Data Privacy and Security Compliance Audits - Where to Start

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Government regulators have really stepped up their game lately. They're enacting stricter data rules and doling out billion-dollar fines like it's going out of style. In 2021 alone, GDPR fines exceeded a whopping $1.8 billion. And nearly 80% of companies still aren't making the compliance grade. These stats point to one thing: to succeed in the online world, businesses need a trusted partner to help them identify, navigate, and maintain the ever-changing landscape of data compliance and customer privacy.

Failing to ensure your organization remains compliant simply isn’t worth the consequences, which is why conducing a compliance audit of your privacy and security controls gives you insider intelligence on potential weaknesses. Consider it an insurance policy to protect your data, reputation, and bottom line.

In this short article, we'll briefly cover what compliance audits are before we look at the steps you'll go through to conduct one and how to mitigate any risks you discover.

What Is A Compliance Audit?

Simply put, a compliance audit is a thorough, independent evaluation that ensures that an organisation is following external laws, rules and regulations. The audit usually consists of four stages - planning, fieldwork, generating an audit report and follow-up actions. It serves as a health check for your company's adherence to legal and ethical data privacy and security standards.

Data Privacy and Security Compliance Audit Steps

It’s highly unlikely you went into business for the love of data compliance and the idea of going through an audit might feel daunting. Compliance audits are designed to uncover gaps in your tech stack and policies, providing recommendations for mitigating the risks those gaps can introduce. However, understanding the steps that form the audit process can remove some of the stress.

Compliance audits generally comprise the following steps.

Assess Relevant Laws and Regulations

Data privacy compliance requires you to have a handle on which tangled web of data laws and regulations apply to your business – which is no easy feat. The regulatory landscape is complex and always shifting. Rules vary wildly across states, countries, and industries. Even worse, just when you think you’ve got a handle on the rules, some new law drops and sends you scrambling back to the books. That’s why the first audit compliance step is assessing the regulations that apply to your businesses.

Assessment Action Items:

  • Research appropriate laws and regulations that may govern your data privacy and security compliance.
  • Identify criteria that determine which laws apply to your business based on location, industry, data collection, etc.
  • Get legal guidance to ensure you understand all regulations relevant to your business.

Review and Update Privacy Policies and Disclosures

Privacy laws exist to shield your personal data, but their fine print often spells out different disclosure rules which can be confusing. Compliance audits also include a review of your existing privacy policy against applicable regulations. For example, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) requires businesses to share categories of collected personal information. The EU’s General Data Protection Act (GDPR) mandates details on international data transfers and automated decision systems.

Review Action Items:

  • Assess your current privacy policy and disclosures for alignment with relevant regulations.
  • Ensure your actual data practices match your privacy policies.
  • Make sure you have the required notification systems in place for public availability.

Take Inventory of Current Data Practices

Next up in the audit process is mapping out your data's journey to see how it flows through your systems. Track where information is collected, stored, transmitted and accessed. It's like following a trail of breadcrumbs across your digital landscape and can shed light on potential high-risk areas that need locking down.

Inventory Action Items:

  • Document how personal data is collected, processed, stored and shared.
  • Classify data as personally identifiable versus non-identifiable.
  • Review internal data access controls and retention policies.

Formalize Compliant Vendor and Partner Contracts

Don't forget about your third-party partners - they can make or break your compliance. In 2023 alone, over 60%of data breaches stemmed from vendor relationships gone wrong.

However, when you hire a knowledgeable audit partner, there’s no need for panic. You can work with them to ensure that your contracts clearly spell out how data can be used, compliance responsibilities and penalties for slip-ups. Consider it your permission slip for playing nice together in the regulatory sandbox. Though some partners may fumble the ball, you still get penalized. So, choose your team carefully and keep tabs on their compliance game. With the right protective rules in place, third parties don't have to spell trouble.

Formalizing Contract Action Items:

  • Review data usage, compliance requirements, and liability clauses in vendor contracts.
  • Update existing contracts to meet new regulatory obligations like CPRA service provider rules.
  • Require notification from vendors if they cannot meet contractual privacy and security standards.

