Get In Touch

How cybersecurity compliance differs between industries

Cybersecurity compliance is key and regulated across many sectors, yet the approach and requirements can vary significantly depending on the industry. This variance is due to the unique nature of the data handled, the potential impacts of breaches, and the specific regulatory frameworks governing each field. Here, we explore how cybersecurity compliance differs among healthcare providers, financial institutions, professional services, and small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

Healthcare providers

Healthcare providers face a challenging cybersecurity landscape. Between 2018 and 2022, there was a 93% increase in large breaches, with ransomware incidents spiking by 278%. The consequences are severe – about 17% of these breaches have led to physical harm or even death. Ensuring the security of healthcare operations and protecting patient information is not merely a priority but an ethical obligation.

Healthcare providers must adhere to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which sets stringent requirements for protecting patient data. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has recently introduced measures to bolster cybersecurity, including voluntary performance goals, resource allocation for implementing cybersecurity practices, a robust HHS-wide strategy for enforcement, and an expanded one-stop shop for healthcare sector cybersecurity.

Earlier this year, the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCS) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) published updated guidance, “Implementing the HIPAA Security Rule: A Cybersecurity Resource Guide.” This guide provides detailed recommendations for HIPAA-covered entities to develop their information security programs, emphasizing the importance of comprehensive cybersecurity measures.

Financial Institutions

Financial institutions are prime targets for cybercriminals, given the direct access to financial assets. From 2019 to 2023, the number of incidents compromising data that involved financial institutions surged by over 330%. To counter these threats, financial institutions must navigate a complex web of regulations designed to protect the security, confidentiality, and integrity of customer information.

Key regulations include the FDIC’s Interagency Guidelines Establishing Standards for Safety and Soundness, which address internal controls and information systems and provide detailed administrative, technical, and physical safeguards. Additionally, the Computer-Security Incident Notification Final Rule mandates prompt reporting of significant incidents, while the Bank Service Company Act requires notification to the FDIC of service relationships with third-party providers.

Financial institutions must also implement robust response programs for unauthorized access to customer information, as detailed in the FDIC’s guidance, ensuring they can swiftly mitigate the impacts of breaches and notify affected customers.

Professional services

For professional services, such as law and accounting firms, maintaining high standards of client confidentiality while ensuring secure remote access and data storage is paramount. These industries are lucrative targets for cyberattacks due to the sensitive nature of the data they handle. As a result, accounting firms have seen a 300% increase in cyberattacks since 2020 and 27% of law firms disclosed successful data breaches in 2022. 

Law firms must comply with the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which mandate reasonable efforts to prevent unauthorized disclosure of client information. In states like Tennessee, firms must also adhere to specific regulations such as the Tennessee Information Protection Act (TIPA). While not required by law, it is also considered best practice for law firms to follow the The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework.

Tax preparers within accounting firms are likely familiar with IRS Publication 4557, which provides guidelines for safeguarding taxpayer data. Additionally, they must comply with the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Safeguards Rule, which mandates comprehensive information security programs. Recent amendments to the Safeguards Rule have introduced more rigorous compliance measures, especially for firms handling significant volumes of customer data. These amendments require firms to report incidents involving 500 or more customers to the FTC within 30 days of discovery and to implement administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to protect customer information.

Small and medium-sized businesses

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) face unique cybersecurity challenges, often lacking the resources of larger organizations. Despite this, they are not immune to cyber threats. Statistics show that 42% of SMBs lack any form of cybersecurity preparation, and over 90% of incidents result in significant financial losses.

SMBs must develop robust cyber risk management programs to safeguard their operations. This includes implementing basic security measures such as regular software updates, employee training, and incident response plans. The recent U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rules on cybersecurity, while primarily targeting publicly traded companies, set precedents that trickle down to smaller businesses, necessitating proactive adaptation to these developing standards. 

Federal regulations, although designed for larger corporations, often indirectly impact SMBs, setting new industry standards and expectations. Thus, it is crucial for SMBs to stay ahead of evolving requirements to mitigate risks and ensure business continuity.

Cybersecurity compliance is multifaceted and varies significantly across sectors. Understanding these differences is essential for organizations to implement effective security measures tailored to their specific needs, ultimately protecting sensitive data and maintaining trust with their clients and customers.