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What is IT compliance?

IT compliance describes adherence to legal, internal, or contractually prescribed requirements for the IT of an organization. These requirements are made up of various requirements for IT security, data protection, availability, and integrity that apply to systems and processes.

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A definition of IT compliance

IT compliance defines fixed rules for setting up and operating digital systems in companies and public organizations. It determines which requirements for IT security, data protection, data availability, and data integrity a company must comply with in order to meet the applicable standards. These requirements, in turn, result from legally defined requirements, internal regulations, and contractually stipulated agreements with customers and business partners. If companies violate IT compliance, this can be punished by heavy fines and even imprisonment for the responsible managers, depending on the extent.

The requirements for IT compliance are made up of legal, internal and contractual specifications. In addition, companies must comply with applicable standards and industry-specific regulations for the expansion and operation of their systems.
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What is the difference between IT compliance and data protection & IT security?

IT compliance is often misunderstood as synonymous with data protection and IT security. However, while the latter two deal with the concrete implementation of technologies and operational processes to protect digital systems and information, IT compliance deals with adherence to applicable requirements. Although the requirements – whether statutory, internal, or contractual – often result in specific requirements for IT security or data protection, IT security and data protection are often not limited solely to measures based on compliance. In addition, the regulatory requirements of lawmakers are often not phrased explicitly, but are instead based on principles. Companies are therefore not required to install solution XY to secure their IT.

Instead, each organization is solely responsible for implementing the solutions required to comply with the prescribed principles in line with its needs. Individual implementation is left to the companies themselves. A popular example of regulatory requirements based on principles are the “Bankaufsichtliche Anforderungen an die IT” (BAIT, “Supervisory Requirements for IT in Financial Institutions”). In them, BaFin, the financial supervisory authority, defines a binding set of rules for safeguarding IT in the financial industry. The aim is to ensure the secure design of systems and processes and to create transparent governance. Internal compliance rules and contractually agreed requirements for business partners are usually much more explicit. In these cases, the contracting parties define the necessary requirements for IT in an individual context.

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Who needs IT compliance?

All private companies, the public sector, and all other organizations must adhere to IT compliance requirements. The law and supervisory authorities specify which requirements each company must fulfill in its specific industry. This results in the compliance requirements that must be observed. The requirements for IT and processes vary greatly depending on the industry, company size, number of customers, and overall societal importance. The strictest compliance requirements apply to critical infrastructure in the sectors of energy, healthcare, government and administration, food, transport and traffic, finance and insurance, information technology and telecommunications, media and culture, and water supply.

Especially in larger companies, compliance requirements often prove to be so extensive that a dedicated IT compliance management department is required for proper implementation. In many cases, compliance with the applicable regulatory requirements is subject to random checks by supervisory authorities. Some companies are even required to regularly demonstrate through appropriate means that all IT compliance requirements are being properly met – for example, through reports from external auditors and penetration tests.

Compliance hurdles in the choice of service providers

IT compliance is of particular importance in outsourcing. That is because service providers generally have to meet the same compliance requirements for outsourced IT systems and processes that also apply to the contracting company. This makes outsourcing in highly regulated sectors particularly complex since factors such as the provider’s location (especially in the case of cloud computing) and applicable law play an important role in addition to technical suitability. Compliance with regulatory requirements is contractually binding between the parties. In such outsourcing contracts, the client secures specific auditing and control rights and stipulates the option of involving subcontractors. The more complex the compliance requirements, the more complex it usually is to draw up the contract.

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What laws and standards shape IT compliance?

Most compliance requirements stem from legal bases or official regulations. The most well-known regulations for companies and other organizations include:

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a European Union regulation that has uniformly regulated the processing of personal data since May 25, 2018. The regulations apply to all private companies and public bodies that process the personal data of EU citizens, regardless of whether the respective organization is from the EU or another economic area. Innovations such as the right to be forgotten and the right to data portability are intended to strengthen the protection of privacy.

BSI Act (BSIG)

The BSI Act (BSIG) defines the remit of the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI). As a top federal government agency, the BSI pursues the self-defined goal of maintaining cybersecurity “through prevention, detection and response for the nation, the economy and the public.” By defining established minimum standards, best-practice models, and mandatory regulations, the BSI provides guidance for the secure digitization of large and small organizations. Among other things, the BSIG (Section 8a) includes requirements for critical infrastructures that stipulate the implementation of suitable security technologies for maintaining the “availability, integrity, authenticity and confidentiality of their information technology systems, components or processes.”

IT Security Act (IT-SiG)

As an amending law, the IT Security Act (IT-SiG) amends and supplements existing legislation from the BSI Act, the Energy Industry Act, the Telemedia Act, the Telecommunications Act, and other laws. One of the core objectives of the IT Security Act is to improve the security and protection of IT systems and services, particularly in the area of critical infrastructures. For these, the law provides for an obligation to report significant IT disruptions to the BSI.

ISO 27001 & ISO 27001 on the basis of
IT-Grundschutz (IT baseline protection)

ISO 27001 and ISO 27001 based on IT-Grundschutz (IT baseline protection) define a framework and describe a concept for implementing an information security management system (ISMS). ISO 27001 specifies the requirements for setting up, implementing, operating, monitoring, evaluating, maintaining, and improving a documented ISMS in terms of general business risks. The international standard takes a top-down approach, focusing on processes and implementing the necessary security measures on the basis of an individual risk analysis. Developed by the BSI, ISO 27001 based on IT-Grundschutz describes a systematic method for identifying and implementing the necessary IT security measures in companies in order to achieve a moderate, appropriate, and adequate level of protection. Following a bottom-up approach, the focus is on specific measures to secure IT systems.

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What you need to know about IT compliance

IT compliance can be defined as adherence to applicable requirements from legal, internal, or contractual provisions. The requirements concern measures relating to data protection, IT security, availability, and integrity. IT compliance management is responsible for ensuring that these requirements are implemented in accordance with the rules. This is where it is determined which requirements apply to the company in the first place and how they can be implemented in the best possible way. Furthermore, IT compliance management responds to changes in legislation in order to make adjustments to IT where necessary. The ultimate goal is to ensure that all technical, organizational, and personnel measures are in place to comply with the applicable regulatory requirements and avoid sanctions.

Myra Security provides its customers with highly certified protection solutions to secure digital business processes. As a specialist provider for highly regulated areas such as the financial and insurance industry, critical infrastructures, government agencies, and the healthcare sector, Myra meets the strictest requirements for data protection and compliance.

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