Plan for Handling Data Subject Access Requests

When customers ask to see their personal data, the clock starts ticking. Most privacy laws need you to deliver requested info within strict timelines. Dropping the ball can lead to nasty fines for dragging your feet. That’s why you need a streamlined system in place to respond to data requests ASAP. Think of it like express checkout - you don't want customers waiting in line. A smooth process builds trust and avoids headaches.

Access Request Plan Action Items:

  • Prepare response plans detailing where data is stored and how it will be processed.
  • Deploy automation for data classification, organization and tracking.
  • Review all legally required information to consumers.

Conduct Ongoing Risk Monitoring

Compliance auditing isn't a one-and-done deal. It requires staying on your toes as rules change. Don't just check the compliance box and put your feet up! You need ongoing monitoring to keep your technologies and vendors aligned. Consider it a digital alarm system, sniffing out evolving risks before they sneak up on you. Make compliance reviews a habit, not a chore. Weave them into your regular routines, like brushing your teeth or hitting the gym. A little prevention now saves massive headaches down the road.

Risk Monitoring Action Items:

  • Assign a point person to manage requirements and monitor regulation updates.
  • Deploy continuous monitoring for an independent compliance monitoring service.
  • Review all vendor contracts upon renewal for new compliance obligations.

Fixing The Gaps an Audit Uncovers

Compliance auditing shines a spotlight on cracks in your regulatory and security foundations. Those problem areas need some repair work, and if they’re ignored, it could cost you in the long run. Think of it like your yearly check-up at the doctor's office. Just because you feel fine doesn't mean you get a clean bill of health. Use the audit insights to prescribe the necessary treatments to whip your compliance back into shape.

A strong prevention plan is the best medicine. So, roll up those sleeves and start your compliance audit today. A few improvements now prevents worse headaches down the road.

Gap Mitigation Action Items:

  • Prioritize remediation for high-risk areas that represent the greatest potential exposure.
  • Work with legal counsel to revise policies, rules, and documentation as required.
  • Document change and certify remediation efforts are successful.

The audit compliance process is extensive and complex. Streamline your compliance audits and mitigate risk in your tech stack. Get started with Zendata today.

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Data Privacy and Security Compliance Audits - Where to Start

November 30, 2023

Government regulators have really stepped up their game lately. They're enacting stricter data rules and doling out billion-dollar fines like it's going out of style. In 2021 alone, GDPR fines exceeded a whopping $1.8 billion. And nearly 80% of companies still aren't making the compliance grade. These stats point to one thing: to succeed in the online world, businesses need a trusted partner to help them identify, navigate, and maintain the ever-changing landscape of data compliance and customer privacy.

Failing to ensure your organization remains compliant simply isn’t worth the consequences, which is why conducing a compliance audit of your privacy and security controls gives you insider intelligence on potential weaknesses. Consider it an insurance policy to protect your data, reputation, and bottom line.

In this short article, we'll briefly cover what compliance audits are before we look at the steps you'll go through to conduct one and how to mitigate any risks you discover.

What Is A Compliance Audit?

Simply put, a compliance audit is a thorough, independent evaluation that ensures that an organisation is following external laws, rules and regulations. The audit usually consists of four stages - planning, fieldwork, generating an audit report and follow-up actions. It serves as a health check for your company's adherence to legal and ethical data privacy and security standards.

Data Privacy and Security Compliance Audit Steps

It’s highly unlikely you went into business for the love of data compliance and the idea of going through an audit might feel daunting. Compliance audits are designed to uncover gaps in your tech stack and policies, providing recommendations for mitigating the risks those gaps can introduce. However, understanding the steps that form the audit process can remove some of the stress.

Compliance audits generally comprise the following steps.

Assess Relevant Laws and Regulations

Data privacy compliance requires you to have a handle on which tangled web of data laws and regulations apply to your business – which is no easy feat. The regulatory landscape is complex and always shifting. Rules vary wildly across states, countries, and industries. Even worse, just when you think you’ve got a handle on the rules, some new law drops and sends you scrambling back to the books. That’s why the first audit compliance step is assessing the regulations that apply to your businesses.

Assessment Action Items:

  • Research appropriate laws and regulations that may govern your data privacy and security compliance.
  • Identify criteria that determine which laws apply to your business based on location, industry, data collection, etc.
  • Get legal guidance to ensure you understand all regulations relevant to your business.

