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The future of Policy Management:

How Policy-as-code is disrupting Governance & Compliance

What is Policy-as-code and How Does it Work?

 

Policy-as-code is an emerging trend among organizations, especially in support of  automating preventive and detective policy enforcement and improving organizations GRC (Governance, Risk and Compliance) strategy. It is a policy management system, allowing organizations to transform their IT (Information Technology) policies from human readable documents to machine-readable code. It enables the use of tools and services that can help organizations create, manage, and effectively automate policy-checking decisions during application deployments and infrastructure provisioning.

This policy management system has two components: a policy editor and a policy enforcement engine.

  1. Policy editor allows a team to create a policy-as-code using programming languages like Python, YAML, Rego.
  2. Policy enforcement engine is a software component responsible for enforcing access policies in applications or systems. The policy enforcement engine receives requests from users of applications and evaluates them against a set of predefined policies to determine if a requested action should be allowed.

The benefits of implementing a Policy-as-code system

 

The following benefits of Policy-as-code are revolutionizing the way organizations manage IT governance and risk management –

  1. Automation – Enables automation of policy enforcement, continuous compliance monitoring, and policy-based access, lowering the risk of human errors leading to security misconfiguration.
  2. Shift left – Cost of fixing security misconfigurations in production is significantly higher than in build or deployment phase. Policy-as-code helps organizations reduce post-production security risk, enabling developers and security engineers to evaluate and validate misconfigurations before deployment, helping organizations reduce cost and effort.
  3. Uniform policy across organization – Simplifies policy implementation allowing organization to share, adopt and enforce policies across more quickly, reducing the risk exposure for systems.
  4. Version control system – Changes in policies can be swiftly undone if the new policies pose a risk.
  5. Change management process – Policy-as-code integrates well with the change management process, which forbids policy changes without the consent of the Change Advisory Board (CAB). This safeguards against the incorrect application of policies.
  6. Collaboration - Encourages developers and security engineers to work together in a cross functional environment.
  7. Transparency - Ensures all stakeholders are informed and aware of the policy changes, reducing unexpected risk that may occur from lack of knowledge about new policy, allowing organization to lower total risk exposure.
  8. Streamlines IT Governance & Risk Management - Policy as a Code allows an organization to be current with the most recent industry standards and regulations. Organizations can gain from better regulatory enforcement, improved data governance, faster threat reaction times, and increased visibility into their IT environments.

 

The challenges of implementing a Policy-as-code system

 

Policy as Code offers numerous benefits but there are also challenges that arise during and after implementation of Policy as Code system. Here are some common challenges - 

  1. Legacy systems Integration: Legacy systems are not designed to work with automation tools and Policy as Code may need integration with such systems This can be difficult, and may require use of workarounds.
  2. Review and Approval process - There may be delays in the policy review and approval procedures after implementation. It is critical to ensure that policies are reviewed and approved in a timely way to minimize implementation delays.
  3. Delays in decision-making – The introduction of Policy as Code may cause delays in the decision-making process due  to network latency, unresponsive policy engine, delays in development and testing of the code etc.,

Conclusion

 

 In conclusion, Policy as Code is transforming the way organizations approach governance by providing a powerful and flexible way to define, manage and enforce the policies. However, implementing and maintaining an effective policy as code framework can be difficult, especially for an organization with complex regulatory requirements and security needs.

Deloitte with its’ experienced Cyber Risk Management and Cloud team, can provide clients with policy framework and guidance needed to implement a robust and compliant Policy as Code program. By combining the power of Policy as Code with the expertise of the team, Deloitte can help clients achieve a stronger and more effective security posture, while maintaining compliance with regulatory requirements. 

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