Work Smarter, Not Harder with Unified Control Sets

Kerwyn Velasco
May 23, 2024
February 6, 2023
Learn why to use unified control sets with anecdotes
Table of Contents

You know the saying, “kill two birds with one stone”? It’s when you succeed in achieving two things in a single action. This is a fundamental concept for Compliance leaders who must manage multiple Compliance requirements from various federal, state, local, and private bodies. If you are a Compliance leader who feels frustrated or burnt out from chasing your tail when attempting to respond to risk within your organization, we have a solution for you: unified control sets.

What is a Unified Control Set?

A unified control set is a comprehensive set of controls cross-mapped across different frameworks, regulations, and standards. This means that with a unified control set, Compliance leaders no longer need to manage each requirement individually and no longer have to worry about keeping up with the mapping process for each specific compliance requirement. Why should companies have to start from scratch each time a new regulation is introduced? Why should they be forced to consider each regulation separately when they already addressed it in a previous requirement? Instead, the organization benefits from a bird’s-eye view of the risk posture, with potential conflicting risk assessment dates flagged and managed accordingly – saving Compliance leaders and their teams endless time, costs, and stress by delivering a scalable approach to meeting frameworks across domains.

What Comprises a Unified Control Set?

Unified control sets are comprised of several components:

  • Controls: The specific control statements that are cross-mapped across different frameworks
  • Domains/Categories: Controls are grouped into these logical groups for communication
  • Mappings: The relationship between controls and related frameworks
  • Control Environment: The level of effectiveness of each control is based on the evidence provided

Mapping is the most critical aspect of the unified control set since it shows the relationship between different frameworks. Mapping controls helps organizations identify similarities and overlap in their diverse control sets, standards, and regulatory requirements and deal with them simultaneously. This allows the organization to save time and resources when implementing controls as mapping eliminates redundant controls and needless testing caused by overlapping requirements. For example, a healthcare organization seeking to comply with PCI DSS standards may be able to map the access control requirements to those already being used to meet access control standards in their HIPAA framework, eliminating the need for redundant work.

Sometimes the organizations that create the unified control frameworks provide the mapping, and companies may attempt to map all of the required regulations and frameworks on their own or outsource the mapping to professional practitioners in the field.  Taking advantage of a Unified Control Set tool alleviates the mapping burden on organizations and allows controls to be implemented much faster.    


What are the Different Frameworks Being Unified?

Join anecdotes, the experts in Compliance automation solutions, as we outline common frameworks.

Common Controls Framework (CCF) by Adobe

Adobe CCF is an open, foundational framework of security processes and controls. Adobe analyzed the criteria for the most common security certifications for cloud-based businesses and rationalized the more than 1,350 requirements down to Adobe-specific controls that map to approximately a dozen industry standards. CCF helps protect Adobe infrastructure, applications, and services, as well as helps us comply with several industry-accepted best practices, standards, regulations, and certifications. The Common Controls Framework (CCF) has been open-sourced to support the broader security and risk management community as they strive to achieve its compliance goals. 

Unified Compliance Framework (UCF)

The UCF is a compliance database that fully integrates critical legal and technical data to make it easier for organizations to meet varying framework requirements and to gather evidence from any security solution. Companies can create customized control lists by selecting their specific industries, market segments, and geographies. With the interconnected requirements established by the UCF methodology, organizations can automatically track and assess any changes required rather than having to complete an entirely new assessment. 

Secure Controls Framework (SCF)

The SCF provides organizations with an industry-agnostic focus on security and privacy controls. The comprehensive catalog includes cybersecurity and privacy-related policies, standards, procedures, and other processes that are designed to help organizations achieve Compliance across frameworks. The free-to-use SCF can be customized by enabling organizations to select only the specific laws, regulations, and industry frameworks that apply.

Health Information Common Security Framework (HITRUST CSF)

HITRUST CSF is a certifiable framework that “rationalizes relevant regulations and standards into a single overarching security and privacy framework.” Because the HITRUST CSF focuses on risk and Compliance, organizations of varying risk profiles can customize the controls for organization type, size, systems, and compliance requirements. Despite its name, HITRUST CSF is not limited to healthcare-related companies; in fact, it is a widely adopted security and privacy framework across industries.

Center for Internet Security Controls (CIS Controls)

CIS Controls, formerly the SANS Critical Security Controls, is an internationally-recognized recommended set of actions for cyber defense that provide specific step-by-step ways to defend IT systems and data against cyberattacks. CIS Controls offer prescriptive guidance for establishing a secure baseline configuration. Version 8 of the CIS Controls includes 18 prioritized controls that point to existing standards and recommendations.

Cloud Security Alliance Cloud Controls Matrix (CCM)

The CSA CCM is a cybersecurity control framework for cloud computing. The framework is used to systematically assess cloud implementation and provide guidance on which security controls should be adopted across the cloud supply chain. The matrix includes 197 control objectives that are structured across 17 domains covering all key aspects of cloud technology. The controls framework is considered a de-facto standard for cloud security assurance and Compliance.

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST 800-53)

NIST SP 800-53 is the first comprehensive set of security and privacy controls that can be used by organizations of any size and type to manage risk.  The controls offer a proactive approach to ensuring that the organization’s critical systems, components, and IT services are sufficiently secure to protect organizations and systems while still ensuring the personal privacy of individuals.

International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Controls

The ISO 27001 Control framework is the best-known international standard for information security. It requires organizations to identify information security risks and select appropriate controls to tackle them. The centrally-managed framework contains 114 controls that are divided into 14 domains. They enable organizations of all sectors and sizes to manage the security of their data, ensuring organization-wide protection, including against technology-based risks and other threats.

Why is a Unified Control View Needed?

Killing two birds with one stone by taking advantage of a unified control set has several advantages:

Consolidated Framework Coverage

Implementing a unified control view that focuses on your organization’s unique security needs and maps your security-focused controls to Compliance frameworks is an efficient and effective way to ensure your organization complies with a range of security certifications, standards, and regulations. Significant resources must be allotted to stay on top of changes across multiple frameworks; this process is simplified with a unified control set as mappings are automatically aligned to the latest framework updated and identifying any gaps that need to be addressed.

Visibility into Compliance Posture

No matter which framework is right for your organization – Adobe CCF, UCF, SCF, HITRUST CSF, CIS, CSA CCM, NIST, or ISO – having a unified control framework will provide a more accurate view of your organization’s security and Compliance posture and dramatically simplify the process of achieving and maintaining Compliance moving forward.

Communication with Leadership

A unified control view also serves as an excellent tool to help Compliance leaders generate reports and communicate any gaps in the security compliance program to leadership. A dashboard view into Compliance status streamlines the decision-making process and makes it easier to adapt and expand into different security certifications and requirements in the future.

Onboard Unified Control Sets

Utilizing a unified control set builds trust with partners and customers by communicating to them the business’s commitment to security and Compliance. It also positions your business to take advantage of new opportunities – such as new customers and new markets – with minimal effort exerted by the organization. That’s because with a unified control set, onboarding an additional framework may only require meeting a handful of new controls rather than starting from scratch with hundreds or thousands of controls that can easily overwhelm your staff.

anecdotes offers a wide range of frameworks for unified control sets. Check them out here.

Kerwyn Velasco
Security and Compliance Nerd with 10 years GRC experience wearing all kinds of hats. He currently does marketing at anecdotes.
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