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10 Best Practices For Meeting SOX Security Requirements

Sarbanes-Oxley regulations remain one of security's biggest drivers in public companies. Here are some tips on how to keep your organization in compliance

[Excerpted from "Security Via SOX Compliance," a new, free report posted this week on Dark Reading's Compliance Tech Center.]

Achieving compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley requirements remains a chief chore for all publicly traded companies—and a chief budget driver for IT compliance and security initiatives. Yet SOX’s computer security requirements remain vague, and auditors’ evaluations continue to be subjective.

IT managers often think of SOX as a technology mandate, but it is primarily an accounting and financial reporting mandate. Nowhere in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act will you see a reference to encryption, network security, password complexity or logging capabilities. Indeed, a SOX compliance effort should be driven by the business side, with IT playing the role of key facilitator.

So how do you approach compliance purely from an IT perspective? To pass a SOX audit, your company must implement security best practices for any system that touches anything and everything related to financial reporting and accounting systems. To achieve that goal, there are several elements you must put in place.

1. For Web-enabled applications, ensure that all sensitive data, along with authentication credentials, are Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)-encrypted. Most SSL implementations use RSA public/private key exchange for session setup and encryption. When an SSL session is set up, the Web server sends its public key to the client, and the client uses that public key to create a session key with the Web server.

2. Deploy all the common end-point protection tools that would be required in any secure environment. This applies primarily to end-point antivirus, malware protection, host intrusion prevention systems and client firewalls.

3. Reduce the operating attack surface on all clients and servers accessing critical financial systems. Most companies think they’re doing a good job here, but if employees are going to access critical financial and accounting applications from a fat client PC, there’s a whole lot more that needs to be done than simply performing Windows updates.

4. Consider application streaming or desktop virtualization for accessing critical financial and accounting applications. Most companies use streaming applications via Citrix XenApp or VMWare ThinApp to solve problems with performance, mobility and remote access. However, app streaming also is a terrific way to protect key applications from intruders.

5. Wrap your databases with activity monitoring and auditing software. SOX auditors are concerned primarily with the accuracy and integrity of your financial data. Simply stated, you should be auditing all activity on all tables that contain sensitive information.

To get the full details on these five tips -- and five additional recommendations on staying SOX-compliant, download the full report on security and SOX compliance.

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