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Regulatory compliance and what it's all about!

Historically, compliance is a noun with an unwelcome association with authority; as in “Compliance Officer” but for businesses, changes in regulations means that from now on, it will be tightly connected with the elimination of risk, adding to the burden that companies carry in a world now wrapped tightly in regulatory red-tape. Posted by Hello

In the shadow of a number of high-profile corporate scandals and the ever-present threat of cybercrime, understanding and controlling access to systems and data has become a driving force behind the introduction of a raft of new business regulations and many observers would agree that the American Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOA), is the single most influential piece of legislation affecting corporate governance, financial disclosure and the practice of public accounting in the last seventy years.

Among other requirements, the Sarbanes Oxley Act calls for an annual assessment of internal controls relating to risk management and application access and one of the key issues behind the new Basel Capital Accord (Basel II) is operational supervision; ensuring that users aren’t able to access any applications that might lead to risk or compromise to the business. Several leading IT companies are now working on an industry initiative with a number of solutions providers needed to create a complete identity management solution to support the introduction of new compliance regulations for the financial services industry and this week, I’m invited to join a round-table on the subject in the City of London, organised by Microsoft and which includes Unisys, OpenNetwork, British Airways and PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

The argument in favour of stronger compliance or what is really sound identity management policy, says that however strong the foundation of any computing environment, the Operating System, it is worth very little without solutions that properly address authentication, authorisation, administration and a central store.

Inside this four-sided box; identity management is composed of three main components aimed at creating a unified single point of access to all applications within a company. These are user management, provisioning, access control, taking care of the user life-cycle and their authorisation profile and finally, automating the creation and management of user accounts into different back-end systems.

This might be the objective but the reality in most business sectors, is that people hold multiple identities and access rights to systems, some of which might be considered business critical and which are not controlled from a single point. In such a relaxed regime, an individual might have access to sensitive information and this was one potential scenario explored at the last eCrime Congress, which had a temporary member of staff, a skilled computer operator, infiltrated by an organised crime gang into a foreign bank, with the objective of stealing online account details, taking advantage of lax identity management policies. This is one reason why the highly regulated financial services industry in the UK is the one most sensitive to the risks and penalties of non-compliance and why it’s the market that’s adopting the technology the fastest.

Identity management is the message that like the words in a stick of rock, weaves it way through the new compliance and regulatory framework. It may not be as complex as you think it is but if you’re a company of any size, you need to think about the fact that your business platform has to provide a foundation for compliance in the future, regardless of what the regulations are calling for now and that means preparing for tomorrow by putting sound and flexible identity management policies in place today.


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