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Navigating Compliance: Controlling IM Communications and Archiving in Highly Regulated Industries


Omer Cohen

| September 06, 2023

With stringent oversight and the ever-evolving legislative landscape, organizations operating within highly regulated sectors face a unique set of challenges. One of the paramount considerations is managing how information is shared by employees and to ensure it is adherence to industry-specific regulations.

This has become a highly complicated management task, with Instant Messaging emerging as a highly popular communications tool to send and receive information within organizations. This is why controlled IM communications and archiving are now essential elements of compliance and risk mitigation.

Meeting the Needs of the Regulatory Maze

Highly regulated industries such as finance, healthcare, legal, and energy are no strangers to the intricate web of compliance requirements. Regulatory bodies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and others wield substantial authority over these sectors. Non-compliance can result in severe penalties, including fines, legal actions, and reputational damage.

Within this context, the management of mobile electronic communications has come under intense scrutiny. Regulators require organizations to maintain and archive a comprehensive record of these communications. The rationale behind this is twofold: to ensure transparency and to facilitate investigations when necessary.

The IM Challenge

IM platforms enable swift decision-making, collaboration, and information sharing. However, their informal and unsanctioned nature poses unique challenges when it comes to compliance. Conversations happen quickly, often without the formality of emails, making them difficult to track and archive.

Furthermore, the use of personal devices for business communication, a common practice known as “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD), complicates matters. In BYOD scenarios, distinguishing between personal and business-related communications becomes challenging, potentially exposing personal data to scrutiny during compliance audits.

In heavily regulated sectors, challenges arise when employees transmit files through applications, such as WhatsApp and Slack. These actions can result in data breaches and non-compliance with stringent regulations governing data confidentiality and security. Archiving these IM ‘conversations’ is infeasible despite regulatory requirements, due to technical and privacy challenges, forcing organizations to attempt to ban their use within the corporate environment.  

Difficulties Trying to Ban IM Communications 

Establishing and upholding a secure and compliant environment, with appropriate archiving, places a significant burden on organizations. This has left those who spearhead compliance policies struggling to control employees’ use of apps, such as Whatsapp, WeChat or TikTok, for work purposes. Indeed, the biggest concern for 61.5% of compliance leaders is “getting employees to comply with rules for electronic communication.” 

Even more concerning is that only 3% of compliance officers “strongly believe” banning messaging platforms is an effective method of ensuring compliant communications within their organization. This is even though the majority (59%) has enforced prohibitions on the use of social media and messaging apps as a response to heightened regulatory scrutiny.

Increasing Regulatory Pressure

However, despite the difficulties involved, regulators are increasing the pressure on organizations to demonstrate how they are monitoring and archiving data exchanged using messaging apps. 

The SEC, for example, has been taking a tough stance on major banks for their failure to monitor and archive their employees’ messages on unauthorized platforms. In December, the SEC imposed fines totaling $1.1 billion on Citigroup, Bank of America, and Goldman Sachs, following a $125 million penalty against J.P. Morgan Chase in December 2021.

The extent of the investigation into text messaging practices saw the SEC request firms to furnish their policies and procedures governing the use or prohibition of text messages and the retention of communications associated with brokerage or advisory services. Subsequently, the agency seeks documentation revealing the individuals responsible for supervising these messages, the methods employed for monitoring and training, as well as the mechanisms in place for detecting violations. 

Across all sectors that have to adhere to strict regulations, the use of messaging apps is presenting one of the biggest compliance challenges to confront organizations.

How Organizations Can Quickly and Cost Effectively Ensure Compliance

The paramount objective of regulation revolves around safeguarding data, necessitating the prevention of data from leaving and residing outside the corporate network. Symmetrium achieves this with the creation of Virtual Mobile Devices (VMDs) situated within the secure confines of an organization’s network. These VMDs seamlessly align with existing enterprise network and regulatory protocols, assuring the privacy and protection of all data. This proactive approach mitigates against the risk of substantial fines.

Symmetrium’s VMDs employ P2P encrypted streaming technology, enabling employees to access data through a designated portal on their personal devices. Importantly, this access is view-only, ensuring that the data never traverses beyond the secure organizational network and is never stored on external user devices. This robust security framework guarantees the continual safeguarding and compliance of sensitive data, with no data ever residing on devices external to the organization’s IT environment.

A Simplified and Streamlined Approach 

The outcome of implementing Symmetrium’s VMDs is a simplified and more streamlined approach to managing data. Regulatory officers and Chief Information Officers (CIOs) benefit from reduced complexity, as Symmetrium’s VMDs seamlessly extend existing compliance protocols. They are effortless to deploy and provide a native mobile experience, instantly ensuring compliance through customized end-to-end encrypted streaming, with no data stored at rest. Each mobile user is treated as an on-premises endpoint, granting control over when and where data can be accessed.

Symmetrium’s mobile access solution boasts minimal operational requirements while meeting stringent security compliance standards, seamlessly integrating with established data access protocols. The result is compliance simplified into a single, user-friendly app.

The need for controlled IM communications and archiving is paramount in highly regulated industries. Compliance is not merely a regulatory box to check; it’s a strategic imperative for risk management, security, and operational efficiency. Organizations that embrace these solutions not only meet their compliance obligations but also position themselves for success in an ever-changing regulatory landscape.

Isn’t it time you reevaluated your approach to meeting your regulatory requirements? Schedule a demonstration with Symmetrium today.

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