What is a Cyber Security Compliance Framework? (The Ultimate Guide)

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cyber security compliance framework

Protecting your business’s sensitive data and following cyber security regulations can be complex.

According to some reports, only 25% of businesses are confident that they can withstand a cyber attack. Knowing the important cyber security frameworks can help you with this. 

Cyber security frameworks can provide businesses with guidelines and best practices to help businesses comply with data and security compliance regulations.

This guide will discuss cyber security frameworks in detail and explore important cyber security frameworks. You’ll also get valuable tips on how to implement cyber security frameworks to ensure compliance.

Let’s dive right in.

What is a Cyber Security Compliance Framework?

A cyber security compliance framework is a set of rules, guidelines, and processes that help businesses manage and prevent cyber security risks. Security frameworks help businesses implement processes that can be used to mitigate digital security risks.

For example, a compliance framework may contain steps for setting passwords or best practices for managing internal log access. These guidelines ensure that the business’s and consumers’ data is protected and minimize the impact of cyber attacks. 

Cyber security frameworks help ensure that businesses comply with data protection and security regulations. Many security frameworks overlap and contain similar steps, so you don’t need to follow many cyber security frameworks to be compliant.

Why Are Cyber Security Compliance Framework Important?

A cyber security compliance framework helps businesses implement a set of rules and processes that help them remain compliant with data and security regulations.

More importantly, they help create uniformity in security processes, which makes it easier to do security audits.

Not following cyber security compliance frameworks will make it difficult for corporate compliance specialists to streamline internal processes and guidelines for employees.

And with businesses having to face multiple regulations covering financial compliance, corporate compliance, and other industry-specific regulations, not following any cybersecurity framework skyrockets the risk of non-compliance. 

Most importantly, these frameworks help with auditing as internal security reports are measured based on how much of the framework is implemented.

10 Cyber Security Compliance Framework

There are multiple cyber security compliance frameworks designed to ensure data protection, reduce external threats, and streamline security processes. However, it’s important to know which compliance framework your business needs.

Here is a list of the 10 most important security frameworks for any business:

1. CIS Critical Controls Framework

The CIS Controls framework is a cyber security framework designed to reduce risks of attacks and governmental penalties. It contains a series of steps that can be applied in different business environments to reduce vulnerability and digital risk.

The CIS framework is one of the most commonly used by security professionals as it clearly defines controls and sub-controls based on their usage in the organization.

This framework covers several key aspects of risk management, including inventory control, data protection, audit log management, and penetration testing.

What’s more, they can be applied to businesses of all scales and in various industries, and you don’t even have to implement all the control steps.


FISMA is another comprehensive set of cyber security guidelines designed to protect sensitive information. However, it’s a legal requirement and only applies to businesses linked to a product used by the U.S Federal Government.

FISMA doesn’t really provide any unique processes for data protection. However, it combines several cybersecurity frameworks to create a comprehensive set of legal guidelines related to cyber security.

Some key aspects of the FISMA compliance framework include:

  • Keeping tabs of digital assets.
  • Properly categorizing sensitive information.
  • Meeting minimum security guidelines.
  • Conducting regular cyber security risk assessments.

If your business provides services to a federal agency, you’ll be legally obliged to comply with the FISMA framework. Failure to do so can result in a damaged reputation, a loss of federal government contracts and other penalties. 

3. NIST Cybersecurity Framework

The National Institute of Standards and Technology developed the NIST cybersecurity framework to help organizations mitigate cyber security risks. This is one of the most broadly applied frameworks and is prevalent in most industries. 

This framework is used as the backbone for many cyber security programs and can help businesses comply with several data protection regulations. Implementing this framework is voluntary, but it can help businesses identify, manage and minimize cyber risks.

Nowadays, the NIST cybersecurity framework is highly valued in many industries and NIST compliance can almost guarantee compliance with consumer security and data protection regulations.


