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Compliance And Automation: Working Together Towards Digital Transformation

Originally published by New Context.

Compliance is a challenge for organizations of all sizes. Those who manage it often do so without a lot of technical experience. They may pass protocols that are difficult to implement from a programming or management perspective. This is why compliance and automation are such major industry topics right now. The ability to establish compliance policies and then automate them through a system provides cost savings, greater security, and overall enhanced efficiency.

There are a variety of tools you can take advantage of to further these efforts. They provide the ability to establish these policies in declarative languages, run tests, and set alerts when programs change. As this is such an area of high need, many emerging options can help improve programs and ensure that compliance is always top-of-mind.

The Importance of Compliance Automation

Eliminating the need for manual management helps organizations better control their processes. Compliance regulations that impact a specific industry can change often and require review. Establishing some automatic method of tracking, scanning for, and applying these changes is essential.

A big problem enterprises run into is the separation of compliance as policy and as a technical task. Compliance teams are typically made up of attorneys and other legal experts who review the applicable laws and establish how they apply to organizational data. Meanwhile, enforcement of those standards becomes the purview of technical workers. This separation is a challenge to control, which is where compliance automation becomes valuable. It provides several benefits, including:

  • Reducing costs: It’s always more expensive to manage tasks manually, as it requires human labor. Simple monitoring of updates, applying them to systems, and testing for adherence becomes a full-time job that requires significant investment.

  • Simplifying management: Compliance automation is part of security orchestration. In this, the administrator can see the status of their data in a single place, its adherence to regulations, and any critical issues that require correction. It’s possible to verify proper protocols and eliminate vulnerabilities continuously.

  • Enhancing decision-making: System security is, in essence, risk management. In an automated environment, managers can evaluate their risk levels based on real-time data to drive future decision-making.

  • Eliminating breaches and errors: Human error is a significant cause of breaches and system errors. A well-configured system removes the risk of human error and can cut down on breaches, incorrect information, or oversights.

While it’s not possible to automate every single part of a compliance process, it is relatively straightforward to streamline time-wasting manual tasks. There are dozens of tools on the market that enterprises use to make this happen.

Essential Compliance and Automation Tools

Compliance and automation tools are in the spotlight right now because there is a significant market need. There is no shortage of companies offering options to provide scanning against some baseline, whether its infrastructure, containers, apps, or other systems. However, there are some time-tested solutions that developers swear by when automating compliance procedures.

Chef InSpec

Chef InSpec is a tool that allows system administrators to run automated tests throughout their servers, containers, and cloud APIs. This process is possible throughout the entire organization’s ecosystem. The user describes the optimal system, and the automated testing compares the current status to the ideal version. It notes any discrepancies and issues alerts for remediation.

Open Policy Agent (OPA)

OPA is designed for compliance automation. It allows an organization to create policy language across the board, rather than following a separate protocol for every service or product. It’s a system built on declarative language, making it a straightforward and essential component in any compliance automation system.

Clair

Clair is another excellent program for scanning containers for known vulnerabilities and security flaws. It’s fed continuous data to ensure it’s always up to date in locating and alerting users to potential exploits. It also allows extensive levels of customization.

CIS benchmark standards

CIS benchmark standards aren’t programs in and of themselves. The benchmarks are a collaborative effort of cybersecurity experts who establish configuration guidance across a wide variety of products. Downloadable benchmarks make it much easier to develop tools necessary for compliance automation; for example, CIS templates can be fed into Chef InSpec execution.

GitLab CI/CD

GitLab License Compliance is a tool that helps validate license programs. It can check all dependencies in a system, audit the licenses they use, and help the enterprise make more informed decisions on acceptance or denial. This runs as part of the overall continuous integration and deployment platform.

Improving Compliance and Automation With a Security Partner

These tools significantly simplify compliance and automation. As compliance must be an ever-evolving program, dynamic tools are the best choice in supporting it. Of course, as this is an area of high need, there are always new solutions to consider. Compliance programs should involve a cycle of continuous updates and review, as there is always room for improvement.