Third-Party Compliance Audits: Why Engage an External Assessor?

Eric Seward July 31, 2020

When it comes to security, consumers have higher expectations than ever before. It is no longer enough to say that a product or service is secure; customers often need to see proof.

Third-party compliance audits, such as SOC examinations and HIPAA security compliance audits, can satisfy these requests for a higher level of assurance. In regulated industries, such as healthcare and finance, they are commonly considered a cost of doing business – although some strategic organizations are using them to meet longer-term business goals. By working with an independent assessor, organizations can prove that they have designed and implemented an appropriate set of controls.

Ultimately, however, there’s more to the big picture than “checking the box” of a third-party report or certification. Organizations that are committed to meaningful improvements can find additional value in their relationship with an assessor – both during the audit process, and long after the closing call.

A Third Party Brings a Fresh Perspective

Internal audit teams often struggle with bias. It’s not intentional; many professionals find it challenging to assess their own organization from a place of neutrality. This can be even more of a challenge in smaller organizations without an internal audit team; IT professionals may not be able to easily identify vulnerabilities in their own work.

A third-party compliance audit, however, helps counteract these blind spots. An independent assessor can identify critical issues that an organization may not have discovered on their own, making it easier to build a stronger privacy and security program.

This is even more pronounced with assessors that work to thoroughly evaluate each client’s security program, as opposed to quickly checking for evidence of minimum acceptable standards. A surface-level examination may result in a report or certification, but serious issues can go undetected, leaving the organization vulnerable to breaches.

An External Team Can Help You Reduce the Burden of Compliance

Compliance requirements change quickly – as does the threat landscape.

At the enterprise level, it is typically the CISO’s responsibility to stay up-to-date on best practices, legal obligations, and potential risks. However, organizations without a designated head of compliance may find it challenging to keep up.

A third-party assessor can help reduce the burden of compliance. Instead of having internal team members spend their time monitoring and interpreting changes, organizations can rely on an external team to communicate key updates. A committed auditor can pass along relevant information on key frameworks (such as new versions of the HITRUST® CSF); new privacy laws; and other important requirements.

Professional Insights Help You Make More Informed Decisions

Every time an organization makes a change to their security architecture, it can significantly impact their risk profile. (This is why some compliance standards, such as HIPAA, require risk assessments any time a change is made.)

As organizations work to become more proactive with their privacy and security programs, it can be beneficial to ask an independent third party about the potential impacts of prospective changes. For instance, migrating to the cloud can increase operational efficiency, but it can introduce a new set of security concerns. For organizations that have already completed a third-party compliance audit, it can also influence the scope of their next engagement. Understanding the impact ahead of time makes it much easier to prepare.

In these situations, an external assessor can provide valuable insights that lead to more informed decisions. While auditors that are focused on quickly generating reports may not have the resources to provide strategic, one-on-one feedback, year-round communication is central to our approach at 360 Advanced.

Our Approach to Third-Party Compliance Audits

Driven by relationships, we continually deliver value to our clients. Our third-party compliance audits do more than satisfy a requirement; they make it possible to build a better business.

As you work to improve your cybersecurity and compliance program, we are here to provide trusted insights and actionable recommendations. We can provide the peace of mind you – and your customers – need, while helping you continually improve your security posture.

To learn more, contact us today.