GDPR is a EU governmentally enforced framework with guidelines designed to protect consumer data and privacy. It covers several aspects of data protection and overlaps with many other cyber security frameworks.

Even if your business doesn’t operate in the EU, you’ll still need to be compliant with the processes outlined in the GDPR framework if you provide services to EU citizens.

GDPR guidelines revolve around data protection and risk management protocols.This includes how businesses should handle and process consumer data. It also highlights the protocols for what to do in case of a data breach.

5. PCI DSS Framework

The PCI DSS framework is another voluntary framework developed by major credit card companies. You will need to comply with this framework for payment to work in most cases.

This framework covers the processes needed to protect consumers from data breaches that may compromise their payment card information. It also contains steps designed to prevent internal fraud.

The PCI DSS framework is compulsory for all businesses dealing with major payment card companies such as VISA or MasterCard.

It’s often easy for businesses to implement this framework as it consists of 12 simple steps. These include preventing external data breaches by strengthening firewalls and encrypting cardholder data. The steps also cover internal prevention including monitoring and restricting log access and restricting physical access to cardholder data.

While implementing the PCI DSS framework may not be compulsory, you won’t be able to process most major payment cards otherwise.

6. NIST CSF Framework

If your business deals in a sensitive industry, such as the energy or healthcare sectors, you’ll face more critical security threats. The NIST CSF framework is designed to help you prepare for these threats through comprehensive risk auditing and risk management.

While there are many similarities to the NIST Cybersecurity framework, the NIST CSF framework contains tighter security protocols to protect sensitive data. However, it isn’t any more complicated than other security frameworks and is based on these five core principles:

  • Identify the risk through risk auditing.
  • Implement steps to protect against these risks.
  • Detect security breaches effectively.
  • Respond to any breaches in a timely manner.
  • Recover from the attack and strengthen the risk prevention systems.


If your business operates in the healthcare sector or you work with patient data in any way, you’ll have to follow the HIPAA framework. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was created in 1996 and is designed to protect patient data.

Since the healthcare industry has been targeted in cyber attacks recently, HIPAA healthcare compliance has become more crucial to implement. 

HIPAA protects patient data through administrative, physical, and technical processes designed to prevent data breaches. It also requires businesses to conduct regular risk assessments and train employees on data protection best practices.

8. SOC2

Ensuring compliance in the finance sector is painstakingly difficult but critically important. The SOC2 was developed to ensure financial compliance for businesses dealing in these sectors. 

It contains strict auditing protocols for managing consumer data and can help businesses comply with other data protection regulations.

Unlike more simple frameworks, the SOC2 is complex and contains more than 60 compliance requirements, which are updated regularly. And, while you aren’t legally required to implement this cyber security framework, compliance can prevent costly data breaches. 


The Controls Objectives for Information Technology (COBIT) framework is another independent framework designed to ensure cyber security compliance. What makes this framework different is that it helps businesses align their strategic objectives with security protocols.

COBIT covers the business’s whole governance system rather than simply focusing on simple compliance steps.

Once you implement COBIT requirements, you can get an Information Security Manager and Information Systems Auditor certifications.

10. ISO 27000 Series

The ISO 27000 Series is one of the popular and flexible cyber security frameworks. These frameworks established protocols for creating an information security system in your business. The ISO 27000 Series contains many sub-frameworks designed for particular compliance requirements. 

For example, the ISO 27040 can help your business with storage security issues, and the ISO 27031 helps with disaster recovery.

You don’t have to implement the 60 or more ISO frameworks in this series, but you should consider which is best for your business. For example, if your business has no relation to cloud computing, you won’t need the ISO 27018.

How to Implement Rules From Cyber Security Compliance Framework

Once you’ve decided on the cyber security frameworks that are relevant to your business, you’ll need to adjust them to your business’s requirements. Most frameworks will only provide guidelines or rules, and it’s up to you to determine how to enforce them in your business.

You’ll need to adopt a holistic approach that covers different departments of your business when implementing any cyber security compliance framework.

