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The rapid evolution of technology has prompted businesses to adopt a plethora of applications to enhance operational efficiency, productivity, and to gain a competitive edge. 

However, this surge has also brought forth an array of challenges, notably the proliferation of non-compliant applications. 

These applications pose significant security and compliance risks, demanding a proactive risk management approach. Let’s delve into the challenges and solutions for managing non-compliant applications effectively, discover tools for application and system performance monitoring, and learn how remote employee management software can help.

What Are Non-Compliant Applications?

Non-compliant applications refer to software and apps that do not adhere to a company's internal security policies, industry regulations, or both. They can be legacy applications that no longer meet updated standards, applications without a recent security patch, or third-party apps that don't satisfy compliance requisites.

Risks Posed by Non-Compliant Applications

Security Breaches

Outdated applications, especially those no longer supported by their developers, often lack security patches to defend against modern threats. Newer non-compliant applications might ignore best security practices or be built with vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit.

According to the 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report by Verizon, over 80% of breaches involved vulnerabilities where patches were available but not applied. The average cost of a data breach in 2020 was $3.86 million, as per a report by IBM. These figures underscore the importance of maintaining updated and compliant applications.

Regulatory Penalties

Regulations, particularly in sensitive industries, are formulated to ensure data privacy, integrity, and accountability. Falling afoul of these can attract legal consequences and heavy fines.

As a case in point, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union can impose fines up to €20 million or 4% of a company's global annual turnover, whichever is higher. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the U.S. has seen penalties ranging from $100 to $50,000 per violation, with an annual maximum of $1.5 million.

Financial Loss

While regulatory penalties can be a direct outcome of using non-compliant applications, the ripple effects can lead to service disruptions, compensations, or even lawsuits.

The aforementioned IBM report also highlighted that the average lifecycle of a data breach was 280 days, signifying prolonged operational disruptions. Furthermore, a study from CISCO emphasized that 22% of breached organizations lost customers, with 40% of them losing more than 20% of their customer base.

Reputational Damage

Beyond direct financial implications, the harm to an organization's reputation can have long-lasting impacts, affecting customer trust and stakeholder confidence.

According to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer, 81% of consumers said that they must be able to trust the brand to do what is right. This indicates the critical role trust plays in consumer decisions. Following a breach, a Ponemon Institute survey found that 31% of consumers terminated their relationship with an organization, underscoring the link between trust, reputation, and business continuity.

Embracing a Culture of Compliance

An organization's approach to non-compliant applications should not just be reactive but should be ingrained in its culture. This involves:

  • Clear Communication: Ensure that every stakeholder, from top executives to the newest hire, understands the importance of using compliant applications.

  • Compliance Champions: Appoint individuals or teams responsible for promoting and monitoring compliance within departments.

  • Rewarding Compliance: Recognize and reward teams or individuals who consistently adhere to compliance requirements, thereby setting a positive precedent.

Proactive Risk Management: Steps to Manage Non-Compliant Applications

Application compliance plays a pivotal role in ensuring operational efficiency and safeguarding sensitive data. The consequences of non-compliance range from regulatory penalties to potential security breaches. 

Thus, it is imperative for businesses to adopt a proactive approach to managing non-compliant applications. Let's delve into a deeper understanding of these essential steps:

1. Application Inventory and Assessment

It’s not just about listing applications, but understanding their purpose, user-base, data they access, and their overall architecture.

Use tools and software to automate inventory processes. Once cataloged, each application should be assessed against the latest compliance and security benchmarks. Consider factors like the last update date, the presence of a valid SSL certificate, and compliance with specific regulations such as GDPR or HIPAA.

2. Regular Audits

The digital landscape is always in flux. New vulnerabilities arise; regulations get updated. Regular audits ensure that you stay ahead of potential risks.

Adopt a mix of manual and automated audits. While automated tools can swiftly identify known vulnerabilities or non-compliance, manual audits provide a more in-depth analysis of potential bespoke threats or business-specific compliance nuances.

3. Patch Management

Software vulnerabilities are a gold mine for cybercriminals. Timely patches and updates are the first line of defense against such threats.

Deploy a centralized patch management system. Such systems notify IT teams of available updates, allowing for timely deployments. Remember, it's not just about installing patches, but testing them in isolated environments to ensure they don't disrupt business operations.

4. Strict Access Controls

Not every employee needs access to all applications. Limiting access based on roles or departments minimizes the risk footprint.

