Like a client, trust is hard to earn but easy to lose.
Building trust is particularly difficult—and especially important—when your business handles someone else’s information.
With the amount of cybercrime damages projected to double to $6 billion annually by 2021, according to research firm Cybersecurity Ventures, regulators keep tightening compliance. This is meant to protect consumers and companies from data breaches like those which have previously exposed sensitive information, such as medical histories, credit-card information, and personally identifiable information (PII).
Security-seeking individuals and companies want organizations that are at-risk for breaches (health insurers, credit-card issuers, data centers, software-as-a-service providers, etc.) to prove that they protect information to the fullest extent possible.
If you handle data which could be exposed through a breach, but cannot demonstrate it is properly protected, then both existing clients and prospective clients may take their business elsewhere.
An IT compliance audit can prove you are meeting the needs of your current clients and setting apart your company to win more business. In getting a third party to say, “Yes, XYZ company is compliant,” you will earn trust more quickly and get clients more easily.
These are six reasons your company needs an IT compliance audit.
1) Your clients demand assurance.
Your clients are responsible for protecting their data. They also need to ensure that any vendor to whom they outsource follows proper data-handling protocol.
So, your company must be able to assure your clients it is compliant and their information is not at risk of a data breach. A report from an independent auditor can provide that assurance, telling your clients that your company is compliant and their data is safe with your company.
2) Your industry requires compliance.
Your organization may be subject to industry-specific standards, such as the PCI DSS security standards for payment-card processors. You could face fines and lose the ability to accept credit cards if your company processes payments, but is not PCI DSS compliant. Or, you may have to comply with privacy and security standards for healthcare, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule, which protects individuals’ medical records and other protected health information.
3) You want a competitive advantage.
Given that clients buy peace of mind, your approach to compliance can be your competitive edge. Clients, particularly larger ones with more at risk, will choose you over competitors if you can provide the sense of security that others cannot. Just 53 percent of respondents to the Cisco 2017 Annual Cybersecurity Report stated they strongly agree that they need to review and improve security practices regularly, formally, and strategically over time.
Consider the case of a startup whose angel investor knew the go-to-market value of a compliance audit. Given that the audit was not required, and they only had three employees (including themselves), the company’s CEO and COO worried about whether the audit would be worth the investment of time and money. However, by doing the audit when competitors did not, they were able to serve potential clients who were concerned about audits and compliance. As a result, the startup company went from three employees to five locations within three years. It also planned to add 10 locations within an additional two years.
4) You can attest to your auditors.
If a certified public accounting firm that is registered with the Public Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) conducts your IT compliance audit, both your management team and your clients can rest assured that your auditor will be upheld to the strictest of auditing standards. If you have publicly held clients, the fact that your company's audit was performed by a PCAOB-registered CPA firm will give your clients’ auditors the comfort they need when relying on your audit report.
5) You can improve your cybersecurity.
An audit can help you learn more about cybersecurity and IT compliance, and what these topics specifically mean for your organization. In preparing for an audit, you can focus on establishing controls that accurately reflect the process being tested. You also can use your audit report to build upon strengths and alleviate weaknesses.
6) You don’t want to be next.
One billion records were compromised through cyber attacks in 2016, according to a Forrester report on that year’s biggest data breaches. That number was the equivalent of three accounts for each U.S. citizen, TechRepublic wrote. Given the increasing connectivity between companies, the average cost of a data breach "will exceed $150 million by 2020", Juniper Research reports. If your company handles other people’s data, you could be at risk for at least a portion of those damages. Could you or your company afford such losses?
Since the cost of cyber crimes and data breaches is only expected to keep rising, regulators can only keep tightening compliance requirements. Clients will demand that you keep pace with additional IT compliance and cybersecurity initiatives.
In helping to protect you and your clients from a breach, a compliance audit can help you build trust and earn clients—neither of which may be easy to do without third-party verification.
Want to learn more about compliance audits? Download our SOC Cliff Notes Guide.