Originally published by New Context.
There are precious few things in life that can be undertaken without some degree of concern, consternation, or outright fear of an undesirable outcome or effect. For example, the current COVID-19 pandemic has heightened apprehension in a range of ways, from simple activities such as dining out to complex ones such as enterprise software management. With any new change comes risk, but there are always actions that can be implemented to mitigate or lessen the negative effects or outcomes, and the technical world is no exception.
In today’s data-driven environment, virtually all business activities are either directly performed, controlled, and/or monitored by software. For modern enterprises, this ranges from the manufacturing or production floor to the decision-making processes of the C-Suite, which encompasses all internal operations and even extends into customer interactions. This reliance on software comes with risks. The greatest risk associated with digital operations is security, which is followed closely by software compliance.
Security and compliance are not mutually exclusive. In fact, software compliance can be one of the most effective ways to mitigate risks. Here are some methods for using compliance automation tools to achieve this objective, after first removing some of the pitfalls that can be associated with determining a risk strategy.
De-Risking the Risks of Software Compliance
In the broad world of software assets—which include all applications and programs used by an organization to perform its business activities—the primary task for IT managers and staff is effectively managing these essentials, such that performance is optimized and operation adheres to guidelines, rules, and regulations. This level of software asset management (SAM) requires the integration of technology, tools, processes, and personnel. The degree to which this is achieved defines an organization’s efficiency and directly affects the ability to meet customer demands and be competitive in the marketplace.
How Does Non-Compliance Occur?
Competitiveness and profitability are closely correlated and can be threatened by software non-compliance issues, which may include the following:
- Unaware of rights change during the license period
- Unaware of rights change with upgrade
- Unaware of different rules for virtualization
- Inadvertent use of unlicensed software
- Misunderstanding of license requirements
As this list shows, there are several ways that a company can easily find themselves out of compliance. The solution to avoiding this contingency—which can negatively impact profit margin, reputation, and market share—is to create and institute an effective SAM program.
Reducing the Risk of Non-Compliance
In order to manage risks, the threats must first be classified as one of the following major types:
Risk transfer essentially means to shift or outsource the responsibility and thus the impact of a risk. Product warranty or insurance are examples of risk transfers.
Accepting risk means absorbing its effects, which may include lower-level performance, increased costs, and loss of reputation or stature among current and potential clients.
This is not performing an activity or operation that presents risk(s).
Sometimes also referred to as risk reduction, mitigation is the institution of a plan with processes and controls, such that the probability of risk occurrence and/or its severity is lessened to the lowest possible level.
For essential applications, types 2 and 3 above are typically not available options. That leaves types 1 and 4, transfer and mitigation, respectively. Combining these types as part of a DevSecOps solution and engaging the right service provider is the most reliable means of ensuring compliance.
Managing Risks with DevSecOps Compliance Automation Tools
DevSecOps is the integration of security into software development throughout the lifecycle. There are security practitioners who feel this is a violation of separation of duties (SoD), which is a bedrock of security based on the distribution of critical functionality. This distribution enhances security by reducing errors and fraud.
However, this assumption is not generally true for contemporary software development. It is rare to find less than a few programmers or engineers, each with responsibility over different stages of the software development cycle. Moreover, software testing is not just performed once, but done so continuously. As illustrated by the figure above, the iterative or cyclic nature of DevSecOps development leads to secure compliant platforms. Provided your compliance controls are coded into the product pipeline strategically, you should realize increased efficiency and effective mitigation of compliance risks. It is important to automate the required audit and/or scanning processes, and to run them at some regular interval. Additionally, any parts of the remediation process that can be automated, should be automated. Starting small can help get the ball rolling, and improvements can be made incrementally. Remediation could begin with something as simple as sending an email or creating a ticket in an issue tracker, and can evolve over time into more complex workflows.