Understand key GRC components to help MSSPs simplify compliance

The complexity and evolving nature of governance, risk and compliance (GRC) compliance can make it an insurmountable challenge. That’s why more and more small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are turning to MSSPs for help.

Often this is due to a lack of understanding of key GRC components and some of the many ways an MSSP can simplify compliance.

The G in RCMP

In GRC terms, governance is about thinking about what drives an organization and how your MSSP can use those drivers to develop or define a client’s GRC program.

This may be due to customers being asked (or asked by you) what is in place to manage and mitigate risk (think in terms of security or compliance questionnaires) or specific government or regulatory mandates.

Governance is the first step in CRM. It’s one way to help your client master a CRM program. It encompasses the people, processes and technologies they will need to get there.

As your client thinks about governance, help them look through the lens of policy setting. Ask them:

  • What are you doing that sets your compliance bar?
  • What results do you expect from your people, processes and technology?

Your client’s governance plans should develop key policies that hold teams accountable for specific results, for example, a governance policy on employee awareness and training. This policy should specify clear processes to ensure that employees understand the risk and how to mitigate it.

Simplify governance

To ensure effective governance, consider using a framework that establishes a foundation and drives the program, as well as controls that align and support key program areas.

If your client is pursuing DoD contracts, for example, it might be helpful to start with NIST 800-171 and then align with CMMC.

Or, if the customer does not have these requirements, it may make sense to align with the NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) or CIS, depending on the specific needs of the organization. The NIST CSF tends to be more policy and program oriented, while the CIS is more control oriented.

Once you’ve helped your client choose a framework, perform an assessment of current control levels, identify gaps, and identify areas for improvement.

With a GRC tool, you can help your client gain more visibility into what is needed to drive maturity. Depending on the development phase, the program can be as immature as using pencil and paper or spreadsheets to track controls and framework compliance. However, the more mature the program becomes, with more frameworks in use, it will be increasingly difficult to drive maturity without GRC technology.

A SaaS-based GRC platform really shines here. It offers your customers benefits often not realized otherwise. For example, a GRC solution can help centralize and standardize processes and tasks instead of having to search for people or documents to manually determine performance.

A GRC platform can also simplify the mapping of controls and sub-controls across multiple frameworks simultaneously. For example, if the organization uses NIST 800-171 controls, without duplicating work, a GRC platform can align those same controls with other selected frameworks.

An advantage here? A control or subcontrol updated in one framework is automatically updated in the others.

This saves time and eliminates duplicate work, which can ultimately lead to cost savings. It also gives a more holistic view of the entire security and compliance program, ultimately helping to better manage more executives more effectively.

The ability to simplify the mapping of multiple frameworks, especially in light of more regulatory requirements or customer requests, means you can quickly see where you are, what you need to accomplish, and then drill that down to a granular level, down to sub-controls.

Understand and simplify risk mitigation

In terms of GRC, risk is not separated from governance or compliance. The three work in tandem.

In terms of risk management, you need to understand your client’s risk universe. You can use spreadsheets to do this, but you need to see risk in a more holistic view, such as how it relates to the people, procedures, and technologies used to mitigate risk. It all comes together, and a GRC platform can give you that visibility instantly and more accurately.

For effective risk mitigation, your clients need a complete view of their risks, risk types, technical mitigating controls, and inherent and residual risks.

All organizations live with some level of acceptable risk. Once you know your client’s inherent risks and have developed a risk register, you and your client will need to determine whether the residual risk is acceptable or not. From there, your customers can make better business decisions, such as:

  • Do we want to invest in a specific mitigation technology?
  • Should we perform penetration testing?
  • Should we invest in a specific type of vulnerability scan?

Risk management is a driving force in ensuring that the appropriate measures are in place to maintain operations and meet customer needs.

Here, a risk assessment is essential and a GRC platform makes this more manageable. A GRC solution can help capture risks down to a specific sub-control level. This goes beyond a compliance perspective to a programmatic level that may be more security-focused.

Allocating risk resources for mitigation is likely a challenge for your clients, especially ensuring they have the right people, finances, and technical resources. When you have all of your client’s risk identification in a single source of truth like a GRC platform, you get that holistic view. From there, you can see the most critical areas and then plan the appropriate resources.

Main Compliance Factors

For most organizations, there are four main compliance factors:

  • Insurance
  • Boards
  • Government regulations
  • Clients

Today, acquiring cyber insurance is a challenge. As such, we are seeing increased expectations of what this insurance is, and who and what it will cover. Many vendors now require clearly defined security controls and may also require validation of those controls.

With these changes, your customers should expect to be subject to ongoing monitoring of controls, which brings a series of additional requirements and expectations, especially as the attack surface evolves.

While assurance mandates can be demanding, the reality is that vendors don’t ask for very different things from security frameworks – it’s the same information, just requested in different terms.

Program maturity

The more an organization takes a holistic view, the more security controls will promote maturity and make it easier to meet the expectations of all major GRC drivers. This can help your client build trust with the board and key stakeholders. Therefore, as an MSSP, you may see more opportunities to secure more contracts, win new business, and drive validation with customers by demonstrating that you are also committed to protecting and securing their data.

A GRC solution can help address all of these areas at once. Harmonization will move this direction more effectively.

In all areas, whether governance, risk or compliance, you are likely to see many synergies between challenges and driving forces. It depends on the specifics of the business. It’s about a defined approach, understanding the drivers and being prepared to respond effectively to your customers’ security, risk and compliance issues.

These strengths are ultimately your end game:

  • Being able to respond.
  • Be proactive.
  • Mature beyond a reactive state of security and compliance.

Learn more: If you want to know more about the Apptega platform, plan a personalized tour. Find out how Apptega can simplify day-to-day cybersecurity and compliance management for your customers.


Guest blog courtesy of Apptega. See more Apptega guest blogs here. Regularly contributed guest blogging are part of MSSP Alert Sponsorship Program.

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