This is easier said than done. However, here are some ways to implement any cyber security framework:

Understand the Framework

Before you can implement any cyber security compliance framework, you’ll have to understand it thoroughly. Many frameworks contain a lot of technical jargon that can only be understood by experts. Similarly, you’ll need to have specialization in both compliance requirements and IT systems.

You can also hire a compliance service to help you understand and implement these frameworks. These compliance services not only give you more time to focus on more important aspects of your business, but it also ensures 100% compliance. 

Assess Your Business’s Current State of Compliance

The next step in implementing a cyber security compliance framework is to evaluate your business’s current position. You don’t have to redo everything and if you are already implementing certain rules, you’ll know exactly which areas to focus on.

Prioritize Compliance Requirements

Not all requirements in a compliance framework may apply to your business, so it’s important to prioritize the ones that matter. Consider the ISO framework discussed above. Some businesses may need to implement the cloud computing guidelines, while others may not.

Also, always prioritize any legal requirements before implementing sub-guidelines.

Create an Implementation Plan

Once you’re clear on which rules to implement, you’ll need to create an implementation plan. This varies across industries, and every business will have a different implementation plan.

Again, while you can do this yourself, it’s best to hire qualified compliance specialists to create an action plan for cyber security compliance.

Establish Policies

To implement any compliance program, you must establish internal policies that align with your business’s structure. These security policies are essential to ensure external compliance and form the backbone of employee training programs.

Implement Technical Controls

This step is often the most difficult when you’re implementing any cyber security program. Fortunately, most frameworks have detailed steps on how to implement these controls.

For example, the PCI DSS framework requires you to restrict physical access to cardholder data. Technical controls to implement this rule could include encrypting the data and safeguarding its storage.

Train Employees

Training employees to comply with the new regulations and controls is a critical part of the implementation process, but it’s often overlooked.

According to research by Stanford University, over 88% of data breaches are caused by employee error, which further highlights why it’s crucial to train employees on compliance protocols.

Conduct Regular Audits

Lastly, always remember that no cyber security framework is perfect and many are updated from time to time. To stay compliant and identify any security breaches you’ll have to conduct regular cyber security compliance audits. This is often done by a compliance officer, but you can also outsource compliance auditing for more accuracy. 


What is a Compliance Framework in Cyber Security?

A compliance framework in cyber security is a set of rules and processes designed to protect consumer and business data, minimize cyber risks and manage data breaches. It also contains best practices for risk monitoring and cyber security audits.

What are the Best Cyber Security Frameworks?

The best cyber security frameworks are the NIST Cybersecurity framework and the ISO 27000 series. These frameworks are widely used, contain detailed processes for managing cyber risks, and can be implemented by businesses of all sizes.

Is it Compulsory to Implement a Cybersecurity Framework?

Some cyber security compliance frameworks are compulsory, and you can face penalties for non-compliance.

These include GDPR, PCI DSS, and HIPAA. Others, such as the ISO or SOC2 aren’t compulsory but can still help prevent your business from non-compliance with other cyber security regulations.

What are the Advantages of Cyber Security Frameworks?

Cyber security compliance frameworks make it easy to comply with cyber security and data protection regulations by providing clear guidelines on how to protect against cyber threats. This can prevent financial penalties or a loss of reputation caused by data breaches.

How Do You Implement a Cyber Security Compliance Framework?

To implement a compliance framework for cyber security, you’ll need to assess the current state of compliance, create compliance policies to cover any gaps, and train employees on the new systems. You’ll also need to conduct regular audits and risk assessments to identify cyber risks.

Final Thoughts

With cyber threats becoming more prevalent and data protection laws being strictly enforced, you’ll have to implement several compliance frameworks to protect your business from risk and ensure compliance. Fortunately, Captain Compliance has you covered.

Check out our compliance solutions to help you understand and implement cyber security frameworks, so you can be at peace knowing your business is protected. Get in touch today!

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