Review and Update Privacy Policies and Disclosures

Privacy laws exist to shield your personal data, but their fine print often spells out different disclosure rules which can be confusing. Compliance audits also include a review of your existing privacy policy against applicable regulations. For example, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) requires businesses to share categories of collected personal information. The EU’s General Data Protection Act (GDPR) mandates details on international data transfers and automated decision systems.

Review Action Items:

  • Assess your current privacy policy and disclosures for alignment with relevant regulations.
  • Ensure your actual data practices match your privacy policies.
  • Make sure you have the required notification systems in place for public availability.

Take Inventory of Current Data Practices

Next up in the audit process is mapping out your data's journey to see how it flows through your systems. Track where information is collected, stored, transmitted and accessed. It's like following a trail of breadcrumbs across your digital landscape and can shed light on potential high-risk areas that need locking down.

Inventory Action Items:

  • Document how personal data is collected, processed, stored and shared.
  • Classify data as personally identifiable versus non-identifiable.
  • Review internal data access controls and retention policies.

Formalize Compliant Vendor and Partner Contracts

Don't forget about your third-party partners - they can make or break your compliance. In 2023 alone, over 60%of data breaches stemmed from vendor relationships gone wrong.

However, when you hire a knowledgeable audit partner, there’s no need for panic. You can work with them to ensure that your contracts clearly spell out how data can be used, compliance responsibilities and penalties for slip-ups. Consider it your permission slip for playing nice together in the regulatory sandbox. Though some partners may fumble the ball, you still get penalized. So, choose your team carefully and keep tabs on their compliance game. With the right protective rules in place, third parties don't have to spell trouble.

Formalizing Contract Action Items:

  • Review data usage, compliance requirements, and liability clauses in vendor contracts.
  • Update existing contracts to meet new regulatory obligations like CPRA service provider rules.
  • Require notification from vendors if they cannot meet contractual privacy and security standards.

Plan for Handling Data Subject Access Requests

When customers ask to see their personal data, the clock starts ticking. Most privacy laws need you to deliver requested info within strict timelines. Dropping the ball can lead to nasty fines for dragging your feet. That’s why you need a streamlined system in place to respond to data requests ASAP. Think of it like express checkout - you don't want customers waiting in line. A smooth process builds trust and avoids headaches.

Access Request Plan Action Items:

  • Prepare response plans detailing where data is stored and how it will be processed.
  • Deploy automation for data classification, organization and tracking.
  • Review all legally required information to consumers.

Conduct Ongoing Risk Monitoring

Compliance auditing isn't a one-and-done deal. It requires staying on your toes as rules change. Don't just check the compliance box and put your feet up! You need ongoing monitoring to keep your technologies and vendors aligned. Consider it a digital alarm system, sniffing out evolving risks before they sneak up on you. Make compliance reviews a habit, not a chore. Weave them into your regular routines, like brushing your teeth or hitting the gym. A little prevention now saves massive headaches down the road.

Risk Monitoring Action Items:

  • Assign a point person to manage requirements and monitor regulation updates.
  • Deploy continuous monitoring for an independent compliance monitoring service.
  • Review all vendor contracts upon renewal for new compliance obligations.

Fixing The Gaps an Audit Uncovers

Compliance auditing shines a spotlight on cracks in your regulatory and security foundations. Those problem areas need some repair work, and if they’re ignored, it could cost you in the long run. Think of it like your yearly check-up at the doctor's office. Just because you feel fine doesn't mean you get a clean bill of health. Use the audit insights to prescribe the necessary treatments to whip your compliance back into shape.

A strong prevention plan is the best medicine. So, roll up those sleeves and start your compliance audit today. A few improvements now prevents worse headaches down the road.

Gap Mitigation Action Items:

  • Prioritize remediation for high-risk areas that represent the greatest potential exposure.
  • Work with legal counsel to revise policies, rules, and documentation as required.
  • Document change and certify remediation efforts are successful.

The audit compliance process is extensive and complex. Streamline your compliance audits and mitigate risk in your tech stack. Get started with Zendata today.