demo and see how Resmo can assist your continuous compliance and security efforts.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is continuous compliance in DevOps?

Compliance efforts mostly but not solely take place in IT departments. One particular responsible team is DevOps. From CI/CD pipelines to continuously deploying cloud-native applications, the whole idea of DevOps lies in continuity. Likewise, DevOps and compliance teams must answer common questions like "are the software delivery pipelines compliant with industry standards and governance policies?"

Because non-compliance will lead to unnecessary fines, DevOps teams should ensure compliance in their operations and codes on an ongoing basis.

2. What does it mean to monitor compliance?

Compliance monitoring refers to the continuous process of ensuring that the affected teams and business operations meet regulatory and internal compliance requirements.

3. How do we monitor compliance?

Proper compliance monitoring requires establishing and implementing a compliance monitoring plan. First of all, it should address all the risks detected in the audit stage and prioritize based on severity levels. For continuous compliance, the best practice is to have a constant monitoring system that checks if teams, assets, and operations comply with requirements. In addition, compliance monitoring tools can reduce errors and time spent on manual controls.

Continue Reading