HIPAA is an interesting case in point. HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, was enacted...
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12 years ago, primarily to provide guidelines for the use of electronic medical information. A lot of organizations took many steps to protect patient data in the early part of this decade because they feared the consequences of HIPAA non-compliance. But HIPAA turned out to be a toothless tiger, with very few enforcement actions and less audit scrutiny than expected, so organizations stopped worrying about it.
Then when PCI DSS hit a few years ago, many healthcare groups were behind the curve because they hadn't kept up with their security efforts.
I have no idea what the next big regulatory hurdle will be, but I believe there will be one. That means it's a lot more effective to protect sensitive data regardless of regulatory oversight.
Also, protecting patient data is the right thing to do. A healthcare company's customers trust them with their personal health information; they will be upset and hurt if that data is not protected effectively. The fact that future controls will ensure the audits are passed is beside the point.
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