Achieving compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) 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.
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