In recent years there have been an increasing number of legislated regulatory mandates with which organizations must comply with to prove the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information stored in their systems and provided through external parties. After reading various whitepapers, websites and other articles that loosely use the terms “PCI, HIPAA, SOX, CIS, NIST, ISO, CIS, COBiT, FISMA, and FDCC”, heads can start spinning. Like many of our customers and Retina users, I am not an auditor or a lawyer, but am constantly bombarded with these acronyms on a weekly basis. The acronyms listed above can be loosely broken down into three categories, or sets of instructions, which help organizations meet their compliancy and security goals: Regulations, Frameworks and Benchmarks.
In some cases the lines between the three can be blurry, but understanding their intent and relationship to one another can help you understand how these pieces can fit together to support an overall security and compliance program.
Regulations are legal restrictions created, governed and publicized by government administrative agencies. Regulations typically do not prescribe detail on how to perform, configure, or manage IT systems, but they clearly indicate the goals a security and compliance program must meet. Examples of these regulations are Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA, GLBA and Basel II (Europe). Several states are now requiring compliance to the Data Security Standard (DSS) . This standard outlines a set of international security requirements for safeguarding cardholder data. To comply with PCI DSS, organizations must also perform steps as known as validation requirements , which includes a requirement of quarterly scanning by a PCI approved scanning vendor.
Frameworks provide a defined support structure in which a project can be organized and developed. Frameworks are designed to provide a complete security program for an organization. These frameworks may be implemented to support the goals of multiple regulations, and often recommend that hardening best practices, or benchmarks, be used for technical protections. Examples of frameworks include: ITIL, CobiT and COSO, NIST 800-53, and ISO 17799 / 27002.
Benchmarks are often used to measure and monitor common elements related to the security and IT infrastructure known as “general computer controls”. Benchmarks outline a set of criteria (some of which may be mandatory), voluntary guidelines, and best practices. Whereas frameworks offer nonspecific goals, benchmarks offer prescriptive guidance over tests and settings that should be used to harden the IT environment and protect IT assets against specific risks. Examples of standards include vendor/customer best practices, CIS, FDCC, and DISA checklists.
The task of demonstrating adequate implementation, management, and monitoring of computer and detailed security controls is a challenge. Given the demands of our customers, we have enhanced the Retina scan engine and will soon be releasing a configuration compliance module that will provide drag and drop functionality for over 50 benchmarks spanning Microsoft, CIS, NIST, FDCC and others. This will allow customers to automate the vulnerability and compliance scanning over general computer controls that may be shared across multiple regulations and laws. This will allow organizations to monitor compliance to meet internal security goals. We will be also releasing reporting packs that include SOX, HIPAA, PCI, GLBA, NIST, FERC, MASS 201 that will map the controls being monitored back to the regulations and laws for which our customers need to report.