Use Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) systems. RBAC ensures that employees can only access and modify the applications necessary for their job functions. Coupled with multi-factor authentication, this significantly heightens the security perimeter around sensitive apps.

5. Employee Training

Even the best security systems can be compromised by human error. A well-informed employee base acts as an additional layer of defense.

Regularly schedule training sessions that keep employees updated on the latest threats and best practices. Use real-world examples of breaches caused by non-compliant application usage to underscore the gravity. Encourage them to report any suspicious activities or applications.

6. Phased Decommissioning

Legacy applications often pose the highest risk due to outdated architectures and lack of support.

Identify legacy systems and applications and rank them based on risk factors. Gradually replace high-risk applications with modern, compliant alternatives. Ensure that data migration during this phase is secure and that the old systems are purged and decommissioned securely to prevent any data remnants.

Technology’s Role in Managing Non-Compliant Applications

Modern problems require modern solutions. Several tools and platforms can assist organizations in managing non-compliant applications:

Compliance Management Platforms

These platforms notify when applications become non-compliant, helping businesses to act immediately.

  • Qualys Cloud Platform: Provides a unified solution for IT, security, and compliance with real-time data gathering features.

  • ManageEngine AssetExplorer: Assists in tracking and managing the complete asset lifecycle, including software license management and compliance tracking.

Automated Auditing Tools

Save time and resources by automating the auditing process. These tools can identify vulnerabilities that might get overlooked during manual checks.

  • Nmap: A renowned open-source tool for network discovery and security auditing.

  • Nessus: A widely adopted security and vulnerability scanner.

  • SolarWinds Patch Manager: Offers scheduled patching, spontaneous updates, and detailed reporting features for patch status and compliance.

Secure Application Development

If building in-house applications, ensure they are developed with compliance in mind from the start. This reduces future risks and modifications.

  • Microsoft Azure Active Directory: Provides cloud-based identity and access management with Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) and Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA).

  • CyberArk: Specializes in Privileged Access Management (PAM) solutions, ensuring that privileged accounts and credentials are secure.

  • KnowBe4: Focuses on security awareness training, ensuring employees are equipped with knowledge about security best practices when using or developing applications.

  • Blancco Data Erasure: Ensures secure data destruction, particularly useful when decommissioning old applications or systems to prevent any data remnants.

Incorporating these tools can substantially aid organizations in managing the challenges associated with non-compliant applications, ensuring a secure and compliant operational environment. Check system monitoring software reviews to determine which tool is right for you. 

Case Study: The Financial Sector’s Approach to Non-Compliant Applications

The financial sector is underpinned by countless regulations. In an industry where non-compliance can lead to substantial penalties, many financial institutions employ dedicated compliance teams. These teams utilize sophisticated software to monitor application use continuously. They also collaborate with IT departments to ensure timely application patching and updates.

For example, a prominent U.S. bank faced challenges with non-compliant applications leading to potential security vulnerabilities. By implementing a combination of automated compliance management software and rigorous staff training, the bank managed to significantly reduce its non-compliant applications, ensuring both security and regulatory adherence.

The Future of Application Compliance

As technology continues to evolve, so will the nature of applications and their associated compliance requirements. Organizations must remain vigilant, adapting their strategies to address emerging challenges.

  • AI and Machine Learning: Future compliance tools will leverage AI and machine learning to predict potential compliance breaches before they occur.

  • Increased Collaboration: Businesses will likely see increased collaboration between IT, compliance, and operational departments to ensure holistic application management.

  • Emphasis on Proactivity: With the growing understanding of risks associated with non-compliant applications, there will be a shift from reactive measures to proactive risk management.

The Unforeseen Role of Remote Computer Monitoring Software  

In an era where digital agility is essential, managing non-compliant applications effectively becomes a crucial business need. Insightful, while primarily remote employee work tracking software, unexpectedly fits the bill as a valuable tool in this endeavor. 

Its ability to offer real-time application oversight means businesses can swiftly identify and act on unauthorized or potentially non-compliant application usage. The integration with major project management platforms further centralizes data management, enabling a unified approach to application compliance checks across the organization.

Beyond mere monitoring, Insightful is dedicated to data protection, showcasing features like strong encryption and role-based access controls. This commitment ensures that not only does it help in identifying external non-compliance but also operates within the best security practices. 

Moreover, its user-centric features, like Social Sign Up, cultivate an enhanced awareness among employees about the implications of non-compliant application usage, bridging the gap between compliance and daily operations.

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